Flower Mound’s Planning and Zoning Commission will see a proposal for Highland Court off Rippy Road for the first time on Monday, March 9.
The project on approximately 30 acres fronting Rippy Road near FM 2499 has been the subject of muchdiscussion among some residents, on social medial, at neighborhood meetings and during public comments at the beginning of the last few months of town council and P&Z Commission meetings.
David Watson, managing principal of Direct Development, will be presenting the plan he has revised several times since discussions first began with neighbors of the property last fall.
The longtime retail developer has worked with Flower Mound for years, developing the ranch-style Lowe’s-anchored shopping center off FM 2499 at FM 407, the Target-anchored shopping center across the street with its heavily-landscaped aura, Robertson’s Creek featuring historical obelisks and, most recently, the Tom Thumb-anchored center off FM 1171 in west Flower Mound that has a park behind it to provide a buffer between the commercial elements and nearby neighborhoods.
In short, Watson says, he is trying to build something that makes sense for the Rippy Road location, works with the land uses on all sides and will be compatible to nearby neighborhoods.
For instance, next to the property on the east side is a 200,000-square-foot office park, the heavily-traveled FM 2499 is nearby and to the northeast is 250 multi-family units, Watson said. To the west, the property is zoned Single-Family District-10 with a minimum lot area per home of 10,000 square feet, though property owners have created larger lots, he said.
The property he has under contract could be developed with a three-story office building and retail based on the master plan, he said, but that is not what he believes would work on the property or be beneficial to its neighbors.
Before creating a plan, Watson talked to town officials, residents and business owners to find out what was needed and what they thought would work on the property.
The development was first proposed as a combination of apartments and townhomes as a transition from commercial to the neighborhoods. Then he talked to several residents who wanted to see senior living that featured special accommodations such as elevators, wider doors, amenities within each unit and covered parking. Watson created another version of the plan to accommodate seniors looking for a place to live that wasn’t directly tied to assisting living facilities but was close to restaurants and retail.
After meeting with neighbors, Watson learned they did not want any rental properties. So, the plan was revised to include townhomes for sale along the area facing the neighborhoods. Nearby residents indicated they did not want any rental property on the site at all and he revised the plan again.
Issues of concern included not allowing College Parkway to be extended, preserving specimen trees, including single-family homes and not allowing townhomes or rental properties of any kind. A traffic study by a third party shows the current plan would involve 1,600 trip starts, about 72 percent less than the estimated 5,800 trip starts that the current master plan could generate.
“I’m not trying to make the fast dollar,” he said. “I believe this is a good development for Flower Mound.”
Watson said he designed Highland Court in a way to preserve 11 of 13 specimen trees on the property – partly by not extending College Parkway all the way through the property and by putting a walking trail along the road, keeping existing trees as a buffer between the development and neighbors. An additional 91 trees will be planted along the Rippy Road perimeter, he said. The project also includes a 6-foot masonry wall. Both the trees and the wall would keep neighbors from seeing most of the homes in Highland Court from their yards, Watson added.
By omitting an entrance onto Rippy, the project does not force the town to consider expanding it as is currently in the master plan. The master plan currently calls for a 36-foot pathway with 20-foot easements on both sides of the road for future expansion.
The project will feature lots ranging from 3,000 square feet closer to the office complex to over 6,500 square feet closer to Rippy Road. The larger homes on smaller lots are what he has heard both millennials and baby boomers are seeking in Flower Mound – high-end homes with little yard maintenance.
The development will feature homes valued at $325,000 to $375,000 on the 3,000-square-foot lots – an indicator of the high-end type of homes he envisions for Highland Court. Due to the homes’ proximity to an office park, Watson said he believed the more expensive homes in the $400,000 to $500,000 range likely would not sell. The larger lots closer to Rippy Road would feature the more expensive homes, he said.
With an estimated 82 million millennials and 77 million baby boomers in the U.S., the two demographics are a huge market Watson believes are beneficial to Flower Mound – both because of the housing demand among the two groups but also because of the additional disposal incomes both bring to support local business.
“These two groups are the barbells of demographics,” he said. “The housing they are looking for is not here.”
The property is about a mile from the estimated 2.5 million square feet of retail and restaurant at FM 2499 and FM 407.
In discussions with retailers, Watson said he has heard concerns that sales figures for some Flower Mound businesses have not been as strong as predicted. A major employer also told Watson that 60 percent of their employees do not live in Flower Mound because they cannot find residences to suit their needs, he said.
“The whole idea of attracting corporations is to have housing products to allow employees to live in the community,” he said.
The housing component both groups are predominantly seeking, he says, is not abundant in Flower Mound – housing studies show is in high demand.
According to the National Association of Home Builders, the market demand for 55 and older and the millennial “boomerang” population is expected to continue an upward swing this year.