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[IMGCAP(1)]DALLAS-Learning from the past and looking to the future, developers worldwide are making choices about sustainability and livability so 21st century communities are beacons not blights on the built environment. Global warming and rising gasoline prices have united public and private sectors to become better stewards on all fronts.

In a show of commitment to the cause, real estate industry legend Daniel Rose is contributing $5 million to the Urban Land Institute to provide information and best practices that will “empower leaders in the public sector to envision, build and sustain successful 21st century communities.” The award is one of the largest in ULI’s history. The ULI Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership was announced yesterday to nearly 2,900 members attending the international organization’s spring council forum at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Dallas.

“Success for large-scale developments invariably reflects effective working relationships between the public and private sectors,” the chairman of New York City-based Rose Associates Inc. said in a press release. “At any given time, we should be asking ourselves what lessons can we learn from the best of the old, and then we should look forward and ask how we can most effectively apply those lessons learned to the future. That goes for the public and private sector.”

The three-day forum, concluding today, has been a showcase for sustainability, infrastructure, transit-oriented development and best practices. Dallas’ TODs have been in the spotlight, thanks to a Dallas Area Rapid Transit light-rail expansion. Touted as the largest project of its type in the nation, DART has $1 billion of lines under construction to add 19 stations, most of which will be coming on line by 2012 and push the total to 64 stops by 2018. The impact is $7.5 billion of TODs have been built or are being planned by their respective elected officials and even DART, which is sizing up the use of surface parking lots as development sites with structured garages.

“The choices we are dealing with now are going to determine how sustainable and successful the region will be,” Karen Walz, principal of Strategic Community Solutions and project manager of Vision North Texas, told the crowd at one session. Vision North Texas’ team has spent 18 months to develop goals for growth and development through 2050. The study will be unveiled June 3.

All across the state, municipalities have embraced mixed-use development and TODs. But, ULI pros cautioned that a TOD isn’t a silver bullet for economic well being. The concept works well with light rail, but most often isn’t a good mix with commuter rail, according to Kenneth H. Hughes, president of Dallas-based Hughes Development LP.

[IMGCAP(2)]Hughes’ Mockingbird Station was one of the city’s first TODs. “Ten years ago, there were few, if any, lenders out there for mixed-use development,” he said. “And they doubted if anybody would ride trains outside of New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.”

Mockingbird Station and Cedar Station, developed by Lewisville, TX-based Matthews Southwest, were the forerunners for TODs in the region, with most of the pitfalls and setbacks lessons for developers who are now enjoying the rewards from a better understanding of the development type and heightened municipal cooperation as a result.

The region’s most ambitious TOD is Water Street, a $300-million plan by Atlanta-based Gables Residential for a 14-acre tract at heart of the Las Colinas Urban Center, which has 30 Fortune 500 companies in and around it boundary lines. The DART station will open in 2012, within a five-minute walk of Gables’ Water Street–500 apartments, 250,000 sf to 300,000 sf of retail, a possible 125-key hotel and 250,000 sf of office.

“One of the biggest benefits going for us is a very progressive city. They have been real partners with us,” said Doug Chesnut, Gables’ senior vice president of investment. Gables, naturally, is doing the multifamily and its sister company, Urban Partners, has the retail. He said final negotiations are under way with a theater developer and talks have advanced with developers for the hotel and office components.

Water Street has been on the planning board 18 months. Its planning cost is pushing $3 million. “We’re all new to this and we’re all learning every day. These sort of projects take significantly longer to execute and significantly longer to plan,” Chesnut said. “We hope to have a project that 20 years from now will be as successful and meaningful to the city as when it opens in two years.”

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