$500M Bel Air development could house 8,000

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat

The city of Sherman officially shook hands with developers for a new 288-acre development along the city's southern gateway.

The city council formally entered into an agreement Friday with the developers of Bel Air Village, a mixed-use development that promises to bring hundreds of new homes, new retail and a publicly accessible water attraction to the FM 1417 corridor.

"This is a project we have not seen the likes of in the city's history in terms of its size and scope and its impact to the city," City Manager Robby Hefton said, describing Friday's agreement as a win for the city.

The Bel Air development has been a priority project for the city for the past several years following the construction of the adjacent Schulman's Movie Bowl Grille. For the past 18 months the city has been working to negotiate an agreement that would help finance some portions of the project.

In many ways, the project represents a first for the city as it is the first project of its scale in the city. It is also the first project to make use of the city's planned development ordinance and the first to likely use the a public improvement district designation as an alternative revenue source for improvements.

Sherman leaders watch a video promoting the new Bel Air Development in south Sherman. The new $500 million development promises to bring new residences, retail and an upscale water attraction to the FM 1417 corridor.

Jim Duggan, representing American Communities said the development could feature thousands of residences that would likely be home to up to 8,000 new residents. Other portions of the development call for new retail and a lagoon-style attraction as the center point and anchor for the district.

"The project is going to be spectacular," Duggan said. "The design is going to feature up to 4,000 homes including multi-family and single family. ... We will have retail components, restaurants, office and we are working with the school district to see if there might be a joint venture for an elementary school there."

Details on the school, a long rumored portion of the project, have yet to be released.

The project will be developed in phases, with the first phase featuring about 300 new residential homes and the start of some multi-family development. The second phase will feature more focus on the development center and the lagoon and retail development. The final phase will return to residential focus with 800 or more residential homes possible.

Under the agreement, the city will be responsible for funding infrastructure improvements in the project ranging from major streets to water and sewer connectivity. 

These improvements will be financed using a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that has been established over the area. The TIRZ is a tool that the city can use to capture a portion of the property tax revenue above the value from when the zone was established. This funding is reserved specifically for improvements within the zone.

City officials said the city included a clause in the agreement that only holds the city responsible for expenses as the development itself moves forward.

One the second phase is finished, funding from 100 percent of the TIRZ income will go to the developers for the next 20 years to help finance other infrastructure needs.

"The TIRZ will be used to finance all manner of infrastructure there, but his and ours," Hefton said. "It will be the ours for the first few years of it until her completes a certain phase of it, and at that point it will his to pay for that infrastructure."

Hefton estimated that the zone will see $100 million in additional revenues for the city over the course of the next 20 years. About 20 percent of this will go back to the developer.

"The good thing for the city is we get this elevated revenue stream from here on out," Hefton said. "On the TIRZ side of things, we are sharing that revenue with the developer and he gets rewarded the sooner things get done. The bigger the project, the higher the ceiling for that side."