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Posted on: July 13, 2018

All aboard: Developers are betting millions on new Fort Worth to DFW Airport commuter rail line

CB Jennings.jpg
Steve Brown, Real Estate Editor
The Dallas Morning News
July 12, 2018

The first trains won't start rolling with passengers until early next year on Tarrant County's new TexRail.

But real estate developers are already at the stations getting ready for the new commuter rail line.

The 27-mile railway between downtown Fort Worth and DFW International Airport will have more than a half dozen stations. About 8,000 people a day are expected to hitch a ride on the commuter line.

Three of the whistle stops — in historic downtown Grapevine and North Richland Hills — are getting new real estate projects to go along with the trains.

Almost $250 million in development is in the works and more is planned along the TexRail line.

"It's pretty exciting to see all this happening before we even start the first day of service," said Bob Baulsir, the Trinity Metro transit system senior vice president who is overseeing the TexRail project. "The first week of January, we will kick off our passenger service."

The more than $1 billion commuter rail project has been in development for several years and is already generating business for the area.

"We've put over 2 million man hours into construction to date," Baulsir said. "Economically, that's a pretty big deal."

The transit-oriented real estate projects that are starting at TexRail stations represent further investment spurred by the regional transportation project. The largest of these is the $105 million Grapevine Main mixed-use development in downtown Grapevine.

Under construction at Main Street and Dallas Road, the sprawling project includes a five-story rail station building, a six-story, 121-room boutique hotel, a 552-space parking garage and a 38,000-square-foot outdoor event plaza.

"The goal is for it to be a spot for locals and for visitors to come to," said Mark Brooks of hotel firm Coury Hospitality. "It's all part of Grapevine continuing to revitalize."

The Grapevine Main rail station and hotel will be built in the 19th century architecture that the city has embraced with its historic downtown. A "great hall" in the station will offer a combination of shops, dining and beverage venues.

The new hotel will operate as a Marriott Autograph property. The project will open in late 2019 and early 2020.

Brooks said the outdoor plaza at Grapevine Main will be able to accommodate thousands of people for events.

"It will have fountains, public art and opportunities for a stage to make it a venue," he said. "The goal is that there is something happening all the time."

Grapevine city manager Bruno Rumbelow said Grapevine Main is just the start of a redevelopment of the neighborhood around the TexRail station.

"What we believe is you will see that ripple effect that transforms that whole Dallas Road corridor," Rumbelow said. "The planning and zoning commission and the city council are working right now to ensure the area redevelops in a manner that the community is comfortable with."

That means more pedestrian-friendly streets and the addition of new housing within walking distance of the TexRail station.

At two new TexRail stops in North Richland Hills, builders are adding hundreds of new houses, townhomes and apartments.

Hurst-based Our Country Homes is building a townhome and patio home development at the Smithfield Station. The $27 million project near Main Street and Smithfield Road is called Smithfield Villas and has homes starting at nearly $270,000.

"It's about a five-minute walk from the TexRail station," said Craig Hulse, North Richland Hills economic development director.

Our Country Homes is also doing a second residential community at the Iron Horse Station in North Richland Hills near Northeast Loop 820.

"We saw the potential of the new rail stations and bought property around there within walking distance," said John Pitstick of Our Country Homes. "They are selling very well."

The 90-home project is about half sold, he said.

"We are excited about this because we have two areas of town that we can reinvent and attract new people to our city and new business," said North Richland Hills' Hulse. "It gives us another chapter in the book we are trying to sell.

"Transportation is very important to attract capital investment in our city."

At the Iron Horse Station alone, developers are spending more than $70 million on new homes, apartments and planned commercial space.

Arizona apartment builder Wolff Co. plans to start construction later this year on the first of 600 apartments planned at the North Richland Hills rail stop.

Builder Right Quest LLC is also planning apartments there.

Plano-based builder CB Jeni Homes is building more than 90 townhouses near the Iron Horse Station.

"We are going to be able to offer a 1,400-square-foot townhome with two bedrooms in the $220,000 to $230,00 range," said CB Jeni's Steve Schermerhorn. "For us to be able to produce a house at that price in that location is fantastic.

"To be in North Richland Hills — two blocks from where the station will be — and provide a townhome where people can easily jump on public transportation and get to downtown Fort Worth and the airport was really appealing to us."
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