It must be about 10 years ago that I first heard about the possibility of a hotel being built in Flower Mound. Plans were being drawn, hoteliers were being contacted and rumors were abundant. It was going to be built on the west side; no, the east end; or, maybe in the Lakeside area.
Each time the subject came up, fewer and fewer residents believed it would ever happen. If you were here during those years, depending on your opinion, you either loved the idea, or you hated it (in our town, few people are on the fence about anything). Nevertheless, opinions didn’t seem to matter, since the concept always evaporated before it got to a vote. Well, about 6 months ago, along comes a guy named Scott Tarwater, a man with a hotel development résumé that would impress Conrad Hilton.
Born and raised in Texas, Tarwater spent several years in Springfield, Missouri, working for, and learning from, John Q. Hammonds, a legend in the hotel development and hospitality management business.
“I was fortunate to have him as my mentor,” Tarwater said, adding, “I had the hotelier of the world, with unbelievable vision, and I rode shotgun with him every day for many years.”
Some years ago, while living in Grapevine, Scott helped bring the Embassy Suites Hotel to fruition. He’s been a Flower Mound resident since last year and is currently the Executive Vice-president of DePalma Hotels & Resorts, based in Arlington, Texas.
During a recent interview, Scott talked about the first time he heard about a plan to build a hotel in Flower Mound. “Several years ago, while in Los Angeles at a business conference, Pat Miller, a key hotel executive, who lives in Flower Mound, said she’d met a bright young man who works for the town.”
She was talking about Mark Wood, our town’s Economic Development Director. “I told her that I had an affinity for the Grapevine-Flower Mound area, so I would absolutely be interested in meeting him. I found him to be smart, articulate and knowledgeable about the industry. I was also impressed with how proud he was of his community as he laid out some ideas about the future.”
Scott kept that impression in the back of his mind as the town leaders began considering a hotel. “After moving to Flower Mound, Pat called and said she heard I was back in the area. She also said that the town was still interested in building a hotel; this time, on the River Walk property.”
When he invited some of the key executives of the company to see the River Walk, where the hotel is being proposed, they were very impressed. Scott said one of them commented, “Wow! We heard what you said on the phone, but to be here and see the magnitude of it and see the dirt flying, you know, we’re in!”
Working with Tim Lavender, President of Rainier Medical Investments, Scott began to realize that the hotel idea was taking shape. Obviously a Tim Lavender fan, Scott remarked, “When we first met and he explained what his vision was and the new attitude of the community, along with the expertise of Councilman Mark Wise and Town Manager Jimmy Stathatos, I felt that Mr. Hammond would have been so ashamed of me if I didn’t act on this. Besides, you like to deal with towns that have civic leadership and understand and appreciate the economic benefits of a plan.”
We talked about Chapter 380 of the Local Government Code, which authorizes municipalities to offer incentives designed to promote economic development such as commercial and retail projects. Specifically, it provides for offering loans and grants of city funds or services at little or no cost to promote state and local economic development and to stimulate business and commercial activity.
When I asked Scott how the 380 helps, he said it’s a vital tool. “Without their assistance, projects like this don’t get done. Part of the beauty of the 380 agreement is the rebate, if you will, called the hotel occupancy tax. This one is for 8 years.” He added that it will generally be consumers from other states coming here to spend their tax dollars in Flower Mound. Moreover, he said all of the 380 agreements that have been associated with these hotel projects “function exactly to the letter of the law. Never has any one of them ever defaulted or failed.”
The brand name of the hotel will be revealed in December, but, it’s likely to be Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott or Starwood, according to Tarwater. With a footprint of 100,000 square feet on 2.5 acres, the 5-story hotel will feature about 145 rooms and a 6,100-square-foot conference center. “This will have all the sophistication of the larger hotels, and broadband conference will be available,” he said.
Additionally, it will include an exercise room, indoor pool, a restaurant and numerous other amenities. The enclosed parking garage will offer up to 600 spaces, some of which will be reserved for hotel guests, while the rest will be free to those visiting the River Walk complex.
The hotel, which will be in close proximity to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Flower Mound, will employ about 100 people. Scott emphasized the aesthetic features, “There are very strict landscape covenants that we are proud to adhere to. I am a lover of landscaping and will probably go overboard doing that.”
It’s easy to see why Scott Tarwater is so successful in his profession. He’s distinguished without being pompous and he’s gifted with a personality that makes him instantly likeable.
“The community has no idea yet of all the economic benefits this will bring to their town,” he said, adding, “It’s like an annuity with dividends, year after year.”
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.