Local leasing company to use historic homes to anchor new commercial space

Pieces of the C. W. Mertz house are scattered across a city block near downtown Midlothian, but a local developer said these pieces and more will come together in a charming new commercial attraction.

The Mertz home was moved from Cleburne to be part of the Founders Row development along with the Mulkey-Loggins home that was moved in last year.

Stephen Hidlebaugh and Leasing Impressions are planning to move a total of nine historic homes built in the 1800s to the block east of the Post Office in Midlothian to create Founders Row. The homes will be adaptively restored to create space for commercial, retail, offices and hopefully a few restaurants, Hidlebaugh explained. There will also be an alleyway between the two rows of homes that can be closed off for events or opened for additional parking.

The name for the development came from the prestigious names that will be connected to the history of each home that will come to the development, he said.

“We will call it Founder's Row because all these people were founders in their communities,” he said. “They were wealthy people and they build large, impressive houses.”

The Mulkey-Loggins home was the home of the town doctor, Hidlebaugh said. Mertz was a banker in Cleburne.

“We were told this was his second house. He built the first one and his wife didn't like it so this was his second try to please her,” Hidlebaugh said with a laugh.

Moving, renovating and restoring such large structures is not trifle. All told the project will cost about $4 million dollars, he said.

“It is a passion to try and save something old and give it new life,” Hidlebaugh said, explaining that his business of designs multi-family housing generates the profit to allow him to invest in extremely long-range developments like Founders Row.

And the project has already been in the works for a while, he said.

“I acquired this lot with the little house,” Hidlebaugh said, pointing to the center lot on the south side of the property located on the northeast corner of E. Avenue G and N. 12th Street. “Then about five years later, I acquired the next one. It took about 10 years to put all the land together and there are two lots on the corner I don't own."

Those two lots have residential homes on them.

The development is currently awaiting a zoning change from a Community Retail District to an Urban Village Planned Development District to be approved by the city council. The application passed the Planning and Zoning commission on Sept. 20 and was sent to the council with a recommendation for approval. The item has not yet to listed on a city council agenda.

“With its proximity to downtown and the Original Town, this area is a de facto extension of that area and a prime complement to create a plan to improve an entry portal to lead visitors into downtown Midlothian,” according to the commission's Sept. 20 agenda.

The project will add several elements to the community, Hidlebaugh said.

“I think Midlothian got short changed in architecture because Waxahachie is the county seat. We are adding architecture to Midlothian,” he said.

The development will also tie in with the downtown, 8th Street properties Leasing Impressions already owns, Hidlebaugh said, and help strengthen and anchor the heart of the community as the city expands. He spoke of the city as a tree with rings of expansion. It is important to invest in the heart of the city to preserve the city's sense of itself, he said.

Taking on the expense of restoring the older homes is part of preserving that historic and unique feel, he said.

“This will have a sense of place a strip center just doesn't,” he explained.

To accomplish this, the outsides of the buildings will be restored as close as possible to their original appearance, complete with original brick chimneys, windows and paint schemes, said Logan Gaddis who works for Hidlebaugh.

“When you are restoring a window, you can't just go to Home Depot and order new windows, you have to restore the glass, the molding, the framing,” Gaddis said.

The first two homes are on the lot and one more will be moving from Waxahachie soon, he said. The company is looking for five to six more houses to fill out the row. Once the third home is on the lot, it will take about a year to a year and a half before those homes are ready to open for leases, Gaddis said.

But historic homes are especially suited for a design like the row that is expected to be accessed from the street and through the back from the alley, Hidlebaugh said.

“They don't build houses like this. This has a lot of detailing new homes don't. On these old houses, they would make it pretty from every angle, not just the facade,” he said.

The location of the development is also special to Hidlebaugh, just across the street from the first home he restored and leased in 1997.

Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email bkurtz@waxahachietx.com. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BethanyKurtzMidloMirror or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.