Flower Mound voters to decide fate of River Walk improvements

The decision to fund improvements inside The River Walk at Central Park development will be determined at the ballot box this fall.

Council members Monday night unanimously approved the creation of a Public Improvement District (PID) and set a special election for voter approval of the PID on November 5, 2013.

The River Walk ground breaking by developer Centurion American was held on August 16. The development will be built whether voters ultimately approve the PID, or not.

The River Walk PID is targeted to fund enhanced amenities—such as water features, lighting, concession kiosks, a 250-seat historic-style chapel for meetings, enlarging the amphitheater, and performance and artistic features– within the River Walk. The projected enhancements for the Central Park section and overall development total $13.3 million.

“We would like the River Walk development to become a regional destination pulling people from communities across the area,” said Flower Mound Mayor Tom Hayden.

The council’s approval was the most recent step to create the PID for the 158-acres of the development. The initial written request was submitted on July 12 by then owners, the Baptist Foundation, which was then verbally requested at the regular July 15 Town Council meeting. A special council meeting was held on July 29 to satisfy the required 15-day notification prior to a public hearing on an agenda item during a regularly scheduled council meeting. Council approved a resolution for a public hearing on the PID during the August 19 meeting.

During the public hearing section concerning the PID, misinformation about the history and specifics about a PID presented by blogger Renee Doyle were corrected by town staff and Centurion American President Mehrdad Moayedi.

In addition, the answer to a question by Marilyn Jenkins about the water in the river walk drew laughter when G&A Consultants Project Engineer Bobby Dollak said: “Water comes from God.”

The actual answer is that the river walk will have two wells fed by the Trinity Aquifer under an existing agreement with the City of Dallas.

Jenkins read a headline from the Wall Street Journal that municipal bonds may drop as the economy and stock market recover and questioned what impact the PID-related bonds will have on the town’s AA rating.

It was again explained that a PID is based on the developer issuing bonds, on his reputation, to private investors, such as banks, insurance companies or corporations. The PID has no impact on the town’s bond rating, because the bonds are not municipal bonds. The PID bonds will be repaid through assessments on only property owners in the River Walk itself; not Flower Mound tax payers. The funds will be dispersed to reimburse the developer after reaching pre-determined infrastructure (streets, water and sewer) milestones, which provides the developer to turn around and use that amount for development enhancements.

Finally, Jenkins admonished the council to do their job of protecting town residents and questioned why the developer and the council members should be trusted.

“I wear two hats when I sit up here,” said council member Steve Dixon. “I’m a resident and I also represent all the residents of Flower Mound. I would never vote for something as a member of the council if I didn’t believe it was good for me and the other residents of the town.”

Community activists Mark Glover and Carol Kohanke both said the River Walk and PID should be supported. Kohanke said the council has demonstrated they should be trusted and urged them to create the PID and approve the special election.

Moayedi said he felt the need to address the questioning of his professional reputation.

“I have 17 other developments in Texas now and all of them are successful,” he said. “In fact, I had the first PID in Texas, out in Trophy Club, and you can drive there to see it. We [Centurion American] have been successful with both MMD’s (Municipal Management District) and PID’s and it’s because we draw quality businesses and investors because of our reputation.”

Former mayor Jody Smith reminded everyone that the town has a history of putting issues before the voters to determine land usage and encouraged the council to vote to create the PID and then allow residents to vote on the issue in a special election.

A presentation of enhanced amenities artistic renderings by commercial developer Jeff Blackard, the developer of Adriatica in McKinney and other successful upscale developments, highlighted updates to be outlined in the finalized developer agreement.

Long time coming

The original concept to create a “downtown” for Flower Mound began in 2006. Existing ponds east of The Forums residential development gave genesis to the creation of a river walk amenity within a central park setting plus residential and commercial development.

After more than 20-plus meetings of boards, commissions and citizens, the public and council members gave final approval for the required zoning ordinances in 2008. Then, the 2009 economic crash halted progress and sent the original developer and its eight-phase project into foreclosure.

To date, of the original development components, only the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and the 311-unit Park Central apartments on Morriss Road have been completed and occupied. A new Market Street supermarket at Cross Timbers and FM 2499 is under construction and the Town Council just approved construction incentives to build a La Madeleine restaurant north of Cross Timbers.

Centurion American took over the project in July and is anxious to move forward. Ground was broken on the signature river walk feature on Aug. 16.

