U.S. 287 glides through some of the city’s last vestiges of wide-open space, a mostly bucolic setting that some residents have enjoyed for decades.
“It’s pleasant to live here,” said Silvia Birk. She and her husband moved to their homestead, just west of the Tierra Verde Golf Club, more than 40 years ago. “When we came here there was no I-20, and no 287.”
And no golf course.
Last year, Birk was asked to serve on a citizens advisory committee empaneled by city officials to help evaluate and create a vision for the growing potential for development in the 4.5-mile-long highway corridor in between Kennedale and Mansfield.
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“This is a significant corridor for the city and the southwest gateway to Arlington,” said Lyndsay Mitchell, the city’s comprehensive planning manager.
After nearly a year of study that included an online survey of more than 800 residents, the city adopted Focus 287, a long-range plan that outlines goals for development and reinvestment in neighborhoods and businesses in study area, which comprises 4,328 acres, or 6.8 square miles.
Mike Talambas, a former Planing and Zoning Commission member who served on the 20-member 287 advisory committee, emphasized “long range.” He doesn’t see much happening until a developer shows up with an inspired concept that fits into the 287 plan.
“It’s a good plan overall. I think if it develops out the way we envision it,” he said, the corridor “will be a jewel.”
The studied highway section, which extends from Interstate 20 to Turner Warnell Road, is a major north-south commuter route and one of seven highways running through Arlington.
According to the study:
- 720 acres, or 17 percent of the corridor, is vacant land. Less than 1 percent is deemed undevelopable.
- 380 acres is dedicated to parks and open space.
- Single-family housing is the primary land use, accounting for 56 percent of corridor property.
- Businesses account for 18 percent of land use.
Spots of hodgepodge zoning and existing development are issues that need to be addressed, the study said.
Councilwoman Sheri Capehart, whose southwest Arlington district includes the studied corridor, said the process was revealing.
“We learned that people who live along the corridor are very adamant about preserving what I would term the more rural environment,” said Capehart, quoted in the Focus 287 document. “It’s not just the trees and the habitat. It’s the overall feel of the corridor.”
But they clearly want a balance with convenience, citing desires for upscale grocery stores, unique restaurants and outdoor shopping venues similar to the Arlington Highlands at I-20 and Matlock Road, according to the plan. And they want medium- and large-lot housing and more parks, open space and bike-and-hike paths.
One of those those wishes already is being granted, though not a direct result of the master plan. Bulldozers are preparing a red-dirt field for construction of a Kroger Marketplace store in the northwest quadrant of U.S. 287 and Sublett Road, next to Kennedale. The 123,000-square-foot grocer will be across Sublett from the existing Albersons-anchored shopping center.
“That’s going to be a big plus,” Birk said. “We need something like that.”
The final Focus 287 document responds to the corridor’s needs with an array of incentives and initiatives, including:
- Matching grants to encourage design upgrades for existing businesses and neighborhood efforts that improve quality of life and home values.
- Support for zoning changes to resolve land-use conflicts with the master plan’s vision, which includes a high-quality, low-density approach to development.
- Street projects to improve mobility in the area as well as pedestrian and trail projects.
- Promotion of a regional identity for the corridor that would tap into its “recreation-inspired character,” anchored by Tierra Verde and including Martin Luther King Jr. Sports Center.