Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
The Coppell City Council agreed to contribute about $900,000 for the construction of the long-awaited Nature Biodiversity Center with the condition that the City assumes management of the project. Supporters touted the Feb. 26 meeting as a “make or break” day for the project, in which the Council decision would let donors know if construction was viable.
While the Friends of Coppell Nature Park worked for nearly a decade to build the facility, the contractor hired for the project recently discovered that many financial pledges had fallen through, amounting to more than $100,000.
Total construction cost is estimated at about $1.6 million. Minus donations and a $300,000 contribution from the Coppell Independent School District, there is an $840,468 shortfall for the project, according to a memo from the Friends of the Coppell Nature Park.
The Council voted 4-2 for the funding after spending about 15 minutes in executive session. Council members Bob Mahalik, Wes Mays, Marvin Franklin and Aaron Duncan voted for the resolution. Council member Billy Faught and Tim Brancheau voted against.
With the additional funding, construction could start April 1.
The facility will provide hands-on environmental education with applications of solar power, rain water capture, green construction and composting. Elementary students will have an opportunity to study rock and fossils. Middle schools will be able to use labs for conservations studies and high schools will be able to see real world applications of engineering. The building could also be used for civic gatherings and meetings.
“Research showed that students wanted to be involved in meaningful activities in the community,” said Vonita White, nature park board member and retired assistant superintendent. “The park has been their place to make a difference and get involved in their community. It has really been a philosophy of meaningful involvement for students, teachers and the community.”
The center will be built within the Coppell Nature Park, located off Freeport Parkway.
“This type of facility will allow students to become really engaged in environmental science in a place where they can see plants and animals interacting,” said Sid Grant, Coppell ISD assistant superintendent for business services. “Instead of Internet and textbook learning, students will learn hands-on.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 March 2013 11:25
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
Business owners and tenants in the Heritage Crossing can start applying for up to $25,000 in City funds to redo the fronts of their facilities, Kevin Kass, redevelopment administrator for the City, announced at a Heritage Crossing Merchants Alliance meeting on Feb. 25.
The Downtown Façade Enhancement Program, approved by the Irving City Council, allows business owners to receive up to $25,000 in reimbursements for enhancements to front facades. Examples of such improvements include doors, windows and awnings.
The program is part of a City effort to jumpstart development in the Heritage Crossing district, an area that business owners have long said struggles to compete with other cities’ downtown areas.
“We’re looking to improve the downtown appearance in order to attract additional developers, attract tourism and bring some of these buildings up to code compliance,” Kass said.
If approved for the program, building owners have 180 days to complete the work and they must maintain the improvements for five years. Only one award is available per year per plotted lot, according to Kass.
The City will reimburse owners within 45 days of project completion.Partial or uncompleted work will not be eligible for reimbursement.
The program is available to business owners from Sowers Road to Strickland Plaza and south of Irving Boulevard to 2nd Street.
“We’re not just talking about signage,” Kass said. “There’s got to be a wow factor. People will drive through and say, ‘Wow, now that’s really nice.’”
The Council has allotted $100,000 for the program to start, but Councilman Michael Gallaway, who attended the Heritage Crossing meeting, said the Council would consider increasing funding.
“We didn’t have a good feel for how many people would be interested, so if it really takes off we could adjust the budget,” Gallaway said.
Applications for the program are available at cityofirving.org/heritagecrossing.
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 March 2013 11:28
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Almost a third of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) falls within the boundaries of the City of Irving, which benefits from taxes generated by development of that land and stands to benefit from future airport growth. John Terrell, DFW Vice President of Commercial Development, provided an overview of DFW and its economic impact on the region, including current projects and development plans as well as future visions for the airport. He spoke at Irving-Las Colinas Rotary Club’s Noon meeting at Las Colinas Country Club on Feb. 21.
The merger between American Airlines and U.S. Airways is expected to bring an economic boom.
“It is a big bragging right to be home to the world’s biggest airline,” Terrell said. “Headquarters will remain here. There will be a lot more people coming here. American has downsized in some areas, but is expanding at DFW. We are very excited about the opportunities that will come out of that merger.
“One of the major benefits: We have a tax sharing arrangement with the City of Irving, the City of Euless, The City of Coppell and part of the City of Grapevine,” Terrell said. “Taxes that are generated because of development that occurs on the airport are split: one-third to that host city and two-thirds to Dallas and Fort Worth. The amount of taxes that are generated due to development is huge in this area.
“All the cities around us would like to see us develop the airport because usually taxes that are paid go into infrastructure, police and fire, and so those taxes are eaten up by obligations by those cities. The airport takes care of the infrastructure, the police and fire, so the taxes that are generated on the airport are encumbrance-free.
“One of our biggest successes falls within the City of Irving in International Commerce Park.” The site is over 400 acres which started development in 2001 and is now fully developed and fully leased.
Avion is the largest airplane parts distributor in the world and has its corporate worldwide headquarters located in the City of Irving and on the airport.
“Avion has expanded twice since they moved in here,” Terrell said. “They went from $500 million to over $3.2 billion a year in revenue. They have $21.6 million in payroll.”
Other companies located in International Commerce Park include worldwide headquarters for Dallas Cowboys Merchandizing, DHL, and Pratt and Whitney.
