Monday, April 18, 2011

What is going on with that Lake Highlands Town Center?

Last week Becky Range, Executive Director of the Lake Highlands Public Improvement District (PID) spoke to the Lake Highlands Junior Women's League about recent developments in the PID and what is happening to that broad swath of land at Walnut Hill and Skillman - i.e. the future Lake Highlands Town Center.

First, what is a PID? A PID is a special tax assessment agreement between the City and property owners within a specified district to fund public improvements beyond existing municipal services. A PID helps commercial property owners and involved residential owners maintain and revitalize public/common areas within the District.

The Lake Highlands PID has 3 goals: 1) address crime problems, 2) request city services, and 3) capital improvements.

As far as crime prevention, the PID hired additional security via off duty cops and crime dropped 26% in 2010. Most of the crime is centered in the apartment complexes located in the Lake Highlands area. The PID is attempting to come up with other ways to engage the apartment complex property owners to address the crime in their complexes.

Regarding capital improvements, the focus is on the Skillman corridor, particularly where it intersects with LBJ freeway. The PID is working with the Dallas AIA to come up with a redesign of that intersection. The PID is also working on landscape master plan.

But perhaps the most visible work of the PID is the Lake Highlands Town Center. I happen to live around the corner from the site. I watched with anticipation as the derelict apartments came down and was excited for what was in store. I wasn't too crazy about the architecture, but there was talk about a small grocer, shops, and more restaurants. If you have tried to go to Picasso's Pizza or Mi Cocina on a Friday night, you know how exciting a restaurant - any kind of restaurant would be.

Well thanks to the Great Recession and the credit crunch, all we have right now are some nice paved roads, street lights and stop lights around the unfinished town center. Oh and the DART rail station that sits out there on its own.

The news is that the property owners Prescott Realty are back to negotiating for an anchor grocery store. Originally, Prescott had been talking to Sprouts, but they couldn't get the financing. Prescott has invited Sprouts back to the table because the community has stated that this is a store we would like in the area. While it was not directly stated, I got the impression that if a deal couldn't be reached with Sprouts, the runner up could be Tom Thumb. If Tom Thumb were to go in, that would probably mean closure of 2 stores in the area. There was no information as to when building might begin. That appears to be contingent on financing. Sigh. So it looks like I'll be staring at roads and streetlights to nowhere for a bit longer.

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