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FORT WORTH-After five years of working in other Texas metros, Dallas-based Beucler Properties LP is ready to dig into merchant build multifamily developments in its backyard. The developer has acquired the first of three sites in North Texas while it scouts for more to build a new class A brand.

Brad Hescock, Beucler’s director of development, says ground will break in 30 days on a 19.2-acre site at the corner of North Tarrant Parkway and Park Vista Boulevard in North Fort Worth. He tells GlobeSt.com that the developer, with equity from the institutional circuit, will build a 308-unit complex as part of a rollout for the company’s new class A, garden-style brand.

With the branding name yet to be picked, the first product for the program broke ground yesterday in North Houston–a 280-unit project, with a working name of Hollow Tree Apartments, on a site at the corner of FM 1960 and Interstate 45. The game plan is to begin delivering units in Houston and Fort Worth in May 2008.

Hescock says Beucler will close on a 23.5-acre site for another class A project in South Fort Worth by year’s end and pick up one in early 2008 in Phillips Creek Ranch for a class AA development. The merchant builder’s new brand is planned to fill in the gap between its class B-plus/A-minus product and its top of the line. He says each project, regardless of brand, exceeds $20 million of all-in development costs, with its class AA costing about $35 million on average.

Beucler began testing the North Texas market last year, completing the Forum at Grand Prairie at 2650 Forum Dr. in the fourth quarter. “We’re ramping up the projects significantly next year with our deals in the pipeline and the growth of the company,” Hescock says. There are 2,500 units in the portfolio and pipeline, including the one planned for North Fort Worth. Beucler’s also under construction with a class B-plus project in San Antonio. Hescock says Beucler will have put 1,000 units on the ground before this year ends and plans to build 1,800 in 2008.

The North Fort Worth complex, with a working name of Park Vista Apartments, will go up on a site bought off market from Lazy F. Inc. of Arlington and Quadrand North Tarrant Partners LP of Dallas, which has retail developer Don Silverman of Margaux Development Co. as one of its backers.

Lester Day, principal in NAI Huff Partners in Fort Worth says Beucler’s broker, Steve Oden Jr. of Steelwood Property Co. in Austin, asked him to start searching for development sites. “I knew that property was entitled for multifamily uses so I ran it down,” Day says.

Hescock says Oden and Beucler have teamed on previous developments, but the North Fort Worth project will be done with equity from an in-place platform with institutional partners. White-Conlee Builders Ltd. of San Antonio is Beucler’s general contractor; its architect is B&A Architects Inc., also from San Antonio.

Day says it’s not an easy task to find ready-to-go dirt because multifamily-entitled land is rapidly diminishing in North Fort Worth. “Six years ago, there were 32 multifamily sites, half of them not fit for development,” he says. “Today, there’s like four.”

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