Back to School With Dana Compton

The North Texas Chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) selects a group of commercial real estate professionals every year to go into the trenches and spend nine months together to learn, grow and hopefully have some fun along the way. I am honored to be in the ULI Center for Leadership Class of 2020. I’ll check in on this blog after each class and share with you what I’ve learned. This is my journey and I’m taking you with me. Let’s go!


DAY 2: Economic Development

I was attending the Mid-Cities Greek Festival Preview Dinner later this evening, so I didn’t get to take the train with my Tarrant County-dwelling classmates. Because of this, I noticed a big difference in how my day started, as opposed to the peaceful ride on the TRE. I drove to Deep Ellum, where we had a full day of learning about economic development in the heart of this unique area of Dallas.

The morning was spent at Canton Hall, which is a cool event and music space. Ty Lee, Principal and Dallas Market Leader for Triten Real Estate Partners, led us through the day and kicked us off with a warm welcome to our day.

Ty Lee

Ty Lee

Session 1 – mTAP Kickoff 

As part of this leadership program, we are working in teams to assist the Deep Ellum Foundation through a mini Technical Assistance Panel (mTAP) that focuses on a specific issue facing their community organization. I’m not sure how much I can say about it yet, but I will tell you that it is the vision of reuse of a large site in the Deep Ellum community into a use that will best respond to the community’s needs.

We heard from Stephanie Keller Hudiburg, Executive Director of the Deep Ellum Foundation, who shared with us the results of a recent Strategic Plan completed for the Deep Ellum community. The goals for future development include:

  1. Safety and Security

  2. Appearance

  3. Accessibility and physical connection to downtown and adjacent neighborhoods

  4. Identity and Culture

PRO TIP: When developing a project in Deep Ellum, keep these needs in mind to ensure that your development will be embraced by the community, thus making it a more successful development.

For this particular mTAP project, the community has spoken and would like to see:

  • Greenspace

  • Workforce inclusion

  • Mixed-Income housing

  • Reconnecting the street grid (to include walkability)

  • Public safety component

Our groups include Design, Public Policy, Public Space, Community Outreach and Finance (I’m in the Design Group). We have been tasked to work within our groups and then across our groups to achieve the goals of this project.

My group took a little walk to the site and strolled the perimeter to familiarize ourselves with the surrounding architecture and to get an idea of the existing building stock on the site. More to come on this!

Photos of mTAP Groups working together

Photos of mTAP Groups working together

Session 2 – The ABCs of Local Incentives

Our next speaker was Drew Slone, a Shareholder at Winstead PC and local legal expert in economic development incentives. Ridgemont loves Public Private Partnerships (P3s), so I was excited to hear this presentation and learn more about this project delivery type. We learned the differences between Special Districts, Public Improvement Districts, TIRZ and TIF Districts, as well as tax abatements, Chapter 380 grants and bonds.

Let’s be honest, it’s dry information that can make your eyes glaze over a bit. But Drew made it so interesting by inserting 90s music pictures and lyrics throughout the presentation. It kept our attention for sure!

PRO TIP: Developers have so many different vehicles to explore with public incentives. It can be overwhelming, though, so consult an attorney who specializes in this to be sure you’re taking the best path for your development. Winstead has several attorneys who specialize in this, including Drew Slone and my fellow ULI CFL classmate, Sarah Landiak. Don’t try to figure this out on your own!  

Drew Slone, Winstead PC, speaking about local incentives

Drew Slone, Winstead PC, speaking about local incentives

We then walked to lunch at Punch Bowl Social, where they opened a few lanes for us to bowl while we were eating. It was so fun, and we got to wear goofy socks and bowling shoes.

Christy Thurston from ULI, who has worked tirelessly to make sure this class exceeds our expectations. Check out those cool socks… and we got to take them home!

Christy Thurston from ULI, who has worked tirelessly to make sure this class exceeds our expectations. Check out those cool socks… and we got to take them home!

Session 3 – Panel: Public/Private Partnerships

We came back to Canton Hall, where we were met by an incredible panel of experts in the P3 delivery model:

  • Jon Hetzel, Partner at Madison Partners

  • Dan Bowman, CEO of Allen EDC

  • Sean Terry, Mayor of Celina and VP at Centurion American

  • Ted Chinn, Assistant City Manager at City of Mesquite

  • Moderated by Ty Lee, Triten Real Estate Partners

Sean Terry talked about Centurion American’s work at Collin Creek Mall and the challenges and opportunities presented with a development of this scope (for instance, the massive drainage issue associated with the site that they have gotten a handle on after lots of headache and money). This is going to be an incredible project when it’s done!

Dan Bowman caught us up on all the amazing things that are happening in Allen, such as Watters Creek and Monarch City. Allen is working on putting themselves on the map as a major place to build your Class A office developments.

Ted Chinn focused on Mesquite’s success with Trinity Pointe, a massive residential development that is going very well.

Jon Hetzel, who is very involved in the development of Deep Ellum, talked about the extensive work his firm is doing in this community. Deep Ellum has wonderful momentum right now, and it’s nice to see such great work being done here.

P3 Panel

P3 Panel

Session 4 – Walking Tour of Continental Gin Building

Get ready for me to geek out, because historic preservation is my very favorite thing. Evan August, Senior VP at Eastdil Secured, took us on a tour of the Continental Gin Building, which his family is working on rehabilitating to create office space in Deep Ellum. This building was built in several phases between 1888-1912. This is a wonderful example of turn-of-the-century industrial architecture and construction. Around the time of this building’s construction, the US was changing from load-bearing masonry-timber system to that of cast-in-place reinforced concrete, and the Continental Gin Building is a rare of instance of having both construction systems in place.

The building is a visual interpretation of two generations of architectural eras. For a preservation geek, that’s pretty cool to see. This facility is one of the last remaining structures in Dallas that still stands from that era of manufacturing. The gin was owned by Robert S. Munger (Munger Place Historic District – yep same guy!), who held patents on his cotton machinery, and was a major philanthropist in Dallas around the turn of the century.

Okay – back to business. Evan told us about the federal and state historic tax credits that his family are pursuing to assist with the development of the project. These can be difficult to obtain, but depending on the project can be worth it in the end.

PRO TIP: In order to apply for state and federal historic tax credits, your building must be on the National Register of Historic Places. Beyond that, you should seek the help of an architect or preservation professional who can help you with the application. It is a highly technical process.

Evan August, SVP, Eastdil Secured – look at that skylight and ceiling structure! (Told you I’d geek out.)

Evan August, SVP, Eastdil Secured – look at that skylight and ceiling structure! (Told you I’d geek out.)

Continental Gin Building today

Continental Gin Building today

Continental Gin Building rendering

Continental Gin Building rendering

Session 5 – Walking Tour of The Epic

Perkins+Will-designed Epic

Perkins+Will-designed Epic

Chuck Hixson, Vice President of Westdale Asset Management, took us on a tour of the amazing Epic, an office built in conjunction with Westdale and KDC.

Chuck Hixson.jpg

Chuck is very excited about Uber coming into the Epic. They will occupy the entire building. Their arrival also means that phase 2 (a second office tower for Uber) is in design and will be going up soon!

Epic Phase 2 Site

Epic Phase 2 Site

Panoramic View of Downtown from Epic’s Amenity Deck

Panoramic View of Downtown from Epic’s Amenity Deck