Few, if any, cities in the United States better exemplify the notion of America being the land of opportunity than Lubbock, Texas. Lending credence to the argument is the result of the vision and determination of a man born in the West Texas town of Smyer, who grew up hoeing weeds in cotton fields, and helping his dad repair farm machinery in their family’s garage-based mechanic’s shop.
Whether or not you agree, there is no denying business mogul and developer Delbert McDougal, chairman of McDougal Companies, has placed his signature stamp on Lubbock, forever changing the present and future landscape of the Hub City.
Described as the largest privately-financed urban renewal project in America, McDougal’s massive transformation of the once dilapidated North Overton neighborhood is described in detail by Tony Privett’s book, “Failure is Not an Option: Delbert McDougal: A Developer’s Unconventional Wisdom.”
Former Texas Tech basketball Coach Bob Knight, in the book’s forward, says McDougal has done more for the economic growth of West Texas than all other entities combined.
What started in 1982 as a one-complex business, has grown into a diverse family of real estate-related companies under the umbrella of McDougal Companies. The company owns and operates more than 2,800 units, oversees more than 3 million square feet of rental housing, manages properties throughout the state of Texas, has more than 30 top-producing residential and commercial real estate agents and owns and operates a construction division.
Just eight years after McDougal announced in 1999 his intentions to redevelop North Overton, without public assistance, the developer had accomplished what many others said could not be done. After property purchases secured an initial $8 million bank loan, and later, up to $50 million in financing against acquired properties, displaced renters’ relocation projects, construction roadblocks, and the 2001 city-approved creation of a 30-year maximum Tax Increment Finance district, the redevelopment was completed and renamed Overton Park in 2007.
Initial property values of $28 million served as the TIF’s base line to avoid tax revenue loss, and future overages were earmarked for public infrastructure improvement projects inside the TIF. Current assessed property values are close to $400 million and the tax base should be around $800 million by the end of the TIF.
A few of the projects have included:
- Ramirez Charter School — amidst the old Overton area for decades, school numbers had dwindled to fewer than 200 students, but Overton redevelopment efforts brought forward a partnership with Texas Tech’s College of Education, more than doubled the school’s enrollment within weeks of the first year, and now, the magnet school meets the needs of its students and provides them challenges for the future.
- New home construction — Two architectural firms, including Parkhill, Smith & Cooper of Lubbock, were selected to design the building project. Builders selected homes to construct from the project’s designs, which were reflective of the 1900s style that characterized the era when the neighborhood was built.
- Wal-Mart Supercenter — Entry of the major retailer raised the national profile of the development project and pushed plans into an early launch for other commercial activity on the east side of Lubbock.
- The Centre at Overton Park – The Spanish Renaissance-designed, upscale student housing development opened in 2005, supplying 227 apartments and more than 20,000 square feet of retail space. It’s just one of the many available student housing complexes in the redevelopment area.
- The Overton Hotel and Conference Center — The crowning glory on the redevelopment began with the announcement of a $63 million project to bring an item to Lubbock it was sorely lacking — a luxury destination hotel and conference center with 20,000 square feet of combined meeting space. To avoid extra costs, McDougal opted to forego a name brand hotel to build a first-class hotel and conference center with a generic name.
Bringing the aesthetically appealing and revenue-generating business and residential areas of Overton Park to the 325-acre area between Texas Tech and downtown has opened the floodgates for revitalizing downtown Lubbock in order to create a centralized hub within the Hub City, which McDougal refers to as his dream of creating a city within a city.
It is easy to imagine McDougal as just another good ole’ West Texas boy. His laid back and unpretentious manner belies his business mogul status. He describes his accomplishments in a matter-of-fact manner, never pulling punches, but without a hint of malice.
“We have a lot more hurdles to deal with, but things are starting to take place, after the city finally got on board. This project is not a mirror of the Overton one. We will have something for everyone of every age and walk of life, not just students. We are on the heels of the utilities burying lines underground and when they get out of the way, we can get this underway. Covenant Health is ready to invest over $500 million downtown. We have about $100 million lined up in contracts we are ready to build, but we can’t build a new facility on top of a 100-year-old sewer line,” said McDougal.
Downtown projects include: the new Community Health Center; new hotels; the Buddy Holly Statue and West Texas Walk of Fame; the Pioneer Hotel’s new luxury condos and West End restaurant; and, the planned attractions; the National College Baseball Hall of Fame and Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences.
McDougal said a Public Improvement Development plan will be done by the end of the year and will include: patrol officers riding Segways, sidewalk benches, landscaping and maintenance, sidewalk cafes, brick pavers for public right-of-way areas, six gateways to the area and more.
He also said with all of the present and future amenities, people will want to move to the downtown area, instead of just looking at the growing southwestern area of town; and private investors are confident because they saw what he did with the Overton.
“We are getting ready to break ground on a new hotel and once we get the utility lines buried, private investors can step in and that should speed things up by eight to ten years. A new city is not only my goal, it’s gonna happen” said McDougal.
By Kim Lehman
Story provided by A-J Media and Lubbock Magazine