FORT WORTH-Bucking the current trend of decreased leasing velocity, the 17,000-acre AllianceTexas posted numbers for an outstanding first quarter. Between January and March, AllianceTexas developer Hillwood signed tenants to more than 1.2 million square feet, the second largest amount of square footage leased in a first quarter since the project broke ground in 1989.

Hillwood senior vice president Bill Burton acknowledges the AllianceTexas numbers were a surprise, especially given the economy. “When you look at the new business moving in, we’ve seen an incremental slowdown, and we’ve seen contractions area-wide,” he tells

But tenants such as Alliance Brokers, which took 292,500 square feet for a new heavy-load container facility and a pending deal totaling 365,440 square feet with Q-Edge for a new computer assembly plant helped boost the overall totals. Then there is the upcoming construction. Deloitte will soon begin construction on 750,000 square feet for a learning and leadership development center in the Circle T. Ranch section of AllianceTexas. Construction is already underway on a 250,000-square-foot data center for Health Care Service Corp., parent company of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas.

Burton says there are several factors that led to the very positive Q1 numbers. First is that Texas, even in the current downturn, is still a good place in which to do business. Second is the services that Hillwood adds to the real estate it sells and leases at AllianceTexas.

“We spend a tremendous amount of time on other factors, such as labor availability and training,” Burton comments. He says Hillwood has worked with Burlington Northern Santa Fe on its intermodal facility in trying to make it more efficient. Within the past year, the company re-designed the entrances and exits to promote more efficiency.

“On top of that, we worked with BNSF and the city of Fort Worth to privatize a portion of two roads – Intermodal Parkway and Container Way,” Burton adds. “It allows companies in that area to use heavy-weight containers.”

Finally, he points out, not all companies are contracting. Some, such as Alliance Shippers, are expanding, and they need more space. “One of the key attributes we sell at Alliance is the fact that business isn’t static,” Burton says. “Businesses grow and contract, needs change, and we have the flexibility to help.”

Even with the hugely successful first quarter, Burton isn’t hedging his bets that the rest of the year will be that way. In addition to the economy, there is competition, he comments.

“Is there activity? Yes. Is there a lot of competition? You bet. Will all the deals get done? No,” he says.. “I’m just hopeful we’ll have the opportunity to business with the people we’re talking with now.”

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