It took Huffines Communities five years, but it finally broke ground on Viridian, a master planned community to be built on the biggest, best-located, and most troublesome to develop piece of land in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.

“We are so excited we can’t hardly stand it,” Robert Kembel, Huffines Communities president told Builder.

The 2,300-acre former sand pit in the shadow of Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is likely the only large new master plan to break ground in recent memory as financing to build such huge developments in the face of the housing recession has all but dried up.

“We are probably one of the few [companies] that I know of that could put the capital stack together” to develop the community, said Kembel.

And it took a number of sources to create that stack. It includes capital from Huffines itself, private equity from Cross Harbor Capital partners, debt financing from Plains Capital Bank, and bonds issued and sold with the help of local governments.

Viridian’s site couldn’t be more ideal. It’s within a 20-minute drive of companies that employ more than 600,000 people.

“If you threw a dart at the middle of the [Dallas Fort Worth] metroplex you would land just south of the Dallas Fort Worth Airport, and that is where our site is," said Kembel.

At completion, in an estimated 15 years, Viridian is expected to include more than 3,600 single family homes priced from $250,000 to $750,000 with 70 custom-built multi-million-dollar estates planned for a private island in the center of a lake.

Seven home builders are already signed up to build in Viridian’s first phase: Cambridge Homes, Darling Homes, David Weekley Homes, Drees Homes, K. Hovnanian Homes, McGuyer Homebuilders, and Toll Brothers. Custom builders will be interviewed soon.

The development will be built with neo-traditional bones but will also feature more typical suburban architecture. It will include a town center with about 400,000 square feet of office and medical space for lease as well as 400,000 square feet of retail space combined with for-sale and rental housing including loft-style condominiums and high-end rentals in mixed-use buildings.

Huffines hired renowned urban planner Peter Calthorpe, with Calthorpe and Associates, to design and plan the project.

Viridian is casting itself as a sustainable community that will preserve 1,100 acres of wetlands, lakes, open spaces, and an extensive trail system that connects to River Legacy Park. The development is on track to become Audubon International’s only gold certified community in Texas.

The land also has historical significance. While Huffines has been working to get entitlements in place for the development, it has allowed University of Texas paleontologists to excavate at the site. They have uncovered a number of 95-million-year-old fossils of dinosaurs, including a possible newly discovered species called the Arlington Archosaur.

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine. 


Learn more about markets featured in this article: Dallas, TX.