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FORT WORTH-The Texas Permanent School Fund has returned 362.9 acres, bisected by Interstate 35W, to its land bank after agreeing to terminate a master lease with Chicago-based Ridge Property Trust. Although the North Fort Worth acreage isn’t being marketed for sale, it doesn’t mean the state isn’t open to alternative plays for the mixed-use site.

“We are going to just sit tight, hold the property as an investment and see what the market brings us,” the spokesman for the Texas General Land Office tells GlobeSt.com. A 204-acre tract on the east side of I-35W, just south of Cabela’s 230,000-sf store, has 1,540 feet of freeway frontage. A 158.9-acre tract on the interstate’s west side has 3,190 feet of frontage.

Ridge Property Trust and the state struck their deal in June 2006, within 10 months of the GLO buying the dirt for $34.85 million. The plan was to build 3.1 million sf in partnership with a local retail developer. The land, bordering Hillwood’s 17,000-acre AllianceTexas was earmarked for industrial, manufacturing, office/showroom and retail space. Kent Newsom, Ridge Property Trust’s point man in Dallas, won’t go into detail, but did say “we weren’t able to get there.”

The GLO spokesman confirms the deal was dropped during the feasibility study. He points out that GLO land commissioner Jerry Patterson is an ardent proponent of buying, selling and leasing land to generate revenue for the Texas Public School Fund. Therefore, a ground lease, limited partnership development or even a sale, if the price is right, aren’t being ruled out for the prized land. “The driving factor is what’s going to make money for the public school fund,” he says.

The land’s development value isn’t in question, given its positioning near Hillwood’s $800-million Alliance Town Center, 2,300-acre Heritage subdivision, 130-acre Monterra Village and a handful of other nearby retail developments. Several large industrial developers contacted by GlobeSt.com were unaware that Ridge Commerce Park was not going to materialize nor did the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce realize the entire site had been returned to the state’s land bank.

“It’s an untapped resource. As Fort Worth continues to grow, the demand on retail will continue to grow, but we want the right mix of retail and residential for new and interesting developments along Interstate 35,” says David Brezina, executive vice president of the chamber’s economic development. “That land is so hot it will move itself.”

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