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Arlington's old Johnny Balfour Electronics building could soon be recircuited as apartments

Three signs sit on top of an old building, on a corner with a street sign that says South Street. The signs read "Johnny Balfour," "Zenith" and "RCA." The old electronics store is one of seven properties on which Fort Worth developer Pershing Capital has proposed to build 65 apartment units called Balfour Lofts.
Kailey Broussard
/
KERA
The signs that sit atop the former location of Johnny Balfour Electronics will be part of public art honoring the old business's namesake on and around a proposed new apartment complex in downtown Arlington.

A Fort Worth-based developer wants to build 65 new apartments in downtown Arlington — while honoring the family-owned electronic company that operated on the corner for decades.

Nancy Fowler wrote in a letter that her family held onto the properties capped by Johnny Balfour Electronics until they found a developer who was interested in honoring the contribution of the store's namesake. Fowler wrote that Pershing Capital's plans to build the Balfour Lofts would do that, while delivering a "facelift" to its corner of downtown.

“As Johnny’s last living child, it’s been important to me to ensure his contributions to Arlington and our family’s past is not (going) to be forgotten as the area is developed for the future,” she wrote.

Pershing Capital plans to recreate the three signs that sit on the former storefront into public art around the building to honor Balfour and his family. The building would also sport nods to mid-century design characteristics, such as unique window fixtures and unique balconies.

Balfour's family owns six of the seven properties included in the development plan; the nonprofit Arlington Urban Ministries owns the seventh. The property addresses are: 701, 703, 705, 707, 709 and 711 Dugan St. and 700 E. South St.

Edward Manuel of Pershing Capital said the apartments would be for working-class people who would like to live near amenities like downtown's shops, restaurants and the Levitt Pavilion. The project would also fit new developments like ones seen in Deep Ellum, Bishop Arts and East Austin: smaller complexes that create better walkability.

"It's a really special project for us and we hope it's a big catalyst for downtown Arlington," Manuel said.

Arlington City Council members Tuesday evening approved the company's rezoning request 6-0, with Mayor Jim Ross and council members Barbara Odom-Wesley and Andrew Piel absent.

Multiple property owners around the property wrote letters of opposition to the plans, particularly surrounding the plan's use of 28 public parking spaces.

Rebecca Boxall, District 5 city council member, said that the project would create most of the public parking spaces counted in the plan.

Council members also lamented that Pershing Capital could not strike a deal with three property owners on the block.

"My only probably somewhat knock is I wish you'd gotten the other properties and acquired the other properties to have that whole block, to have a little bigger complex and cover that whole bock, if I had to say something," said Bowie Hogg, District 7 council member.

A three-story apartment complex rendering depicts what Balfour Lofts could look like in downtown Arlington.
Courtesy
/
City of Arlington
A rendering shows the potential look of Balfour Lofts, sporting a recreation of the Johnny Balfour Electronics sign that hangs on the building at 700 E. South St.

Kyle Smith, who owns one of the properties, wrote that he and the two other property owners negotiated sale prices that Pershing Capital accepted either verbally or in writing.

"To date, and for the past six months or so, we have each been told a different story about the project, its viability and its timeline, having all recently learned we have been excluded for a variety of reasons," Smith wrote.

Boxall denied any agreements had been accepted during council's Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Manuel also denied reaching a deal with other developers.

"For one reason or another, we couldn't make an agreement with them," he said Tuesday evening.

However, Manuel said the remaining properties would bode well for townhomes. If built, Manuel said, the company would allow townhome residents to make use of the dog park in Balfour Lofts.

"We want to be good neighbors," he said.

The rezoning request will go before Arlington City Council one more time before receiving final approval.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org. You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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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.