21 December 2003, 02:15 AM
A NEW START
Siemens' move into Ballpark area could spur growth
By Andrea Jares - Star-Telegram Staff Writer
ARLINGTON - In a little less than a year, Siemens Dematic Postal Automation transformed the corner of a parking lot at The Ballpark in Arlington into a $49 million headquarters building for its U.S. operations.
Those concerned with Arlington's economic development are hoping that the sleek new building will also help transform the area around The Ballpark and put it on the fast track for development.
Friday, Siemens Dematic started moving into the 233,000-square-foot building at 1401 Nolan Ryan Expressway, which will bring together workers formerly housed in three buildings in the Great Southwest Industrial District.
Siemens' new headquarters is the most significant development at the site since The Ballpark opened in spring 1994, but developers and city officials said it will probably be followed by more construction.
On the other side of Interstate 30, the Brookhollow Plaza and Lamar Boulevard area have become crowded with restaurants and office buildings that command top rents, said Mojy Haddad, a developer and chairman of Arlington's Planning and Zoning Commission.
Now, the area south of the freeway, around The Ballpark, is primed to capture an expansion of that growth, Haddad and others said.
"The north is pretty much saturated. There are a couple of tracts, so that area is basically built out," said Haddad, who has built several office buildings in the area, including the Ballpark Plaza that recently opened north of Interstate 30 on Ballpark Way. "The only thing that is remaining is going toward The Ballpark."
Southwest Sports Group, which owns the Rangers and controls 230 acres around The Ballpark, has a master plan for developing the area and is key to breathing new life into it, Haddad said.
The group's plan includes several hundred housing units, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space and several hundred thousand square feet of retail space.
Haddad said a rebounding economy will make the sports group more likely to open up more land for development.
Mixed-use zoning is a key component to developing the area, said Jim Maibach, a developer and former planning and zoning commissioner.
Right now, Arlington doesn't have a mixed-use zoning designation. But the issue has been on the table for at least a couple of years, Maibach said, adding that it's been sidelined as other zoning issues, such as a big-box ordinance and housing-standards guidelines, took priority.
But with the completion of the Siemens building, the board is likely to take a closer look at mixed-use zoning, he said.
The zoning could also spur development on its own, as developers are lured by the possibilities for high-density development, without the time-consuming appeals to the city on a case-by-case basis.
"They do not want to go through the city," Maibach said. "Developers do not want that. They want the zoning in place, and they don't want their vision tweaked so much that it's not their vision anymore."
Haddad said that if the zoning were in place, he would be very interested in developing there.
"I feel very confident about the area, its access to Dallas-Fort Worth. It's really going to bring a lot of quality and offices and high-end retail," Haddad said. "It has the demographics and the draw."
Since Siemens started building last December, restaurateur Chris Carroll has announced plans to build a Shady Oaks Restaurant and a Mexican Inn at the southeast corner of Copeland Road and Pennant Drive. Farther to the southwest, on North Collins Street and Randol Mill Road, Wal-Mart plans to start building a 187,183-square-foot SuperCenter with Ballpark-inspired architecture in the spring.
No other plans have been announced for the Ballpark land, although there is interest, Southwest Sports Group President Mike Cramer said.
"Other than the pad sites, we don't have any closed deals," Cramer said. "We had three meetings this week on other types of deals. It's a better climate out there. More people are willing to talk about big deals. There's business going on, which is good."
Other corporate offices may follow Siemens' lead, said Rick Hughes, senior director with Cushman and Wakefield, which specializes in corporate brokerage and helped Siemens find the location.
The location was important to Siemens, which saw the new headquarters as marking a shift in the company's image. It was intended to project a more polished, corporate image for the Siemens operation, showing that it is not just a postal equipment manufacturer, but a North American headquarters with a focus on innovation in postal equipment, said Gary Jensen, Siemens vice president of corporate development and marketing.
