Northside Drive luxury apartments plannedApril 3, 2013
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By A. Lee Graham
A $65 million upscale apartment complex planned to overlook the Trinity River at Northside Drive promises luxe accommodations and a marina, but the 500-unit project is not a done deal.
Results of a traffic study, not to mention split neighborhood opinion, this week persuaded Fort Worth city officials to delay a rezoning vote until the April 16 City Council meeting.
“The issue is the traffic study,” said Dana Burghdoff, the city’s deputy planning director, commenting at the pre-council portion of the April 2 regular council meeting.
Results of that study are expected within a week, according to Jennifer Butcher, senior traffic engineer with Savant Group Inc., conducting the study to determine whether a site featuring 500 apartments, as well as area roadways, can handle anticipated traffic volume.
“We are evaluating what the city requested us to look at: interconnection and how it’s going to operate,” said Butcher, who said traffic counts were expected to be completed on Thursday, April 4.
Legend Bank owns the 15-acre property along Northside Drive near Interstate 35N. Plans for the tentatively named Northside Apartments call for two phases: the first featuring 300 units in five stories, with parking at ground level. Phase two would feature 200 units in four stories, also with parking on the ground level, as well as surface parking.
Construction costs would total $65 million.
Though not part of the Trinity River Vision project, officials with Tarrant Regional Water District, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, began meeting with the project architect in August 2011 to work through floodplain concerns and drainage studies, among other issues specific to the site.
“That’s a difficult area to develop,” said J.D. Granger, executive director of the Trinity River Vision Authority, referring to the site’s ability to handle flood water.
“They’ve been working with us closely on that,” Granger said of project architect Schaumburg Architects of Fort Worth.
The Trinity River Vision Authority oversees the Trinity River Vision, a master plan to create an urban waterfront neighborhood, expand Gateway Park and add several projects along the Trinity trails.
“In Fort Worth, this is on the high end of the rental spectrum,” said architect Ken Schaumburg, calling the planned project’s $1.40 per-square-foot rental rate as comparable to those of the Lincoln Trinity Bluff apartments along downtown’s eastern edge.
The Northside project will offer single, two- and three-bedroom units, with the average size at about 1,000 square feet.
Apartment demand is up regionally, with North Texas occupancy reaching 93.7 percent in fourth-quarter 2012, according to MPF Research of Dallas. Rental rates trailed considerably, rising only 8 percent between 2010 and 2012, it said.
About 80 percent of the apartment units at the Northside Drive complex would face the Trinity River or downtown. The complex would feature a small marina and boating dock, with stairs leading from a swimming pool area outside the complex to the river’s edge.
The portion of the river passing by the property is controlled by a damn constructed at Fourth Street east of downtown, ensuring a consistently flat water level, Schaumburg said.
“It’s more of a lake than a river,” Schaumburg said. “It’s the widest part of the river.”
But some residents say not so fast.
At the March 13, 2013 Zoning Commission meeting, Libby Willis referred to a letter from the Riverside Alliance, representing at least seven neighborhood associations opposed to the project. Willis, vice president of the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association, raised issues about traffic volume and the project’s environmental impact.
Meanwhile, a different neighborhood association voiced support for the project. Speaking on behalf of the Oakhurst Alliance of Neighbors, Janice Michel pointed out that the project would occupy the bank at the widest part of the river.