I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and you’re ready to make 2014 a great year. This month, as we start the New Year, I’d like to provide an assessment of the year gone by and a look to the plans for the future.
What are some highlights for Highland Village last year, and how will they affect the city in 2014?
We are seeing evidence of a strong business climate in Highland Village. Over the last year 27 new businesses have opened with only ten closing, and many of those were corporate decisions. We recently held the ground breaking for Whole Foods in The Shops at Highland Village where Mark Dixon, Southwest Regional Vice President of Whole Foods Market stated their sights were set on Highland Village for several years. The ground breaking of the natural foods grocer brought those plans to fruition. Whole Foods Market, scheduled to open late summer 2014, builds every store to fit the local area and puts a strong emphasis on community involvement. The Shops at Highland Village is more than 90 percent occupied, with new businesses now open like Luke’s Locker, Lucy Voss, Decor to Your Door and Brightside Shoe Boutique. Several new businesses are scheduled to open soon, including Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria, Pig Tails & Crewcuts and Capital One Bank.
Road construction seemed to be a never-ending issue for us. This past year the widening of FM 407 was finally completed and it’s made a tremendous difference. The traffic is flowing now and the economic growth continues east on FM 407 in the Marketplace at Highland Village with the opening of Sola Salons, Cadence Cycles, Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More and Salon Vincent. Local, independently owned businesses have chosen Highland Village to open or expand their business. Rita’s Italian Ice and ATA Martial Arts Academy, both owned by Highland Village residents, recently opened in Tartan Village. Roots Coffeehouse opened last spring in The District of Highland Village offering free trade artisan coffee, pastries and live music. Fresco’s Mexicana opened in October in Celebrations Village bringing upscale Mexican cuisine and live music. Just a little further east is Seven Mile Cafe, specializing in “breakfast, brunch and lunch, with an espresso bar, cage free eggs, organic milk and lots of vegan options.” And in the Highland Village Town Center, Peter’s Pizzeria serves up New Jersey-style pizza and pasta. Peter’s Pizzeria is a BYOB eatery so visit their next door neighbor, City Wines and Spirits, for a bottle of wine and enjoy a glass of red with your pasta.
The 35Express project has begun which means road construction is still going to be an issue for us. We were concerned about protecting our biggest park asset, Copperas Branch Park, and staff worked diligently through the process. We received a fair mitigation for the loss of park property and use of the park for several years as TxDOT stages at the site to build the new bridge across the lake and expand the Interstate.
We also completed two major projects impacting the transportation in our city; the widening of Briarhill Boulevard and the installation of a traffic signal at FM 2499 and Live Oak. Our street department worked quickly through the summer months to widen Briarhill Boulevard and add turning lanes to ease the congestion experienced during school drop off and pick up times. And the signal light at FM 2499 and Live Oak was needed to allow our Chapel Hills and Rolling Hills residents’ ease of access in and out of their subdivision.
We just approved the funding source for the development of Doubletree Ranch Park. The park will be developed into a soccer facility, a pavilion and natural habitat and walking trails. We were able to utilize the Copperas Park mitigation funds along with the funds from our 4B sales tax to develop this park in its entirety instead of approaching it in phases. Doubletree Ranch Park is an historical landmark for our community and I’m proud we’ll be able to keep the beauty of the area intact and still provide a much needed sports and recreation use for our community.
In a time when we are hearing a lot about the financial troubles of cities across the country, I am pleased to say Highland Village is financially strong. In fact, Standard & Poors recently assigned us its AA+ long-term rating, stating the stable outlook reflects their view of our city management’s historical commitment to maintaining very strong reserve levels, strong budget flexibility and liquidity.
Parks and recreation improvements were at the forefront last year. We’ve completed a trail from Lions Club Park over to Doubletree Ranch Park and it is a joy to see so many of our residents utilizing the new trail. Work is nearing completion on Lions Club Park with improvements to the playground area and the park area. And we completed new parking areas for Unity Park which is our community gathering place and very busy on the weekends.
The annual Lions Club Balloon Festival moved last year to its new location at Unity Park. We were concerned how this new location would accommodate this event but it turned out to be the best festival we’ve held yet. So many of our residents were able to walk to the event and those that drove from out of the area were in the heart of our community to experience everything Highland Village has to offer. Many told me the move made the festival a true community event. I look forward to holding the festival at this location again this year on the third weekend in August.
How will 2014 differ from 2013?
We continue to focus our efforts on providing superior city services to our residents and the business community. We look forward to the construction of Whole Foods Market and anticipate complementary development to follow.
What challenges and opportunities do you anticipate for Highland Village in 2014?
The 35Express project is going to impact how many of our residents enter and exit our community. It will be a time of frustration as we deal with the road construction. We are fortunate to have the A-train service established as an alternative transportation option for our residents.
We are looking forward to the opening of Whole Foods Market in The Shops at Highland Village and we must remember to patronize the businesses adjacent to the construction area. I have faith that our community will rally around these businesses just as they did for those along FM 407.
In 2013 we did an excellent job of combating West Nile Virus in our community. After the record outbreak of West Nile cases in 2012, city staff took a proactive approach to fighting the source of mosquito breeding areas with the purchase of traps, foggers and prevention communication to our residents. We were fortunate there were no WNV virus cases in Highland Village. We cannot let our guard down as we move into 2014 and must continue to act proactively in protecting ourselves from WNV.
What are some of the ways residents can contribute to their community in 2014?
We have many volunteer opportunities available to our residents – from serving on boards and commissions to volunteering their time with the Highland Village Police Department. Last year we initiated the Public Art Advisory Board to help us solicit, acquire and place art in public places within our city. We also encourage our residents to shop our community. We have tools in place to assist at the HVBA website, www.thehvba.com, it is our community’s online business directory. We encourage our local businesses to submit their information to this free online resource. Residents can check the site for any type of business or service they need and do business with a fellow resident.
What are some of the city developments and projects residents can look forward to this year?
We continue to move quickly on trail cons
truction and improvements. We are working on Castlewood Trail which will connect City Trail with the western portion of our city via a tunnel under FM 2499. A new parking area will be developed along Brazos Boulevard for the users of Brazos Park which is very active with flag football leagues. We are also initiating improvements to our water and sewer system and expanding the system to the northwest to serve the residents of Brooks Court and users of Pilot Knoll Park. And this year we will make street improvements on Highland Village Road from the intersection of Brazos Boulevard to I-35E.
What are your hopes for Highland Village in the New Year?
We celebrated Highland Village’s 50th anniversary last year and held a gala to commemorate the milestone. We put together a video capturing our resident’s memories over the last 50 years. One thing I learned from our celebration is Highland Village is a tight-knit community. From the beginning we’ve pitched in to help each other, whether in need or to welcome a new member to our community. We each have our areas of interest, our own beliefs and goals but when it comes to sharing of ourselves I’ve found we can always count on our neighbor. That is what makes Highland Village a special community and one that I’m grateful to call home.
We are a safe community, the safest in north Texas, and this designation did not come easily. Our Police Department has worked hard to educate and partner with the community in crime prevention and awareness. It is my hope that we continue this great relationship and that our residents feel secure in their neighborhoods and homes.
And it is my hope that our city, our residents and our businesses have a healthy and prosperous year.
What resolutions are you making for 2014?
Personally, I resolve to be more obedient to God. It is my desire to continue to follow Christ’s example of service through volunteering to help others in our community. It is important we cherish the time we have with each other and make happy memories. And I want to take better care of myself by eating healthy food, exercising and working to lose weight.