Over a quarter-century, real estate developer Terry Montesi has compiled a Hall of Fame career, with acclaimed commercial developments across the country and in Texas, spanning from Dallas to The Woodlands to Corpus Christi.
Yet only now is the dapper and bespectacled entrepreneur, who leads Fort Worth-based Trademark Property Company, able to stake his claim to two critical personal firsts that essentially complete the circle of his professional journey.
First, Montesi beams as he points to the long-awaited hometown feather in his cap: the 63-acre mixed-use development called Waterside, a thoughtfully and uniquely constructed hybrid of retailers, restaurants, residences and community gathering spaces coming to life on the city’s southwest side.
Planned to share space with the century-old oak trees that dot the sloping land between Bryant Irvin Road and the Trinity River and Trail, Waterside is Montesi’s first “conscious-place initiative,” with a distinctly earthy Austin vibe, from topography to urban-contemporary architecture.
Built on what was for years home to the Lockheed Martin Recreation Association and earlier General Dynamics, Waterside is designed to become a destination as much for what’s outside the shops and restaurants as for what’s inside.
Still, the center’s main tenants, drawn specifically by the organic nature of the project, are all head-turners and new to the city, providing Montesi another important first: “It’s the first thing I’ve ever done to impress my wife and daughters, to get Whole Foods to come to town,” he said.
The upmarket grocery store, with locations already in Dallas, Arlington and Colleyville, is finally here, having opened Wednesday to tremendous fanfare, packed aisles and limitless samples of local craft beer, wine and food. The popular outdoors retailer REI opened in the spring. Next to Whole Foods is the high-end, specialty kitchen supply store Sur La Table.
“It’s very rewarding because we do stuff across the country and I’ve been asked many times by people in Fort Worth, like, ‘What do you do?’ ” said Montesi, a 2015 inductee into the North Texas Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame for developments such as Rice Village in Houston, Victory Park in Dallas and Watters Creek in Allen. “My kids and wife have often said, ‘We wish you would do something here.’ ”
When Lockheed decided to put a large chunk of its recreation area on the market in 2009, it was like manna for him. And sentimental, too, for the longtime west Fort Worth resident who drove past the land every day taking his three kids to Fort Worth Country Day.
A native of Memphis, Tenn., Montesi, 56, settled in Texas after earning his MBA at the University of Texas in Austin. He first worked in Dallas with Lincoln Property for several years, moved to Fort Worth in 1987 and founded Trademark in 1991.
He has one big Fort Worth development under his belt, Alliance Town Center in north Fort Worth, which has established itself as a go-to retail and restaurant destination. The sprawling mixed-use development now includes residential units, park space, almost 40 places to eat and drink, an equal number of places to shop and an 18-screen movie theater.
And Trademark has acquired the development across from University Park Village, WestBend, which, like Waterside, is located on the Trinity River and is undergoing a major redevelopment.
But Waterside encapsulates his true desires since becoming a devotee of “Conscious Capitalism,” a move to break from generic, soulless retail centers and deliver an urban-park feel that equally encourages visitors to sip coffee under the shade of a tree, play a game of bocce ball or work outside using free Wi-Fi.
“How good does it feel psychologically being here?” Montesi asked, standing in the heart of the development known as the “The Grove.”
“The Grove,” an expanse of grass sprouting mature oak trees, separates REI from Whole Foods. It is filled with tables and umbrellas, plus the “community room,” a large covered area with tables for working or conversing or watching a giant TV that hangs at one end.
Four “micro-restaurants line The Grove, a concept designed to attract entrepreneurs whose pockets aren’t deep enough to invest in a full-fledged restaurant. The micro-restaurants — think of them as food trucks without wheels — offer additional choices from traditional restaurants such as Piatello, a new Italian spot by Clay Pigeon chef Marcus Paslay, and Taco Diner, among others.
Paslay acquired one micro-space next to his restaurant for a coffee bar. Two of the remaining three spaces are filled, one by Steel City Pops and another by a local interest that will make sandwiches, although that tenant has not been announced.
Throughout The Grove will be sculptures created from the old playground equipment and carousels that were once part the Lockheed recreation area. As the land slopes down to the Trinity, where the trail has been expanded and a street with free parallel parking paved for easy access to the development, old carousel horses of varying colors fastened on poles will rise from the ground.
Montesi envisions an endless stream of bikers, runners and parents pushing strollers to make their way from the trail to The Grove to eat and drink — Whole Foods will sell beer growlers to take outside — and pass the day.
“People will be hanging out here interacting with the people coming off the trail, going to all these micro-restaurants, going to Whole Foods, so we think this is going to be a very interesting cross-section of people coming to do lots of different things,” Montesi said.
Local artists and artisans were commissioned to complete the unique feel of the development. Brother Sister Design made the benches, Pallet Smart made the tables and adirondacks, among other items, and Fife Metal Works made the corten planters, corten bollard covers and the corten live oak panels. Austin artist Bob Wade, famous for hand-tinting black-and-white vintage photographs on large canvasses, is applying his genius to photographs from the 1940s and 1950s shot on the Waterside site.
“I like it,” said Brandon Pederson, owner of Brother Sister Design, who grew up in Azle. “I like the whole idea behind it, from the naturalness, the trees and the locals doing it. The art, it’s really cool.”
Throughout the development are various sustainability initiatives, such as solar-powered charging stations for electronic devices, and in the parking lot for battery-powered cars. A cistern outside Whole Foods will collect water from the grocery store’s rooftop to be used to water plants. Inside Whole Foods, various parts of the walls, tables and chairs are made from the hardwood floors that were inside the old Lockheed recreation center headquarters building.
Waterside’s official grand opening is set for Nov. 12.
“It’s very meaningful and very rewarding. All your friends are getting to hang out at these places and experience them and in some ways the pressure is on,” Montesi said. “But the reward is even more intense.”
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