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Hillwood withdraws rezoning request, Circle T plans remain

Hillwood Properties has withdrawn a rezoning request that sought 186,000 square feet of office space for part of the Circle T project, the recently announced mixed-use development in Westlake.

At a Dec. 1 Planning and Zoning Commission workshop-meeting, Hillwood representatives said they would re-file project plans in early 2016 but that the development – known for months as “Project Blizzard” – would still proceed.

“They already have office use on the tract,” said Town Manager Tom Brymer. “They just want to take the square footage and put it into two sub-areas.”

At the meeting, board members were expected to consider approving Hillwood’s request to reduce the allowed square footage of office use in two areas of project property while adding an equal portion of allowed office use to another project area that would be split into the sub-areas.

The Circle T project could house a regional operations center for The Charles Schwab Corp., the San Francisco-based financial services firm that recently signed a five-year lease for a building in Westlake. The 130,000-square-foot leased space will accommodate up to 500 employees. An expanded Schwab presence on Circle T property remains under discussion.

If plans reach fruition, Schwab would join a town whose top employers include Fidelity Investments; CoreLogic (formerly First American Real Estate Information Services Inc.); TD Auto (formerly Chrysler Financial); Wells Fargo; and the Marriott Solana Hotel.

“It’s a significant financial services company that’s very successful and has a good reputation, and based on information I have been given, appears to be bringing a substantial payroll to the area, much of which will be local hires,” Brymer said.

Hillwood is developing the project with Dallas-based Howard Hughes Corp. It marks the latest vision for the Circle T Ranch, which Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood Properties purchased in 1993. Since then, multiple redevelopment plans – including a regional shopping mall – have targeted at least part of the 2,000-acre ranch, but none reached fruition.

Hillwood’s latest vision would affect 128 acres at the entrance to the ranch property.

While Brymer considers the office component as “fairly straightforward,” the multifamily portion could get complicated.

Brymer acknowledges that apartments and multifamily are concepts frowned upon by many of the affluent community’s 1,096 residents. The Hillwood plan includes multifamily homes, as well as offices, retail and a hotel.

Hillwood is seeking approvals to construct a corporate office campus with more than 2 million square feet in several buildings, 750 apartments, a 200-room hotel, a 350,000-square-foot mid-rise office and 80,000 square feet featuring retail and entertainment, including a movie theater.

The first phase would include a 286,000-square-foot office project, the hotel, retail and 250 residential units. But Brymer was quick to describe those units as examples of “urban living,” whose amenities make them more upscale than traditional apartments, he said.

“There are essentially two parts of the project: the corporate office piece with Charles Schwab and the mixed-use part,” Brymer said.

Spearheading the office portion is Schwab, expected to purchase 74 acres of land next to the Circle T from Hillwood by year’s end.

“It’s incredible to think that Charles Schwab could become one of Westlake’s corporate partners,” said Mayor Laura Wheat, who minced no words regarding the project’s multifamily component.

“However, I think it is possible that our community will view as a downside the urban living concept which is included in the current plan. I could be wrong, but it is my clear sense from my Westlake friends and neighbors that most in our community simply do not have any appetite for apartments in the town of Westlake,” Wheat said.

Hillwood officials have not commented on the project, which includes Gensler, an architecture, design, planning and consulting firm; architect Corgan Associates of Dallas; engineering and consulting firm Peloton Land Solutions; and engineering, architecture and consulting firm Burns & McDowell.

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