Commentary: 2019 saw a number of significant developments in Arlington

Arlington 2019

2019 saw a number of significant developments in Arlington

Every city has annual ups and downs, usually a mix of both. But it’s unlikely that any city, any place, weighed in so heavily on the “up” side as Arlington managed in 2019. Here’s a recap of the year’s top events:

• ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT EXPANSION – In December the city put its stamp of approval of an $810-million expansion of the already booming Entertainment District – a new 888-room Loews Arlington Hotel with 1,500 parking spaces, new convention center, and a separate new public parking garage with 1,900 spaces.

The plan included ongoing reuse strategies via Cordish Companies (the builders/operators of Texas Live!) for the old open-air Globe Life Park, in which the last game was played in fall 2019. In addition to a 200,000-square-foot corporate office headquarters, the plan included a mixed-use residential building within the old ballpark, with 280 units and 100,000 square feet of retail, entertainment and Spark coworking and new business incubator space.

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Some of the new facilities will be linked via walkways over roadways like Randol Mill Road. The newly-constructed indoor Globe Life Field will open this spring.

• MEDAL OF HONOR MUSEUM – The National Medal of Honor Museum will be built in Arlington, the museum’s foundation announced in October, the facility to be built within the Entertainment District, opening in 2024.

The museum honors the more the more than 3,500 veterans who received the national’s highest military honor since the first medal was awarded in 1863. Arlington prevailed in a national search for the new site, being named a finalist with Denver. Cost of the building was estimated to be in the $150-million range. Once open, the museum is expected to attract tens of thousands of new visitors to the city every year.

• GM PLANT BACK ON LINE – Since the first GM vehicle rolled off the new Arlington assembly line in 1954, it’s been a rare year when some development at the big auto maker hasn’t been a major story in the city – 2019 being no exception.

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Last year, it was a two-parter, with GM workers across the nation striking for 40 days, beginning in late summer and into the fall. Though workers did receive additional compensation and benefits, these did not come without costs as GM continued to shutter some of its operations elsewhere, the Arlington facility being unaffected.

The still-expanding Arlington plant, which manufactures popular Tahoe and Suburban SUVS, introduced heavily revamped 2021 models – with a new chassis – in December. They’ll appear in showrooms mid-year.

• EDUCATIONAL INVESTMENT: Not all the big stories in Arlington involved business or other economic development. Arlington voters in November approved a school bond package worth nearly $1 billion for a plethora of purposes including $852 million for facilities, $91 million for safety, security and technology, $15 million for transportation and $7 million for fine arts. AISD is among the nation’s 75 largest school districts, with 78 campuses. Three older school buildings – average age 75 years – will be razed and replaced.

And, though the election was countrywide, an $825-million Tarrant County College bond election – the first in 25 years – passed with slightly more than 60 percent approval. The funding will have a noticeable impact on the Arlington Southeast Campus, which will receive $125 million for the construction of new buildings and renovation of others. That campus, originally built for 5,000 students, has about 12,000 students – closer to 15,000 counting on-line students from Arlington or Mansfield – and has used modular classrooms to accommodate expanding student attendance.

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UT-Arlington, too, will benefit from increased spending on facilities, in 2019 receiving approval from the UT regents for a $60 million replacement for the university’s aging Social Services building – originally built in the 1920s as Arlington High School. The new building will house both the School of Social Work and the College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s Smart Hospital. The $60 million will come from the Permanent University Fund.

• MEDICAL CITY HOSPITAL – So much attention was focused on new developments in Arlington’s Entertainment District, downtown and I-20 enterprises that Medical City’s massive investments in new facilities were almost overshadowed. In April, the hospital (3301 Matlock Road) opened its new $60 million Medical City Women’s Hospital. In addition, the hospital broke ground last year on a new $54-million, four-story medical office building and seven-story parking structure on the northwest side of the hospital campus — bordered by Matlock Road and Omega Drive. The expansion will open this spring.

• BARDIN ROAD RESURRECTION – When the National Semiconductor chip manufacturing plant at 1111 W. Bardin Road closed in 2010, it struck a heavy blow to the city’s hopes for economic development along the I-20 corridor, Bardin being a parallel road two blocks south. The 441,000-square-foot chip factor originally opened in 1985 and once employed as many as 1,200 people. The building was eventually razed on the 71-acre campus.

But the corridor boomed without National Semiconductor and is now considered the city’s leading employment generator. Two new 440,000-square foot warehousing and distributing buildings now occupy the former National Semiconductor site and a third building, also 440,000 square feet, will open this spring. Major tenants include Rent the Runway, Automann, Turn14 and Goffa International.

• DOWNTOWN – The opening of year 2020 left the city’s resurgent downtown in the midst of something of a mess. A massive rebuild of the downtown main drag – Abram Street – into a traffic slowing, more pedestrian oriented roadway, continued with completion expected by late spring. That completion will likely also coincide with the opening of the new 900-resident Park Place Arlington on Abram – a two building mixed use complex at Abram and Mesquite streets that will also contain retail, offices and restaurants.

And there were two other significant developments announced in the downtown area. Those included Main 7, a 53-unit luxury townhome development near Abram and Cooper streets. The project – a three-component partnership, will be marketed by realtor Georgie Zang, designed by Oakhollow Group and built by Savannah Developers.

And there will also be Urban Union Phase II on East Front Street, a 55,000-square-foot, four-building expansion that will feature mixed use of restaurants, bars, yoga studios and offices on the lower level, and 25 loft-style apartments on the second level. The developer, Ryan Dodson, also announced three new restaurants on the same stretch of Front Street – Sugar Bee, Cane Rosso and Hurtado’s Barbecue.

O.K. Carter is a former editor and publisher of the Arlington Citizen-Journal and was also Arlington publisher and columnist for the Star-Telegram and founding editor of Arlington Today Magazine. He’s the author of the definitive book on Arlington’s colorful history, Caddos, Cotton and Cowboys: Essays on Arlington.