Denison Development Alliance Summit – January 18, 2019
Over 300 small business owners, residents, and community leaders met Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn Event Center to hear a progress report from the Denison Development Alliance, government officials, city leaders, service organizations, and education leadership. For the past several years, Denison has focused on the quality of life in Denison. It is this emphasis on quality over quantity that has been at least partially responsible for recent growth in the area.
Quality of Life is a Team Denison effort that incorporates participation from city leadership, DDA, county officials, Grayson College, local schools, and area employers. Determining needs and finding ways to provide solutions is priority number one. When all of these entities work together with one focus in mind, amazing things can be accomplished. So – what is quality of life exactly?
Denison mayor, Janet Gott, defined quality of life as affordability, outstanding medical care, access to things residents want to do, excellent school systems, and access to places to worship. After visiting with many new residents to the area over the past years, she discovered that the deciding factor was all of these things plus four seasons, a small-town feel and the friendliness of the people.
Real estate agent and former Denison Mayor, Mr. Ronnie Cole, provided statistics on the growth in housing Denison has experienced in recent years. Approximately 1,000 families moved in the Denison area over the past 5 years. New construction permits in both single-family homes and multifamily projects are up dramatically. The development of Gateway Village has brought high quality new homes to the area that fit within the desired affordability range. In 2018 3 new multifamily projects resulted in an additional 500 units for residents who prefer a lower maintenance lifestyle.
Mr. Cole went on to say that Denison had experienced a 7% growth in employment during the past 4 years and this creates a need for housing. This has resulted in increasing property values, increasing number of sales ovr previous years, with days on the market at about 42 days to contract and 29 days to closing. The current listing inventory is about a 3-and-a-half-month supply, which is very low.
Aaron Graham, VP of Sales and Marketing with Highland Homes, discussed the extensive research the company performs before deciding to start a project in a new location. Highland Homes builds single family homes all over Texas and chose Denison for their next site because of the emphasis on quality of life. Mr. Graham indicated that Highland Homes prefers to build in master planned communities and Gateway Village offers the lifestyle amenities they are looking for when deciding on a new project. Highland Homes built 18 homes in Denison during 2018. County Judge, Bill Magers, discussed new traffic projects one of which would include restructuring of Spur 503 entrance to Hwy 75 which will result in better access to Gateway Village.
Other housing initiatives discussed included a 2,950-acre Master planned community, Mantua, in Van Alstyne. The project calls for multiple villages with 2000 single family homes, 463 commercial lots and 175 office units, 115 acres of mixed use and 274 acres of lakes and creeks. The project will have five miles of frontage on Hwy 75. Risland Homes will be the anchor builder but the project will be open to other builders as well. Target date for starting Phase One with 241 lots is June 2019.
Also mentioned, is a master planned community on Hwy 84 near Grandpappy Marina, which will adjoin Lake Texoma. Schuler Development is at work on Preston Harbour, a 3,000-acre mixed use community. The company plans to build a hotel, followed by housing, retail and office space. The property has 9 miles of water frontage and with that comes the right to have 1,000 boat slips. No date for the beginning of construction was mentioned.
City officials pointed out the need for continued work on infrastructures and several projects are scheduled for 2019. Donna Dow, Main Street Director, reported that the Streetscape Project is moving along nicely and showed conceptional drawings of a pedestrian friendly downtown area. Mrs. Dow pointed out that the improvements will also make the downtown ADA handicap accessible, which it is not now. The initiative to renovate and restore the facades of downtown buildings continues.
A vibrant downtown
With the opening of Gateway Village and other development along the Hwy 75 corridor, keeping the downtown area vibrant is also a major concern. Mexican restaurant Rustico opened in 2018 bringing a high-quality dining anchor to the downtown area.
