The key to any downtown revitalization plan is giving people a reason to go there.
Even better if they can live there, possibly work there and have interesting things to do.
In a first for Arlington, Catalyst Urban Development of Dallas is set to break ground next month on a 22-month project to build a mixed-use complex designed around a “live-work-play” concept. It will feature 221 high-end apartments over a first floor of retail businesses, including shops; a 1,500-square-foot exercise gym; potentially multiple restaurants; and many other tenants.
“It’s a game-changer for downtown,” said Bruce Payne, city economic development director.
The city and developer have a partnership in the $49 million development, tentatively named 101 Center, on the site of the recently razed 40-year-old George W. Hawkes public library that was the City Hall’s neighbor to the east.
The city is committing to about $10.8 million for Catalyst’s contractors to build a roughly $7.4 million parking garage — including surrounding surface parking and landscaping — and rebuild portions of Center, Mesquite and Abram streets that front along the development. The city would own the garage and lease most of it back to Catalyst.
That’s also an unusual aspect of the project, said Deputy City Manager Jim Parajon, who oversees economic development operations. If the city had to bid out those street improvements, they would have to wait their turn in the city’s capital improvement plan.
The city’s share of the funding will come from a tax increment reinvestment zone, a special taxing entity that generates property tax revenue from a specific geographic area and must reinvest those funds for improvements in that area.
The 101 Center will reflect the style of the Levitt Pavilion and the new downtown library, which is set for construction to begin in February on the north side of City Hall. The City Council chamber will be demolished and rebuilt between City Hall and the 80,000-square-foot library.
The projects will consume what are now 150 to 160 surface parking spaces, and the new parking garage probably wouldn’t be available to provide relief until 101 Center is completed, Payne said.
“The city will likely make room in the parking lot immediately west of City Hall for the public and customers to access the building,” he added. “Employee parking is what will be reassigned.”
Catalyst principal Paris Rutherford said that the garage side of the apartment building will have small office spaces — about 1,000 square feet — for small businesses like certified public accountants and people who work from home. Those tenants could work and sleep in those “live-work units.”
“They don’t have to rent a place to live and a place to work,” Rutherford told the council at a briefing Sept. 15.
Added Parajon, “Essentially it would allow startup businesses to make their home in Arlington at an affordable rate.”
Rutherford said Dallas and Fort Worth have similar upscale mixed-use developments.
“In Arlington, you do not,” Rutherford said. “It’s really the first of its kind coming out of the gate.”
By the numbers
$38.2 million: private financing by developer
$10.8 million: city’s commitment for parking garage and other infrastructure
2012: Catalyst present preliminary plans to the city
2012-14: City and Catalyst work out construction, finance and user agreements and create public/private partnership.
2014-15: City prepares plans for its public facilities, and Catalyst arranges finances and finishes drawings, pricing and contracts
October: Construction to begin
August 2017: Construction to finish
▪ 221 upscale apartments
▪ Four- to six-story elevations
▪ First floor is all retail, potentially including multiple restaurants.
▪ Apartment options: one to four bedrooms, 500 square feet to 1,300-plus square feet.
▪ Rent: $1.50 to $1.80 per square foot
Sources: City of Arlington, Catalyst Urban Development