The Northpark Center area is seeing a lot of activity by real estate developers. Several underutilized buildings are being demolished to make room for new, highest and best use projects. The proximity to White Rock Lake and the convenient access provided by the North Central Expressway continue to make this a highly desirable area. The addition of the new Lake Highlands DART Station will further improve access to and from this area.Park Lane – Harvest Partners and Sapphire Properties are building a mixed use project across the North Central Expressway from Northpark Center. The development encompasses 33.5 acres and will build out to about 2.9MM sqft. Details include 700,000 sqft of retail space, 750,000 sqft of class A office space, a 250-room 4 star hotel, a 75,000 sqft fitness center, and approximately 625 luxury residential units. Project costs are reportedly in the $750MM range. The first deliveries are scheduled for fall 2009.The Glen at Preston Hollow – Provident Realty Group and the Red Sea Group are planning to redevelop a 42-acre site at the intersection of Walnut Hill Lane and Weeping Willow Drive. Plans include 100 single family homes, 100,000 sqft of mid-rise office space, 175,000 sqft of retail and up to 1,100 apartments. Total project costs are estimated to be $300MM. Phase I of construction is scheduled for completion in summer 2010.Lake Highlands Town Center – Prescott Realty Group is building a mixed use project on 69-acres at the intersection of Skillman and Walnut Hill Lane. Plans call for a 20 acre park, 300,000 sqft of retail, 1,700 residential units, and 50,000 sqft of office space. The project will be complemented by a DART light rail stop. Vertical construction is scheduled to commence in 2009, with the first deliveries in 2010. The DART station is scheduled for completion in 2010.Midtown Park – Valencia Capital Management is building a mixed-use, master planned project on an 83-acre site that straddles Manderville Lane. Buildout plans include high rise condos, luxury townhomes, a senior living facility, medical office space, a hotel and retail space. Demolition commenced in November 2008. Phase I of construction is scheduled for delivery in late 2009.Koll Development Site – Koll Development is planning to build a 12-story medical office building on the corner of Walnut Hill Lane and the North Central Expressway. The building will include approximately 250,000 sqft of medical office space with ground floor retail. Conditional approval was granted by the planning commission in January 2008.Cambridge Apartments – Fath properties is planning to redevelop the Cambridge Apartments at 5959 E Northwest Hwy and build approximately 797 new apartments in a 79 foot tall building. Conditional approval was granted by the planning commission in March 2008.White Rock Trail – Prescott Realty Group is planning to redevelop the White Rock Trails Apartments on Skillman Street at Merriman Parkway. Plans include a four story building to be built in 2 phases. Conditional approval was granted by the planning commission in February 2008.Trammell Crow Retail Center – Trammell Crow is building a retail shopping center on the site of the former Timber Creek Apartments (Melody Lane at Eastridge Drive). Demolition of the apartments commenced in February 2008.Zom Site – Zom Inc. is redeveloping the Village View Apartments on Skillman Drive at Fisher Road. The developer is planning to build a new 422 unit apartment community on the parcel. Construction was scheduled to commence in June 2008.
Perhaps the key component behind America’s great economic achievements is the entrepreneur. For example, Henry Ford helped the US dominate the global car industry for decades and Bill Gates helped make it dominant in the software market. Investors in Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter insured dominance in social media. While these success stories are well know, the factors behind them are less so. For his part, Ford did not invent the car nor did Gates invent the computer or DOS. And key technology components of all social media and search engine sites were invented by others.Similarly, real estate development followed a similar pattern with many innovative developments started by “idea men” that did not carry the project to fruition. Those dreamers are lost in the mist of history.In the last part of the Twentieth Century developers were often accused of inducing sprawl, endless paving, and undermining natural beauty. Some of this arose from bad ideas, but the real innovators in real estate created outstanding concepts that they might not have completed due to a variety of reasons. Insufficient financing is the leading cause of development failure. The current carnage in the real estate market destroyed many good development ideas along with bad.One such innovator was Charles Fraser, considered the father of the modern American beach resort. Mr. Fraser along with his brother and father developed the Sea Pines resort on Hilton Head Island, creating a resort of beach property, shopping, marinas, golf courses, and tennis courts out of wooded, sparsely populated island. Mr. Fraser was also involved in the initial development of Amelia Island Plantation Resort. Both developments were ahead of their time and eventually experienced financial hardship with other investors turning both of resorts into viable ventures.Donald Trump also made his name as a real estate innovator WITH some of the first brownfield redevelopment projects in New York City. His first attempt was to redevelop the Penn Central yards on the West Side in 1974, but a lack of financing caused him to lose the project to a competing group. When that group was unable to obtain financing, Trump stepped back into the picture in 1985 with a new plan for Television City, but it never materialized due to zoning problems that caused NBC to back out of the project. While Trump did complete the majority of his vision eventually he lost control in the 1990s due to financial problems. The final pieces of the project were finished with a development group from Hong Kong.Many other examples of smaller, less famous developers can be seen in almost every city in the US due to the financial turmoil and the global real estate bubble, but this is an exception rather than the rule. More often than not the less well financed developers base their plans on idealized conditions and when these conditions fail to emerge they generally do not have a fallback plan.Americans often say they want something unique, that they are against sprawl and uniform subdivisions. However, what they really mean when they want something different is just a different color front door! Innovators offering revolutionary ideas are often met with skepticism and resistance to change. Ultimately this resistance causes the innovators plan to deviate from course. With little time and capital to react, they are prone to fail. Only after a larger source of capital picks up the pieces is the project completed. In rare instances the original vision of the “idea man” survives the change. Most often the vision is modified and in the end just a shadow of what might have been.Interestingly enough, I believe the root cause of the plan failure is our own resistance to innovation. Two innovative development concepts currently under threat are “New Urbanism” and “New Ruralism”. Both are reactions to suburban development. New Urbanism is the more established of the two thus more likely to survive the current real estate conditions. New Urbanism had been embraced by the public, but many of its capital intensive projects face stiff challenges under current market conditions. Redevelopment of an area that includes essentially all the infrastructure of a small town requires enormous capital resources. These projects must include a town center with commercial elements. Initially, an interesting anomaly arises with homebuyers seeing an empty city while businesses see empty homes. As such, a delicate balance is required to shorten the natural lifecycle of town development.New Ruralism on the other hand is far less established with either the general public or sources of capital. It suffers in part due to a lack of a clear definition as developers have different interpretation of the concept. Some of have centered on farming, with a restaurant of bed and breakfast as seen in the Atlanta development Serenby. Others like Harvest in North Carolina center on individuals owning larger tracts of land for farming. Another incipient trend combines America’s love of wine with a housing development with Montaluce Winery and Estates as one example. The big question given the current economic climate is whether nonconventional developments like these will survive. (For a more in-depth discussion of New Ruralism look at my previous Ezinearticles publications.)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Pines_Resorthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverside_South_(New_York_City)