Real Estate 2015: Facebook, Frost Bank boost strong year for real estate

Frost Tower

No two real estate deals are alike, just as no two years of transactions are identical.

Yet even within those parameters, 2015 proved a watershed period for Fort Worth.

“There were some very big deals this year,” said Stephen Coslik, chairman of Woodmont Land Co., which contracted to purchase 45 acres from Hillwood Properties for the first outlet mall in the shadow of Texas Motor Speedway.

Even as it negotiates that deal – and hopes to beat Tanger Outlets, a firm based in Greensboro, North Carolina, that is planning an outlet of its own near the speedway – Coslik and other developers marvel at the sheer size of real-estate transactions made this year.

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“The continued growth of the Alliance corridor, marked by the Facebook announcement, followed by the Alliance Wal-Mart announcement, was really big,” said Coslik.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s planned distribution hub is set to open early next year at 15191 N. Beach St. in Hillwood’s AllianceTexas mixed-use development.

Facebook made headlines in July when company executives, Gov. Greg Abbott and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price clasped shovels and broke ground for a $750 million data center promising jobs, tax revenue and arguably one of the city’s biggest deals. Based in Menlo Park, California, Facebook’s fifth data center will open on the northeast corner of Park Vista Boulevard and State Highway 170 in North Fort Worth.

As the social-networking giant announced plans to construct up to three 250,000-square-foot data centers at AllianceTexas, Inc. announced plans to build a fourth Texas fulfillment center in Dallas while seeking 400 more workers at its Haslet fulfillment center just north of Fort Worth.

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“The Amazon warehouse announcement was one of several big announcements,” said Terry Montesi, whose Trademark Property Co. could barely keep up with its growing WestBend and Waterside mixed-use developments.

The year saw Pax & Parker men’s and women’s clothier and other tenants break ground at WestBend, Fort Worth-based Trademark’s development along South University Drive just north of the Fort Worth Zoo.

Meanwhile, the Waterside development at Bryant Irvin Road and Arborlawn Drive added Taco Diner, Zoe’s Kitchen and Blaze Pizza, among other tenants, to the 63-acre location.

Several new deals also hit Clearfork, yet another mixed-use development under construction between the Trinity Trails and Chisholm Trail Parkway. Among the year’s new leases at the location was Smith & Nephew Inc., which leased 55,000 square feet at the 5600 Clearfork Main office building.

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Six stories of Class A office space on 7.5 acres are planned for the 180,000-square-foot Clearfork campus. Project developer Cassco Development Co. says 5600 Clearfork Main will offer an unrivaled location in the heart of Fort Worth with direct connections to the Chisholm Trail Parkway, Hulen Street and Bryant Irvin Road.

While vital to Clearfork, Waterside and WestBend developments, the steady flow of new tenants was arguably small potatoes compared with some other transactions hailed by both Montesi and Coslik.

“The Jetta building downtown was big,” said Montesi, referring to Frost Tower, the planned 25-story downtown office tower that is expected to add 278,000 square feet of rentable office space to the Central Business District. Anthracite Realty Partners, an affiliate of Jetta Operating Co., will build and own the 640 Taylor St. tower. Jetta will occupy three floors, and the balance will be split between Frost Bank and other tenants.

Coslik acknowledged the tower’s importance but pointed elsewhere to what he considers the year’s top deal.

“If I had to pick one event, I would say the continuing dominance of the Alliance corridor that is fueling retail development, fueling industrial development, and fueling housing – both single and multifamily,” Coslik said.

Montesi also pointed to multifamily growth.

“It’s not in any one development, but the multifamily business remains hot,” said Montesi. But he is noticing growing caution among builders and office sector executives.

“There is a slightly more cautious attitude from folks in the office business, even maybe in retail, relative to the reduction of oil prices. Those are things that they definitely notice,” Montesi said.

Coslik also tempered his amazement at the number and size of new deals with the reality of how people can get to new businesses when they open.

“The biggest challenge is traffic and what we’re going to do about traffic,” he said. He recognizes the ongoing road improvement projects throughout Fort Worth and beyond while advocating for some sort of public transportation.

“Will North Texas ever truly embrace mass transit? It only occurs when the pain is so great or the cost is so great,” Coslik said.

The year saw other sizable deals, including American Airlines’ corporate headquarters coming to the southeast corner of State Highways 183 and 360; the Crystal Springs mixed-use project promising commercial-retail space and apartments in two phases at 5336 White Settlement Road; and the Morningstar single-family development just west of Fort Worth.