Mansfield grows beyond suburban community

Richard Nevins, Mansfield 

Tucked away in southeast Tarrant County 20 miles from the Mid-Cities boom, once-little Mansfield has evolved into what amounts to a Metroplex surprise – a fast-growing 75,000-population city that follows a development strategy untypical of most suburban communities.

Put simply, that strategy is this: Develop as a balanced, complete community. Rooftops, yes; bountiful retail, country clubs and restaurants with movies, yes; medical facilities and hotels, yes; but also, definitely and essentially, a heavy industrial component. Clearly, it’s working. The average household income is about $115,000, the average new home about $400,000 and the city is now in year 19 without a property tax increase.

Though Mansfield over the past couple of decades went through on-again, off-again community elections volatility, the majority of the city council has been consistent in insisting on that balanced community concept. No doubt it also helps that Mansfield City Manager Clayton Chandler, with 35 years at the helm, is now the senior city CEO in Texas. Few communities have that level of continuity.

Though the 50-square-mile municipality is definitely a mostly new place, it has deep Texas history roots that stretch back to 1856, when Ralph Man and Julian Feild decided to dam Walnut Creek to power a three-story grist mill at what is now the town center. Somewhere along the way the Man and Feild mill morphed into Mansfield, with apologies to Julian Feild for rearranging the spelling of his name somewhere in the city’s history.

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The Mansfield Economic Development Corporation shepherds much of the city’s attempts to expand development and employment activity. Board members are appointed by the council and the director of economic development is Richard Nevins – the latter not at all reticent to outline the now sprawling prairie city’s bigger scores.

“Our goals are not just retail, not just commercial,” Nevins said in a recent interview at MEDC’s downtown office. “We’ve got robust medical industry growth with Texas Health coming in and Texas Methodist having undergone several expansions.”

But, Nevins says, here’s the eye opener: “What a lot of people don’t realize is how large our industrial base is.”

How big? Mansfield has about 125 industrial residents from small to large, the biggest being a continually expanded 1,900-employee Mouser Electronics (electronic components) and a growing Klein Tools (700 employees, hand tools of immense variety). Most Pier 1 online orders are filled from a massive warehouse in Mansfield. The variety of industries is eclectic, from Valley Forge (one of the largest forges in the country) and Ramtech Building Systems to Martin Conveyer and – inexplicably for a city 300 miles from the nearest ocean – the largest underwater repair and construction company in the nation, U.S. Underwater Services.

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Nevins flips out a map and begins pointing: Eight hotels. Five hospitals. No less than 28 residential developments in various stages of completion, including the massive M3 Ranch estates, which by itself has plans for 1,500 single-family homes and 350 townhomes.

“Last time I looked the city was still receiving about 1,500 residential permit requests a year, a lot for a city this size,” he says.

Right now, though, Nevins’ biggest brag is for a mixed-used shopping center with apartments titled the Shops at Broad, located at Broad Street and U.S. Highway 287. Still under construction, it will contain a plethora of retail and recreational amenities, movies and restaurants, plus a Stars-affiliated ice rink and field house.

“There’s a lot more coming to the Shops of Broad than has yet been announced, so stand by,” Nevins said.

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Eventually, Nevins predicts, Mansfield will top out at a population of about 150,000 with a well-balanced mix of homes, industrial, retail and entertainment.

“With the completion of the Texas 360 toll road [it opened in fall 2018], we’ll also now be able to focus on attracting more office development – more balance still,” he said. “It’ll be a live, work and play complete community.”