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Developers in north Arlington want a bigger median park. Neighboring businesses? Not so much

Kailey Broussard
Developers at The Nehemiah Company want to create a public improvement district to fund more amenities at the median on Lamar Boulevard.

The developer behind the string of high-end north Arlington apartments plans to expand the park area on the nearby median, but nearby business owners aren’t on board.

The median between the Arlington Commons and a bevy of businesses holds a sidewalk and seating space. Petitioners representing six properties – four of which are associated with The Nehemiah Company – asked Arlington City Council to create a mechanism to fund improvements and amenity maintenance.

The company would manage what’s known as a public improvement district, or PID, and collect money from business owners depending on the taxable value of their property to finance the improvements. The maintenance would cost $114,400 per year for 10 years, $25,000 of which the city would pay under the agreement.

However, a handful of business owners told council members Tuesday evening that they do not want to finance the median park area. Four speakers said the park space attracts unhoused people who have entered their buildings without permission. The others who use the space are Arlington Commons residents with pets.

“My people leave at 5, 6 p.m. every day,” said Jeff Cassell of Texas Investment Real Estate Group. “They’re gone. They’re not out there at night hanging out. They don’t go out there for lunch; they get in their car, and they go over to Collins (Street) and eat.”

Cassell and others said the park is not well-maintained.

Robin Van Werkhoven with the Nehemiah Company agrees–but he said that a public investment district would address some of the problems.

“It’s true that we’ve been struggling with keeping it clean and picked up, so that’s the purpose of the PID,” Van Werkhoven said in an interview.

City Council members narrowly approved the district on first reading 5-4. Council members Raul Gonzalez, Long Pham, Rebecca Boxall and Andrew Piel opposed the vote.

But Mayor Jim Ross and all nine council members approved a motion to delay voting to approve the assessment rolls for the district until business owners’ concerns are sorted out. Council members discussed potentially excluding some business owners from the PID or halving the district’s lifespan.

Helen Moise, District 1 council member, said she wants the district to work. She suggested creating the PID to address conditions along Lamar Boulevard.

“The alternative to the solution we’ve tried to come up with over the past year is to rip everything out and mow it like we do every median in town, which takes away from what I think is an amenity,” Moise said.

Karina Cassell told Moise she would rather see the city return the park to a regular median. Cassell, also with Texas Investment Real Estate Group, said their property is slated for a redevelopment that will include a courtyard.

“We don’t use it. We’re not going to use it in the future, either, and honestly, it’s a nuisance. I wouldn’t go there myself and have lunch at all because the cars are right adjacent to you,” Cassell said.

Jeff Cassell said the redevelopment will increase their property value and their PID funding obligation.

Van Werkhoven said the city and Nehemiah Company would revisit the PID and lower the assessment rates as property values rise.

“The intent of the PID is not really to generate more PID income than what's needed to maintain it each year,” he said.

Van Werkhoven said he will revisit with the city and other business owners before council reads and votes on the PID a second and final time at a future meeting.

Developers at The Nehemiah Company want to create a public improvement district to fund more amenities at the median on Lamar Boulevard.
Kailey Broussard
Several business owners told council members Tuesday evening that they do not want to finance an improvement district to maintain the park area on the median on Lamar Boulevard.

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Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for KERA News and The Arlington Report. Broussard has covered Arlington since 2020 and began at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram before joining the station in 2021.