Arlington Grants Development Millions in Tax Breaks

Most council members support tax breaks for mixed-use apartment complex in near UTA

By Mola Lenghi
|  Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012  |  Updated 9:30 PM CDT
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A new 5-story luxury apartment building planned near the UTA campus and hopes to attract young professionals, but some city council members are not convinced the Sapphire Development is worthy of the $2 million in tax incentives approved Tuesday.

Mola Lenghi, NBC 5 Arlington Reporter

A new 5-story luxury apartment building planned near the UTA campus and hopes to attract young professionals, but some city council members are not convinced the Sapphire Development is worthy of the $2 million in tax incentives approved Tuesday.

The Arlington City Council on Tuesday approved $2.15 million in tax incentives for a mixed-use apartment complex just off the University of Texas at Arlington's campus.

The Sapphire project includes a five-story, 335-unit apartment complex between Center and Mesquite streets, just south of Mitchell Street.

"It's going to give folks an opportunity to live in downtown Arlington," city spokeswoman Rebecca Rodriguez said. "It's really that element that we've been missing in downtown Arlington."

The complex will replace the aging Center Court Apartments, Center Oaks Apartments and Appleton Square Apartments.

"Currently, the taxes that the city is gaining from the properties that are currently in place are really marginal compared to what we stand to gain from a $41 million investment," Rodriguez said.

The tax revenue the city stands to generate was one of the reasons for his support, said Councilman Charlie Parker.

Arlington currently receives $7,000 per month in tax revenue from the existing properties. But the city expects to generate three times that amount -- $21,000 per month -- in the first five years, and $200,000 a month in the years after that.

Cindy Bradfield, who works at UTA and exercises around the planned project site, said it's worth the money.

"The newer apartments, getting rid of the older, beat-up apartments -- I think it's a great idea and really good for Arlington," she said.

While many people agree that the area could use a face-lift, some City Council members said they were worried about what the new apartments might turn into 20 or 30 years down the road.

Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon voted against the project. She said existing apartment complexes in the city have been neglected over the years and said she fears the Sapphire could chart the same path if not properly maintained.

"We've had difficulties with some of our out-of-state property owners, particularly out of California, and this was another one of those," said Councilwoman Sheri Capehart, who also voted against the measure.

California-based Lev Investments is behind the project.

Other apartment property owners in Arlington have been unresponsive to code compliance and tenant issues, Capehart said.

She said she would feel better about voting in favor of project tax incentives for property owners who are invested just as much in the community as they are in their bottom line.

"For those people who are coming in and trying to acquire properties and try to improve them and they are known to the community -- they're invested in the community," Capehart said. "It's not just a business transaction to them. To incentivize them to do that seems appropriate to me."

Capehart said she wants the project to be a success despite her concerns.

"Absolutely, and I hope it does, but they didn't make a strong enough case to me that I could support it," she said.

Rodriguez said Sapphire expects to begin leasing units by 2014 and should be complete by 2016.

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