(To read more on the multifamily market, click here.)

FARMERS BRANCH, TX-An Austin developer, who invested nearly seven years into the plan, will jumpstart construction within a month on a $125-million-plus, mixed-use project. The firing pin was last Friday’s sale of 11.9 acres to a national townhouse builder.

Bill J. Whitworth, founder of the Whitworth Co., tells GlobeSt.com that he’s been assembling the development players since July 2005 when he quietly acquired 24 acres from ExxonMobil Corp., getting the last piece of available land of a former corporate campus.

Whitworth, teaming with Metropolitan Development LLC of Vienna, VA, will build a $50-million apartment complex, Prairie Crossing. Goodman Town Homes, part of the K. Hovnanian Cos. LLC of Red Bank, NJ, will raise a $70-million townhouse development while Direct Development of Dallas is holding 3.5 acres for an upscale retail project.

Whitworth, marking his first spot in the Dallas area with the development, says he first approached ExxonMobil nearly seven years ago about acquiring a piece of the campus. On the heels of the corporate giants’ merger, ExxonMobil in moving its operations base sold 60 acres to a private school, six acres to a local family and banked the balance in “a quarantine pool of assets.” Local broker Michael McNeff got wind that the remaining acreage was finally available and contacted Whitworth, who ended up in competition with a couple other developers for the corner of Midway and Alpha roads.

“This deal was not going to move forward until somebody came in and paid Exxon what they wanted,” Whitworth says. After taking down the land, he started mapping out the zoning, working with local officials and assembling the cast of characters for the build-out plan. “It’s a perfect marriage,” he says. “It’s a perfect American deal. Everybody is getting what they want.”

Whitworth and Metropolitan Development’s Prairie Crossing will develop 367 units in one-, two- and three-bedroom designs on an eight-acre tract that will connect via a private tree-lined street to 13,400 sf of high-end, neighborhood retail. Prairie Crossing’s units will average 989 sf, with rents ranging from $1,200 to $1,400 per month. The first units will deliver in March 2007.

Direct Development’s retail project, Midway Commons, will round out the infill, urban project. Derek Ferem with Direct Development says the retail component also breaks ground in a month. It will be ready for tenant finish-out in midsummer. Hibernia Bank has inked a deal to get in on the ground level. Princeton Partners of Dallas is preleasing the class A development, which includes a one-acre tract for a sit-down restaurant.

According to Whitworth, Goodman Homes will build 200 townhouses on its land, patterning the development after its Villas at Legacy Town Center in far north Dallas. The units will range from $300,000 to $385,000.

“It’s a true mixed-use community,” Whitworth stresses. “And, it’s a community that flows. We think it’s a perfect setting.”

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