Rail, road renovations remain AllianceTexas concerns

Hillwood’s AllianceTexas boasts many amenities, but light rail is not among them.

“I would love light rail,” said Steve Aldrich, a senior vice president at Hillwood Properties, responding to a question at a recent luncheon.

As developer of the 18,000-acre mixed-use AllianceTexas development in far north Fort Worth, Hillwood helped pioneer the concept of retail, office, residential – even aviation, with Fort Worth Alliance Airport – all in one location. But an amenity Aldrich described as critical for landing new corporate tenants is absent from the sprawling property.

“That is very important to a lot of companies. Transportation is our biggest challenge and has been for the past 15 years,” said Aldrich, the featured speaker at a June 1 CREW Fort Worth luncheon in downtown.

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A roomful of real estate agents learned some Hillwood 101 as Aldrich reviewed the company’s history that begin when Fort Worth Alliance Airport – the nation’s first industrial airport – opened on Dec. 14, 1989. Since then, Ross Perot Jr.’s company has created an economic juggernaut that generated almost $4 billion in economic impact in 2015, as well as 4,000 jobs, according to a report by Insight Research Corp. released earlier this year.

As a senior vice president, Aldrich has helped bring to fruition more than 20 million square feet of speculative development, build-to-suit and leasing activities representing more than $700 million in aggregate value. But his current focus is office development, aiming to make the property the area’s premier location for companies seeking new pastures.

From Facebook to Deloitte and Fidelity Investments, companies have built major corporate campuses on Hillwood property while shops, restaurants, movie theaters, hospitals, single-family homes and apartments also have sprouted at AllianceTexas, whose acreage continues generating tax revenue for several entities while enticing prospective tenants to lease or buy property in the area.

Companies examine home prices, public school districts and freeway access, among other considerations, in evaluating potential relocations or expansions.

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“All these things are paramount,” said Aldrich, elated by his company’s success while acknowledging the sometimes unpredictable nature of real estate development. Plans for a mall at Circle T Ranch, home to Fidelity Investments and Deloitte University, never reached fruition, for example, Aldrich said.

“If an anchor tenant moves to another project in another trade area, it kills the project, which is probably for the better,” said Aldrich, describing the land as better suited for office uses. Deloitte considered Circle T property as ideally suited for its sprawling campus, which opened in late 2011 and continues to draw thousands of out-of-town colleagues and visitors every year for training, injecting considerable dollars into the tax base.

While “mixed-use” has become common terminology among today’s developers, few boast a solid office component to round out retail, recreation and residential offerings. In that respect, Aldrich said AllianceTexas offers something unique.

“There’s a huge void right here for something that’s other than just an office building,” said Aldrich, pointing to restaurants, retail and residential offerings within walking distance of office.

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AllianceTexas is not alone in offering such a mix, with Trademark Property Co. gaining attention with its Clearfork development in southwest Fort Worth. Both AllianceTexas and Clearfork emphasize hiking and biking trails (what Aldrich calls an “active community”), but Perot Jr.’s company offers proximity to Alliance Airport, several freeways and intermodal transportation allowing goods to be moved using multiple modes of transport.

What’s next for a company planning more retailers at AllianceTexas’ Alliance Town Center, more hotels and at least one new corporate tenant whom Aldrich declined to specify?

“We feel like right now, we are focused on I-35, making sure that expansion happens,” said Aldrich, referring to the $1.4 billion North Tarrant Express 35W project, which includes reconstructing the main lanes of Interstate 35W from north of Interstate 30 to north of Loop 820.