Not long ago, when travelers ventured beyond Loop 820, the skies opened and cattle bedecked the landscape, forming a veritable gateway to rural West Texas.
Today, that area of far west Fort Worth is quickly becoming one of the most popular residential developments in North Texas.
The Walsh area, about 14 miles west of downtown Fort Worth, is bucking a national trend. While the rest of the United States is coping with a housing shortage that is driving up prices and forcing some prospective buyers to wait, Walsh is building houses at a rate of about one per day.
Walsh features 11 square miles that used to be part of the family owned Walsh Ranch. It straddles Interstates 20 and 30, wedged between west Fort Worth's older neighborhoods and Aledo.
Today, Walsh is attractive not only for the wide range of homes — with 12 builders offering structures ranging from the upper $200,000s to nearly $800,000 — but also for the amenities, said Tony Ruggeri, co-chief executive of developer Republic Property Group.
The neighborhood is expected to eventually be home to roughly 50,000 people, although full build out could take up to 50 years. But residents who have already bought property can already enjoy many of the master-planned amenities.
Recently, the doors opened on a community room known as a "Makerspace," which features a variety of heavy-duty woodworking tools, 3D printers and other equipment available for free use by residents. Several pools, a beach volleyball area and water park features will be added later this year.
The idea is to give residents the tools to help their children learn skills previous generations got from wood shop class or perhaps a robotics club, Ruggeri said.
"We take very seriously the responsibility for creating a lot of childhood memories," Ruggeri said Tuesday during a tour of the area. "We know people want their kids to have more than just memories of going everywhere in a car. People want to experience things outside, and to have access to the tools they need to make things."
In its first year, Walsh has sold 171 homes, including 34 homes for which the sale has been closed and residents have already moved in. About 60 more homes are slated to close in the next 90 days, Republic Property Group officials said.
The development is marketed not only to young parents looking for a safe, yet outdoorsy place to raise their children, but also empty-nesters looking to downsize without sacrificing quality in their neighborhood of choice, co-CEO Jake Wagner said.
The first phase of the project is on 1,700 acres, and within five years an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people could leave in the area, Wagner said.
In all, the Walsh development will be 7,200 acres, including commercial and retail development. The Aledo district's Walsh Elementary School is already open in the center of the development, a short walk from a Walsh Village Market that serves as a gas station and convenience store with healthy snacks and ready-made meals.
"In 10 years, this will be a city in itself," said Caroline Revard, one of the first home buyers in the area.
A fitness center is already open as well, with a variety of exercise machines, free weights and an enormous area for Pilates, yoga and cardio workouts.
Nationwide, real estate analysts are predicting one of the weakest spring selling seasons in recent years. It's a crucial time for the industry, since 40 percent of home sales take place between March and June, according to the National Association of Realtors.
As Fort Worth prepares for an influx of new residents — with today’s population of about 850,000 expected to swell to nearly 1.5 million by 2040 — Walsh is expected to be a bell cow for neighborhoods wishing to lure upper-middle income and wealthy residents.
Walsh was designed to preserve the rolling hills native to the area, and is organized so that residents have easy walking access to one of three parks.
Also, the entire area is being wired for 2 gigabit Internet speed — faster than surrounding areas — and residents and businesses will have an option to tap into 10 gigabit service. A company known as Frog is installing the fiber optics.
The area, which is in the Aledo school district, will eventually have its own middle and high schools.
Walsh is being built in a cooperative effort that involves the Walsh family, which still lives in the area and owns ranch land, and Republic Property Group. Republic also developed Frisco’s Phillips Creek Ranch and Celina’s Light Farms and is working on Plano’s Villas at Legacy West. The partners formed Quail Valley Land Co. for the Walsh project.
This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.