FORNEY, TX-A corridor, long overdue for development, is getting its place in the Texas sun as developers and land speculators hone in on the vast tracts to be found in and around the City of Forney, about 20 miles east of the Dallas CBD.

One developer has just closed on 280 acres for a mixed-use project while another is set to buy an assembly of 102 acres, part of it targeted for retail. Another 99 acres is under contract, reportedly to a Wal-Mart developer. All the land is in and around a highway project that will loop and extend US Highway 80 to provide a north-south route to alleviate some of the clogged arteries for a metroplex predicted to add another million people in the next few years.

The Kaufman County dirt isn’t coming dirt cheap, as one might expect. The raw land is fetching $28,000 to $35,000 per acre for one-acre, single family-home tracts, says Wayne D. Robinson of Dallas’ Henry S. Miller Commercial, who deals practically daily with city officials and farmers now looking to cash in on acreage most often part of the family since the turn of the century.

A farmer willing to sell some of his heritage is how Bill Rodgers’ MCA Development Ltd. of Dallas got 280 acres in the highway’s path in a deal brokered by John Sullivan and Steve Metarelis, a Texas Land Advisors team from Dallas. The highway construction, carrying a two-year completion, kicks off in mid to late spring 2003. MCA Development starts pushing dirt on the first phase to 620 rooftops around the same time, with 50 acres of retail and commercial product flowing out when it’s closer to harvest time.

The commercial tract will end up with key highway frontage, Sullivan tells Because of the unknowns, it is one of the most loosely zoned commercial tracts in the city limits.

Sullivan says MCA Development had the farm under contract for 10 months. “The market conditions of Forney,” Sullivan explains, “have evolved to the point that you have enough density and rooftops to justify a development of this nature.” When all is said and done, MCA Development will spend more than $30 million to bring the mixed-used project to fruition, according to Sullivan.

Forney, with its view of the Dallas skyline off in the distance, has close to 2,000 single-family permits issued by developers planning to push them out in the coming year, Metarelis says. Land, he says, is bringing about $8,000 per acre for large buys and about $18,000 per acre for smaller parcels. Opportunity, though, is narrowing as the city, with a population of less than 6,000, tightens the barrier to entry due to the hyped interest.

Ted Tedford of Dallas-based Tedford Investments Inc. is poised to close this week on 102 acres, mostly destined for single-family lots on the north side of US Highway 80. On the south side, he owns another 38 acres, all earmarked for retail. Construction for both product types will begin in the summer, Tedford tells Shafer Property Co. of Dallas is handling the retail rollout, talking to everyone from big boxes to inline nationals.

Tedford says he’s a peripheral builder, always looking for the next growth corridor around the Big D. The highway, Forney’s formation of a Municipal Utility District and the Dallas sprawl have made the eastern tier the most likely candidate for the next building boom. Besides, he and the others point out, it’s closer from Forney to Dallas than it is from Plano or Frisco, home to the region’s newest and showiest malls and housing projects.

Dallas’ Sam Ware of Lazarus Property Co. got the interest rolling last year when he bought more than 3,000 acres on the outskirts of the Forney city limits for a residential project. Today, the Kaufman County rumor mill, long tied to a Disney theme park, has diverted the talk by townsfolk to the concrete projects rising or getting ready to rise on its rolling farmland.

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