City, Prescott Realty Working to Jumpstart Long Delayed Lake Highlands Town Center

Well, that was certainly fortuitous timing: On Sunday the 7-year-old who lives in my house and I went for our weekly trip to the Scotty'sTop Golf batting cages, after which we took a little drive in search of a nice afternoon hike. At which point we found ourselves in the paved-over paradise at Walnut Hill and Skillman known as Lake Highlands Town Center -- at least, what there is of it close to four years after then-Mayor Tom Leppert and officials from the city, DART and Prescott Realty broke ground on the planned mixed-use development. And it's quite a lovely patch of land, what with the outdoor amphitheater, the running fountain, the working (a little too well) drinking fountains, the nicely paved sidewalks and parking lots and streets. There were even folks fishing in the creek, even though part of it's littered with trash.

The most significant recent story I could recall seeing on the site dates back to March, when council member Jerry Allen told Brad Watson that any day now Prescott would be announcing a lead tenant. But that didn't happen. Prescott CEO Jud Pankey and president president Vance Detwiler haven't returned our many messages. So last night I called Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Office of Economic Development, for an update. Like I said, good timing.

Zavitkovsky said that, why, only yesterday, there was a meeting at City Hall attended by Prescott higher-ups and folks from the community during which they discussed reworking the entire project -- from the design to the TIF funding agreement, which allows for $23 million in city investment in the guesstimated $300 million project. He also says Prescott called in the Urban Land Institute-approved Street-Works to take another pass at the project -- and, sure enough, I see the Lake Highlands Advocate on Monday sneak peeked at great length yesterday's meeting of the Skillman Corridor TIF District committee, complete with Street-Works' proposed design redo.

Zavitkovsky says Prescott's "in serious talks with two grocery stores" that would serve as the anchor tenant; of course he won't say which ones they are -- or if Tom Thumb's long-rumored plans are more than that. He also says Prescott's looking to HUD for money for the housing component -- which would up the public contribution to a public-private project so far funded with millions from the city's 2006 bond funds, the North Central Texas Council of Governments and Dallas Area Rapid Transit, which opened the Lake Highlands Station in December.

He says the council will get a look at the reworked deal on June 22, more than likely, with a council briefing on the subject more than likely to be scheduled before that.

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