A new development plan promises Mansfield’s first Class A office building, an upscale hotel with a conference center, entertainment-based retail, medical offices, destination restaurants and other uses on the Lockwood property on East Broad Street west of Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.
It’s the type of project many in Mansfield have told the city they want for years.
“I said we needed a ‘wow’ factor in Mansfield,” City Councilman Mike Leyman said. “Assuming this gets built the way you’re proposing it, you’d be accomplishing that goal.”
But the catalyst for this high-end project still draws the ire of many Mansfield residents — a 295-unit, three-story apartment complex along East Broad Street that will feature 126 efficiency units, 75 larger one-bedroom units and 94 two-bedroom units.
Houston Mitchell has been a staunch critic of apartments as the City Council continues to approve zoning for more multi-family and he warned the council again about this latest project.
“We’re behind the eight ball on our infrastructure and we want to put more apartments in the city,” Mitchell said. “I care about this town and apartments look great today but they don’t start looking good 15 or 20 years down the line. It’s about money. They want to make money and they’ll build it and they’ll make their money and sell it to the next sucker.”
He’s most concerned about overcrowding the school district and forcing the district to redraw attendance boundaries.
“They don’t want their kid going across town to go to school,” Mitchell said.
Angie Thor said the city is at a crossroads where it can continue approving rental units or listen to the residents who oppose them.
“We don’t need small efficiency apartments,” Thor said. “We want high-end, quality development. What guarantees do we have that they won’t be section 8?”
But there wasn’t much the City Council could do about the apartments at the Oct. 14 meeting because the developer, Stillwater Capital, just needed a specific use permit to build the apartments.
City Attorney Allen Taylor explained that the eight acres where this apartment complex is planned is part of the larger Reserve master planned development, which is divided into seven subdistricts. The apartment complex itself is planned within the Workplace Subdistrict, where up to 1,024 apartments could someday be built.
The council approved the various land uses and maximum dwelling units for each subdistrict in 2006 so the council could do little to stop this project.
“The land-use decision was made in 2006,” Taylor said. “The development site characteristics of the proposed project are before the council. It is not a land use question. It’s a design and development question.”
Leyman warned that if the council denies the project, the developer, Stillwater Capital, could sue the city.
“I’m not in favor of spending taxpayer money for attorneys to represent us in a legal fight over this situation,” Leyman said. “I think we are bound by a previous council.”
Mayor David Cook agreed that denying the project could lead to litigation.
The council voted 6-1 to approve the specific use permit for the apartments with Councilman Terry Moore voting no.
Clay Roby, partner with Stillwater Capital, said construction will start in early 2020 and it would take about 18 to 20 months to build the apartment complex.
Overall, Stillwater Capital plans to buy 200 acres for the mixed-use development on the Lockwood property.
He said they’re in talks with a tenant that could build a 40,000-square-foot Class A office building. They’re also planning a large hotel with convention center space and an entertainment-style destination. The project could also feature a public event venue that could host farmers markets and other events.
Councilwoman Julie Short said she’s concerned that they get all the apartments and nothing else gets built.
Roby assured the council that these negotiations are ongoing and they intend to break ground on the first retail/restaurant components soon.
As for the apartments, Roby said the rents will be the highest in the city, at least $1.90 a square foot, with a resort-style swimming pool, a beer garden, fitness center, co-working space and a clubhouse.
Mansfield resident Elon Werner said he was initially concerned about more apartments in Mansfield he saw the quality of what Stillwater Capital proposed.
He said he’d like to see something like Top Golf come to Mansfield and these apartments are a necessary component to do that.
“Apartments aren’t bad. People need entry-level places to live and I think if we can offer them nice affordable places to do that I think the city will be better,” Werner said. “This is the kind of development that Mansfield needs.”
There are plans to widen East Broad Street to six lanes at some point and, if the project develops the way it was described, the developer will pay its share of impact fees that can be used to upgrade roads and other public infrastructure in the area, said Bart VanAmburgh, director of public works.