Angry residents are staging a fight to try and stop a developer from building a high-end apartment complex in the Bedford Commons, and for at least one night, they claimed a small victory.
Realty Capital plans to build 650 high-end apartments in addition to town homes, retail and restaurants at the Bedford Commons, a mixed-used project bounded by Airport Freeway, Forest Ridge Drive, Parkwood Drive and Bedford Road. The plans also include a new Town Hall with open space and linear trail connections to the Bedford Boy’s Ranch and beyond.
But at a council meeting that started Tuesday night and ended early Wednesday morning, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 people flooded the council chamber, the hallway outside and an overflow room across the street — to mostly speak against the apartments.
Roger Gallenstein, a member of the group Citizens Against More Apartments in Bedford, asked the developer, Tim Coltart, managing director for Realty Capital, why this project wasn’t built in Colleyville, where Coltart lives.
“We all know that’s DOA in Colleyville,” Gallenstein said. “That’s not going to happen. Do we need more and are we any less than the citizens of Colleyville? Are we not as good?”
Following the emotional speeches, the City Council voted 5-2 against zoning changes the developer had asked for, including changing the appearance of the fronts of buildings so that some look residential and decreasing the amount of green space.
The vote occurred at 1 a.m., after more than five hours of discussion.
“Unfortunately the result wasn’t as we had hoped for,” Coltart said. “Realty Capital had been working with staff for over two years and we still believe in the development potential of central Bedford and are disappointed by the outcome. We share the same vision of many of our opponents — a mixed-use, walkable community that includes parks, residential, retail and civic uses and will continue to work with city leaders and residents.”
The vote does not mean the developer can’t build the apartments.
“The developer needs to reassess what he can do,” said Bedford Mayor Jim Griffin. “Based on the zoning code, he can still build luxury urban units.”
And Gallenstein, for one, said he believes apartments will still be built. But he noted that the developer still needs to purchase the land from Bedford, which would need council approval.
“We are going on record saying that we don’t want this land sold to anyone for apartments,” Gallenstein said.
Coltart said the Bedford Commons needs a development with high-end apartments to attract millennials that retailers and job centers are seeking, such as the Amazon headquarters that many cities are vying for, Coltart said.
“That is what really brings people to Bedford, “ he said. “Those types of companies look for places to be that actually have residential properties that can house their workforce.”
He said those living in the apartments would bring six-figure salaries with them.
Coltart estimated that they will rent for $1.50 per square foot. In Tarrant County, the average is 93 cents per square foot, according to the Zillow Rent Index.
When asked why he didn’t want apartments in Bedford Commons, Gallenstein said there are apartment complexes in Bedford that are not taken care of that have been cited for numerous health and safety violations.
Currently 47 percent of city residents live in apartments, Gallenstein said.
“Single-family homeowners are more vested in the community and more engaged in the city.” Gallenstein said. “Apartment dwellers are in and out and may be gone in a year or two years.”
Development director Bill Syblon said that there are 35 apartment complexes in Bedford, and most were built over 30 years ago.
Bedford’s housing breakdown includes 62 percent single family and 38 percent multifamily, Syblon said.
Meanwhile, Gallenstein said the fight isn’t over.
“The next step will be to get the city to deny letting any apartments being built on this property,” he said.
Correspondent Nicholas Sakelaris contributed to this report.