Economy prompts development to halt construction

Editor’s note: This story was revised for accuracy at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

WestBend, a new mixed-use commercial real estate development on University Drive across from University Park Village, halted construction due to the bad economy, the project’s developer said.

WestBend is the first large commercial development in Fort Worth to halt construction, according to a Fort Worth Business Press article.

Tommy Miller, senior partner of the project’s developer, Trademark Property Co., said the project’s initial goal was to open a 32,000 square-foot development in the spring of 2010. However, the capital markets became volatile and the retail economy became especially fragile, delaying the projected opening one or two seasons, he said.

Trademark Properties is hopeful that things “scab over” in the market and that construction will begin again by the end of the year for a spring 2011 opening, Miller said.

“We have a lot of prospective retailers that we are in negotiation with and we are confident that the lineup is strong,” Miller said.

Retailers Anthropologie and J. Crew agreed that delaying construction would be in the project’s best interest, Miller said.

Holly Cohen, senior vice president of real estate planning and construction for J.Crew, said no one is immune to the economic environment.

“We are delaying our opening and will continue to assess the leasing progress that the developer has,” Cohen said.

According to the company’s Web site, J. Crew sales increased after the first family appeared at the inauguration dressed in custom J.Crew designs.

Brian Kym, a senior finance major with an emphasis in real estate and leadership and an intern for Trademark Property Co., said he makes it his job to be aware of the economic climate.

“In today’s market we can only expect a handful of new stores,” Kym said. “Stores have to be healthy themselves to go around signing leases.”

Kym said he enjoys working on projects that will in turn cater to the university but that approval for funding by equity financiers is incremental.

A commercial developer has to find retailers to lease spaces to be able to deliver a plan to the financiers, Kym said.

“You are approved as long as you deliver,” he said. “That is how the system works.”

Miller said it might be a while before new developments get underway.

“Opening any new project in 2009 or early 2010 is not smart business.”

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