ARLINGTON, Texas — Arlington has been asleep for decades when it comes to attracting businesses, Mayor Jim Ross said, but now the city is working to create its own skyline.
“There have been missed opportunities,” he said. “We are in the process of rapidly creating a foundation that will hopefully enable us not to squander away any opportunities in the future.”
The city is home to the Entertainment District, which houses AT&T Stadium, Choctaw Stadium, Globe Life Field and two Six Flags theme parks. Arlington also boasts D.R. Horton’s headquarters, the University of Texas at Arlington and a General Motors assembly plant.
However, Ross said the city is just getting warmed up.
“We have plans to build well over 2 million square feet of class A office space,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Cordish Companies and the Texas Rangers announced One Rangers Way, an upscale, 300-unit residential community in the heart of the Entertainment District. Located at Nolan Ryan Expressway adjacent to Choctaw Stadium and the National Medal of Honor Museum, the forthcoming project is expected to total about 532,000 square feet.
Last year, Loews Hotels & Co. broke ground on the $550 million Loews Arlington Hotel and new Arlington Convention Center. The hotel will total 888 rooms on build-out. In an interview with the Business Journal late last year, Bruce Payne, Arlington economic development director, said the city is working to attract office and multifamily development in the area.
“We’re awake, we’re no longer a bedroom community,” Ross said. “We’re a big-ass city in the middle of two other big cities, and we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
Throughout north and central Arlington, the city is working with developers to plant new class A office space and high-rise multifamily development. There hasn’t been much office development in the city over the last 25 years, he said, but in order to attract businesses to the area new class A space needs to come up.
“While we’ve been that sleepy bedroom community, we’ve learned how to develop relationships with folks,” he said. “The Rangers came here 50 years ago. They never left.”
Having a thriving entertainment scene will also help attract new businesses to the community.
Ross spoke with the Dallas Business Journal about how Arlington is aiming to attract development and businesses and create its own skyline.
What’s coming next for the Entertainment District?
Watch Choctaw Stadium and the property around there. We are repurposing Choctaw Stadium like a stadium has never been repurposed anywhere in this country. We have wonderful businesses going in over there, and you’re going to see Choctaw Stadium become something super cool and unique.
We already had about 100,000 plus square feet of retail and office space that’s been leased over there already, with more to come. Loews Arlington will be done in the first part of 2024, but we’re not stopping there. We have plans to have many more beautiful, top-notch hotel rooms. Our new convention center space is over a quarter of a million square feet. It puts us on the map to compete with any convention center space anywhere in the country.
What are your economic development goals?
Economic development is more than just creating jobs. That’s an important aspect of it, but it’s also about creating the right kinds of jobs, which are able to generate solid income that you can raise a family on, send your kids to college on and retire on.
Aside from just that, it’s providing an atmosphere where you have a balance in your living. In other words, a lot of communities right now, for instance, are suffering because their real estate market is increasing at a dramatic rate. The median job income is not increasing nearly as fast as the real estate market is. So what you have is a greater and greater separation between income and the cost of providing housing for people at that income.
You have to have a balance, wherein you’re able to increase that job income and slow the real estate market enough that they stay sort of parallel to one another, so you’re not pricing yourself out of a house you may have bought 10 years ago.
You have to have a balance for everything, not just in the number of jobs because we do have a lot of good jobs coming in, but the quality of the jobs. Where the jobs are located, the health and safety of the community around the jobs and how the community is dealing with social issues.
There’s a lot of movement in the Entertainment District, but what’s in store for Arlington’s downtown area?
We want to bring some decent hotels here downtown because we’re having more and more of a business community. Our largest employer, which is UTA, is located right here in the downtown area. So first of all, we want to continue to nurture the relationship that we have with UTA…
You’ll see a lot of growth in downtown, both multifamily developments to mixed-use. We just got our first downtown grocery store here. It’s a healthy grocery store, and residents are loving the fact that now there’s walkability here. You can walk to restaurants, walk to the grocery store, walk to the pharmacy. You don’t have to get your car out to drive everywhere, and that’s what people are looking for nowadays, is that convenience.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.