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The city is moving ahead with attempts to redevelop several surplus publicly owned lots on the south end of downtown, fronting the north side of Lancaster Street and facing historic buildings like the T&P Station, U.S. Post Office and Merchant’s Terminal. Fort Worth’s Local Development Corp. has completed plans for a 130-unit apartment building called Lancaster Place between Jennings and Throckmorton streets, with 20,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and four stories of residential. The corporation expects to close on a loan in the fall, with construction beginning before year-end, Jay Chapa, the city’s housing and economic development director, said. Fort Worth is also seeking a master developer for several lots between Jones Street and the Interstate 30 entrance ramp, with expectations for mixed-use buildings of three to eight stories that could include retail, residential, office, and hotel, Chapa said. “The idea is they don’t overpower the historic buildings on the south side of Lancaster,” Chapa said. Lancaster Place has been in the works for a few years. The Local Development Corp. will own the property in a limited liability corporation. The city is putting in $2 million in federal HOME funds the city receives to develop affordable housing. The corporation will seek a $13.5 million loan, with the rest of the $25 million total value of the project coming in land and money being contributed by the downtown tax increment finance district, Chapa said.
There’s no private equity in the project, but a private group will develop the retail master plan and Capstone Residential will manage the apartments, Chapa said. Private groups were interested in the property, but there wasn’t enough parking, and the city ended up having to acquire another lot for it, Chapa said. “There’s nobody that could make it work,” he said. “it’s going to function like a private development. The whole idea is to kick-start development down there.” Market rents for the building’s apartments will be $1.39 per square foot, Chapa said. Because federal HOME money is in the project, 20 percent of the apartments will be available at lower rents of 72 and 78 cents per square foot, he said. On the master developer for the other lots, the city will go out for proposals in March, with a window of a month to a month and a half, Chapa told the City Council’s Housing and Economic Development Committee on Feb. 4. The city will narrow the proposals to two to four, and then “we’ll select a final group to negotiate with by the summer,” Chapa said. It’s not clear yet whether the city might end up still owning the land, he said. “We don’t know until we negotiate,” he said. “It might be a ground lease, it might be a joint venture, it might be a straight sale.” The city’s top criteria for the master developer: Ensuring “development occurs” at high quality, Chapa said. The city envisions ground-floor retail and services, with other uses above, Chapa said. That could mean anything from stores to restaurants, banks, even a veterinarian. “I don’t think we have a vet downtown right now,” he said. The city and tourism industry is also interested in more full-service hotels downtown, and hotel rooms are a possiblity, Chapa said. The city and the Downtown Fort Worth Inc. economic development nonprofit will present the project at a conference in Dallas at the end of this month.