Lantana grocery store moves closer to reality

Since 1999, when it first bought the land it would develop into the community of Lantana, Republic Property Group has planned to add a major retail center nearby. By the end of 2014, that plan may finally come to fruition.

After building up a suitable population density and clearing hurdles both legal and economic, the company is ready to take a major step forward on the development, called Lantana Corner. The development will include a large, major-chain grocery store anchoring a number of smaller retailers in the triangle created by FM 407, Jeter Road and McMakin Road.

RPG will move forward with the development of the site, which originally was envisioned as having the Lantana water tower as its centerpiece. Now, because of the square footage needs of the center’s anchor grocery client, RPG and its commercial development partner, Houston-based NewQuest Properties, will have to relocate the tower to the opposite side of FM 407.

“The process takes about a year. What we’ll be doing is constructing a brand-new, 600,000-gallon water tower, steel-framed, an exact replica of what’s out there today,” said Tony Ruggeri, an executive vice president with RPG. “Once that’s constructed and it’s accepted by the Freshwater Supply District of Lantana, the old, existing one will be taken down and taken off the site.”

Moving the existing tower was out of the question, Ruggeri said.

“Lantana is so large now that it needs an operational water tower at all times,” he said. “Logistically there’s no way to keep it online and relocate it.”

RPG is under agreement not to name the grocery store that will anchor Lantana Corner.

“You can probably figure it out, but the anchor won’t allow us to use their name yet, so unfortunately we can’t,” Ruggeri said. He said an announcement may be made in June 2013.

“I can tell you that the anchor is a major chain, that people here in the Dallas area will know and will be excited about,” he said. “The store they’re talking about is 100,000 square feet with expansion space (to go) up to 125,000 square feet. So it’s a very large anchor store.”

“A lot of these grocery stores nowadays, the reason they’re going to a larger footprint is they’re starting to incorporate more dry goods,” Ruggeri said. “I would anticipate, with the amount of space NewQuest is talking about, that they would have a fair amount of dry-goods sales.”

Speaking of the Lantana Corner development in general, Ruggeri said, “It’s going to be a very high-end retail development, very nice shops. It’s going to look like something that was meant to be part of Lantana and has always been a part of Lantana. It is their intent to emulate the predominant architecture that exists in Lantana today.”

“It’s going to be a big, big plus for Lantana and the residents who are living out there,” added Jake Wagner, another executive vice president at RPG.

NewQuest representatives asked to reserve comments about the center until they are under construction.

According to NewQuest’s website, the company is bringing a Kroger Signature store to a north Fort Worth location near Keller this year.

NewQuest, which does most of its business in the greater Houston area, especially outside the Sam Houston Tollway circle, has partnered with HEB on other projects and has constructed several Kroger Signature stores around Houston, as well as a Kroger Marketplace in Willis.

After the new water tower is constructed, Ruggeri said it will take approximately another year to construct Lantana Corner. Although some construction may be possible while the new tower is nearing completion, Ruggeri said RPG anticipates that Lantana Corner’s main grocery store will open around fall 2014.

The search for a grocery store tenant for the future Lantana Corner began in 2005, when RPG management felt Lantana had grown large enough to support one.

Issues at the time included that the FM 407 curve bypassing the old four-way stop hadn’t been built yet, that no alcohol sales were then permitted at the site and that potential tenants weren’t impressed with Lantana’s population size. All were deal-breakers as far as potential tenants were concerned, Ruggeri said.

Over the years, RPG worked with the Denton County Commissioners Court to expedite construction of the FM 407 curve, worked out a tax overlay district and limited annexation with Bartonville to allow a wet/dry election, and sold more houses in Lantana.

In 2007, potential buyers still felt Lantana’s population density was about a year away from sufficient. In the ensuing months, the national economy cratered. Finally, a deal was reached last year.

To accommodate the shopping center, NewQuest will purchase the former Lantana Gardens tract behind the water tower from the Town of Bartonville.

In addition, NewQuest is buying land on the north side of FM 407 across from Lantana Corner with plans to build a smaller retail development at a later date.

There will be a gas station in the shopping center, according to Tony Ruggeri with RPG.

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