The leasing office faces the trail and water.

The leasing office faces the trail and water.

An office finally will open for business in the Lake Highlands Town Center next week — the leasing office at Haven Lake Highlands, that is.

I know. I know. It isn’t the big anchor-tenant announcement we are anxiously awaiting, but it is comforting to know that someone (who’s not a construction worker, anyway) will actually be employed inside an office at the Lake Highlands Town Center.  Residents could begin moving in as soon as April, says Elizabeth Good of Cypress Realty.

(See all Advocate Lake Highlands Town Center coverage here.)

As far as tenant announcements go, nada.

There was an interesting maneuver at the Dallas City Council meeting last week, when the LHTC developers turned down $13.5 million in federal assistance.

The declined funds were a Housing Urban Development loan for which Prescott Realty applied and was approved last summer, says Sue Hounsel in the city’s Office of Economic Development. The Dallas City Council put off the vote, probably waiting to see if the developers were going to need the money. (See Economic Development #13 for full agenda proposal, here.)

“It was a matter of waiting and making sure that the developer and the rest of them, quite frankly, didn’t go bankrupt,” District 10 Council Member Jerry Allen told WFAA last week.

It’s likely they (the developers and city council) finally were pressured to make a decision this time around, Hounsel says.

It’s a good sign and probably means the developers aren’t going broke anytime soon.

“At the end of the day, there’s always strings attached,” Allen said on television last week after passing on the loan. “I feel like that they felt like they’re strong enough to move on without federal assistance.”

Though they declined federal assistance this month, LHTC developers received a $23 million HUD loan in August 2012, which supported the construction of Haven.

(The city also has pledged to reimburse LHTC for up to $40 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) dollars for public improvements, of which $1.37 million already has been doled out. )

Allen and former councilman Bill Blaydes both spoke to WFAA last week about their hopes for the Town Center:

“Allen says the developer is working on updated plans that the council will review in coming months. Those plans include retail stores, restaurants and housing units. Allen expects the first businesses to open at Lake Highlands Town Center in about a year.”

Blaydes spoke of his “dream to see completed this for this community.”

Both men have been at this thing for a long time, as I am reminded looking through old Advocate reports. They — and the rest of us — will ultimately settle for less than what we envisioned back in the early 00s (only the degree of concession remains to seen). 

In Dec. 2004, for example, the Advocate ran an article in which then-councilman Bill Blaydes said he expected the Lake Highlands Town Center — a wonderland chock full of high-end, locally owned retail and restaurants and townhomes that go for $600,000 — to be completed “around spring 2007.” You know, it’s a big project. We need to be patient, he told us at the time.

Then the economy tanked and — while we all spent the next eight or nine years talking a ton and filling out surveys about what we want and don’t want in our town center — not much actually happened. Visibly, anyway.

What happened behind the scenes, however, was that the original developers (the ones with visions of high-end, locally owned retail and restaurants and townhomes that go for $600,000) were nudged out of charge. The majority equity holders, Cypress, took over, for the most part, in October 2013, and told us they are planning “a hybrid between the original plan of super high-density retail blocks with structured parking, and something not quite as dense that combines density and walkability” for the LHTC.

That doesn’t sound too bad, but also Cypress partnered with Trammell Crow; Crow recently told the Morning News they are working closely with the city on a new site planAnd evidence shows Trammel Crow developments are more apt to house Wal Marts and department store chains than locally owned mom-and-pops or boutique grocers or any of those things for which the neighbors of LHTC once dared to hope.

Stay tuned. I will be in touch with Cypress and the development office regularly as await a tenant announcement.

(By the way, read our interview with a Haven Lake Highlands green consultant here.)