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Pinpointing Progress: West Seventh corridor a hotbed for restaurants, tourists, developers

🕐 6 min read

Scott Nishimura

The construction barricade business, strong in Fort Worth’s West Seventh corridor, figures to pick up even more this year. Several projects ranging from town homes and apartments to retail and office and two hotels are poised to begin coming out of the ground in the hot corridor between the Trinity River and Cultural District. At Museum Place, JaGee Holdings and TLC Urban expect to begin construction this summer on their third phase: a 100,000-square-foot office building and 156-room hotel across from the Kimbell Art Museum, bounded by Van Cliburn Way, West Seventh Street and Camp Bowie Boulevard, said Tony Landrum, developer for the owner, JaGee.

Opening would be fall 2015. And “if we’re lucky,” construction will begin late this year or early next on the fourth and final phase: more than 200 apartments on another tract across from the museum, Landrum said.

“We have some leasing we’re trying to button up” on the office building, Landrum said. “Once we get them buttoned up, we will be good with the bankers and equity.” The group will announce the hotel flag – most likely a limited-service hotel – closer to construction launch, he said. On leasing in the project’s first two phases – including 130,000 square feet of office, 80,000 square feet of retail, 217 apartments – “we’re basically full across the board,” Landrum said. Several retail leases “are in various phases of being completed,” he said. “We’re sitting about where we need to be.” Centergy On the other end of the corridor, the Dallas developer Centergy Retail is moving deeper into talks with the Trinity River Vision Authority and the city on a potential partnership that would help Centergy cover what it estimates are $20-$25 million in infrastructure costs for its planned 34-acre Left Bank development overlooking the river and downtown.

The group has redrawn its initial plan for 1.5 million square feet of mixed-use to include more residential and less retail, in talks with the TRVA and the city, which want to bring more residential into the corridor. West Miller, the Centergy principal, estimates he could begin construction in June if he gets his agreements soon. He said he’s drawn significant interest from potential partners, including ones in multifamily, luxury hotel, office and independent living. “They’re all ready to go right now,” Miller, who is continuing to rework the master plan for what he estimated could be a five to seven-year buildout, said. “You rarely see that in a real estate cycle.” The development plans include a luxury hotel fronting the river levee and overlooking downtown, a grocery store and 1,700 multifamily units. In the middle of the corridor, Fort Worth’s Village Homes said it’s under contract on six of 10 first-phase town homes it’s building in the old Linwood neighborhood west of Montgomery Plaza. Homes Village Homes plans 54 town homes on the lots it owns today. Demand for the homes, which start at $285,000, has varied from empty nesters and young professionals and families, said Seth Fowler, Village Homes’ sales and marketing director. On prospective buildout, Michael Dike, Village Homes’ president, said “my feeling is about three years with what we have.”

Elsewhere in the district, construction is under way on the 374-unit Elan West 7th apartment community west of Montgomery Plaza, developers are in the middle of construction on the Parkside So7 second phase, and an optometrist is working on a planned office building at West Seventh and University Drive. The corridor has been the hottest in the city, generating more than $500 million in private investment between 2002 and 2013, including Cypress Equities’ West 7th development, Montgomery Plaza and Museum Place, according to city figures. And that doesn’t include investment made by the museums, which all completed major expansions in that time, the city at the Will Rogers Memorial Center or the University of North Texas. Besides the location at the edge of the Cultural District and west of downtown, developers and others familiar with the corridor said interest in Fort Worth from various capital sources remains high. Interior city infill projects are in vogue, and Fort Worth has a strong growth story, they said. “I think we’re going to see another good decade of money coming into Fort Worth,” Landrum said. “It’s just a maturing process.” He said he often fields inquiries from potential out-of-state investors interested in Fort Worth. “They’re always looking for good stories,” he said. Rents, parking Developers are still trying to determine what works best in the corridor, with several new restaurants closing their doors in recent years. High rents in some of the new development, lack of convenient parking, and not enough residential density have been the culprits, people with interests in the corridor said.

“There’s not enough draws,” Stephen Coslik, chairman of The Woodmont Co. development firm, whose offices are on the street at the river levee, said. “Parking is still an educational process. People still like to drive up.” “That retail down West Seventh has rolled quite a bit,” J.D. Granger, the TRVA executive director, said. “It’s because they need more density. They need that type of residential to create demand.” “I doubt that we’ll ever be able to supply enough apartments for the demand that’s in the area,” Landrum said.

“There’s just not enough land.” Interest has increased in the district for more parking options and a transit circulator, such as a trolley, that would run between downtown and the Cultural District.

The Cultural District Alliance economic development nonprofit has been trying to drum up support for a public improvement district, where property taxpayers pay extra for improvements in the zone, which could go in part to lease nighttime parking and provide a circulator.

At least half of the property owners in the district map must agree to the public improvement district before it can be implemented. Some of the district’s larger property owners weren’t in on the idea, because of the extra tax burden. “If we can’t get that common ground, maybe we go with a smaller group,” Jack Thompson, an alliance board member, said. The Fort Worth Transportation Authority, The T, runs two bus routes that take in the corridor, but people in the corridor don’t believe buses are the right solution.

“Buses are never a viable solution,” Landrum said. “Your tourists and your locals are never going to get on them.” The Museum Place developers were on the fence regarding a public improvement district, but Landrum said some kind of connector is “the next step in maturity” for the city. He compared downtown and the Cultural District to ends of a “barbell,” with West Seventh serving as a “very vibrant axle.” A transit connector would create a big, continuous entertainment district, Landrum said. “It has to be easy and economical, if not free,” Landrum said. “Once people park their car, they hate getting back in it and going somewhere.” Joan Hunter, spokeswoman for The T, noted the agency’s attention is on trying to secure the downtown-Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport TexRail commuter rail line. “We are listening to the community and want to engage the public in the discussions, but at this time, there’s not any funding, and we already have the service,” Hunter said, regarding a West Seventh connector.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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