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FORT WORTH-In yet another bold move, Hillwood is launching a multifamily division to build the first rental product in its 17,000-acre AllianceTexas. The powerhouse play begins with an estimated $125-million project of nearly 1,000 apartments in a live-work design with up to 50,000 sf of office and 40,000 sf of retail space.

Hillwood, holding a tight rein on its terrain, weighed the prospects of selling tracts to multifamily developers, joint venturing or using its existing team’s skill sets and industry consultants to build its own product. “We basically came to the conclusion we needed to do this the same way that we’ve done everything else at Alliance with regard to the control and the quality,” Mike Berry, president of the locally based Hillwood Properties, tells GlobeSt.com. “It is also an opportunity to grow our business with a new income stream.”

The 288-unit first phase of the 130-acre Monterra by Hillwood will break ground in December at the corner of North Tarrant Parkway and Interstate 35W. The remaining units will roll out in two more phases along with the office and retail components.The initiative begins with townhouse product with private first-floor entries and attached garages, designed by Womack + Hampton Architects LLC of Dallas. Joseph Petersen, a local independent multifamily consultant, has been working with Hillwood nearly six months on the plan. “We will be using our core team to develop, finance and market,” Berry says. But down the road, Hillwood Multifamily will transition into a full-fledged division under the parent’s umbrella.

The Monterra mix has one-, two- and three-bedroom units averaging 1,000 sf. Rent projections are in flux, but they’ll probably exceed $1 per sf. The buildings will wrap around a hilltop development site with views of the Fort Worth skyline. It’s also laid out with hiking and biking trails, ponds and a 30-acre buffer along the interstate that is reserved for Hillwood’s signature mark, a pastureland with grazing longhorn and buffalo.

The Monterra will sit across the street from the HCA medical campus and a quarter-mile from the under-construction Alliance Town Center. Berry says the plan is to eventually marry the town center and the residential live-work space so it’s one compatible mixed-use development. The Monterra plan is still being fine-tuned, but 20,000 sf to 40,000 sf will be earmarked for neighborhood and entrepreneurial retail and 40,000 sf to 50,000 sf is ticketed for professional and medical offices.

Berry says the gist is to build a portfolio like Hillwood did in the industrial market. The zoning is in place to develop 4,800 multifamily units in AllianceTexas, where only 5,500 acres of its land mass is built out. The 25 million sf of office, industrial and transportation space that’s on the ground represents $7 billion of projects: a daily workforce of 24,000 in 140 companies to deliver a built-in renters’ base for Hillwood Multifamily.

“If our commercial clients know there’s housing for executives and other rank and file, it could attract more companies to the region,” Berry says. “We believe with the growth in the marketplace that it’s time to add that niche.” The vision is at least a half dozen “communities” with separate names to establish an identity, just like it did for its single-family developments, rather than package Monterra as a brand.

Hillwood Multifamily is not a spin-off of the developer’s Victory project in Downtown Dallas. But, Berry says, it’s highly probable that it could evolve into shared infrastructure services like property management. “Right now, this unit is a stand-alone entity, but the skill sets will be the same and we want to develop this all over in California and other markets.”

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