Weatherford Democrat

Local News

October 6, 2011

Willow Park developer to build apartments

WILLOW PARK — Two tracts of land in a now defunct planned development district, near the former Trinity Meadows Race Track in Willow Park, sold to Wilks Heritage Group, headquartered in Eastland, for an undisclosed amount Tuesday.

Plans call for a 208-unit apartment complex on 26 acres between Crown Point Boulevard and the Clear Fork Trinity River and 52 acres of retail development along I-20, Jim Martin, who sold the land, said.

The acreage is part of a 200-acre tract bounded by the Clear Fork Trinity River, I-20 and Crown Road, established earlier as a development district and freshwater supply district, both of which were recently dissolved.

The districts were originally created to raise money for infrastructure development, Martin said, and had the power to tax and issue bonds, much like a city.

“But when we were annexed [by Willow Park] a couple years ago, we decided the close the districts down,” he said. “The city wanted them gone, and we didn’t need them. We just chose not to use that avenue for development.”

“This has been an 11-year project for me,” Martin said. “I feel like it’s a great location, a really nice deal for East Parker County. Over the last 10 years, every mayor has been on board that this is the best place for R-3 (multi-family) zoning. There are no homes for a quarter mile, and there’s a lot of open space and flood plain.”

The City of Willow Park approved the zoning change to R-3 for the 26-acre tract in August, Mayor Marvin Glasgow said.

Martin estimated the development’s value at about $20 million for the apartments and “multi-multi millions” for the entire project at build out.

Dave Lilley, with developer Trinity Hughes Construction, of Wichita Falls, said the firm hopes to begin construction on the complex — a series of two- and three- story units — in March.

Retail development will follow in Phase II, Lilley said, but no timetable has been set.

The apartment complex, currently in the design phase, will be primarily brick, with stone and stucco accents, Lilley said.

“This particular development will be the nicest, most modern, most upscale multi-family residential development within a 25-mile radius,” he said.

Health care professionals are a target market for the units, Lilley said, which will be built across from a 30-acre tract purchased by Texas Health Resources last year.

Reace Smith, public relations manager with THR, however, said plans for the tract have not been finalized.

Eighty acres contiguous to the multi-family tract may be purchased by Willow Park Baptist Church, Martin said.

“The church is considering building a new campus there,” he said, “We are in contract negotiations.”

To ready the acreage for development, Martin said, he has spent $4 million in the last two years: putting $2 million into infrastructure — for Crown Point Boulevard, water and sewer — and $1,9 million into an escrow account to move the westbound FM 5 exit ramp on I-20 to just east of the Clear Fork bridge.

The change in the ramp’s location will improve access to the new development, Martin said, and to Willow Park itself, taking some of the pressure off Ranch House Road.

John Cordary, area engineer for TxDOT, said the new construction — which should go out for bids in the spring — will solve safety issues.

“The traffic volumes are high on that ramp, backing up into the interstate,” he said. “This will move it away from the intersection, with more storage for exiting vehicles.”

Cordary said construction on the new ramp will probably begin next summer and take six to eight months to complete. The existing ramp will be removed once the new ramp is finished, he said.

A proposed zoning change to allow multi-family housing on the other side of the interstate ­— near Willow Park Village — failed to win approval from the city early in the year, Glasgow said.

The mayor said the complex was standard construction, rather than upscale, with 160 units planned for 9 acres.

“The community was afraid it would degrade instead of enhance,” Glasgow said, “and some didn’t want apartments in a prime commercial area.”

The complex now being planned is different, he said.

“It all sounds positive for Willow Park.”

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