McALLEN, RGV – When it comes to his Tres Lagos Development taking shape in northern McAllen, Mike Rhodes acknowledges that the problem with being so cutting-edge with a project is that it might not make sense from the outset.
The story of how Tres Lagos came to be is rooted in a desire to find space for development in a city considered by many to be landlocked and out of the price range for most home buyers.
Rhodes says the initial plans for the development came about more than two years ago when the region like much of the country was coming out of the economic recession.
“We were coming out of this economic bad time, and it takes a couple of years to plan a big project and get all the wheels in motion. I thought it was a good idea to start talking to the City of McAllen,” Rhodes said.
“Throughout all my dealings in the (Rio Grande) Valley I had always heard that McAllen was hard to deal with on the development side of things but the fact is they were very good to deal with. I was shocked. They were pro-growth and wanted to get something going.”
McAllen, according to Rhodes realized that it was falling behind on attracting new residential properties. The city would eventually approve the annexation of 2,550 acres of land owned by Hidalgo County in late 2014. That was followed by the approval of a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) to jumpstart development, the city’s first.
Under the terms of the deal, McAllen collects 100 percent of the taxes due every year, and 20 percent of those taxes are to be deposited into the city’s general fund like all other property taxes.
Eighty percent of those taxes go into the TIRZ fund that can be used to repay the city for the tie-in infrastructure that is being built including fiber line, a water reuse line to the sewer plant and other public infrastructure the developer may build and dedicate to the public in the future. Hidalgo County will also place a portion of their collected taxes, 77 percent, into the TIRZ fund for city infrastructure.
“What has happened over the years is that if you go back to 2005 or 2006 when things were booming, even at that time you couldn’t buy a piece of property developed for residential homes in the city limits for less than $50,000 or $60,000 an acre. That’s twice as high as San Antonio,” Rhodes said.
“It really didn’t make sense. So consequently, anything resembling affordable was in Mission, Edinburg or Pharr. McAllen realizes that. They still continue to grow the retail economic engine but they were losing on the residential side of the equation.”
Rhodes said he will invest over $232 million in public infrastructure to grow Tres Lagos into one of the most cutting-edge developments ever seen in the Valley. Private investment in construction of homes and businesses is projected to be over $2 billion over the 30-year build-out period with an estimated creation of 8,000 jobs.
Amenities at the development could include a proposed interface with the City’s police and fire departments for increased response time and a higher degree of security.
Tres Lagos is also slated to be the first in the region to provide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and bundled services like high-speed Internet access, community WiFi, alarm monitoring and Smart Home technology to 6,793 residential homes.
Rhodes said he is especially excited to bring community WiFi access with gigabyte capability throughout residential subdivisions and parks. This will be accomplished by utilizing fiber directly into the home.
“Gigabyte speed and fiber for the home, that’s another thing that people don’t get down here because some of them don’t even have Internet,” Rhodes said. “But Google had done it in Kansas City and Austin, and now they’re moving it to San Antonio. If you talk to the people at Google like I have many times, first of all they share all the architecture and design of their systems, they don’t want to serve the world, rather they want smaller providers to cause competition on AT&T and Time Warner so we all get better and faster.
“This is like putting a homerun into your house. It’s what allows you to have a big enough pipe to push gigabyte speed, 1000 megabytes per second,” he said.
Tres Lagos comprises one of several major developments owned by Rhodes. The others include Bentsen Palm in south Mission and the land on which the Donna International Bridge is located.
Tres Lagos, which is located at the southwest corner of Ware Road and Monte Christo Road is a 2,571-acre master-planned community comprised of single-family and multi-family homes, commercial and retail lots and proposed healthcare facilities, schools and churches.
Plans are currently underway for the construction of Texas A&M University’s first school in the Valley, a teaching facility to be located onsite of the development. Tres Lagos will also be the site for a future IDEA charter school and Edinburg school district campuses.
“We are going to get these kids educated and get them here,” Rhodes said. “We are going to get them good jobs and offer them a fabulous master planned community, with a university and tech campus and parks and lakes and trails, great shopping and restaurants. This is what helps attract jobs. I’m really excited.”
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a four part feature on Rio Grande Valley land developer Mike Rhodes. Click here to read Part One, an introduction to Mike Rhodes. Click here to read Part Two, a feature on the Bentsen Palm development in Mission. Click here to read Part Three, a feature on the Alliance River Crossing development in Donna.