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FORT WORTH-Hillwood, playing off a trend in California, is breaking new ground in North Texas by declaring a smoke-free zone around its 288-unit first phase of Monterra Village. The legalities of enforcement and related issues like penalties are still under review, but the developer is putting the policy in place before the first luxury apartments come on line in mid-March.

Perry Wallace, vice president of multifamily development for Hillwood Properties, says the test drive will be made with the 27-building first phase of the 1,026-unit development, now under construction on 130 acres at the intersection of North Tarrant Parkway and Interstate 35W. He says he wants to see the response before declaring all three phases as smoke-free for residents and guests alike. “Our goal would be to keep it for all three phases,” he says, admitting that enforcement and penalties are still under review by Hillwood’s in-house attorney. “We’re hoping that the residents who live here will help us out,” he adds.

Wallace tells GlobeSt.com that Hillwood research has shown that some North Texas complexes have one non-smoking building, but no developer has taken the stand until now to take it beyond one per project. He says the initial response has been good, but then the on-site marketing trailer just opened in recent weeks. In doing its due diligence for the plan, Hillwood research also found that 70% of renters in the US say they’d prefer to live in a smoke-free complex.

Wallace says the non-smoking policy has benefits for residents and developer, but it’s not yet considered a rent premium. Residents benefit from a health and safety standpoint while the developer’s perks lie in unit turns because smoke eradication is no longer part of the make-ready equation. “What we’re finding and hearing is with non-smoking environments, you don’t have to redo the interiors on a turn,” he says. Monterra Village’s mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units average 1,052 sf. Rents are set at $1.23 per sf.

Hillwood’s insurance coverage already picked up a plus because the buildings have sprinklers, but Wallace says it’s possible additional savings could come from the non-smoking policy, which applies to apartment balconies and the project’s grounds. Monterra Village’s master plan is a mix of residential, medical, retail and restaurant space so the extent of the smoke-free environment is still being evaluated. “We’ll have a learning curve on it,” Wallace says.

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