Even tho this project is just getting underway, I have known about it for some time. I have met the developer a couple of times and visited one of his projects in Hometown in North Richland Hills. The developer seems to be a stand up guy. His product is good. It is not exactly my desired type of subdivision, but that doesn't mean it's a bad design. I prefer a more open design of subdivision plat. I prefer the houses not be so close. However, I grew up in a small town, pop. 15,000, in the Midwest whereby the houses were close together and it was a very good life. I now have been in Texas for 50 years and I have been climatized.
The Homesteads of Liberty Grove is almost a nostalgic re-creation. It is a replica of neighborhoods built just after the turn of the 20th century.......say 1910 to 1925. The houses are closer together. There are steps up to the porch......a porch that probably has swings or chairs. there are nice sidewalks and treed parks nearby. It is reminiscent of a very comfortable time. I certainly have no problem with having that type of development in Rowlett. In fact, I cheer for it. It's a choice that I am glad that any new arrivals to Rowlett will have as a optional housing selection. If it's a marketing success, I would push for more of this style of development. However, there is some baggage.
There are some twists to this new development. There are these new form based code features and a couple of stories that give me pause. First, this development was the favorite child of our previous city manager. I fully expected her to announce at any time that the developer walked on water. I'm sure you know what I think of that. As it was, he seemed to be a pretty good guy, but I think he was going to have to know where the rocks were to keep from sinking. Our previous city manager pressed very hard to make Homestead Rowlett's first subdivision to fully utilize her pet Form Based Codes that she ramrodded thru Planning. If you frequent this blog, you know I am only partially supportive of Form Base Codes. Form based codes are a new twist. I support it where it was intended.......in urban refurbished areas............close to urban densities and transportation and entertainment facilities. However, our previous city manager set about creating a culture in city hall whereby most supp0rted her idea of shutting down all residential development in Rowlett unless it fit the format of Homestead and Form Base Codes. Essentially, she said all future development will be a clone of Homestead. I disagreed with this.
I try to keep from making reference to individuals that are currently employees of, or in elected leadership positions of the City of Rowlett. I usually refer to them as "officialdom." What I'm really referencing is this "culture" that evolved in and around city hall. I have nothing against "officialdom" selecting a direction of planning for the city. However, I would wish they would predicate their decisions on the acquiring of knowledge rather than a knee jerk reaction. I fear that the Rowlett official culture will be overly "protective" about form based codes. There is absolutely no doubt that our previous city manager was "strong arming" some of our elected officials. However, others had their own mind. That was okay, if any of their opinions were based on their interpretation of the facts instead of blindly following someone else.
It was that "stuff" that I objected to......and I still do. Even tho our earlier city manager is now gone, much of the culture remains.
The Homestead development took too long to get off the ground. There was something wrong and I didn't believe the city had any involvement in the delay. I think it was a marketing issue. There was an early signal. When I first saw the Homeland project in North Richland Hills, the developer insinuated that the five builders of Homeland would build in Rowlett's Homestead. Immediately, I knew there was something wrong with that statement. I recognized one of the products in the Homeland development. It was a distinctive townhouse design that I had seen many times before. I knew the builder, and I also knew the builder had recently filed bankruptcy. Therefore, I knew 20% of that statement was wrong. Then, it was taking too long to get the development started when the city was bending over backwards to get this favored son off the ground. Later, I heard from a reliable source that a single builder was taking over the construction of the homes. Of course, I knew the builder. I didn't believe the more recent story would ever happen. There were too many differences between the developer and the builder's basic vision of the end product. It prodded along for more months, then I heard that the subdivision was going forth with David Weekley and Cambridge Homes as the builders. I like these builders, but once again, there was a deviation in the plans. This fibbing, maneuvering, and delaying was suggesting that something was awry in the marketing concept. In fact, there could have been some lender resistance in some deal. The lender gets to vote, too. They have the money.
When I heard that Weekley and Cambridge were going to build in the development, that was an endorsement to me. They didn't get where they are by being stupid. They are smart builders and don't make many marketing errors. If they like Homestead enough to invest in modeling and advertising, that suggests they like the project.
There is just one thing I would like to know, and that is the strength of the Weekley and Cambridge commitment. If they signed purchase agreements for 10 lots, with an option to purchase another 100 lots, that means one thing. If they signed a "specific performance" contract to purchase, say 100 lots, and they agree to "take down" schedule of so many lots per month, that is a considerably stronger deal. It further demonstrates the builder's faith in the project. One is a fairly weak commitment and the other is a fairly strong commitment. It would be good information to know, but I don't think we'll ever find out.
So........I'm waiting for the market to prove up how good our previous city manager was. In this very strong market, I think the development will do well. However, I don't think the land is the best site in Rowlett for this type of product. There are other sites that I think are better. We will know in about three years. If the sales are outstanding and moves are afoot to develop another subdivision just like Homestead, I will admit I was wrong and the previous city manager was right. The market will prevail.