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January 25 , 2006

Leasing Drives $100M TX Project

January 25, 2006 By Connie Gore ARLINGTON, TX-With site work under way, the development team for the 930,000-sf Arlington Highlands says the first wave of retail space will be open for business in November. Preleasing demand has stepped up the construction pace for the $100-million-plus first phase. "The reality is we're ahead of schedule from a leasing standpoint and delivery of space," says Steven A. Lieberman, president of the Retail Connection in Dallas. Lieberman's affiliate, Connected Development Services, is co-developing the 80-acre, mixed-use development with the Curtis Mathes family, who's watching a legacy project rise on the last of 2,000 acres that it's controlled since the early 1950s. The development team is planning a "seamless" rollout of nearly 630,000 sf, with the first 250,000 sf opening in time for the 2006 holiday shopping season and beating most projections by at least four months, explains Daniel Fuller, vice president of Connected Development Services. The retail roster now exceeds 80 tenants in a non-grocery-anchored scenario. To date, the team says it has preleased 60% of the retail space and is holding commitments to push it to 75%. The rest of the first phase, including 50,000 sf of class A office space, will deliver in spring 2007. Ethan Garner with Transwestern Commercial Services' Dallas office has commitments for about 10% of the office space. The quoted rate for both types of space ranges from $15 per sf to $45 per sf. Lieberman says Arlington Highlands' draw is its hybrid space mix--junior anchors, specialty and lifestyle stores plus office--in the largest non-mall retail assembly in Dallas/Fort Worth. To sweeten its selling points, it's been laid out with a half-mile of frontage along Interstate 20. "It's an exceptional opportunity," he says, estimating about two-thirds of the retailers are newcomers for the South Arlington market. The plan is to deliver another 300,000 sf in a second phase by spring 2008--nine months to a year after the first phase is completed. In early November 2005, GMAC Commercial Mortgage Corp.'s vice president Bob Stone arranged $88 million in construction financing to kick off site work on the first 57 acres. The piers now are in place; vertical construction will soon start to rise. At this stage of the development, the team's not ready to discuss the second phase or its projected cost. "Other developers tried to make this happen and failed," John Mathes, senior vice president for the Retail Connection, tells "What makes this the right time for our family, insomuch as this is the last 80 acres, is we really wanted to build a project that's going to be a legacy for the city and our family and we wanted to be involved in this for the long term. With Connected Development getting involved and the participation from the city, it all came together in a surprisingly short period of time." The City of Arlington has set up a $17-million "tax increment financing district" to cover highway upgrades, including a relocation of an interstate ramp and widening of local streets. Dallas-based Good Fulton & Farrell Architects designed Arlington Highlands; Spring Valley Construction Co. of Dallas is building it. Mycoskie & McKinnis & Associates, also from Dallas, is the landscape architect.
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