By mid-May Stafford officials will learn the names of the businesses that developers say will attract money and visitors to the 192 acres in the proposed $500 million former Texas Instruments site project.
The City Council approved 6-1 the proposal that has been discussed and debated since Texas Instruments left Stafford. The council approved the venture last week and the developers promised the mayor – who has been a vocal opponent of the plan – that they would do right by the city.
Mayor Leonard Scarcella echoed his constant concerns about the project strapping the city the first three years but added, “I want you to succeed.”
“There is tremendous expectation that this will provide all the fun, all the money, will transform the city and the city will maintain zero property tax, elevating us to a new level. The challenge is great and when going for that substantive an endeavor with that much expectation, you have to look at it carefully,” Scarcella said, explaining why he remained the lone voice in opposition.
The mayor said he was encouraged to hear that the developers would announce on May 15 who is coming to the site.
“To this point in six years of talking with the developers, we haven’t had a name – a name that would truly entice someone from River Oaks and the Woodlands and Pearland. What are the names that will transform this city?” the mayor asked.
Steve Robinson, attorney and spokesman for the developers, noted that secrecy is important in a competitive environment.
“There are other sites along (U.S. Highway) 59 who would like to know who we are talking with. We don’t want that to be part of the public record until we have a sufficient number and commitments. We don’t think it’s in your best interest to have them stolen or someone comes along and negotiates with them,” said Robinson.
Councilman Cecil Willis noted that the city has been dealing with this issue for years.
“From day one y’all came in five years ago and said it would elevate us, I said that the devil is in the details. The first time we talked it was a $50 million project, then $26 million then $8-10 million. There is a benefit to doing diligent research and deliberation and coming to a project that will work,” said Willis.
For the last six years, the city has been exploring what to do with the 192 acres of the former Texas Instruments campus bounded by the U.S. Highway 59, West Airport Boulevard and FM 1092/Murphy Road.
Street Level Investments developers have a $500 million proposal for the property that they say could become a regional attraction for Stafford with shops, a central park, restaurants, high-end apartments, food halls with artisan chefs and a hotel. About $500,000 from the hotel tax will be used for advertising to generate tourism and attract more money to the area.
They have created partnerships with the Stafford Economic Development Corporation, Fort Bend County and finally the city.
“We are way ahead of the game,” said Robinson. “We’ve been planning for many years, built detention ponds and roads in the first phase. The party at risk is the developer, but our interests are aligned. The sooner this happens, the better.”