The Abilene City Council sent the university’s request to rezone 87 acres north of Ambler on to the next stage of planning and zoning. This marks another step forward in what continues to be a long process for development on the Allen Ridge land.
In May 2015, ACU’s endowment management company ACIMCO announced plans to develop land across from campus into an upscale, mixed-use area as a “gateway to Abilene.”
The ACU-owned parcel is zoned as “College University/Corridor Overlay” and must be rezoned for a greater mix of uses before progress can continue on the Village at Allen Ridge. The city’s planning and zoning commission approved the change in early August and sent it on to the city council.
The Village, which will include shops, restaurants and high-end residences, is another project in the queue of giving the north side of campus a facelift, with construction on the new Wildcat Stadium fully underway.
Kelly Young, vice president for real estate development for ACIMCO, said he expects the council to approve the proposal at the second vote on Sept. 8.
“We have talked to city leaders quite a bit and we are all excited to have something off of I-20 to be really inviting,” Young said.
Progress on the project has been slow, but little by little, it keeps moving forward. The full implementation of the project will take years, but Young said the slow roll out will be best for Abilene’s economy.
“What we’ve realized is we won’t be able to put in the whole development all at once,” Young said. “Abilene’s market can’t absorb that many new things that quickly.”
Last weekend, the Board of Trustees approved a preliminary first phase of development, which Young said would likely include high-end apartments, three-to-four restaurants and three-to-four retail groups. Young was unable to disclose any names of businesses planning to open at The Village.
Slowing down development also means minimizing ACU’s financial risk.
“Our next big hurdle will be getting the financing we want,” Young said.
ACU will finance some pieces of the development, but over the course of the project the money will come together in different ways, like investor partnerships or loans.
Once approved for mixed use, construction on the land could begin later this year.