Siemens chose Arlington over Centreport because of an aggressive incentive package worth $4.5 million from the city, Hughes said. But even as the decision was being made, Siemens executives were a little nervous about the location, he said. There were no other buildings like theirs at The Ballpark, and they wondered how it would fit in.
Now that the building has been completed, Siemens executives say it looks as if it belonged there all along, Hughes said.
In February, Siemens executives will start looking at other parts of the company they can shift to The Ballpark to fill a planned Phase II of the development.
Hughes said that other companies might be more receptive to relocating around The Ballpark now that a large company has, and now that they see how the city cleared the way for Siemens to build in a tight time frame.
"There is no question that us being there is a marketing tool for the city," Hughes said.
Staff Writer Sean Wood Contributed to This Report.
Siemens Dematic Postal Automation
What they do: Design mail-sorting and processing equipment and optical character recognition equipment, mostly for the U.S. Postal Service.
New U.S. headquarters: A 233,000-square-foot building at 1401 Nolan Ryan Expressway
Old location: Three buildings in the Great Southwest Industrial District
Employees in United States: 550
Source: Siemens Dematic
21 March 2004, 08:16 PM
Ballpark at 10
JERI PETERSEN 19.MAR.04
Arlington, Rangers still positive despite Stymied development
On a cold, wintry day 13 years ago, while the country was at war in the Persian Gulf, Arlington residents overwhelmingly passed a one-half cent sales tax to help build The Ballpark in Arlington. Plans were grandiose, so much so that there was talk a new downtown would be an outgrowth of the development.
An agreement between the Texas Rangers and the city of Arlington proposed a 45,000- to-50,000 seat stadium, a museum/hall of fame with a 225-seat auditorium, a children's learning center, a Little League park, a 1,200- to-1,500 seat amphitheater, as well as a riverwalk along Johnson Creek with privately-developed shops and restaurants, lakes, parks and recreation space in the surrounding area.
Today, the complex includes almost everything in the original plan, minus the proposed amphitheater, which neighboring residents voiced objections to, and the linear park, which consists of little more than sidewalks and bike trails. And minus the development.
There has been just one, a 235,000-square-foot Siemens Dematic facility on the southwest side of The Ballpark that opened last month. The Rangers' plans for office and retail space, entertainment and housing surrounding The Ballpark complex have yet to materialize.
A Rawlings All American Grille just replaced Friday's Front Row Grill and 17 tenants, including The Rangers, occupy office space at The Ballpark. Changes in ownership, changes in personnel, 9-11 and a changing economy have short-circuited the original plans. But a new team and a new plan, expected this summer, have Arlington and Rangers officials optimistic about future development.
The Rangers were listening to proposals for a new stadium by Arlington, Dallas and Irving when Arlington residents made it clear in 1991 that they wanted to keep the team.
The sales tax increase would repay $135 million in bonds and interest on a proposed $165-million complex. The final cost of the complex was $191 million.
Construction on The Ballpark in Arlington began in April 1992, and the Rangers played the first regular-season game in their new home on April 11, 1994.
Today, city leaders and Ballpark developers see a glimmer of hope for development of hundreds of acres surrounding The Ballpark.
Southwest Sports Group, the parent company of the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars, recently sold two pad sites at the northwest corner of the complex to Chris Carroll, an Arlington-based restaurateur and owner of Spring Creek Companies and Mexican Inn restaurants.
Mike Cramer, Texas Rangers president and COO of Southwest Sports Group and Southwest Sports Group Realty, said the group has been working on development of some 250 acres under its control surrounding The Ballpark since the group formed in 1998. Coincidentally, Cramer announced last week he would resign June 30.
Although the only features included in detail in the agreement between The Rangers and the city of Arlington were the city-owned park and road improvements, Rangers president Tom Schieffer vowed the other improvements would be made. Supporters touted a potentially viable downtown area growing out of entertainment venues and restaurants that would develop around The Ballpark.
