‘Urban destination’ North City beginning to take shape in north Fort Worth
As with other successful properties like Legacy West in Plano or Market Street in The Woodlands, North City’s goal is to create a mixed-use urban village, said Steve McKeever, owner of McKeever Companies.
McKeever is from Fort Worth and heads the 300 acre North City development at the intersection of I-35W and US 287 in one of the fastest growing subdivisions in the country. North Fort Worth is “ripe” for this type of project, McKeever said.
“The group that is developing it … we all want to do something that is good for Fort Worth,” he said. “We want [people] to say, ‘Let’s go to North City.’ “
With a $ 150 million investment, McKeever and 32 partners from the Dallas-Fort Worth area face a number of challenges.
For one thing, projects of this size need “drivers” to get high quality retail options, McKeever said.
“Road traffic, housing and office … the more of them you have, the more traffic you drive and the more rent people can pay,” he said.
To achieve this goal, the first phase of the project will focus on experimental retail. The northern part of the site is anchored by a 150,000 square meter Living Spaces furniture store. A Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille also got involved with the website, McKeever said.
One setback caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been the exit from the project by at least 14 restaurant and retail brands, including big names like Lava Cantina, Yard House and Pappadeaux’s. These companies have hit the pause button for now, McKeever said.
“Many retail centers have done everything with restaurant concepts and entertainment venues. [such as] Trampoline parks and indoor go-karting tracks, but these were the hardest hit by COVID-19, ”said Max Schwartzstein, a trading broker in the Fort Worth area.
Other drivers for North City will be music venues and outdoor entertainment such as movies for children, McKeever said.
“We’re not sure what the outlook is after COVID-19,” he said. “Shops are getting smaller, but we’ve worked very hard and been patient to create an experience – not just a mall.”
Part of the experience will be housing options, including active lifestyle housing for residents aged 55 and over. Other options are single-family homes and apartment buildings, McKeever said.
“We want a place where companies want to set up,” he said.
The development of pedestrian-friendly, age-restricted apartment buildings that run along a green belt is currently ahead of schedule. The three- and four-story buildings are located west of Living Spaces and north of US 287 and will each have a parking garage.
A 20 acre area south of 287 is the location for single family homes within a residential complex. Currently in the engineering phase, the housing estates are expected to lay the foundation stone in 2021.
McKeever said the entire North City location, which was purchased in 2018, is set to expand over the next decade.
“The challenge is developing a map that will allow traffic to flow to and from some of the existing residents,” said Dennis Shingleton, Fort Worth city council member for District 7.
To avoid traffic jams and attract an estimated 2.5 million visitors a year, developers have proposed a number of new roads and extensions to existing roads.
The current site plan for the development includes expanding Tehama Ridge Parkway over North Tarrant Parkway and expanding Bailey Boswell Road from Blue Mound Road to US 287.
Another ambitious aspect, McKeever said, is a possible six-lane bridge that will cross 287 and connect North Tarrant with Bailey Boswell.
“Without the urban village, you can’t get the office and we think we can still do it,” he said.