Cities see signs of growth as 2013 begins

Connector completion draws housing, retail

Updated 1/24/2013

A burst of new building and retail development proposals in area cities are good signs the economic recovery will continue to gain momentum in 2013, leaders said.

Further fueling the growth potential: By mid-year, the DFW Connector should be completed, opening up the Hwy. 114 corridor.

"It's all about access," said Precinct 3 Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, who represents the area. "Good infrastructure makes things happen."

But he and others who have weathered economic ups and downs in the region urged patience. (Fickes was Southlake mayor from 1989 to 1996.)

"This isn't a sprint," said Frank Bliss of Cooper & Stebbins, developer of Southlake Town Square. "It's a marathon."

Growth corridor

The Hwy. 114 corridor that stretches between the two economic engines of the DFW and Alliance airports has been viewed for years as one of the most significant targets of commercial growth in Texas. But the 2008 recession and then the beginning of construction on the Connector in 2010 put the brakes on both residential and commercial development in Grapevine, Colleyville, Southlake and Westlake.

Things began to turn around in 2012. Southlake and Grapevine both issued building permits for construction worth more than twice the value of the previous year, though housing starts were not as high as in peak years before the recession. Construction increased substantially in Colleyville and Westlake as well.

Sales tax revenue grew slightly in the first half of 2012 in all but Westlake, where it was less because of an economic development agreement that pushed revenue up in 2011.

And the DFW metro area rose into position as the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., behind Los Angeles and Chicago.

"Everybody's moving forward," Fickes said. "There are bright spots in every community out here."

Grapevine

The biggest city of the four took a hit in 2012 with the Connector construction, which hurt business in the historic Main Street shopping district.

But, Fickes predicted that for 2013, "Grapevine will continue to probably lead the way."

While retail sales on Main Street slowed down, building permits show a rise in valuation from $80.3 million from January to November in 2011 to $173.7 million for the same period in 2012.

The increase reflects large projects including part of the Baylor expansion, a hotel and apartments, said Scott Williams, city development services director.

That includes 517 multifamily units — apartments at Texan Trail and Northwest Highway and more near Grapevine Mills. Balancing single family and multifamily, three major subdivisions were approved late in 2012.

Economic Development Manager Dan Truex said the mixed-use Silver Lake Crossings and the Town Suites and Courtyard hotel also should be finished this year.

City Manager Bruno Rumbelow said the city is making a push in 2013 for more family oriented features, building on the city's success with attractions such as Legoland and the Sea Life Grapevine Aquarium at Grapevine Mills.

The planned $40 million renovation at the mall is one of the biggest projects in the city this year. Renderings of the finished project show a slick, high-end environment closer in appearance to North Park Center in Dallas than the current look.

Colleyville

The City Council took a step toward revitalization along Hwy. 26 in the city center in December, when it approved rezoning for construction of town homes at the Village at Colleyville.

The Village originally was planned years ago as an exciting mix of homes and retail shops spreading out toward Hwy. 26 from City Hall. For a variety of reasons, the expected retail growth failed to materialize.

A few residents showed up at the Dec. 18 meeting to protest, but Mayor David Kelly noted, "The original vision for this area probably is not ever going to come about. We can let it sit as it is, or change the parameters and get some stimulus, excite some commercial people to say, 'Hey, there's enough vibrance here, I want to bring in a retail store, or a restaurant.' "

A major focus for 2013 is attracting medical industry, said Marty Wieder, economic development director, as well as bringing in more aviation-related businesses.

Aviation Place went up at 97 Village Circle in summer 2012 after Jack Prewitt and Associates decided to relocate in Colleyville. The corporate aircraft sales and acquisitions company occupies the third floor, and other aviation related businesses also have moved in.

Colleyville relies heavily on Hwy. 26 for its fortunes. Construction on the eastern portion of the thoroughfare that runs through the middle of the city won't be completed until 2014.

Southlake

Construction on two new retail developments could start along Southlake Boulevard in 2013.

One brand new proposal would involve tearing down Christ Our King church at Kimball Road and Southlake Boulevard, said Mayor John Terrell.

Greenway Investment Co. approached him about the site: "They asked to meet with me about what does the city see and what would the city like to see developed on that corner."

Plans for the other development, Southlake Park Village proposed for the corner of Carroll Avenue and Southlake Boulevard, will be resubmitted in April, said developer Peter Jacobsen of The Woodmont Company. Greg Last, city economic development and tourism director, said Woodmont plans to file under a different zoning designation that requires fewer steps.

The Carillon mixed-use development with luxury homes in the $600,000-and-up-range is under construction, as are several more upscale subdivisions. Developer Paul Spain, whose Terra Land Management has several subdivisions in the city, he was ready to go as soon as the inventory of homes for sale started dropping.

"We knew there was beginning to be an uptick a year and a half ago," he said. Westlake

Westlake is one of few cities in the area that doesn't have developments by Mehrdad Moayedi, president of Centurion American Development Group — but maybe not for long.

Moayedi has been amassing property in Northeast Tarrant County for years. For example, he said he bought considerable land in the nearby city of Trophy Club in 2006 for residential development. He said he also has developments in Colleyville.

But projects in Westlake hit a brick wall early on.

Vallecito is planned as a European village-style town center and Granada as a residential subdivision with homes averaging $1 million to $4 million.

After an emotional meeting in packed chambers late last year, the Westlake Town Council sent him away to discuss the ideas with small groups of residents.

Moayedi said the property he's proposing to use for Granada is zoned commercial now, so he figured single-family housing might be preferable to an office building and parking garages, which could go there.

Moayedi said he is optimistic about development overall this year.

"Our market is blessed. It's going to be a great market in '13 or '14 if something drastic doesn't happen," he said.