TRYincubator will open an all in one, plug and play, food court to the downtown area. This innovative approach has a core objective of allowing restaurant entrepreneurs, especially culinary students from Grayson College, an opportunity to test market their ideas in seven mini-kitchens all under one roof. The objective is to bring new locally owned restaurants to the downtown area so residents can lunch, shop in the afternoon, and enjoy dinner and entertainment in the evening.
The RailYard currently has six savory eateries and one beer garden scheduled to open as soon as the renovations to the building at 507 W. Main Street are complete. The upstairs of the building will have three lofts available.
County Judge Bill Magers reported that in addition to the restructure of Spur 503, work has begun on widening Hwy 691 from Hwy 75 to 131. Also planned is expansion of Hwy 691 east to Texoma Parkway. On the radar is widening Hwy 75 to make it compliant for Interstate status. Judge Magers also pointed out that Grayson County is in a unique position of controlling the assets needed for thoroughfare expansion. These assets include control of surface and ground water, clean air, a zoned airport outside of DFW air space, tollway authority remains in Grayson County, access to Federal Highway Funding, sufficient power and ability to expand and in the DFW growth path along 289 and 75 corridors. These are all vital assets that other communities in North Texas cannot control.
Employment and Training
Higher education is another critical need for the future growth of Denison and the entire Texoma area. Mark Anderson, Plant Manger of Emerson Process Management addressed the need for skilled workers. Workers who have been with them 40 years are retiring and those workers need to be replaced. Toward this end, The Advanced Manufacturing Program was established few year ago and has grown significantly. Currently 80 students are participating in the program. In the 2017-2018 school year, 42 students were enrolled. In January, Grayson College opened the Advanced Manufacturing Lab — a $1.4 million, 6,500-square-foot facility that serves as the central learning hub for the program’s second-year and third-year students
Dr. Jeremy McMillen, President of Grayson College, said “65% of the jobs in 2020 will require training and education beyond high school”. The college has a new free class for all students that will help them connect, commit and complete. The course places students with mentors to help them connect with a career, commit to that career and complete the course work needed to obtain employment.
Grayson College to open New Teaching Distillery
Dr. McMillen also announced a new Teaching Distillery and an Agriculture Science program that will be available in the near future. Also, in process is taking Grayson College to a 4-year Bachelor degree in nursing. Nursing is another critical employment need for the county and although the 2-year associated nursing degree has been very successful, many hospitals are requiring a percentage of the nurses to have Bachelor degrees. Expanding to a 4-year degree will help fill the future need for nurses in the Texoma area. Dr. McMillen also announced the opening of a new Residence Hall at Grayson College.
Tony Kaai, CEcD, President of the Denison Development Alliance reported that the 14-year effort to get a Starbucks was finally fulfilled! Other new eateries include the new McDonalds at Hwy 75 and Morton Street, a Panda Express across from Walmart, Bon Appetite Y’all in downtown, and a Boston Fish Supreme on Austin Avenue. The Southern Grill is undergoing extensive renovations and will be an up-scale steak restaurant.
Dr. Kin Whittington will be constructing a 36,000 square foot., four-story, state of the art, medical office building on 1.7 acres in the Gateway Village, TX development on the north side of Hwy 691 east of Hwy 75 and Texoma Medical Center. Construction of the medical office facility is scheduled to start in early 2019.
Swagit Productions, which specializes in providing streaming services for government entities will be purchasing a 10,000 square-foot facility on FM 84 that once was the Texoma Medical Center Rehab Center. When it begins operations in early 2019, the facility will start with a staff of 10 with plans to grow to 40 at full build out.
Entertainment and Recreation
Of course, “things to do” is also a key element of quality of life, and the recently announced Heyday and Urban Air will provide some much needed family entertainment venues for the area.
Texoma Health Foundation Park opened in 2018, bringing the community together for a variety of outdoor sports and recreation. Another hike and bike trail project, Katy Trails, will link Denison from North to South along a 3.5 mile trail along the MKT railroad. Eventually the trails will link Waterloo Park, The Park, and Gateway Village.
For Denison, it is all about quality of life.