O.K. Carter: Three downtowns for Mansfield … and No. 3 is booming

Realtor Dee Davey is impressed enough to move her office to Broad Street. She’s been selling real estate in Mansfield for four decades. (Photo by O.K. Carter)

When Ralph Man and Julian Field built a three-story, steam-powered grist mill on Walnut Creek in 1856, they couldn’t have known their namesake Man and Field Mill name would eventually be mangled, combined and mis-spelled into today’s town name, Mansfield.

Or that as the two merchants sent out thousands of “Field’s Freighters” wagons loaded with grain to Texas pioneers (and to Confederate troops), that the narrow dirt street in front of the mill would become broader and broader – the “Broad Street,” which it is so-named today.

So much for history.

Flash forward to today and journey northeasterly a couple of miles on that same East Broad Street and suddenly it is as if a new downtown Mansfield is evolving in what not long ago was grassland prairie, though in this case it would be downtown No. 3 for this city of almost 75,000.

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First, there’s the original circa early-1900s downtown on Main Street perhaps a block west from the old mill.

And then there’s U.S. 287, which zips through the city’s northern edge, the frontage roads of which have become a hodge-podge of restaurants, movies, stores and offices – in effect the city’s second downtown substitute.

But, as 287 turns southeast and crosses Broad, it’s as if the collective developer mind-set shifts: A two-mile section of Broad linking 287 and Texas 360 has evolved into the city’s hottest commercial district.

Indeed, it is one of the fastest growing such retail areas in North Texas.

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Arguably, the booming section of street has two anchors, one for retail and another for medical.

The intersection of Broad and 287 is the retail anchor.

Here on southeast corner is a relatively new Kohls and on the northwest corner the still under-development Shops of Broad, the latter an 81-acre mixed use development by CBRE that will include apartments, Academy Sports, At Home, several restaurants, T.J. Maxx, Flix Brewhouse, Belk, and StarCenter, an 80,000-square-feet facility that contains event space and two ice rinks.

Collectively the retail and restaurant space tallies about 430,000 square feet.

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Proceed northeasterly two miles to 2700 E. Broad and the second impetus anchor become apparent – the sprawling Mansfield Methodist Hospital, around which a plethora of small physicians, clinics and dentists have clustered.

Long-time City Manager Clayton Chandler, in fact, sees the presence of the hospital as “the trigger” for what has turned out to be landslide Broad Street proximity development.

“We didn’t have a hospital and had to work really hard to attract one,” Chandler says of Mansfield Methodist (it opened in late 2006). “Once we solved that part of the puzzle, it became the big factor for what’s happened since.”

In between the evolving medical district and the Shops of Broad, there’s constant development of new, smaller business, albeit with plenty of room for many more. And near those, new residential develops continue to proliferate.

Realtor Dee Davey has been observing – and selling – Mansfield’s growth for four decades, and she’s been impressed enough to move her own 12-employee office to Broad Street.

“The old downtown is moving in the direction of being an entertainment district, and will likely attract the small boutiques and specialty coffee shops,” Davey says. “But for now, Broad will be the hot spot as amenities continue to develop.

“It’ll be a relaxing place to browse and walk around, with a dog park and living units within walking distance. The city has thought this out, with connections to come that will be unique with useful paths to parks and bike trails,” Davey said.

Another prominent Mansfield realtor, Johnny Williams, dittos Davey’s enthusiasm.

“Mansfield has an anticipated build-out of 150,000 people within a few years,” Williams notes. “Our blank canvas for growth is wedged primarily between Highway 360 to the east, Heritage Parkway to the west and south of Broad Street. Broad Street retail development will service not only the present population but will be the first to capture new residential dwellers as they leave their homes and drive to the east, north or west.”

Chandler’s big picture perception is that the development around Broad – depending on the vagaries of development – will be a 10 to 15-year building-out process, creating almost what will be a city within a city.

“We’ve got better than 9,000 residential lots that are in some form of development that are either in development now or planned, most of which will be in proximity to the Broad Street area,” he says. “However impressive things look currently, it’s going to become a lot more so.”

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.