|Visitors entering Garland from Highway 66 as they exit Rowlett are greeted with this massive storage facility under construction on the left side of the road, in contrast to the thriving retail district they find in entering Rowlett from the west.|
Recently while out campaigning for Mayor of Garland I had the opportunity on several occasions to talk with Rowlett's gregarious, effective, and talented former Mayor Gottel, now a Republican candidate for Dallas County Judge, about the matter. I also talked with Gottel's successor, Mayor Tammy Dana-Bashian, about it, too.
My question was very simple: What has Rowlett done right—or Garland done wrong—so that the Rowlett stretch of Highway 66 running through that city is bustling with new energy, new businesses and a vast array of eateries and exciting places to go, while the Garland portion of Highway 66 from the city limits to First Street is a vastly underutilized area.
It contains one large, beautiful church, several small churches, a small Buddhist temple, two hat manufacturing companies, some city buildings, and the like—certainly real contributors to our city.
But where, in addition to these, is the retail? Other than several gas stations and a drive-in restaurant, why does a buzzing retail district elude Garland there yet crop up immediately on the other side of the city limits in Rowlett?
|A combination Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins eatery and other thriving small businesses are part of Rowlett's entry point as one approaches the neighboring city from Garland on Highway 66.|
Mayor Dana-Bashian tried to be kind to Garland when she explained that Highway 66 is "a major thoroughfare" through Rowlett, which may be another reason that strip has done so incredibly well.
But Highway 66 also is a major thoroughfare through Garland!
Adding insult to injury, Rowlett is in the midst of a major $2-million spruce-up of the medians of the six-lane divided highway. When that project is soon complete, the contrast between the two cities along Highway 66 will be even more dramatic.
|Landscaped medians are planned for Highway 66 as one departs Rowlett for Garland.|
Why is this happening?
Gottel's answers were both shocking and vexing:
1. The $2-million landscaping project in its medians is being paid for with a $2-million grant from the Texas Department of Transportation, often called only TxDOT.
So, why didn't Garland get a grant like this? Same highway. Same state. Same state agency. Just a city-limits sign dividing the two towns. The answer surprised me. It will surprise many Garlandites, too. A citizen organization engaged in a conversation with TxDOT that eventually led to the $2-million grant. Rowlett City Council did not initiate the grant but quickly embraced it once it smelled the money.
Given Garland's penchant for minimizing genuine citizen involvement, I wonder what city leaders would have done if such a grant had been proposed from some organization or individual outside the initiative of our power elite. As I have said many times in many places in many ways, Garland needs to empower our citizens—not discourage them—to go after citizen-initiated possible resources any time they are available. Garland citizens leading the effort to build a new quality animal shelter here tell stories about being rebuffed when trying to inform our city leaders that outside money was available to help build the shelter. That story truly puzzles me!
One of the wealthiest persons Garland ever produced drops $2 million to $4 million checks all over worthy philanthropic causes in another region of this country, where this immensely wealthy family lives. Has someone ever suggested to this locally-grown, prosperous philanthropist that the hometown where the person's roots run deep ought to be on that list of worthy causes? I can quickly think of a half-dozen causes here that could use a check for $3 million or $4 million—starting with our downtown area. Our city needs all the help it can get from elsewhere because our city's needs are great and our citizens are already heavily burdened with high property and sales taxes now—and facing stiff competition from other nearby DFW cities. Despite our rugged sense of independence, we simply can't do it alone. We need help anywhere we can find it!
|This RaceTrac station along Highway 66 near the entrance to Garland is a well-run business with friendly clerks. But other retail benefiting Garland could certainly be added in this vicinity.|
He said Rowlett focused its resources on making the strip look attractive—kind of like a homeowner does when wanting to put his or her house up for sale. That's all. By insisting that businesses landscape, keep their landscaping looking nice including consistently laying mulch over bare earth, and everybody just working together to make their little places on Highway 66 look good, other businesses and restaurants from elsewhere want to join the parade. And joining the parade they have done—and are doing!
Even Garland's homegrown and locally owned bank, Texas Brand Bank at Miller and Shiloh, has gotten into the act in booming Rowlett, with a large sign on the southwest corner of the intersection of Highway 66 and the George Bush Freeway announcing that it is financing the new project there.
The former Rowlett mayor described something like a neighborhood that cleans up its litter, removes all blight, installs beautiful landscaping, and puts out the red carpet for all guests.
Gottel's words are still ringing in my ears: Easy. Simple. Inexpensive.
And to top it all off, a wheelbarrow full of free money from the State of Texas.
A city with a heart for its citizens couldn't ask for a better formula.
Not to mention the extra bump in sales tax revenues and property taxes the City of Rowlett is enjoying (and Garland is missing) with this neat little package of ideas on State Highway 66.
Just one more reason why I believe Garland needs new leadership with experienced creativity and know-how Moore, Hope for Garland promises!
|Though the building looks substantial, it is one of two new storage facilities in the area that needs more retail that draws citizens to Highway 66 in Garland before the Rowlett city limits.|