The Skillman Corridor TIF Board approved amendments to its agreement with Prescott’s development entity, PC LH Land Partners, yesterday at a meeting at City Hall. The changes extend the project deadlines due to a sagging economy and credit crunch, increase TIF revenue reimbursements from $23 to $40 million and allow up to $1,370,000 in TIF cash to be paid out this month.

The new agreement also provides for the hiring of a consultant to provide expert advice to jumpstart the development process. No firm has been hired yet, but the City of Dallas recently paid $25,000 to hire Street-Works, a nationally-known urban village expert, to evaluate the status of LH Town Center and make recommendations.

The meeting began with a presentation by Street-Works’ Ken Narva, who’s currently working on the revitalization of Victory Park, unceremoniously dubbed “The Ghost Town” by Mavs owner Mark Cuban. The bad news, says Narva: The Town Center plans need work. The good news: It’s much cheaper and easier to get it right before it goes vertical.

On hand to protest were Lake Highlands residents hoping to be heard on a variety of issues, but concerns about a big box grocery store led the list. Jay Henry, owner of Royal Highlands Plaza at Skillman and Royal, provided before and after photos from his family-owned company’s work to revamp that center – with no public assistance, he added. The original Town Center plan called for tenants from outside the market, but signing a Tom Thumb will cannibalize and close the store in his center, he said. “These are significant public expenditures, and taxpayers are footing this bill.”

Barry Knight spoke next, representing the owner of LH Plaza, home of Highlands Café. He opposed the changes which increased PC LH’s TIF allocation and the provision to collect a portion now. “I don’t understand why there’s such a rush,” Knight added.

Protesting the protesters was Bill Blaydes, Dallas City Councilman at the time that Town Center developers were being courted. “This development has gone through some of the toughest economic time in the country,” Blaydes said. He applauded the public/private partnership required to keep the project moving.

From here, changes to the development agreement will go to the Dallas City Council for approval on June 22 before the council takes off for the month of July. We’ll keep you posted here on the blog.