Construction on Bel Air Village set to start this week

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Developers for the Bel Air Village Development are expected to break ground this week.

Developers in Sherman are preparing to kick off construction on one of the city's first mixed-use planned developments. The first phases of construction of the 280-acre Bel Air Village development are expected to start this week.

The project, when fully developed, could feature homes and apartments for 8,000 new residents alongside new commercial developments, a potential new school, and a lagoon-style public amenity that will serve as the anchor for the district.

"I believe what this development is bringing is the first wave of housing for the growth that Sherman is in the front edge of," City Manager Robby Hefton said. "We are seeing development in the commercial and retail sectors and those employees are going to need housing."

Representatives for the project, which will be built near the intersection of FM 1417 and U.S. Highway 75, plan to hold a groundbreaking ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

While the history of Bel Air in Sherman dates back to around 2018, factors dating back further directly contributed to the project. The story of Bel Air begins with the development of Legacy Village on the southeast corner of the intersection in 2017.

"The origin of Bel Air, I would say, really begins with the development of that corner — Legacy Village," Hefton said. "...When you combine what was going on in that part of town, with Legacy Village and Sherman Crossroads, that really puts that parcel on the map."

In 2017, development started on two major projects on the corner of the intersection that would ultimately culminate into the Legacy Village Development. Mark Schulman, owner of Schulman's Movie Bowl Grille announced plans to build a Sherman location for his chain of movie theaters, effectively moving away from plans to build a location in Denison. Around this time, representatives with Douglass Distributing also announced plans to build a station on the hard corner.

Hefton said other developments in the area, including Sherman Crossroads, also contributed to the continued development of Bel Air, but their influence came later as development on the other side of the highway began to pick up in 2018 and 2019. 

"By 2018, there was vertical construction going on at Legacy Village," Hefton said. "Pad sites were being developed and conversations were ongoing not only with Mark Schulman but also Bill Douglass for his Lonestar Center at the corner."

Around this time, developers began to express interest in other adjacent sites for development. In addition to the Legacy Village, development of the new Sherman High School also spurred interest in south Sherman and the FM 1417 corridor.

As construction on Legacy Village continued, the tell-tale signs that more was to come became clear. Roads for future growth, including the start of Legacy Boulevard, were built into the infrastructure surrounding Legacy Village, even if construction was not yet ready to begin.

While many features of the project have remained consistent over the years, some adjustments have been made due to the changing economic climate surrounding COVID-19. While plans for the development initially called for a hotel and conference center as a major anchor, city officials in 2020 said that portion of the project likely will not move forward in Bel Air.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we move away from that at the Bel Air site, for sure,” Hefton said in 2020. “We kind of have clearance from everybody involved that it won’t be harmful if we pivot our thoughts of a hotel and conference center away from here and to another location.”

Bel Air wasn't the only large development that was eyeing possible locations in south Sherman in 2018 and 2019. Developers for The Village, a nearly 600-acre development adjacent to the new Sherman High School, also expressed interest in a large-scale, mixed-use development along FM 1417.

These two projects, with scopes well beyond those of many traditional developments, spurred the city to reform and amend its planned develop zoning ordinance in 2019 to accommodate them. While the Village was the first to have its planned development zoning approved by the city, little visible progress has been made since then, and Bel Air has since surpassed it as it prepares to start construction.

Early site plans show the proposed layout of the development in late 2020.

"We jumped from 10s of acres and dozens of acres to hundreds of acres in terms of size and scope," Hefton said. "That is what really kicked off our need to look at these planned development incentive and structures for development."

In late 2020, the city answered the question of what its involvement in the project would look like when it signed a development agreement for the project. Under the terms of the agreement, the city will assist by financing $7-10 million of infrastructure improvements. The city is expected to invest $2-3 million in infrastructure during the first phase of the development.

Hefton said the city could ultimately invest less as it is expected to see a cost savings by utilizing the same contractors as the developer.

"It looks like we will be saving about $1 million in our portion of phase one by partnering with the developer and his contractors," he said.

As a part of the agreement, the city signaled that it would only start development on infrastructure when the developer starting moving ground. With construction just around the corner, Hefton said the city has started work on its part of the agreement.

Hefton estimated that the first residential lots could be ready for development some time late this year.