Remember this name: Cobalt Homes. A Dallas-based urban builder disrupting the urban town home concept with not just aesthetics and quality construction, but an unheard of thoughtfulness — like a sixth sense — to provide buyers comfort and true home livability.

We all love stories about guys who started famous companies at home. In 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded HP in Packard’s Palo Alto garage, now the birthplace of Silicon Valley. In 1976 when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computers, they hand built 50 computers in 30 days from a garage in Cupertino, California. 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were graduate students and started what’s now known as Google from Susan Wojcicki’s garage in September 1998. Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994 as an online bookstore, completely run out of his garage in Bellevue, Washington.

In North Texas, Canadian-born Larry Lacerte started Lacerte Software Corp. in his home in 1978, the first desktop application for general ledger and tax preparation. He sold the business to Intuit Inc. in 1998 for $400 million in cash, with a $200 million takeaway. 

And there’s the CoastOak Group: Gregory McGowan, Joshua Nichols, and Don Carroll. An unusual union of developers, the trio came from private equity backgrounds, Wall Street ones at that: Josh and Don worked for Goldman Sachs. Greg worked for Rockpoint Group and Westbrook Partners.

And like the entrepreneurs mentioned above, when they started their company in 2008, they worked on tables and computers out of an empty home next door to Greg’s residence for three months. They didn’t even have heat for three days.

But these are private equity guys who know how to rough it. They had all worked together at Trammell Crow in the mid 1990s — all except for Joshua, who was still doing championship wrestling in high school, and on his way to Princeton. Even their current office — it has heat — is nestled among the top-tier real estate guys and gals nesting at Harlan Crow’s Old Parkland.

Real estate is their product, but it’s a way different mousetrap. (more…)

Preston Center Task Force Map

The Task Force’s 1,630 acre charge

As CandysDirt.com readers (and likely most all of Dallas) know, Councilwoman Jennifer Gates formed a task force to hire a consultant to tell them how bad traffic and parking are in the Preston Road and Northwest Highway area. Granted the scope of the project is much larger (see map), but this intersection is where the action will be. I just heard today that the consultant has been selected who will deliver suggested solutions for their $350,000 fee.

During the last task force meeting on April 27, it was revealed that they were about $100,000 short and seeking donations from concerned area citizens and businesses needing a tax write-off. The other $250,000 is being fronted by North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTOG).

NCTOG is a voluntary coalition formed from local government representatives from the 16 counties surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth and includes 235 members. NCTOG is a political subdivision formed by the State of Texas in 1966. NCTOG’s mission seems to be to a shared resource to help municipal planning in the region (judging from current job vacancies, traffic management is a large part). Unfortunately their reports and recommendations carry no force so no matter how smart (and right) they are, local governments can ultimately do whatever they want. Funding comes from member dues and local, state and federal government agencies.

The initial data will take 12-18 months to gather and present to the task force. I then easily foresee another 6-12 months of digesting and bandying around various scenarios before crafting a final document to present to the City Council. Or in other words, about two years. Then the work begins to beg, borrow and curry favor to implement whatever recommendations have made it that far. Best guess for seeing a first shovel hit the ground? At least four years from now … if at all.

If at All

  • “If at all” because if Dallas and University Park City Councils are not even supportive enough to fund the study, then surely they’re not anxiously waiting, wallet outstretched, to unleash the millions needed to actually better the area, are they?
  • “If at all” because, as pointed out by Morning News blogger Robert Wilonsky, today’s fracas is a near word-for-word repeat from 1976 which sought (unsuccessfully) to back-zone properties to three stories in an effort to curb development and traffic.
  • “If at all” because two later studies in 1986 and 1989 received little/no action or funding from the city.
  • “If at all” because Mayor Mike Rawlins, faced with overflowing property tax coffers, would rather cut taxes than fix crumbling infrastructure. Infrastructure that’s admittedly underfunded by the Texas Transportation Commission by $2-billion annually in the NCTOG area (I hate taxes too, but I hate crappy roads more).

I think the City Council is more likely to thank the task force for their work before ushering them out with a case of Rice-a-Roni and a year’s supply of Tic Tacs. The anti-development crowd knows the game being played is to stall and starve developers. The death of 1,000 City Council postponements.

Begun in 2014, we will spend over four years pretending this is a difficult and time consuming project. It’s not. In fact, I spent a few hours over a weekend and crafted the poor-man’s Preston Center Traffic and Parking Plan. I have mailed a copy to each member of the city council so that, years from now, I’ll have my big, fat, “I told you so” moment.

Granted my plan is more concise and isn’t full of the pretty sketches of happy, dog-walking models on tree-lined, car-less streets – I’m not good with Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or AutoCAD.  But don’t be fooled, these kinds of images are all just a marketing “show” put on for the tourists.

But the same recommendations on how to fix traffic and parking will be there. Why am I so sure? Because the area surrounding Northwest Highway and Preston Road is finite and so are the solutions. It’s the simple application of math coupled with a little research on traffic management theory. After all, we’re talking physical roadways here, not a TARDIS.

Jon Anderson’s Traffic Plan for Preston Center

Jump for more details.
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