Wednesday, September 03, 2014

AllianceTexas development still growing 25 years later

Before the Alliance project opened with its centerpiece commercial airport, most of the area was farmland. Today, about 37,000 people work in the development, which houses more than 370 companies. And more is on the way.
Huge concrete warehouses are going up on both sides of the highway just south of Texas Motor Speedway.
“There’s 3.5 million square feet under construction in those three buildings — 1 million square feet of it is preleased,” said Mike Berry, president of developer Hillwood Properties.
Berry has been working on the project since he was hired by businessman Ross Perot Jr. and started on the day of the groundbreaking in 1988.
“It was quite a memorable first day on the job.”
Since then, Alliance, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, has become one of the country’s largest and most successful commercial development projects.
But in 1989 when the project opened with its centerpiece commercial airport, most of the property was still just farmland. Most of the major roadways weren’t even built yet.
“Back then, the world stopped just north of Interstate 820” in far North Fort Worth, Berry said. “It was just a blank slate.”
Today I-35W through the 18,000-acre AllianceTexas project is crowded with traffic.
About 37,000 people work in the development, which houses more than 370 companies.
And more is on the way.
Hillwood Properties is building two million-square-foot warehouses. One is for LG Electronics; the other is a speculative distribution center.
Hillwood is also developing a 300,000-square-foot speculative industrial building in its Alliance Gateway business park.
“We have two smaller buildings we have on the drawing boards we haven’t pulled the trigger on, and those are almost ready to launch,” Berry said.

More going up

Trammell Crow Co. and Prudential Real Estate Investors are also developing a more than 1 million-square-foot speculative warehouse at Alliance just west of LG Electronics.
There’s now almost 34 million square feet of warehouse space at Alliance housing everything from FedEx packages to merchandise and Nestlé chocolate.
The Nestlé warehouse on State Highway 170 was one of the first built at Alliance back in the early 1990s.
Dallas developer Jeff Swope selected the site for the international food company after looking across North Texas.
“They had to have a rail-served site, and we couldn’t find one that met their needs,” said Swope, who’s one of the founders of Dallas-based Champion Partners. “Ross Perot Jr. took me out there in a helicopter to look at the land.
“This place was out in the middle of nowhere and nothing like it was now,” Swope said. “I stuck my neck out and convinced Nestlé that this was where they needed to go. And Perot did what he said it was going to do.”
When the Perot family began buying up land north of Fort Worth in the early 1980s, the rumor was that the property would be used for a giant automotive plant. Perot Sr. was on the board of directors at General Motors, and the car company was hunting for a spot for its new Saturn manufacturing center.

Original rumors

The Saturn plant never happened, and the brand is gone. But AllianceTexas keeps growing.
Berry estimates that the project is only about half built.
Along with warehouse space, new development includes almost 1 million square feet of shopping, an office building that just opened and hundreds of apartments.
“We have finished the next 360 apartments in our Alliance Town Center,” Berry said. “We just broke ground 60 days ago on a second phase of another 300 units.
“We have a 10-year business plan to build 3,100 units.”
The apartments are in a mixed-use district that includes a new $71 million HCA Hospital under construction.
The FAA’s new regional office complex is going up in the same area.
A greenbelt cuts through Alliance Town Center on the east side of I-35W. And Hillwood is working with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to create a park and wildlife area.
“We are just seeding it right now, and this time next spring as this starts to bloom we plan to have some events,” Berry said.


But it’s warehouse buildings, not bluebonnets and sunflowers, that grow the thickest at Alliance.
When the airport opened in 1989, long-haul trucking and railroad terminals weren’t the prime focus.
“It was all about aviation and aerospace,” Berry said.
But as it turned out, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s intermodal terminal at Alliance and the highway network were big draws for warehouse tenants.
“We decided to stick with this industrial development business,” Berry said.
Industrial brokers say that while southern Dallas County is attracting a lot of attention these days from major warehouse tenants, AllianceTexas is still in the running for most deals.
“Almost every one of the big boxes considers that market,” said Chris Teesdale, executive vice president with Colliers International.