Now, 10 years later, although only some portions of the development—residences, medical offices, a hospital and a hotel—have been constructed, developers have set timelines for much of the remainder of the project.
Sarah Dodd, a spokesperson for Centurion American, which is one of three developers of the River Walk, said Centurion is closer than ever to delivering Flower Mound residents the retail, restaurants and public amenities that were promised when the development was first approved.
“Restaurant row is currently under construction and restaurants are expected to be open for business in 14 months,” she said. “The chapel is under construction and will be available for wedding services in early 2019.”
Dodd said Centurion will announce the restaurants only after final leases have been negotiated and signed. There will be seven or eight total restaurant concepts with other food opportunities like walk-up dessert bars, Dodd said.
Additionally she said the construction of the amphitheater will begin this year and the retail corner at Central Park Avenue and FM 2499 will open later this year.
Flood plain issues
Throughout the last decade, the development has seen changes of ownership, a couple of site plan changes and witnessed the Great Recession.
Today, the three different developers that own the development include New Era, Centurion American and the Seitz Group. New Era developed the hotel and the medical office buildings. The Seitz Group is responsible for the Market Street shopping center and the new retail center that will feature three or four restaurants. Centurion owns the part of the development that includes the residences, public amenities and restaurant row.
Both Centurion and the Seitz Group officials said they have experienced delays due to things that were out of their control.
Dodd said much of the delay can be attributed to a large portion of the development being designated as a flood plain, which means no development can occur on it.
“The restaurant row and amphitheater [were] technically in flood plain until late 2017,” she said. “The process to remove this land from designated flood plain took almost three years.”
Assistant City Manager Tommy Dalton said for the longest time the River Walk was an infrastructure project with a majority of the work happening underground.
“Originally, there were three ponds that had to be completely reconfigured to create the river and that took a significant amount of time in order to get the approval to do that,” he said. “And [the developers] couldn’t build anything until they got this amenity in because that serves as the drainage for the whole project.”
Developers also had to do other infrastructure work such as build the roads, sewer and water lines.
Because infrastructure had to be built and the property surrounding the river was in a flood plain, the developers built the hospital and the multifamily units first.
Dodd said it is beneficial to the development to have residential units already built.
“Retail and restaurants require immediate adjacency to rooftops in order to be successful,” she said. “Home sales are moving along quite briskly [despite a lack of restaurants and retail on the development].”
When complete, the development will have two apartment complexes, townhomes, villas and apartments for seniors.
Frustration with the timeline
Throughout the years, developers have announced restaurants that were coming to the development.
Last year, the Seitz Group announced Bombay Chop Stix, La Blue Casa and Grape & Grain Co. were among the restaurants coming to the site. However, Eric Seitz, owner of the Seitz Group, said those restaurants are no longer in consideration, and the group will announce in February or March the plans for the retail site.
Economic Development Director Andrea Roy said she thinks some residents are disappointed with how long the development is taking to be completed.
“I think some of the frustration comes from everybody seeing the residential being built and not knowing what’s going on with the retail and amenities,” she said.
City officials said a common misunderstanding that some residents have is that the town has a say in when things will be developed.
“We don’t regulate time frames and we don’t control private property,” Roy said. “All we can do is make a great work environment and work with the developer to attract [tenants], but am I worried about a timeline? Not really. Obviously we would like to see this move forward.”
First of its kind
Dalton said the development, when finished, will be the first mixed-used, urban-style development in the town.
“The River Walk was the first time the town considered an urban mixed-use development,” he said. “This development allows you to get out of your home and walk to where you want to go, whether it’s to get coffee, to go eat or go to the doctor and preferably to go to your job.”
Dalton said he has heard that a lot of the employees at the hospital live in the development.
“It’s definitely not the traditional development style that is typically seen in Flower Mound,” he said. “And there’s some people that like it and some people who don’t, but it was voted and approved by the Town Council so it’s happening.”