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TRC Blog

April 07 , 2006

Sheparding Progress

April 7th, 2006 - John Mathes helped turn raw land into a $100M showplace where people can work, play, shop and eat Emily Clark Freelance Writer John Mathes has only been in the commercial real estate business for eight years, but he has managed to pack a lot of experience and accomplishment into that time. His most significant accomplishment, so far, is shepherding the $100 million Arlington Highlands project from planning to design to groundbreaking, a two-year endeavor that culminated in 2005. Work on what will be a 900,000-square-foot mixed-use development in Arlington began in November, said Mathes, senior vice president at The Retail Connection. About 200,000 square feet of retail space should be open before the 2006 holiday season, with another 430,000 square feet coming online next February. Completion is expected in late 2007 or early 2008. Mathes said he's especially proud of the collaboration that went into developing the 80-acre project on farmland once owned by his family in Arlington's Interstate 20 corridor. "We had a long rezoning process with the city of Arlington, including rewriting the signage ordinance to comply with clients' needs," Mathes says. "We created a planned development and were able to get a $17 million tax increment finance district. We also worked with the city and the Texas Department of Transportation to improve the surrounding roads and infrastructure, not only for our project but for the area that will grow up around it." After getting a green light from Arlington, Mathes and his team began the process of creating the retail lineup for the development. Major anchors like Borders Books, Orvis, Chico's and Coldwater Creek helped influece the design and layout. At full build-out, Arlington Highlands will be home to more than 75 retailers and restaurants and include 50,000 square feet of Class A office space overlooking a landscaped park. Among those signing on for space are PF Chang's, Mi Cocina, Cost Plus World Market and Ethan Allen. Many of the retailers are making their first foray into the market. "More than 85% of the retailers will be new to South Arlington," he said. "The city wanted new retail, but they didn't want to cannibalize from other areas of Arlington." Mathes, who has a degree in economics from Tennessee's Vanderbilt University, began his retail real estate career with Dallas-based The Weitzman Group, where he worked for six years, both on the project leasing and tenant rep side. When former Weitzman executive Steve Lieberman left to form The Retail Connection two years ago, Mathes went along for the ride. He specializes there in project development. "I enjoy the development side the most," Mathes said. "It's exciting to find raw land and go through the difficult process of getting entitlements from cities and creating commerce. To see 80 acres of land turn into a place where people can work, eat, shop and play is a pretty special thing."
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