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IRVING, TX-The Las Colinas Land Association today will vote on a historic package to open the development door for mixed-use space, including residential, in the 960-acre Urban Center. The board will be weighing mixed-use changes for 75 acres in the office core and a residential option for a nearby 14.9-acre tract set aside in 1973 for a hospital or medical-related use.

Typecast as supplementary declarations, applications for land-use changes have been under review for three months in under-the-radar style so evaluations could be completed without any outside influence. Asking for the changes are Crow Holdings, Prime Income Asset Management Inc., Hines, JA Green Development Corp. and Texas Health Resources.

Under the association’s charter, the changes must be approved by 60% of its members, who control one vote for every $100 of assessed valuation. In essence, there are 43 million votes representing $4.3 billion of developed and undeveloped land in the 12,000-acre development.

In line with an unofficial count on the association’s website, several insiders say the die is cast for change. But it’s a real estate deal and no one’s calling it done until the 4 p.m. count of hands and proxies in the association’s headquarters at 122 W. John Carpenter Freeway.

“We don’t have a vote until 4 p.m.,” Rick Bidne, association vice president, stresses to GlobeSt.com. “Assuming it is voted in the affirmative, it does open a door that was virtually closed.” But, he cautions, an affirmative vote could swing the opposite way when the balloting begins so it’s not wise to label it done as yet.

The association has stood guard over the land since its master planning in 1973 as a enclave to cater to corporate America’s headquarters and regional office needs. Residential product always had a place in Las Colinas, but outside the core. The owners’ applications to alter the land use “was not difficult to deal with,” Bidne says. “We could see that the limitations would not lead to development.” The association, though, does not endorse applications. “It’s up to the membership to make the decision if it’s viable,” he adds.

Las Colinas dealmakers Bobby Stewart and Charles Cotten, formerly with Cousins Properties and now principals in CSE Enterprises, have been actively courting for change. “It made all the sense in the world to attempt this,” Stewart says, citing the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s plan to lay light-rail lines into Las Colinas. He points out today’s vote results from collaborative efforts by city leaders, the association, Dallas County and Utility Reclamation District, the applicants, tax increment financing board and Las Colinas Marketing Alliance. “We’ve really pulled as a team to attempt this,” he says, “and make it happen.”

The undercurrent for change began after Boca Raton, FL-based Gables Residential Trust got a 13-acre tract altered so it could develop 250,000 sf to 300,000 sf of retail, office, two condo towers and a hotel on lakeside land. “Gables showed there’s a chance to make the Urban Center urban,” Cotten says. “While it’s called an Urban Center, it’s not been urban. It’s been a suburban office market. So far, it’s been a great environment during the daytime, but there’s no nighttime activity.”

The Urban Center land’s always has been eligible for retail, restaurant and hotel development to go along with its mainstay, high-rise office. The mixed-use change for some tracts would require a minimum eight-story building, but the outcome would be condo towers, town homes and condo hotels. Likewise, the change would allow private clubs and entertainment uses like theaters, playhouses and arcades. The residential component calls for sale or rent product–with no owner or developer holding title to more than three units. The two outlying tracts of Texas Health Resources are primed for development for single-family, townhomes and condos in keeping with the neighboring 200-acre La Villita, which is being built out with multi-use residential space and some street-front retail.

Cotten says “none of the parties have stepped out and said what they plan to do, but everybody’s planning mixed use.” The JA Green site beside the 909 Lake Carolyn Parkway high rise will pick up a hotel use if its application passes muster. And Prime Income Asset Management has a developer of high-end “for sale” townhouses under contract for 10 acres and a multifamily developer in line for five acres. “Changing the deed restrictions will change the dynamics of the Urban Center,” says Garry Gibbons with Dallas-based Prime Income, adding Gables got the ball rolling “and we followed in behind them.” If today’s vote carries, Gibbons says ground could break on both residential projects before the year ends.

The land-use changes conform to the Transit Mall overlay for the light-rail line. “It’s one thing to have the lines come to the Urban Center,” Cotten says. “It’s another thing to have the trains stop at a station. Now, that’s what will happen.”

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