Scott Nishimura Special Projects Reporter
The developer of the 200-acre Renaissance Square development in Southeast Fort Worth is closing in on an agreement to bring in Columbia Residential of Atlanta to build and manage 750 residential units. Hap Baggett, who launched the development after buying the property at U.S. 287 and East Berry Street in 2005, said in an interview he expects to complete the agreement in January, with construction of some of the units beginning in March 2015. The residential units – single family, multifamily, townhomes and senior living – will be south of Renaissance’s anchor Walmart store, Baggett said. Columbia would buy about 60 acres in the development for the residential, including 26 for multifamily, 14 for townhomes, and 19 for single-family and senior living, Baggett said. The purchases would happen in multiple phases. Columbia would build the residential under a master plan that Baggett’s group, Columbia, and community members will develop over the next year, Baggett said.
Importantly, Columbia will be the manager, to ensure consistency, he said. The different residential uses will be mixed together to create contrast, Baggett said. About 90-100 of the residential units will be single-family homes for sale. Those will come last, so prospective homeowners get a good idea of the quality Columbia is building in the other residential, Baggett said. “I can’t get a comp on residential in Southeast Fort Worth right now,” Baggett said. Columbia is known for building homes for low and moderate-income families. The rental units at Renaissance Square will be about 70 percent rental assistance and 30 percent market rate, Baggett said. The massive mixed-use Renaissance Square, built on the grounds of the old Masonic Home, has brought substantial commercial redevelopment to Southeast Fort Worth. Walmart’s entry – the store celebrated its grand opening earlier this year – drew numerous other chain retailers, including Ross Dress for Less to what Baggett had called a “retail desert.”
Baggett and his partners, who bought the Renaissance site in December 2005 and sold the 67-acre retail piece in April 2009, are working on drawing healthcare providers to Renaissance Square. “We had a retail desert; we also have a medical desert,” Baggett said, noting healthcare providers have had few potential strong landing spots in Southeast Fort Worth prior to Renaissance Square. The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth board is considering an offer from Baggett’s group to finance the purchase of a seven-acre site at Renaissance Square next to Mitchell Boulevard Elementary School, Baggett said. The partnership has offered to sell the site, which they said is valued at $1.8 million, to the Y for $1.4 million.
The Y would consolidate the nearby McDonald branch – and, eventually, the Miller Avenue branch – into the new location. If the Y board agrees to the financing offer, which Baggett said could happen as early as the Y’s January board meeting, that would mark the start of a fundraising campaign to pay for construction. The Y has said the branch would cost about $7 million. Numerous health care providers – including general practititioners, chiropractors, dentists, dialysis, and optometrists – have indicated strong interest in entering Renaissance Square if the Y builds a branch and brings the added traffic, Baggett said. He likened the Y’s potential draw of health care providers to Walmart’s for other retailers. The area has a very high rate of infant mortality, and a very low rate of insured, Baggett said.
“It’s a risk, but we’ve got people who say they want to come,” he said. “People said you’ll never get Walmart over there. To this day, people say, how’d you get Walmart over there?” The Y estimates that consolidating McDonald and the Southeast Y at 2801 Miller Ave. into a new site would generate 3,500 memberships, compared to the 200 at McDonald now. The Miller site has a preschool and youth programs, but no fitness members. Of the remaining acreage at Renaissance Square, Baggett’s group has set aside 14 acres for medical office. The Uplift Academy charter school, already open, sits on 11 acres.