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Tarrant County investors bet on Midlothian

A group of Tarrant County investors is betting growth will follow the expansion of State Highway 360, U.S. 287 and the U.S. 287 bypass by planning the launch of the second of two major, mixed-use developments in Midlothian. The group is just one of several cashing in on a hot residential market in the Ellis County city.

Lawson Farms Development L.P., comprised of Fort Worth investor Steve Patterson and Colleyville investors Kim Gill and John Orell, filed a plat Feb. 18 for a 290-acre, 760-lot masterplanned community on which they hope to begin construction in May or June.

The project, named Lawson Farms, is on the east side of F.M. 663 immediately south of the U.S. 287 bypass in Midlothian's southern corridor and will include a 15-acre park with a spring-fed lake and walking trails, a site for a proposed elementary school, an amenity center and two commercial tracts. Lawson Farms will develop the commercial properties and about half of the residential area and will sell the balance to an outside developer, Kim Gill said.

The project follows on the heels of Hunters Glen, which is under construction with 157 single-family lots and a 15-acre commercial center at the southwest corner of F.M. 663 and the planned route of the U.S. 287 bypass. Midlothian sits in Ellis County in the direct path of the growth boom now in full swing in Mansfield.

The Fort Worth and Colleyville investment group has sold the 80-acre Hunters Glen project to Pulte Homes of Texas L.P., which is planning to market the homes for $120,000 to $160,000.

"That southern corridor is growing like crazy," Kim Gill said. "The Mansfield market is grown out from the standpoint of affordable housing. Midlothian is the next logical city."

And the boom is just beginning, said Don Hastings, Midlothian's planning director, and city building official A. L. Haak.

The building permits filed for Hunters Glen within the next 30 days will push the city's available lots to 1,000, Haak said. Before year's end, permits filed for Lawson Farms and other major developments on schedule will add another 1,000.

Along the F.M. 663 corridor, Hastings said the Rosebud development will add 575 lots, and Brandy Ridge will add a further 229. The Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled hearings in March on plans for Westside Preserve, a mixed-use development with 1,000 single-family units. At least two other projects, the 189-lot Millbrook Estates and Ryland Homes' 850-lot Surrey Hill, are also on tap.

Hastings said Midlothian is 25% built-out for single-famly homes and poised to take off. He credits the S.H. 360 corridor, which opens Midlothian to the Arlington work district and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, as the engine behind the boom. A highway project connected the frontage roads of S.H. 360 and U.S. 287 and improved access for Midlothian residents who commute into the Metroplex.

The city also is considering five separate land annexations, Hastings said. "It just gives you an avenue to the center of Fort Worth," Kim Gill said. "If you're looking for a place for your family and for second-time home buyers and you work in Dallas or Fort Worth, Midlothian has some great options."

Lawson Farms involves Kim Gill's investment group and Patterson in a deal negotiated by Landry Burdine, of Patterson & Associates Commercial Real Estate. Burdine also represented the Lawson family, which has raised cattle on the property for 40 years.

Kim Gill said the group is negotiating with the Midlothian Independent School District to build an elementary school on the site.

On Feb. 8, voters approved three school bond packages worth $80 million and earmarked to buy buses, renovate schools and buy land for future campuses. The school system, which has 5,400 students, is bracing for 2,900 new students in the next five years.

Kim Gill said the proposed development is sandwiched between two new elementary schools along the U.S. 287 bypass. Lawson Farms will trigger the need for a third, he said.

"We will probably be the largest planned development to ever happen in Midlothian," Kim Gill said. "We certainly are the first one ever having an amenities center."

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