City Hall

You Know That Empty Lot in Front of Downtown Farmers Market? Town Homes!

On and off in recent years there have been several attempts to fill that vacant lot across Marilla from the Dallas Farmers Market, and each plan has gone nowhere. Which is why I got interested when I saw this: This morning the Farmers Market TIF District Board of Directors met to discuss something called the Farmers Market Square project. I called the Office of Economic Development for more info, and Karl Stundins, area redevelopment manager, confirmed: Yup, this is supposed to go in that lot, fingers crossed.

Stundins says it's a 110-unit, 236,900-square-foot town-home project spearheaded by Houston developer Frank Liu of InTown Homes, who hopes to plant "moderately priced" for-sale properties on the lot -- which is more or less one of the centerpieces of the Downtown Dallas 360 plan.

"We worked with Brent Brown at the CityDesign Studio to look at the site plan and street elevations, and they did a lot of modifications to get to this point," says Stundins, who sent the conceptual renderings you see above and after the jump. "We also looked at Downtown Dallas 360 and looked at that site as more moderately priced. The land's expensive, which makes it harder to do for-sale at really, really inexpensive [prices]. But the units will be priced at the lower end of what's for sale downtown."

The reason it's on the Farmers Market TIF board agenda: Liu, who expects the development to run around $33 million, is seeking $3 million in TIF incentives, which the board suggests the city council approve after it returns from summer vacation. (It'll go in front of the Economic Development Committee before the whole council espies the project.) Stundins says of all the projects proposed for the cite, this one "seems like it's going to happen, and they're looking to the city for support from the TIF district. It's contingent upon that."

If Liu gets the TIF incentive, he would expect to begin building by the end of December, with completion date set for September 30, 2013.

But Stundins knows there will be objections; he's already heard from folks who want to know why the project doesn't contain a retail component, or at least a live-work piece on the ground floor. That was part of a previously planned project set to go on the site, but Stundins says it's much more difficult to demand that with a town-home development.

"The city overall has a larger concern with Farmers Market," he says. "The city wants to privatize it, but we only got one bid, and retail's difficult down there. You don't want to put in retail if nobody shops there. Marilla, because of City Hall Plaza, doesn't really go anywhere. Eventually we'll have to look at: Is there a better way to use our resources with Farmers Market and what's the appropriate amount of retail space. There's more work we have to do.

"And it's difficult, because if you look at the space, 20 percent is allocated to shopping and 80 percent to storage and trucks. The question is: For downtown land, is that the most efficient use?"