At the time, the Rangers were owned by an investment group made up of George W. Bush, Edward (Rusty) Rose, Schieffer and others. A year after having purchased the Rangers from oilman Eddie Chiles, the group announced plans for a new ballpark adjacent to Arlington Stadium.
Bush was elected governor in 1994 and Schieffer assumed Bush's responsibilities as general partner until the group sold the team to Hicks in 1998. An investor group led by Hicks acquired the Rangers in a $250-million transaction. Schieffer stayed on as Rangers president for a year, when he resigned to become a consultant on real estate development around The Ballpark. He completed consulting work for Hicks in May 2000.
Schieffer traveled extensively in the United States and Europe looking at large-scale developments. He was quoted in a December 1999 Dallas Morning News article saying, “[Ballpark development] ought to be something that's big and catches people's attention, and it should have office space, retail space, entertainment and housing.”
Cramer said Schieffer gave Southwest Sports Group a summary of his study in 1999. “Since then, we have worked with [David M. Schwarz Architectural Services] and several other architects; we have met with probably three or four dozen development partners for retail, residential and commercial projects. We have talked to several major retail developers, broad-based developers that do a few hundred thousand square feet at a time,” he said. “I don't know what the Bush group did; they were not re-developers but were a diverse ownership group. I think the sense was they were going to get the stadium built, get the team ready and sell it at some point, which is what they did. Since then, we've been involved, but after 9-11, we ran into probably the worst recession the country has seen.”
Arlington Chamber of Commerce CEO and president Wes Jurey said the Chamber is working with Southwest Sports to re-evaluate the development possibilities around The Ballpark.
“There was an initial concept plan, but not by Southwest Sports, that related to a vision for The Ballpark, but I think given the changes in the market and opportunities to enhance traffic flow along I-30, we have reason to re-think the possibilities,” Jurey said. “It is accurate to say there is not currently a true development plan, but we are in the process of defining a development plan that would include all entities to work on the enhancement of an entertainment district.”
In November, Arlington residents approved an $84-million street repair bond package that includes $6.9 million for I-30 improvements between north Cooper Street and Ballpark Way. According to the city's Web site, the project would design an interchange at I-30 to include Center Street, Collins Street and Baird Farm Road, with bridges, ramps and frontage roads. The Collins Street interchange would open 70 acres of freeway access to development. The design phase is scheduled for this year, with construction beginning in 2005 or as soon as funding is available.
“One of the things most important to us is transportation,” Cramer said. “They're moving along on [improvements to I-30], and we hope that will start by end of 2005. That will create great access, not only into The Ballpark, but also into the central Arlington area.”
Jurey said the Chamber has looked at ways of linking Hurricane Harbor and hotels on the north side of I-30 with The Ballpark, Six Flags and the Convention Center to broaden the entertainment district.
“The kinds of things we're looking at are additional gated attractions, full-service hotels, retail/dining/entertainment venues and urban-style housing,” he said. “It would include an additional 250-plus acres; the area around and adjacent to The Ballpark represents some of the larger developable tracts in Arlington. We're taking a thoughtful look at how best to develop and enhance the area as a true entertainment district.”
A strategic plan should be available this summer, Jurey said.
In 1999, Hicks said he was holding off on selling naming rights to The Ballpark, hoping that corporate bids would be higher after development brought new activity to the area. Naming rights could mean anywhere from $1 million to $5 million a year, depending on other incentives to build. Hicks did not return several calls, and other Rangers officials declined to discuss current talks with Ameriquest on naming rights, which were revealed shortly after German-based Siemens celebrated its opening.
In June 2001, Southwest Sports Group announced plans to break ground on the first phase of a master-planned development, two office building and loft apartments. In October, the group said the timetable wouldn't be met, citing concerns about the commercial real estate market after the terrorist attacks of September 11.
The economy is only now beginning to rebound, making development feasible, Cramer said.
