Before I ever became involved in politics in Rowlett, I wrote some columns about Rowlett for the Dallas Morning News. In one of those columns I had written that the citizens that serve on various city committees were very well intentioned, dedicated, and loyal citizens of Rowlett. However, I felt that at this crossroads of Rowlett's journey, it was time to bring in the professionals for guidance. I hope I didn't offend anyone, but I thought it was time for a real estate professional rather than a dedicated and loyal tool and die maker. I could see a huge demand for tax dollars approaching, and we needed an increase in amount and quality of the tax base to shoulder the costs. With the soon to arrive DART and Geo. Bush Tollway, along with other opportunities, I suggested in the article that Rowlett should team up with a really good top shelf developer and hire them to advise Rowlett on future development of the city.
Shortly after I became involved in Rowlett politics, an RFQ (Request For Qualifications) was sent out to begin the search for a consultant to advise Rowlett on real estate issues. That was okay with me. That was probably a better idea than using a developer. There were nine respondents. All looked pretty good, but a well known and established firm, HOK, seemed to be a notch more qualified for our needs than others. They were heavier in marketing experience and that's exactly what I thought Rowlett needed. I cast my vote for HOK, and subsequently they won the majority vote. The initial cost was quite reasonable, about $50K to start, if I recall correctly. The efforts were styled "Rowlett 2020," and the planning began.
The public meetings began and the public offered some input. I wondered about the emphasis being placed on citizen input. I knew it was good PR, but the whole reason for the consulting firm was to take the issues out of the hands of amateurs and into the hands of professionals. But, I could see the wisdom in getting the citizens involved. A few weeks after the study began, HOK was back for more funding. That was okay. I knew that the first payment was not near enough for such an endeavor. However, I began to worry a little about a "pig in a poke." If a total cost of the project was discussed by the city manager or other members of council, it was not shared with me at the time.
The results of the Rowlett 2020 planning began to come in. I liked the first results. By this time I had gained quite a bit of information about Rowlett's market. I learned we had a market study performed in 2009 by Robert Charles Lessor Company and their report was in our file. It took a little effort, but I got the city manager to release it so that I may read it. What made this report important to me was that while a loan officer at GECC, we relied on Robert Charles Lessor Company for many market studies. I trusted their input. The early Rowlett 2020 results were lining up beautifully with the Robert Charles Lessor report and my own thoughts. I thought the consultants hit the downtown area dead on. I thought the results of the "Wellness" area were quite good...........but I sure would have picked another name. The "Wellness" area seems to be a bit bizarre. Does that mean the balance of the Rowlett area is the "Unwellness" area? I also wish they had done more work on the 100 acres immediately east of the Community Centre and located on the water.
There is one area that Rowlett 2020 got right and I totally blew it. That was the land at the base and immediately north of the new bridge connecting Rowlett with I-30. I knew this area would be pretty good, but nothing like it turned out. Rowlett 2020 called for much more extensive development than I thought was feasible. However, they were right and I was wrong.
Have you ever driven from mainland Texas onto one of the off shore islands. such as Galveston, Mustang Island, or Padre Island? I think crossing the Intercoastal or Laguna Madre is magical. Something special happens when leaving the mainland for the coastal islands. It is a beautiful moment when you see the big water you are crossing and the place and lifestyle that is ahead of you. When leaving I-30 onto tollway and you elevate high over the surrounding landscape, suddenly Lake Ray Hubbard comes into view and Rowlett is ahead. It is almost like crossing the Intercoastal. My first time over the bridge created a new found respect for Rowlett. My hometown took on a completely different look. I really liked it. I don't think we will ever get the 14 story office building or hotel there that the consultants think we will get. However, I think the area could become a great opportunity for development expertise. If Rowlett could ever own Robertson Park, what a tremendous opportunity to make Rowlett one of the most popular places to live in the metroplex. All the lights, restaurants, office and maybe upscale housing units could be seen from I-30. It could be an outstanding visual experience.
At this point, I was pretty excited about Rowlett 2020. I knew we had done the right thing.
Then, something happened on the way to greatness. I'll discuss that in Part two of "A good question."