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FARMERS BRANCH, TX-A trio of movers and shakers in the development world hopes to break ground in early 2006 on the first phase of a mixed-use model with a light-rail station as the drawing card. Upward of $35 million will be spent on the first wave of construction: 250 to 300 multifamily units and 30,000 sf of retail.

Harwood International Inc., Centex Corp. and Humphreys & Partners Architects LP are partnering with the City of Farmers Branch on the transit-oriented concept, which is destined to end up as a development model for similar projects along the proposed DART line in the Greater Dallas area. “It’s the first for us and the first for a lot of developers,” Tap Pritchard, Harwood’s COO, tells GlobeSt.com.

The Farmers Branch City Centre project will launch with a 7.4-acre tract, but there’s another 49 acres banked for the plan’s expansion and roughly 30 more that could be bought and scraped if it proves successful, says Michael Spicer, the city’s community services director. Farmers Branch officials signed the development pact in April 2004 after nearly five months of negotiations with Harwood and two decades of gaming out a vision for acreage in and around city hall at the junction of Valley View Lane and Stemmons Freeway.

The start date has been penciled and erased several times, but players now say the groundbreaking will take place in Q1 2006 if DART stays on track to build and open a light-rail station by 2010 inside the city line. “Today, I’d say there aren’t many obstacles in our way,” Pritchard says. The developers have allowed a three-year window for the urban-style residential and retail project to stabilize before the station opens, he explains.

Pritchard says the Harwood team has been in talks with other cities for similar developments on DART’s light-rail expansion roster. “The land deals are sensitive,” he says. “They will come to light as the year progresses.”

Farmers Branch City Centre is patterned to some degree after Ken Hughes’ Mockingbird Station, the first one in Texas to be positioned directly on top of a DART station. In Harwood’s initiative, Pritchard says the transit-oriented concept will be blended with the light-rail station design so that “you won’t know when you’ve left our development and entered theirs.”

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