“One thing Tom Schieffer said before he left, and nothing's really changed, is the market will tell you when you're ready to develop. The market was telling everybody not to build anything in the last three years in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, or almost anywhere,” Cramer said. “No offices are being built in the D-FW area, no hotels across the county, no retail of consequence except major shopping centers that were already under construction in 2001.
“It's been a tough market the last three years. The Siemens deal is one development, and we received lots of interest as soon as we opened the pad sites. We've been fielding a lot more inquiries from development partners for a master development in the last six months than in the previous three years.”
However, development north of I-30 has continued despite the economic downturn. For example, Mojy Haddad, an Arlington architect, developer and chairman of Arlington's planning and zoning board, said he has completed several office complexes in the area, and most of them are occupied. Part of the delay at The Ballpark, he believes, is the huge amount of area held by one entity.
“With the economy getting stronger this past quarter, the Rangers will come up with some plans for that area. What I also think is most likely, if land was controlled by smaller, individual owners, it might have been developed, but not in an orderly fashion,” Haddad said. “Having all that land in one hand, the area will be set for development with a good master plan. When it is developed, it will be in a way that will be planned for mixed use, with residential, office, retail and entertainment venues.”
Rangers officials acknowledge that the scope of the project means it will take time to complete.
“The development is so big - bigger than all of downtown Fort Worth. You do what the market will tell you to do,” Cramer said. “We're on the right track. Time will help. It could be 15 to 20 years - it's impossible to say.”
Robert Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College in Illinois, said that stadiums rarely spur economic development.
“We're talking about an industry that is highly seasonal. It has activity for several hours a day on game day, but there are so many dead hours when there isn't a game; a stadium doesn't serve as an economic anchor like an industrial park or a shopping mall,” Baade said.
Some critics in Arlington have said the city needs to do more to attract development around The Ballpark. But when other cities aggressively courted Siemens to move from Arlington, city leaders recognized not only the importance of keeping those jobs in Arlington, but also the opportunity to encourage growth around a new Siemens facility.
In late 2002, Arlington city officials put together the most liberal tax incentive package it has given a business. The $4.6-million deal reimburses Siemens $2 million for parking facilities, waives permit and impact fees and refunds sales tax on construction materials purchased in Arlington up to $100,000. The company also gets an 80 percent tax abatement and a 10 percent property tax rebate over 10 years.
Siemens, which moved from its location at the Great Southwest Industrial Park, consolidated about five buildings in the area into two at The Ballpark. The company, whose predecessor companies set up shop in Arlington in the late 1960s, employs about 550 people at an average salary of $60,000; annual sales are about $200 million. Siemens designs and services mail sorting and image recognition technology and has been a major supplier to the United States Postal Service for more than 30 years.
Elzie Odom, former Arlington mayor, said at the time that an added value of keeping Siemens in Arlington was to jump-start business around The Ballpark. Southwest Sports Group officials and Arlington leaders say they believe having a large corporate headquarters at The Ballpark can do just that.
“We have worked out some new master plans around certain parts of The Ballpark, but those have to be flexible if you don't find a company to go into those particular areas,” Cramer said. “Siemens wasn't on the master plan, but we would not say no. Siemens gives a lot of credibility to office and commercial development at The Ballpark. They've done a nice job on their building and the views are spectacular. We're able to show the outside world we can be competitive in putting a company at The Ballpark.”
Karen Brophy, Arlington's director of planning and development, said the department sees the Siemens relocation as a positive sign of the opportunities for development in the area, citing plans for a new Super Wal-Mart within the shadow of The Ballpark that will be designed with a ballpark theme.
“It's very hard to talk about what we can anticipate, as the economy is still slow,” Brophy said. “I certainly think the re-design of I-30 and its expanded construction is going to give a fabulous opportunity from Ballpark Way past Cooper for development, and I think The Ballpark will benefit from that as well. Even though they have a beautiful view from I-30, removal of antiquated ramps and reconstruction of bridges will be a significant value to that development.”
©2000 - 2013, vBulletin, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.