I know that Lake Highlanders cheer when an apartment complex comes down, but last week was the first time I personally witnessed this.
The Lake Highlands Town Center groundbreaking ceremony was last week, and I have to give the Prescott Realty people props — they really put on a show. Usually these types of ceremonies are very formal and official with lots of people in suits wearing hardhats and holding shovels that are not actually used for breaking ground. Though the Town Center ceremony pretty much fit this description, at least Prescott invited the LHHS cheerleaders, Highlandettes and drum line to liven things up a bit. The highlight was the drum roll before a wrecking crane started taking chunks out of a former apartment building just southeast of Walnut Hill and Skillman. The crowd erupted with whoops and applause.
When former city councilman Bill Blaydes took the podium, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. It was Blaydes’ campaign promise in 2003 that he would get rid of as many crime-infested apartments as possible during his term (which ended May 2007), and that he would find a developer in the metro area to adopt neighbors’ vision for a modern town center in Lake Highlands. Blaydes began his speech by saying that he did not "promise to make it through this," and sure enough, his voice broke while talking about second and third generation Lake Highlanders moving back to the neighborhood, and proclaiming: "Because of what we celebrate today, Lake Highlands will not become stagnant for our children or theirs."
The ceremony didn’t offer many updates on the Town Center plans since we ran our development feature in April’s magazine and posted on our March blog. Prescott is still using images similar to the ones that made the rounds in March; we’ve included a couple of newer images in this blog post. No announcements were made about stores or restaurants that have signed onto the project, but Precott seems confident that it will have anchors in place by early next year. City Councilman Jerry Allen repeated the two to three year completion estimate in his speech, and when I asked a Prescott representative if the 2010 projection was still accurate, she told me "we’re right on schedule."
Of course, since Prescott is the seventh developer to take a crack at this project, company president Vance Detwiler mentioned that seven was his lucky number, adding: "Hopefully, it just won’t take us seven years to finish it."