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Downtown Arlington's growth raises concerns

An Arlington mural is depicted along the wall of the Vandergriff Building on March 5 in downtown Arlington. The building is considered by historic preservationists as the only intact pre-1930 commercial building in the city.

Commodities owner Brandon Avaroa had to take a leap of faith when choosing a storefront for his vintage clothing shop in downtown Arlington on East Abram Street. It has paid off.  

Avaroa said downtown will be where people gather, and he picked the location because there’s not a boutique like Commodities in the area. There’s money being poured into downtown, he said. 

“I’m a big person of seeing not only where people are but where people are going to be,” Avaroa said. 

Arlington has invested over $100 million in downtown development projects, according to a press release from September 2022. 

Commodities is one of the businesses moving into downtown Arlington as the city continues transforming the area into a college town, said Maggie Campbell, president and CEO of the Downtown Arlington Management Corporation. 

In 2018, the city adopted the Downtown Master Plan to guide development in downtown and surrounding areas. Some of the goals in the plan are to ensure a robust economy and to create a diverse downtown community. 

The city is focused on developing the core of downtown, Front Street and surrounding areas, according to the master plan. Front Street will be developed into a commercial hub, and East Main Street will be used for various outdoor activities. The downtown core focuses on mixed housing and safer streets. 

Campbell said it has now gotten easier to promote downtown since the city has been more confident over the years with the area. 

She had seen a lot of interest from businesses wanting to move into downtown Arlington, Campbell said. When a new business comes into an urban area and sees that master plan, it gives businesses certainty. 

Avaroa said downtown being close to the Entertainment District, UTA and other schools was another factor in why Commodities chose its location.  

Campbell said the corporation had worked closely with the city, the Chamber of Commerce and UTA on the area’s development.  

The university has an interlocal agreement with the city of Arlington that provides $75,000 in funding for downtown development. The Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce works with the corporation to ensure downtown Arlington offers support for businesses. 

Downtown Arlington is expanding with Insomnia Cookies, a late-night cookie shop, soon opening a storefront near Commodities. The Urban Union district also is expanding the area, set to finish early this year, according to a city press release. 

Downtown Arlington's growth raises concerns

Commodities co-owners Ashley Flores, 24, right, and Brandon Avaroa, 29, opened their shop as a way to bring sneaker culture to the community. Flores said they started wanting to resell sneakers during the pandemic, and they decided to invest in the business for their future and their kids’ future. 

The expansion will add five multi-story buildings that expand the district to the west, connecting it to the Vandergriff Town Center and creating a walkable space for five city blocks. 

While the city continues to invest in the area, some residents have raised concerns about the handling of the developers.  

During the Feb. 28 city council meeting, Ryan Dodson, the Urban Union district developer, asked for additional reimbursement from the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone Number One for public infrastructure costs. The zone covers downtown Arlington. 

The purpose of Tax Increment Reinvestment zones is to reimburse private developers for public infrastructure improvements, according to the city’s website. The funds are from added taxes generated by new development in the zone. 

Arlington resident Richard Weber voiced concerns about the matter at the Feb. 28 city council meeting.

“Let this [developer] do some development in downtown Arlington on his own,” Weber said. “We’ve encouraged him enough. This has become [an] entitlement.”

The existing agreement will only reimburse the developer for public infrastructure costs, not exceeding $1,432,786, according to a staff report. However, Dodson requested $988,681, which brings his total to over $2 million. 

The resolution passed 8-1, with Nikkie Hunter, District 3 council member, voting no. Hunter had no comment regarding the vote. 

“There is a very friendly attitude towards this developer and many of the council members, too friendly, which unfortunately leaves the taxpayer unrepresented in these negotiations and deals,” Weber said in an email. 

City council challengers for Arlington’s May election from Districts 4 and 8 have commented on the city’s handling of development, according to previous Shorthorn reporting.

District 4’s challenger Chris Dobson said the city favors a few developers over other small businesses. David Mosby, who’s running for District 8, said redevelopment must be done through private enterprise without subsidies.  

Two similar resolutions concerning the reinvestment zones for Ann’s Health Food Center and Market and Sutton Frost Cary LLP were unanimously approved.

Ann’s Health Food Center and Market’s existing five-year agreement provided it with a grant of $245,000. The agreement stipulates that the owner must have created eight full-time jobs and produce no less than $87,000 in taxable sales in the business’s first year.

The resolution tweaks the wording of the existing agreement to total sales instead of taxable sales since most of what is sold at the grocery store isn’t taxable.

The other resolution extended Sutton Frost Cary LLP’s completion deadline from Dec. 31, 2022, to June 1, 2024, to finish the construction of the law firm’s downtown location. The city provided a $500,000 performance grant to assist the construction. 


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