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Developing A Site With Asbestos, Historical Buildings, Easements And Contamination

Greystar has no shortage of Texas projects in its portfolio. Director of development JR Thulin has projects going in Victory Park and Flower Mound, among other places. But Greystar's new mixed-use development at 929 University Drive in Fort Worth's West 7th corridor has a host of issues for JR to work through long before breaking ground.

Greystar Director of development JR Thulin with wife and son

At build-out, the project will house 350 to 365 multifamily units, 10k SF of retail and about 5k SF of patio space for ground-floor restaurants within Crockett, Morton and Norwood streets, and University Drive. But before that can happen, Greystar needs a scraped site. 

JR (here with his wife and one of his four kids) was aware of the tract's challenges beforehand, but difficult sites seem to be all you can acquire this late in a development cycle, he tells us. 

For starters, the original six structures had lead paint and asbestos. After an asbestos contractor spent two full months mitigating potential harm (not to mention filing lots of paperwork with the state), Greystar could finally demolish four of the six buildings.

Preservation society Historic Fort Worth named two of the buildings quasi historical sites, causing Greystar to delay demolition. Because the buildings weren't fully historical, Greystar could demo them as long as it reused or relocated the structures within 180 days.

Another developer fell in love with one of the buildings and relocated it to the River District. The second building was stripped of its unique materials—a red tile roof, limestone, rot iron, flooring from an old post office and more—which were warehoused by people who plan to reuse them within Fort Worth.

Greystar Director of development JR Thulin and father

An alley running through the site posed another issue. Every facility from AT&T to Oncor directs traffic through this alley, JR (here with his dad) tells us. Greystar has been working with all these facilities to have them run through a different path

Before Greystar planned to redevelop, multiple businesses sat on the site, including several notorious for potential site contamination—a dry cleaner, auto shop, car wash and a service station. Greystar worked with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on a voluntary cleanup program in which Greystar disclosed all knowledge it had on the site's environmental condition to mitigate hot zones.

The site wasn't exactly a brownfield, JR tells us, but the service station had a leak in the '80s. After defining hot zones, soil analysis and lots and lots more paperwork with TCEQ, Greystar hopes to have TCEQ closure by the end of the year.

The low-hanging fruit that gets picked off at the beginning of a cycle often leaves tough sites like this one, JR tells us. Greystar still has a long way to go before Q1, when JR hopes the project will break ground, but the interesting issues Greystar had to solve before it could scrape the site makes the project that much more exciting.

Hear JR speak more on this project and many others at our 2016 Dallas Multifamily Surge. Register here.