October 30, 2016
Kent Donahue with Donahue Development knew, from the beginning, that he couldn’t count on Lake Ray Hubbard as a showpiece for his 262-acre, $1 billion mixed-use Bayside development in Rowlett, TX. “We have 4.5 miles on Lake Ray Hubbard. It’s great for walking and water sports. But not conducive to swimming,” Donoghue said.
After weighing – and discarding – options including canals, Donahue learned about Crystal Lagoons, which brings man-made lagoons and beachfronts to a variety of developments. “We spent a year vetting it,” Donahue said. “Now we’re designing our entire project around it.” The man-made body of water, the first of its kind in Texas, is getting assistance from Crystal Lagoons U.S. Corp., which opened a Dallas-area office last month.
Donahue and other developers shared their experiences at a Crystal Lagoon-Sponsored VIP Breakfast and Panel Discussion at the recent fall ULI conference in Dallas. The panel included Crystal Lagoon’s Uri Man, and was moderated by Gregg Logan of RCLCO.
The lagoons, which are monitored through licensed technology, are bringing swimming and water sports to developments without that access. One such development is Lake Nona, a 9,000-acre community being developed by Tavistock Development in Orlando. “One objection to living in Central Florida is that it’s not on the ocean,” said Tavistock’s Jim Zboril. “So now Crystal Lagoon is bringing the beach to Orlando.”
Though the developers were enthusiastic about the amenity as a cost-effective competitive advantage, they acknowledged being highly dubious of the concept when they first learned of it. “My first reaction when I heard about it was ‘You’re kidding me. A 14-acre pool?’” said John Kinsey with Twin Creeks Development. “Then we went to Chili and realized it’s like being on the beach at the Bahamas.” Metro Development Group’s Greg Singleton, a self-proclaimed Doubting Thomas, said his skepticism evaporated when he toured the lagoon at Cabo San Luca. “It was spectacular,” he noted.
Twin Creeks is spearheading a residential development in St. Johns County, FL, while Metro Development is building Brightwater, near Fort Myers, FL. Both developments will have Crystal Lagoons, and the developers believe it will provide an important differentiation point.
Kinsey and Singleton also said the permitting process was fairly smooth, though Kinsey acknowledged there was some pushback from the water district, due to concerns of overflow into the wetlands. “We’re monitoring this, in the event that there is an overflow event,” he said. “If it happens, we’ll see what flows into the wetlands, but we think it’ll be fairly small.”
Meanwhile, in Rowlett, Bayside is still at the starting gate, though Donohue said it’s attracting a great deal of attention from future retailers and residents, which he puts down to the lagoon. He said he’s also anticipating higher rents from the multifamily component adding, “I don’t think we’d have the same demand without the lagoon.”
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