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McDougal companies thinks big; directs major redevelopment project in Texas.



Having listened to the skeptics and the economic forecasters, McDougal Companies decided to rely on its own instincts when deciding to take on what it believes is the largest redevelopment project by a private company in U.S. history.

Construction began on a 329-acre tract of land between downtown Lubbock, Texas, and the campus of Texas Tech University. McDougal's planned community, to be called "The Centre," will include multiple apartment complexes, a four-star hotel and conference center, single-family homes, retail shops and restaurants. Its intent is to revitalize what the local newspaper said its residents have described as "the Tech ghetto."

"We've talked to the experts and to consultants in land planning, and in urban renewal. They said it'll cost too much. They tried to talk us out of it," said Mike McDougal, President, McDougal Properties, whose Lubbock-based company began to research this project five years ago.

"We've been in Lubbock for 30 years. We have intimate knowledge of this town and its history. No one knows this town better than we do. We know the market. We know what will work here. This is a dream situation. Seven or eight years from now, people will look back and realize it all makes sense.

"Our competition is glad we're doing what we're doing. This kind of revitalization has been the goal of the Lubbock political infrastructure for the past 20 years. It just never came to be."

McDougal said he is receiving full support from the community, especially those at Texas Tech, the third largest university in the state in terms of enrollment, which he expects will see a boost in the number of apartments it could then have available for its growing student population.

McDougal said the first building scheduled to be completed will be a 240-unit apartment that will serve as student resident housing and be ready for occupancy by fall 2003.

The Perfect Location

The land-locked parcel on which "The Centre" will be built is shaped like a horizontal rectangle. It is approximately seven short city blocks from north to south and about seven long city blocks from east to west.

The campus is on the west border and downtown Lubbock rests on the east border. An elevated highway is under construction along the north border. Broadway Avenue--the city's main thoroughfare--runs along the south border.

Gaining ownership of each building that existed on the land, a project that began three years ago, and subsequently tearing down each of those buildings in the neighborhood officially known as North Overton has been a major and dramatic undertaking.

"This was an extremely depressed, crime-ridden area," said McDougal, who estimated that one-fourth of all crime took place in this part of the city. "It was an area where we couldn't just go in and buy one or two pieces of property to rebuild, or one entire block, because we'd still have the [areas stigma] to overcome. You have to buy everything and start completely over."

As of June 1, 2002, McDougal Companies has purchased more than 400 homes and 1,400 apartment units within the parcel, which McDougal said satisfies about 80 percent of the overall acquisition goal. He said 97 percent of the occupants in those buildings were renters.

McDougal said initially there was some concern by residents that, when displaced, they would have nowhere to live.

But McDougal said McDougal Companies, which owns 3,500 apartment units in other parts of Lubbock, easily found homes or apartments for the residents who had to relocate.

Those from that group who were living in rental assistance housing received some financial support from the City of Lubbock.

"It's been a smooth transition," said McDougal.

He said his company purchased properties one at a time, using property tax appraisals as a baseline to determine the value of each. McDougal Companies employs 30 real estate agents in Lubbock, so again, it relied on the expertise of those agents in closing the deals.

"Who better to know the value of those properties than the agents who worked there," McDougal said.

Supporting the University

McDougal estimated that construction of the 17-story hotel would begin within the year. He said more than one major hotel chain is bidding on the project. That hotel, he said, also could serve as a small-scale convention center, something that does not exist today in Lubbock. The hotel also would serve as a training facility for students in Texas Tech's hotel/restaurant management program.

He said no other major hotel is within 10 miles of the campus.

"This would be the perfect place for a hotel that can serve the university," he said.

McDougal said the plan also includes the construction of approximately 450 single-family homes. He said construction will begin this year on several restaurants, which would be part of a five-acre common shopping area, located directly across the street from campus.

McDougal said the university, which is the city's No. 1 employer, has expressed interest in buying some of the land so that they can add a parking lot.

"Five years ago, we looked at this project as one that would take about 10 years," he said. "At this point, we are ahead of that schedule."

Also on McDougal's timetable is the expansion of the university's population. Currently, it has approximately 24,000 undergraduate students and additionally has about 1,500 students in the school's medical and law schools. Texas Tech is the third largest university in Texas behind University of Texas (50,000 enrollment) and Texas A&M (45,000 enrollment).

"Those other two are pretty much full," said McDougal. "Texas Tech is gaining in prominence. I would expect it to reach near 30,000 undergraduate in the next couple of years.

"It's a fascinating project, redeveloping what basically is a blighted neighborhood," said Chris Van Wagenen, Business Editor of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper. "It will create a seamless transition between what is a beautiful campus at Texas Tech and the most crime-ridden part of our area.

"I admire [McDougal Properties] for doing it. It probably should have been done long ago. This is one of those stories where, as they say, `a local boy has done good.'"

"It's going to raise the value of all the property in that area. With all the crime, there really has been a stigma that has been attached to building in that area. But when that first apartment community building goes up, it's really going to go a long way in helping to lift that stigma, and get even more builders to come to Lubbock."

Paul R. Bergeron III is Director of Communications for NAA. He can be reached at 703/797-0606 or e-mail
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Comment:McDougal companies thinks big; directs major redevelopment project in Texas.
Author:Bergeron, Paul R., III
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Jul 1, 2002
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