The development of Founder’s Row, a business community of old historic structures that were once slated for demolition, may be pushed back, but the project continues to gain ground.

“Now that we have the structures on our lot where we wanted them, we went back and decided that it would look prettier if we put all the utilities underground,” said developer Stephen Hidlebaugh, one of the masterminds behind the ambitious undertaking. “We put our power lines underground. So all the utilities, all the new gas lines, those have been put in now.”

There is still, however, a lot more work to do on the block, which covers four streets: East Ave F, East Ave G, North 11th St. and North 12th St. Hidlebaugh said crews will extend sewage lines and a fire hydrant will be installed. Ten more parking spots have been added to the lot, bringing the total to over 150.

A 114-year-old church building from Italy is one of the most anticipated additions to Row.

“We’re in the process of getting [the church] ready for moving right now as we speak,” Hidlebaugh explained. “That should happen in the next 30 days, and that will be our fourth historic structure that we saved.”

The painstaking task of transporting the buildings is about a $4 million operation. Hidlebaugh explained that the two cranes doing the job cost $2 million each. There are also moving costs involved that run in the tens of thousands.  

“When we save a historic church like that, first of all, we had to take out all of the stain glass windows,” Hidlebaugh added. “Then we have to cut the church into sections, assemble it all back together, put it on a new foundation, and so they use big cranes that actually take the church and move the parts.”

Crews have made significant progress on the three two-story homes already in place, replacing deteriorated wood, broken windows, and interior walls and ceilings, among other necessary renovations. The work carries a price tag of up to $300,000.

The C.W. Mertz House with its Queen Anne-style was built in 1905 by the man it’s named after. Mertz carried several titles, including banker, real estate entrepreneur, insurance broker and civic leader. The home made a 26-mile trip from Cleburne.

Twenty-seven miles away in Ennis was where the Mulkey-Loggins House was first built in 1898 by James C. Loggins, a mayor and city alderman. The home also boasts a Queen Anne-style architecture, which was popular between 1880 and 1910.

The oldest building on the premises is the gingerbread-style William Hosford House, erected in 1894. It hails from neighboring Waxahachie.

“Just being able to save a structure that we know would be bulldozed is probably the most fun part,” equipped Hidlebaugh, admitting the project is no easy feat.

He, however, is leading the ambitious project with fellow developer Logan Gaddis. Together, they have combined their experience and expertise in architecture, design and development.

“We travel to many places, and we say why can’t we have that in our backyard, you know,” said Hidlebaugh, explaining the idea behind Founder’s Row. “Why can’t we have fun things like that?”

The businesses will feature restaurants, cafes, wine bistros, boutiques and retail shops, and there is space for 10 to 20 of them. The new opening date is slated for the end of the year, but that’s not definite.

“We’re not going to cut our quality and compromise our integrity of the restoration to just rush and get it open,” Hidlebaugh rationalized.

The Midlothian Chamber of Commerce is also anticipating the opening of Founder’s Row, which it sees as a catalyst for economic growth.

“The Chamber is so proud of the Founder’s Row project,” said President and CEO Laura Terhune in a statement. “We applaud their vision and leadership in turning a wonderful idea into a beautiful reality. Once complete, Founder’s Row will become a destination for visitors to our city, and the Chamber will be ready to support and promote it to local businesses and new residents.”

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Patrick Clarke | @PatrickClarke1 | 469-517-1456