The burgeoning Georgetown community, which will be located off of State Highway 34 just after the turn to Kings Fort Parkway, will soon have new homes available for sale.
The ambitious project, which will include 305 homes and multiple adjoining apartment complexes once it is completed, will begin in earnest as Bloomfield Construction begins pouring concrete for the development's first roads in the first week of September. Shortly thereafter, Bloomfield is scheduled to close on its first lots and begin construction on the community's first 10 homes, which should all be completed within 100 days following the closing of the lots.
For Jim Meara, who has been involved in real estate with his own company since 1984, this critical point is the culmination of 20 years of work and planning. Meara, who is the visionary behind Kaufman's Kings Fort Parkway and was responsible for bringing many of its adjoining businesses including Walmart to Kaufman over the last five years, has had a vision for Kings Fort and an adjacent residential community for two decades. When he first came to town to pitch his idea, his supporters included then mayor Dennis Berry and city council member William Fortner. Alongside other streets Kingsboro (Kaufman's original name), Three Forks and Spangler, Fortner Circle and Berry Lane will be among the community's first roads.
"I thought it was important that we try to spread their names into it," Meara said. "99 percent of the people aren't going to know who Berry is and who Fortner is. But they know, and I think that's important."
Once construction on the community's first 10 houses is complete, Meara is hopeful that they will sell quickly and that Bloomfield can continue finishing nine lots in each subsequent three-month period.
"It's a significant initial investment that we think will create some buzz," Meara said. "[Bloomfield] is a great builder. Out of all of the volume track builders, they're the best. So we think we'll get a better neighbor than if we took a different builder. Their houses are slightly more expensive, so they're going to have a slightly more qualified buyer that will be more financially able to get into the house."
Meara predicts that each house will sell between a range of $220,000 to $330,000 per home, making the initial 10 a representative $2.5 million in homes. But that first 10 is just the beginning; in total just phase 1 of the project will consist of 59 homes. From there, phase 2 will include another 66 and phases 3 and 4 together will contain 180 bringing the project to its 305 total.
As the project progresses, Meara is hopeful that it will continue to pick up speed and that the entire thing, along with three adjoining apartment complexes and a 14-acre space Meara's company will donate for a natural park, will be complete within the next decade.
But even though Georgetown is Meara's biggest and arguably most important project in Kaufman right now, it was a project that was born more out of necessity than anything else. Although he's been in real estate for 35 years, Georgetown represents the first residential community Meara has personally overseen.
"We never thought we'd have to build it," Meara admits. "We thought we could sell that land off and let somebody else build it. That's not our day-to-day business. But we met with the city enough and kept waiting on somebody to come around and nobody did. So we finally partnered up with the city. If we're going to build it, we have to be able to build it in a way to compete with all of the other people building in our area."
Although he didn't envision his own company managing its construction, Meara has always considered a neighboring residential community as an important piece to help bolster Kings Fort. Now, once Georgetown begins in earnest, he is confident that the new homes will help accelerate his progress at Kings Fort and entice even more business to buy in.
"We think it's important to all of the businesses to have residential," Meara explained. "So far we think we've made pretty good progress. We think it will speed up over the next five years. We're working some other offers. I'm always looking for good tenets. I've tried to go for established brands if I can get them. This next phase probably won't have as many of those brands in it, but hopefully it will have some stuff that we need. We think a hotel is a needed service. Maybe that will come in the next 24 to 36 months."
Recently, Meara closed a deal to bring a 3,000-square-foot Burger King to Kings Fort which is scheduled to open in November. He's also considering building another commercial complex similar to the one that currently houses businesses like Dickey's and Roma's. But for years, Meara's white whale has been a name brand hardware store like Home Depot or Lowe's. He's still hopeful that he can eventually close the deal with one of them, but realizes that Georgetown will likely need to be mostly completed before he can do so.
"Retail has changed," Meara said. "What used to take a couple of months to get done with Home Depot might be a five- or six-year deal today. The only deal they've closed in Dallas/Ft. Worth in the last 12 years is in Prosper. They bought land almost two years ago and they haven't even broken ground on the store yet. They're leaving money on the table."
In the meantime, Meara notes that not only will the future residents of Georgetown help bolster Kings Fort and other businesses around Kaufman, he's also confident that the influx of construction workers during the project's lengthy construction period will also positively effect the local economy.
"With 59 houses, you're going to have about 60 people working on average four or five days a week," Meara said. "That's 300 man days per house, times 60, that's 18,000. That's a lot of stops at Circle K and Dickey's and KFC and wherever else. That's imported money. And that's when you really feel the benefits; they boost the local economy. At 300 houses worth $250,000, that's $75 million in construction. That's a lot of construction workers."
Meara has invested a lot in Kaufman. He explained that he's put $7 million into Kings Fort Parkway alone and though he's confident he will eventually get it back, he recognizes that it's not something that will happen overnight. But despite the pitfalls he faced in getting his dream project off the ground, Meara believes in the marketability of Kaufman and is confident that he's made the right decision.
"You're already on the map because you're the county seat," Meara explained. "I always fall back on that. People don't realize that Kaufman will be the largest city in Kaufman County when it's done. The way the counties are programmed by law in Texas, Kaufman, as the county seat, has got the biggest landmass. In theory, when it builds out, it will be the biggest city. In ten years, it will have 15,000 people on its way to 50,000 or 60,000. And it will accelerate from 15,000 to 50,000 faster than it went from 2,000 to 15,000."