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[IMGCAP(1)]FORT WORTH-Cypress Equities, a Staubach Co. affiliate, has met its goal to break ground this year on the 1.1-million-sf West 7th, an estimated $200-million mixed-use project in the city’s Cultural District. The urban infill development, positioned on 15.5 acres, is penciled to deliver in September 2009.

The Cypress Equities team has kept most details under wraps as it finalized the site acquisition of 2821 W. 7th St. from Acme Brick Co., worked through city incentives and mapped out a plan for an urban village with 345 residential units, 345,000 sf of retail, 200,000 sf of spec office and a 150-key hotel that could hold 20 condos by the time the deal’s done.

“Nothing makes me happier than the sound of a backhoe in the morning,” Chris Maguire, CEO of the Dallas-based Cypress Equities and Staubach Retail, told the crowd at yesterday’s groundbreaking. With dirt being pushed in the background, the vertical work is slated to get underway “any day now,” he later told GlobeSt.com. Washington, DC-based Carlyle Group has equity in the project.

In 30 days, Maguire says the team plans to reveal its first wave of retail tenants, which have stepped up for at least 50% of the 345,000 sf, and a partnership agreement with a national hotel company to launch a new brand for the industry on the site. Movie Tavern Partners of Dallas will anchor the retail component with a three-level venue designed with seven screens for first-run and art films and restaurant-bar combo with a balcony on the top floor.

[IMGCAP(2)]“This is a big project, but it will be done and done in a way you’ll be proud of it,” said Roger Staubach, executive chairman of the namesake company.

To earn city incentives and nods, the development team has agreed that 15% of the rental units will fall into the affordable classification and 25% of hard construction costs will be contracted to women- and minority-owned businesses. The one- and two-bedroom units, including the high-end apartments, will average 775 sf.

“We don’t want affordable housing, we want quality affordable housing,” Mayor Mike Moncrief said during the groundbreaking fete. “We must plan smart if we want to meet demands for new development and quality of life.”

Staubach affiliate, Robert Shaw of Columbus Realty Partners Ltd. in Dallas, will guide the residential component through construction and lease-up. Its projected rents will end up north of $1.25 per sf.

Joel Pustmueller and T.D. Briggs, founders of Dallas-based Peloton Real Estate Partners, hold the office leasing assignment. There will be 80,000 sf of office loft space above retail and an estimated 120,000-sf freestanding class A office building. The quoted rate will be $28.50 per sf plus electric. “What we’re sensing from the brokerage community is there’s a lot of activity out there,” Briggs says, “and there’s good pent-up demand.”

Staubach Retail’s national leasing director Ed Coury says interest is equally as brisk for the retail space. “The rates will be reflective of this marketplace and similar types of vertically integrated bases on a national level,” he said. “This is a market niche that’s virtually untapped.” Based on national stats for comparable space, that would put the rate in the $35 per sf range. Staubach Retail’s Steve Ewing and Lauren Johnson lead the team.

Kirk Williams, vice president of development for Cypress Equities, said West 7th will take up 12.5 acres of the site. The team is still weighing uses for the three-acre balance.

Maguire says there is no additional land under contract in the pocket, which got its revitalization start by Dallas-based Weber Co.’s redevelopment of a turn-of-the-century Montgomery Ward complex, now an urban infill showcase with residential and retail space. “There are a few opportunities potentially,” Maguire said as his eyes scanned surrounding tracts.

General contractor Rogers-O’Brien Construction Co. of Dallas will start drilling piers Nov. 26 and demolishing Acme Brick’s headquarters building Dec. 1. Acme is relocating to a 77,000-sf new building in southwest Fort Worth. “They could have sold this land at a very high cost and just walked away,” Fort Worth councilwoman Wendy Davis said, “but they wanted to leave a legacy for this city and the corridor.” West 7th was designed by Gideon Toal of Fort Worth.

West 7th is just the latest in a series of 2007 starts in the Downtown and Cultural District. “Fort Worth continues to buck all the trends with respect to growth and development,” Moncrief said. And, the city is far from done. “We have a few more on the drawing boards,” he later added.

West 7th is Cypress Equities’ first project in the city–and it’s not done either with mining the terrain. “This will not be our last project here,” Williams vowed. “And we want to thank you for working with us and encouraging us.”

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