Although the overall concept as approved in 2008 is a basic outline for the development, Centurion American’s President Merhdad Moayedi has a different aesthetic and decreased density plan that require small modifications to the existing zoning ordinances. In addition, the developer is looking to reduce the construction stages from eight to only three phases.

“Basically, the original Phases 1 through 3 have already been paid for and completed,” said G & A Consultant’s Senior Project Engineer Bobby Dollak. “Centurion wants to condense the remaining five phases down to two, which may overlap [in time]. They plan to put the excavation, grading and re-routing of water to create the river walk amenity at the front of Phase 2 with the [central] park, the residential building and all the needed infrastructure. The commercial—retail, entertainment and restaurant—will be Phase 3. But, work on those buildings won’t have to wait until all the Phase 2 building is completed, because that infrastructure will be there.”

The river walk’s grading and re-routing of water should take six to nine months to finish and the entire amenity should be completed in about 18 months. An additional six months to finish landscaping and the trail/sidewalks will mean it’ll be about 24-months before the north-south river walk will be “wedding picture” ready. It will include six waterfalls of varying heights totaling a 30-foot drop. And, unlike the original “Mediterranean-urban” concept, Centurion American’s aesthetic is a more nature-based, woodland setting.

“All the approved flood plane requirements, dimensions, hydraulics and flow specifications—everything outlined in the original engineering details– are the same,” said Dollak. “We don’t need to make any zoning or ordinance changes for this. We can work with [town] staff for these concept changes.”

Moayedi’s new concept for the development is less formal than the original. It also seeks to decrease density by eliminating the original eight-story central condominium building, in addition to changing the northeastern residential block of four-story buildings with 400 to 500 apartments and condos above first-floor retail units plus an attached townhouse section, in favor of 97 single-family detached two-story “villa-style” homes.

As defined by Centurion America, the villas will be 30-feet wide by 80-feet deep with two-car, rear entry garages from alleyways behind the homes. The front entry is an urban-style stoop adjacent to the sidewalk and there will be 10-feet between each two-story townhouse-style home serving as side yards. There will be multiple styles available with custom-style amenities. They will cost between $350,000 and $500,000 depending on the upgrades selected.

The northeastern structured parking garage required for the higher-density population numbers will also be eliminated.

“The original parking intensity was based on 16 parking units, but that kind of DFW [airport] parking vaults are no longer needed for this reduced density,” said Doug Powell, executive director of  Flower Mound’s Development Services. “In the beginning, the original plan had 1,800 [residential] units, then it dropped to 1,250 and now it’s decreased below that. Not only will parking garages be reduced—which are expensive, costing about $10,000 per parking slot—only about four, but it’ll change the TIA (transportation impact assessment) numbers. That may also end up meaning that Morriss Road may not need to be expanded to six lanes following the new TIA.”

These changes will need to be approved by both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council. The addition of villa-style homes also requires approval.

“Back in 2007, these zero-lot line detached homes weren’t prevalent, but there will be some in the Lakeside development,” said Powell. “Also, back when the original concept featured the eight-story center building, vertical massing—the step-down view—meant not placing a townhouse next to such a tall building; that wouldn’t look right. With all the buildings planned to be no more than four-stories, these zero lot-line homes are an acceptable new option in housing.”

The section south of the Park Central apartments will change from multi-family, four-story loft apartments and first-floor retail outlets to three- or four-story buildings with 367 multi-family units, open parking places– replacing a parking garage– and a resident clubhouse and pool facility.

A proposed change in the commercial/retail/entertainment western half of the development would correct the inability of diners to see the river walk from the development’s restaurants.

“By creating an ‘S’ curve in the lower end of River Walk Drive, we can create 3,000-square feet patio restaurants overlooking the water and 6,000-square feet restaurants,” said Dollak. “This will enhance the entertainment area. Also, there’s a possibility to add a movie house with first-floor retail on the east side of the river [walk] in what is now a residential block.”

Dollak said that the mix of residential options, the parks, the river walk, the entertainment options—including a 2,500 seat outdoor amphitheater for live performances and concerts— will make the River Walk at Central Park a destination location.

“This development will draw people from the entire North Texas region,” he said. “It will have enough attractions—in addition to the proximity to the hospital—that it’s very possible a boutique-style hotel could locate here, too.”

For more information about the River Walk PID and the project in general, visit www.flower-mound.com/riverwalkpid.

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