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Business for Breakfast: Walsh project update

🕐 5 min read


• 7,207 acre master-planned community.

• Largest tract of undeveloped land within 10 minutes of any CBD in the U.S.

• 15,000 homes from the $300,000s to the millions.

• Wide variety of housing options expected to meet unfulfilled market needs.

• Corporate campus business parks and Medical with potential of 37,000 employees at full build out.

• More than 8,800,000 square feet of destination and neighborhood serving retail

• Interconnected parks, open space, wildlife and natural preserve areas, local and regional recreational amenities.

• Targeted $6 billion assessed value at build out.

• Homebuilders for the development include HGC, David Weekley Homes, Drees Homes, Highland Homes, Toll Brothers, John Askew Custom Homes, Britton Homes, MK Homes, Park Hill Homes and Village Homes.

• Walsh Ranch was the headquarters of the F. Howard Walsh family ranching operations for about 60 years. Along with the ranching operations, the Walsh family has had a long history of philanthropic endeavors, including work with Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts, Harris Methodist Hospital, All Saints Hospital, Cook Children’s Medical Center, funding of the annual production of the Littlest Wiseman at the Scott Theater, donating land for the Northwest Campus of Tarrant County College and contributions to Texas Christian University including the Mary D. and F. Howard Walsh Center for Performing Arts, Walsh Sports Medicine Complex, renovations to the Daniel Meyer Coliseum, and numerous endowed academic scholarships. F. Howard Walsh died in 2016 at age 75.

Business for Breakfast

Walsh project to transform Fort Worth

Pull quote:

Just the idea of a vision turning into a rendering into construction drawings, and then sticking a shovel in the ground and actually building it. It seems to take forever, but it’s moving really quickly now.

– Jake Wagner, Republic Property Group

What: Business for Breakfast

Where: Fort Worth Club

When: Wednesday, Sept. 26, 8 a.m.

Who: Jake Wagner, co-CEO, Republic Property Group, developers of Walsh and Robert Francis, editor, Fort Worth Business Press

Excerpts from the discussion:

About Jake Wagner:

Wagner: I was born and raised in Dallas. Went to St. Mark’s for high school there. Went to [University of Texas] down in Austin for college. I was an English major, which is not a logical step to being a real estate developer.

But I moved back here. We got into brokerage for a couple years and then went onto the development side. My company, Republic Property Group, is a private development company based in North Texas. So this is the only market we operate in.

About Dallas-based Republic Property Group

Wagner: It was started in 1967 by a man named Rick Strauss. I had the pleasure, along with my business partner, Tony Ruggeri [co-CEO], to work with Rick for about 8 to 10 years. Incredible man, incredible mentor for me. He retired about four years ago when we acquired the company from him at that time.

As a company, we don’t do a lot of projects. [W]e’re very hands-on, intensely focused in what we do. And right now we’re building out a project called Phillip’s Creek Ranch, which is in West Frisco, which is about 1,000 acres. We have a high-density infill project in Legacy West off of the old JC Penney campus that’s underway. We have 1,100-acre project called Light Farms, which is up in the prosperous Celina area, which is about half way built out.

About the Walsh project:

Wagner: The project has obviously been a long time coming, several decades of planning and work even before we got involved. Really the incredible foresight that the Walsh family and group began very early on, envisioning that this would happen someday. That goes back to the 1970s with Howard Walsh planning the water and the sewer sleeves before Interstate 20 came out there and got extended.

They had a master concept plan and economic development agreement done with the City of Fort Worth in 2001. [The city then] started extending some of the water utilities out to the west. They worked with the city and TxDOT and several entities to build this interchange at Interstate 30 and our entrance, which is Walsh Ranch Parkway. This just beautiful historic Texas highway architectural bridge, really a landmark out there.

Ten years ago they planted a tree farm. Had about 15,000 trees that have been growing. So as a developer and starting the project, we have these incredible, mature trees to start with. We’ve already relocated about 3,000 of them. … So they did an incredible amount of research on the front end.

This is Barnett Shale. There’s lots of wells out there, and they planned the locations of them. There is a really innovative underground collection system to reduce truck traffic, all of that planning to develop this area someday.

How Republic got involved:

Wagner: My company got involved in the fall of 2013. The Walsh family was ready to develop it, sent out a request for proposals to potential partners. I think as they would tell it, they sent out 40 proposals around the country to different developers. They got 39 responses. Everyone was incredibly interested, and we worked with them for about six months and fortunately won the beauty contest to partner with them on this incredible project.

Why Republic was chosen:

Wagner: I think we’re very like-minded in our vision. This is a project that obviously the economics are relevant and important, but it’s just as much about creating a legacy for Fort Worth and doing something really special.

[The Walsh group are] an incredibly meticulous, detailed group, and I think that aligns with us as well. I think it’s also probably a 30, 40, 50-year project. So I think our youth probably didn’t hurt, that we could be here for hopefully that period of time. We’ll see.

Where the development is at present:

Wagner: We opened in April of 2017, that was kind of the first grand opening, the first homes. So roughly 18 months ago. But if you go out there today there’s probably almost 300 homes built. We’ve had about 250 sales, but probably 500 or so people living out there.

And that’s really the most gratifying part of what we do and what I do as a developer is we started working on this in 2013 and just the amount of work and effort and time that goes into it before you ever really see anything on the ground is really important. Just the idea of a vision turning into a rendering into construction drawings, and then sticking a shovel in the ground and actually building it. It seems to take forever, but it’s moving really quickly now.

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