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[IMGCAP(1)]ARLINGTON, TX-Flaherty Development and ING Clarion Partners will build a 1.2-million-sf showcase development as replacement product for a dinosaur mall in the Great Southwest Industrial District. The $55-million mix of spec office/warehouse and distribution space will go vertical in December.

Brian Flaherty, an under-the-radar developer in North Texas, acquired the 700,000-sf Forum 303 mall at 2900 E. Pioneer Pkwy. in June from three sellers after working on the plan nearly two years. “It’s a lot like an old brownfield site. It’s been sitting there dead in the water for a number of years,” he says. “All the planets and stars are finally aligned.”

Flaherty says the $4-million demolition and abatement job on the 68-acre site is ready to pick up momentum. Asbestos abatement is 90% done. The mall is roughly 30% demo’d, but that will be changing within a month as the mall comes down and Pioneer 360 Business Center begins to take shape. He and some other partners are holding an eight-acre parcel in reserve for a possible second phase, which could add another $5 million to $10 million to the all-in development tab.

“It’s a good permanent asset for the City of Arlington. ING Clarion will hold this for a number of years,” Flaherty tells GlobeSt.com. “We are creating a trophy project for them.”

[IMGCAP(2)]Alliance Architects Inc. of Richardson, TX designed Pioneer 360 Business Center, which will light a new signal flare for the Great Southwest. Bob Moore Construction Inc. of Arlington has won the general contractor’s award. Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers of Dallas is the civil engineer. Bank of Texas has provided construction financing.

The first phase will consist of two rear-load, showroom and warehouse buildings with 194,845 sf and 152,800 sf and an 816,040-sf cross-dock, possibly the largest box of its type in the city. The rear-loads will deliver in June or July 2008 and the cross-dock will be ready the following September or October. The smaller buildings have 24-foot clear heights, with the 152,800-sf structure sporting 36 dock-high doors and the other one has 44 docks. The big box, with a 32-foot clear height, will have 200 dock doors and at least 130 trailer storage spots.

“Overall, the Great Southwest for the past year to year and a half has been missing out on the larger deals in Dallas/Fort Worth. GSW has been playing below the 400,000-sf ceiling,” says Michael Stanzel, executive vice president with Dallas-based NAI Robert Lynn. “If you were looking for anything over 300,000 sf, you didn’t bother with GSW. Now, GSW’s getting into the game.” He and NAI associate Robert Reese will be marketing the rear-load buildings for $6.50 per sf and the cross-dock for $3.35 per sf. Both rates have built-in tenant-improvement allowances.

Arlington City Council has kicked in $3 million of incentives and 75% tax abatement for 10 years. “It was not only an eyesore, but it was an unsafe structure as far as crime was concerned,” Mayor Robert Cluck says. “It had grown old and was beyond its useful life. We have the opportunity to work with a developer, tear it down and building something brand-new and great.”

The mall’s storied past mirrors its peers from the 1970s. In its heyday, its anchors were Dillard’s and Montgomery Ward. As time took its toll, Dillard’s turned its space into a vast clearance house for its stores and the balance of the vintage space swung to open-floor, kiosk-type shops for imports and flea-market vendors. With the changes, the name was switched to Festival Marketplace from Forum 303.

“Everyone knew it needed to be taken out,” Flaherty says. “But, it had to be figured out how to do it.” One of the biggest hurdles was getting three unrelated owners to agree to sell. Jim Thomas of Cambridge Realty was the selling broker, representing movie producer Bob Yari’s Triyar Cos. LLC of Westwood, CA, which had owned the site about 13 years as a side investment.

Flaherty pulled the deal together and put it on ING Clarion’s desk, using skill sets he honed in the past 17 years at Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. and Atlanta-based Seefried Properties Inc. to make the proposition become a reality. “ING Clarion stepped up and was willing to take the capital risk in building the new project,” he says. “ING wants to broaden its presence and be more visible in the market.”

Pioneer 360 Business Center has been designed to stand the test of time. “It arguably will be some of the best buildings in the Arlington submarket for rear-load space,” Flaherty says, adding the latest design has been tweaked to add ribbon windows and additional high-end polishes for the facades. Also, all structures will be positioned so that only a few docks will be visible from the streets. One rear-load will front Texas 360, the development site’s western bound, and the other will face Pioneer Parkway on the northern side. Arkansas Lane is the southern boundary and Forum Drive sits on the tract’s eastern side. And, key to the location are ingress and egress ramps to the freeway. “Because it was a mall, it’s a good location,” Flaherty says.

Flaherty says the partners haven’t decided if they’re going to develop or sell the eight acres along Arkansas Lane, which are banked for the second phase. “I’m sure we’ll find a good use for that in the next 12 months,” he says.

Pioneer 360 Business Center is projected to generate 350 jobs for the city. “In that area of town, there hasn’t been a lot of new investment,” stresses Robert Sturns, Arlington’s economic development manager. “I think it will be a good fit for what we’re doing. He’s moving pretty quickly.”

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