By Matt Goodman
Killeen Daily Herald
Recognizing the opportunity to take advantage of Killeen's rapid growth, an Austin-based real estate firm is spearheading a large-scale retail development that will abut Skylark Field in East Killeen.
Officials say the project is not unlike Market Heights, which propelled a nearly 40 percent jump in Harker Heights' sales tax revenue since it opened in July 2008.
La Cascata, the Killeen development, is planned to be "multi-use," which means that office space, a hotel, restaurants and residences will eventually join the retail centers.
The development will progress in phases: retail stores come first; the restaurants, offices and residences will come next; and the hotel will follow. Though planning is under way, construction is unlikely to begin before 2011.
"We want to bring growth in the area but not for sake of the growth," said Gary Davis, president of First Advisers Inc., the company heading the project. "We want to do it the right way."
An investment partnership affiliate of First Advisers owns 200 acres west of Skylark Field north of where the Stan Schlueter Loop cuts under U.S. Highway 190.
This is where the company is planning to build La Cascata, though officials are quick to note that the project is in the planning stages; nothing is set in stone other than the ownership of the land.
The first phase is planned to cover 150,000 to 200,000 square feet of pure retail space. Total available retail space in the project is about 560,000 square feet, Davis said.
Single-family and multi-family residential space should start cropping up shortly after construction on the retail portion begins, which will not be before 2011.
Over the next five to six years after the first phase begins, other uses of the development - office space, restaurants and the hotel – are planned to begin construction.
But these are initial plans, Davis said, and commitments will depend on if the market stabilizes and recovers.
"We can all try to kid ourselves, but the uncertainty about the economy and … all of the indicators having not continued to perform as they had in the past has had a lot of people either not willing to proceed or not be in a position to proceed," Davis said.
First Advisers has also worked closely with the city of Killeen to coincide with the city's goals of responsible growth.
Land part of TIRZ
The land that First Advisers plans to build on is part of the city's Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, or TIRZ.
When a developer builds within a TIRZ, the city sets aside some taxes from the project to be reinvested within those zones to promote additional growth and pay for projects that will improve the quality of life in the area.
"Because it's in the TIRZ, the revenues from that project would flow into the TIRZ and go to the benefit of downtown," said John Crutchfield, Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce president.
Downtown is also part of the city's TIRZ, so it would also benefit from the project.
But these discussions are still covered with uncertainty.
The economy, as Davis noted, must recover so anchor businesses - typically large retail stores that will commit a store to the development, therefore giving smaller businesses more reason to locate within the project - will sign on the dotted line.
"We're still discussing and there is no agreement because the reality is that the developer has to have the financial capacity and feel like the market will award him for doing this project and he hasn't arrived at that point yet," Crutchfield said.
Contact Matt Goodman at email@example.com or (254)501-7550.