Tuesday March 19, 2019
Kim Gill and Tim Fleet, developers of Morningstar, have been developing communities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since the early 1980s. As such, their experience with homeowner associations, or HOAs, has certainly provided its fair share of the good and bad.
But, when they attended their first HOA meeting at Morningstar, “it was the first time we’ve ever seen clapping in appreciation,” Gill commented. The applause wasn’t because these two are stand-up guys (though they are), and that they develop quality communities (though they do). Rather, Morningstar, a 732-acre, master-planned community on Aledo, TX’s north side, offers affordably priced houses, along with amenities typically found in more high-end master-planned communities. Additionally, “we try to listen to what the residents want,” Fleet said. “When we can, we accommodate them.” The combination has provided much of what the community has demanded, as well as a happy HOA.
Gill and Fleet set out in 2015 to build Morningstar with affordability in mind. “From the beginning, our homes were priced between $250,000-$450,000, which we thought was achievable for the average young family,” Gill said. Those young families seem to be arriving in droves; Morningstar is selling more than 20 houses a month, on average.
The Morningstar homebuilders include Highland Homes, Impression Homes, Rendition Homes and D.R. Horton. Houses range from 1,800 square feet-4,000 square feet, from starter homes to those that house growing families, and all are situated on 50- and 60-foot lots.
Furthermore, whenever those families decide to sell their Morningstar homes, receive the profit, free and clear. Said Fleet: “They aren’t required to give us back 1% of the sales price, which is a hidden cost of sales. We don’t see the need for that.”
Gill said buyers like Morningstar because of the Aledo Independent School District, which serves families west of Fort Worth. The district offers five elementary schools, a middle school, ninth-grade campus, high school and learning center. It is highly acclaimed; 97% of the children graduate from high school.
Furthermore, Aledo ISD is home to Division 5A, award-winning sports teams. Aledo High School tied for fourth in the Class 5A UIL Lone Star Cup Standings in the 2017-2018 school year, which recognizes the most successful schools in the state in academics, fine arts and athletics.
The Community Involvement
Gill and Fleet made sure they worked hand-in-hand with the city and county agencies and authorities, to ensure Morningstar would mimic the spirit of the western part of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The duo also ensured that the site’s natural beauty was unimpeded.
“We built on existing terrain, and built up retaining walls to maintain the topography,” Gill said. “We kept the creek in place, and have planned hike and bike trails throughout the development.” And, rather than cutting down the trees to make room for home sites, the development team hired a tree-moving company from Houston to relocate trees from the property’s east side to Morningstar’s entrance. “We now have 150 large cedar elms built up and down the parkway,” Gill said. “This is something the community can be proud of.”
One of Morningstar’s value propositions is its on-site resident amenities. In addition to three fully stocked catch-and-release ponds and coming soon, an intricate system of hiking and biking trails leading through spectacular nature, the development offers a full-size soccer field, resort pool and kiddie pool, a multipurpose facility and playscape. Another amenity is an on-site lifestyle director, who schedules activities and operates as a liaison between the community and the development team.
The development team tells the story of how pregnant mothers had approached the lifestyle director with a request to install benches in open areas and public places. “We asked our lifestyle director to order them, and they were delivered, and installed, at once,” Gill said.
Those amenities have, in turn, led to smaller, cohesive groups of residents, who like being together and spending time with each other. One such group is the Morningstar Moms, which works with the lifestyle director to focus on formal and informal events. “They get together on a regular basis, have board games, Friday night outdoor movies and other programs,” Fleet said.
The lure of Morningstar’s affordability and education, combined with amenities and community bonding, has led to development of over 500 homes to date. An additional 832 lots are ready for build-out, providing enough growth to meet all future buyers.
The development duo regards Morningstar more as a cohesive neighborhood versus master-planned community. “The goal here was to provide something that families could afford, and where they enjoy living,” they said. “This is why we worked so hard with the city and county, and continue working hard with the HOA, to maintain the character and lasting value. Kim and I are Fort Worth people and because of that we tend to operate the Fort Worth Way. We care greatly about the happiness of our homeowners today and the value of their investment years from now,” said Fleet.