First, I am very "pro" developer. I have learned over the years how hard they work to receive the sometimes big paycheck. I have also seen the financial devastation caused by guessing wrong. The risks are enormous.
But, even in the sink or swim atmosphere of development, there are some rules. In almost every new development plan there are representations made before the very first shovel full of dirt is turned. Those representations are important because they cause others to take actions, and more than likely spend money.
As I've written before in this blog site, tweaking of plans are always underway during development of a large commercial site. This tweaking is almost always done to enhance profitability. That is fine. That's what a developer is supposed to do. However, there is a big difference between "tweaking" and "gutting" a project of it's main anchor. For example, say a developer is creating a new shopping center. He tells all the proposed tenants of smaller store space that he has Tom Thumb anchoring his center. Of course, he will get a lot of tenants wanting to take advantage of the traffic that Tom Thumb will generate. Then, lets say half way thru development he tells all his smaller tenants that he really didn't have Tom Thumb, after all. And, this announcement came after money had already been spent by the smaller tenants. How long do you think it would take that developer to land in the court house? Twenty minutes?
Upon inception, Bayside represented to the City of Rowlett that their development would contain an eight acre lagoon, a one acre water fountain and a trolley system. these items would cost several million dollars and clearly were meant to create "buzz" for the development and ballyhoo the spectacle that's coming. These items were the anchor of what was being announced. Removing them is not "tweaking." It is "gutting" the project. These items will be replaced by grass, some trees, and townhouse lot sites. Certainly profitability will increase because costs will decline and profitability of townhouse sales will go up. The developers are basically saying the development of these items are no longer "cost effective." They are saying these items will no longer pull in the "traffic" they need to offset the costs. To paraphrase, they say, "Its not really a big deal."
I disagree. I allege that Bayside misrepresented very important features of the development to gain the city's cooperation and money and enhance their development, then recant their representations of important features to save money and expand the income opportunities at the expense of Rowlett.
Both the developers and the city want the development to succeed. Profitability is certainly not the issue. If Bayside is successful, the city will benefit from increased tax revenue. However, the developer's goals and the city's goals are substantially different beyond the success of the project. The developer's interest is pretty much contained by the deed lines of Bayside's property. If it works good on the site, they are not all that much concerned about city matters. (In spite of what they say). On the other hand, the city has a much broader scope. They think about other things besides tax revenue. Bayside is the lynch pin of the image that Rowlett wants to portray. It was the final building block to fall into place to convert Rowlett into a truly interesting and fun place to live. We would have the lake, excellent transportation facilities, great medical facilities, and finally, the bloom on the rose, Bayside. Bayside not only provides the profits to the developer and the tax revenue to the city, but Bayside is also the beacon of the city that lets everyone know where Rowlett is and what a charming place it is. Even tho Bayside is privately financed, it is the trophy sitting on Rowlett's mantel. It is upscale everything. ALL of Rowlett wins with Bayside and it's lagoon and fountain.
The lagoon, fountain, and trolley are all part of that image. If it is removed, the bloom is taken from the rose. ALL of Rowlett no longer wins.
Are there sound economic reasons for removing the lagoon and fountain? I don't know. The developer certainly failed make the case. All I heard from him was boring rhetoric about his past projects and how good they were. No hard logic, traffic data, cost studies, revenue studies, and market data was offered. All that was offered was, "Believe me. Would I lie to you?" In addition, a very serious part of the development planning of the traffic control, particularly at the I-30 exit ramps. Not a peep was uttered about it. I was certainly interested in that story.
I just flat don't believe their data.......however little it was. I don't believe there are 50 lagoons underway in Texas. I don't believe their studies they say supports removing the lagoon and replacing with trees and grass. Everybody loves trees and grass, but not everywhere. There are exceptions. I don't believe the expansion of the kayak basin would cost as much as the lagoon and fountain. And, I think the kayak basin is a lousy idea.
Rowlett has been flim flamed. I don't find fault with the developers trying to maximize the profit picture. However, there are rules. Lake Ray Hubbard has been here for 45 years. Nothing spectacular has happened because of it. It's nice, and I use it, and I bought a house here here because of it........but that's about it. But, like any chemical mixture, sometimes a catalyst is what is needed to transform the stuff in the test tube into something special. The lagoon and fountain of Bayview is that catalyst.
Much is asked about The Harbor in Rockwall. Why does it have such a hard time and is Bayside going to be a larger version? Nope. Any real estate analyst knows why The Harbor is having a hard time. They spent too much money, the parking is atrocious, and the rents are staggering. Garland's lakeside development started out slow, but picked up steam and is doing nicely now. It also has $10 per foot per year less rent fees. Bayside is more desirable than either of them. In fact, Bayside's existence will actually help both of them.
When taken it total, the lagoon and fountain means more to Rowlett than just another development. The developer has fallen far short of demonstrating why the lagoon and fountain should be removed from the plan. Altho, both the city and the developer wants success for the project, each has different goals to achieve. Both want profits, and that's okay, but the city needs and wants a beacon saying, "Here we are and we are great." The lagoon and fountain in Bayside are the catalyst.
To the City Council, hang tough.