“DFW invested $37 million in the infrastructure for streets, utilities and grading,” Terrell said. “Developer improvements are reaching $300 million in that area with 3,200 jobs on just under 400 acres – $531 million in salaries – $6 million as revenue to the airport not including any of the taxes that are generated. Now, translate that 400 acres into 6,000 acres and that will give you an idea of some of what can be accomplished on the airport.”
DFW does future planning centering on airport operations and land use, and Terrell described future plans for the airport.
“We have 18,000 acres on the entire airport, and we’ve identified about 6,000 of those acres for development,” he said. “We’ve retained 12,000 that will take us as far into the future as one can imagine, and by the time you reach the future that this can accommodate, we’ll probably be landing in hovercrafts or ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ kinds of things where you’ll just be transported onto the airport.”
DFW’s next big project is Southgate Plaza located in front of their rental car facility which falls within the City of Euless.
“It’s going to be a mixed-usage development,” Terrell said. “We are getting ready to construct a 150,000 square foot consolidated headquarters where we are moving a great deal of our forces on site and into that building.
“We are also building a Hyatt Place Hotel, with 137-rooms. It is a $92 million project which will be owned by the airport.”
They will break ground on the Hyatt in May, 2013.
“We will have about six retail and restaurant pads that are going to be located at this spot and some future office locations,” Terrell said. “We are also moving the U.S. Postal Service on the west side of the airport to this site; it’s going to be a lot more easily accessible; it’s also a destination that will draw folks into this location. We have over 4,400 customers a day into the rental car facility, and this is going to provide a great opportunity for them for business meetings where (now) they have to go off to all parts to have those meetings.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 March 2013 13:48
Written by Phil Cerroni
Motorists traveling State Highway 183, also known as Airport Freeway, are one step closer to traveling more efficiently on additional lanes. The Texas Department of Transportation recently issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for development of the SH 183 Managed Lanes Project, which spans from SH 121 to I-35E and could include connecting roadways, pending legislative approval.
“This is a major step in relieving traffic and improving safety for Texans on a highway that has remained relatively unchanged since 1973,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. “We are excited about the possibility of accelerating the construction schedule of the project and providing a high-quality product at the greatest value.”
Through a Comprehensive Development Agreement, TxDOT will partner with a company chosen from the RFQ to design, build and maintain the SH 183 Managed Lanes Project. Phase 1 of the project, estimated at $1.4 billion, will replace deteriorating roadway structures and add one to two managed toll lanes in both directions of travel. The project will improve mobility by expanding 13.5 miles of the corridor in the western portion of Dallas County and eastern portion of Tarrant County.
State Highway 183 ranks as #47 on the state’s list of 100 Most Congested Roadways. One quarter of all Metroplex traffic travels the corridor daily. Current traffic volumes on SH 183 average between 120,000 to 168,000 vehicles per day; 50 percent more vehicles than the highway is designed to carry.
A Request for Proposals will be issued after completion of the RFQ process later this year with first phase of construction planned to start in 2014.
Source: Texas Department of Transportation
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 March 2013 13:47
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
A question in the mind of anyone driving down either Hwy 183 or Hwy 114 is what does the City of Irving plan to do with the dried-out dustbowl that used to be Texas Stadium? More importantly, when are they going to do anything with it?
The City has already created renderings for what is being called the “Signature Bridge,” a sweeping, cotemporary structure that will connect the 78 acres remaining from the former Texas Stadium grounds to 218 acres of virtually empty land across Hwy 114. Besides providing easy access to the DART station for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, the bridge gives the City the option of creating one, massive district.
Residents will be happy to know that they should not have to pay a cent for this shiny, new bridge.
“This bridge is being built with funds that were generated through the use of the site – ticket holders and that type of thing – and those funds have already been collected,” Doug Janeway, Irving’s Chief Development Officer for Real Estate and Development assured.
Combined with the DART station, the Signature Bridge will be the principle mans of getting in and out of the new area.
“Since the rail is on the frontage there, you can't really cross the rail other than across this bridge,” Janeway said.
The City also plans to connect two neighboring lots of 69 and 85 acres respectively in order to make them part of this development. For example, recently installed high tension wires were placed high enough so that there is clearance for a bridge to go in from the existing Texas Plaza Bridge to the these vacant lots.
“All the deals we've had with TxDOT and the utility companies have been geared towards maintaining good connections for roadways,” Janeway said. “Every day that they get closer to completing the entire infrastructure around the stadium site, that site becomes more valuable and more developable.”
The bridge, which is planned as part of Phase II of the Diamond Interchange, is cued behind a handful of current and pending TxDOT projects in the area, including the ongoing I-635 improvements and future work to widen Hwy 183. For the time being, the stadium site is being used to stage equipment and materials for these enterprises.
Nestled directly in the middle of North and South Irving, the new “Diamond District” will have the opportunity to be a new and unique part of Irving, and although the City does not know exactly how it wants to develop the land, it will be a massive expansion. When connected, the four adjacent lots will equal about 500 acres of usable space.
Neither the bridge nor the district will be realized for a number of years, however. Phase II also includes improvements on Hwy 183, Hwy 114, and Spur 348, and Janeway said that it would be wise to consider this project like the I-635 expansion – a five year deal. The City is not letting the long timeframe slow down their preparations, however.
“Out next steps are to move forward with the final design and continue to partner with TxDOT to bring the whole project to fruition through our connections with the State, RTC and all the various regional players,” Janeway continued. “This will serve as a gateway to Irving and as a catalyst for what's going on out there.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 March 2013 11:29
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