Well, almost three years. If you click on “see past press releases” on the Lake Highlands Town Center website’s press page, it shows that developer Prescott Realty‘s last press release was sent out on July 31, 2008 with the headline “Prescott Realty Group Ready for Next Phase of Development on Lake Highlands Town Center.” (That was referring to the infrastructure — streets, sidewalks, landscaping, etc. referred to in the real estate biz as “horizontal construction”.)

The five-page press release posted late last week doesn’t announce any tenants, and most of it reemphasizes points we’ve covered in recent weeks and months on the Back Talk Lake Highlands blog. Prescott mainly uses it to beseech neighbors for understanding and promote the project’s successes, which is exactly how a press release functions.

Neighbors can read the press release in full by clicking on the document below or on Prescott’s LH Town Center website. Our analysis of the press release highlights — including construction of apartments with HUD financing, a clarification on TIF dollars and more — follows after the jump:

LHTC Press Release

Prescott paraphrased point No. 1: We are building the first round of apartments soon, and using HUD financing. But this financing does not — repeat, NOT — mean Section 8 housing.

Because this block of 200 apartments will be the first “vertical construction” on the property, beginning later this summer, it may be the item of highest interest to Lake Highlands neighbors. Prescott anticipated that Lake Highlanders would see “HUD financing” and react, so the wording is very clear:

“There is no requirement for affordable housing under this HUD program. As clarification, this HUD program is not Section 8 housing, assisted-income or low income housing. The TIF Development agreement with the City includes a 20 percent requirement for affordable housing, which is measured as eighty percent of median income. … Recent guidelines by HUD under this program place emphasis on projects that are urban, infill, sustainable, and transit-oriented, all elements provided by LHTC.”

Prescott points out that it is still waiting for final financing approval from HUD, and construction should begin 60-90 days after approval is given.

Prescott paraphrased point No. 2: We have not spent TIF money on the Town Center.

As we’ve noted in a few posts about how Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars work in relation to the Town Center, the $40 million in TIF funds the city has budgeted for the Town Center have not yet been given to Prescott (except for $1.37 million of it awarded last week), and Prescott spends the first part of the press release driving home that point.

“Many people mistakenly believe that TIF funding is an immediate incentive payment to the developer. It is actually the opposite. The investment is first made by the developer in the TIF-related project,” says Vance Detwiler, Prescott Realty Group president.

Prescott also takes the opportunity to point out that $86 million already been invested in the Town Center project, with $73 million of that money coming directly from Prescott rather than tax dollars from government coffers.

Prescott paraphrased point No. 3: We’re not changing the Town Center design. The city is asking for a design overview, and we’re cooperating, especially considering that the city just pledged to give us $17 million more in tax dollars.

The recent $23 million to $40 million increase in budgeted TIF dollars isn’t explicitly mentioned in the press release, but Prescott does want to make sure that Lake Highlanders know who is initiating the project’s design changes.

“Some people misinterpreted Prescott’s work with the city as our requesting design modifications to Lake Highlands Town Center. In reality, we were participating in a review process initiated by the City that was all connected with the modification of the TIF Development Agreement. We appreciate the support of the TIF Board and look forward to a collaborative review process over the next several months,” Detwiler says.

Prescott paraphrased point No. 4: Don’t forget — we replaced crummy apartments with great public transportation and gathering spaces.

Prescott tells this story by the numbers, such as “1,300 dilapidated apartments demolished” and “30,000 tons of concrete from the apartment slabs and streets were crushed and re-used as fill material for off-site road projects.” This is also the section of the press release where Prescott reminds us about the 20-acre park and the new Lake Highlands DART Rail Station, plus tells us about public art projects to be installed at the park entrances later this year, and a $2.8 million grant, which was a “big coup for Lake Highlands to win,” Detwiler says. Prescott will use the grant to extend the hike and bike trail to existing Dallas trail system, as well as improve the Walnut Hill-Skillman intersection.

Prescott paraphrased point No. 5: We promise to do better at communicating with you. Please give us a break.

We’ll let Prescott’s quotes speak for themselves on this point.

On the topic of the grocery store anchor, which is of utmost interest to most neighbors: “Obtaining construction financing has been a challenge because of the economy, as has signing a grocery anchor. ‘We have talked to and pursued all major grocers. We do not yet have an anchor lease executed but we are working diligently on that aspect of the project,” Detwiler says. ‘We will get there, but we are going to take our time to get it right … to create an authentic experience for the Lake Highlands community to enjoy.’ ”

On general community involvement: “Over the last few years Prescott has made over thirty presentations to the community and local organizations updating them on the progress of LHTC. ‘We’ve tried to be as transparent as possible about the status of the project, our accomplishments and challenges over the last few years and our long term commitment. We hope to re-establish that consistent connection with the Lake Highlands community in the months ahead as we move forward with Phase I vertical development,’ Detwiler says. ‘A development of this magnitude takes a long time to complete, even in prosperous times. We really appreciate the continued support from the Lake Highlands community.’ “