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Oncor employees work to replace a utility pole shat was hit by a car, severing it. Power was out for about two hours in downtown. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Downtown Paris lost its power for a couple of hours on Thursday afternooon because of a vehicle accident at the intersection of Bonham and East 12th Street.
Traffic lights also were out, and police officers stood in intersections, directing tra ffic.
About 3 p.m., a driver ran into a telephone pole.
Several Oncor trucks were at the scene soon, and a new utility pole was put up.
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Dr. AJ Hashmi and his family entertained about 100 people with a party in his backyard from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
The mayor’s longtime friend and patient, Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan, was among the guests, along with U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall and State Rep. George Lavender.
The party ended for some just in time to drive into Paris for the annual Rotary Club fireworks show.
The mayor and his wife, Rizma, live about three miles northeast of town on FM 195.
(eParisExtra! photos by Charles Richards)
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
City manager John Godwin said Monday that the half-billion dollar “Paris Lakes” development in southeast Paris that was announced over the weekend “sounds great” and he stands ready to assist in whatever way he can.
“I don’t know the details, but I would hope the city would be involved as much as we are needed to be,” said Godwin, who was integral in bringing major retail stores to Fairview while he was town manager for the Collin County community.
Area builder Ron Parker announced over the weekend that he will start construction in November on a shopping center “with lots of restaurants” and a 125-bed hospital in a rolling, 100-acre tract on the southeast loop with two lakes and hundreds of trees.
Phase I will take about 16 months to build, at a cost of $200 million.
“Two years from now, it should be open,” Parker told eParisExtra.
Phase II will follow — a retirement village, a lighted par-3 golf course and a residential subdivision of 180 homes priced from $130,000 “up to whatever.” The price tag on Phase II is about $300 million.
“Just the idea sounds great. This would maybe get the southeast quadrant of the loop going,” Godwin said.
“I have had several conversations that seem to concentrate on the northeast loop. I ask people, ‘Have you ever looked at the southeast?’ and they say ‘No, no.’ I think this could maybe prime the pump. You build this, and maybe another center goes up nearby. If other stuff follows, that would really be huge,” the city manager said.
Steve Gilbert, executive director of the Paris Economic Development Corporation, says the shopping center – which will have a 1930’s look to it — will rival any that is being built in Dallas or the north Dallas suburbs.
The PEDC has been involved in putting Parker together with executives from major retail outlets that would be a good fit for the Paris Lakes project.
Godwin said he would be glad to help also.
“I’ve got a meeting with the city manager. I’ll sit down with him. Steve is setting that up, so we’ll try to get that done. Hopefully, that comes off good. We’ll find out what can and can’t be done. It’s a very mutual thing. They want us to get going as much as we want to get going. It will be a big revenue thing for the city,” Parker said.
“I think we could do some things to help get it worked out as much as possible for both (Parker) and the city,” Godwin said. “I hope we can partner on that to help make it a successful deal.”
Before coming to work in May as Paris’ city manager, Godwin as Fairview town manager was involved in trying to win over major retail executives on locating at Fairview’s new mall rather than at shopping centers in other north Dallas suburbs.
“We were competing against McKinney with 110,000 and Allen with 80,000, and Fairview was about five or six thousand people. Those big cities just assumed it would be between the two of them,” Godwin said.
While McKinney was telling business prospects like Dillards and Whole Foods, “We’ll give you an answer in a year,” Godwin was telling them, “I’ll give you an answer today. I’ll go convince the council next week that it’s OK, but I’m going to tell you today what we can do for you.”
“To this day, I think they (McKinney and Allen) think they believe we must have bribed people or something. But it was just that same thing, ‘What do you need?’ You know, we didn’t give away the farm, but we did what we needed to do.”
While McKinney and Allen were discussing and debating, “we had already made a deal.”
The projected shopping center and hospital are on 100 acres that is in the Paris city limits. The retirement village, golf course and residential subdivision are on 400 acres to the east.
That 400 acres is not in the city limits, “but we’re trying to get it annexed. That would give them (the City of Paris and Paris Junior College) another tax base,” Parker said.
Godwin was asked if annexing the 400 acres is doable.
“It’s pretty simple, actually,” Godwin said. “Just fill out the paperwork, basically. Have a hearing, and do it by ordinance. It’s pretty easy.”
Although the development on Loop 286 is only a mile from the new Paris High School building on south Collegiate Drive, the 400 acres that’s not now in the Paris city limits is in the Prairiland Independent School District. Annexation into the City of Paris wouldn’t change that.
Parker, the 59-year-old builder who conceived the Paris Lakes project, lives about 15 miles southeast of Paris, south of the community of Detroit in western Red River County.
For most of the past 40 years, he has worked for three corporations building resorts – most of them along the 15th Parallel in places like Dubai, Nassau, Emerald Bay and St. Thomas. Room rates at those exclusive resorts are as high as $900 a night.
What he envisions for the 500 acres he bought two years ago from Dr. Ted McLemore, “is the nicest thing I’ve ever taken on as an individual,” Parker says.
“I’ve built a lot bigger stuff, but it was always somebody else’s money. I’ve put a whole lot of my own money into this thing for the past two years. This project carries a tremendous amount of pride. I want to know that it’s here, that I’ve left something behind,” Parker said.
“We’re looking to employ, just in the shopping center and hospital, somewhere near a thousand people. That doesn’t include the construction people. Just on the construction jobs, you could have 1,500 people real quick.”
That could stretch out for 15 years on the whole complex, Parker said, or it might happen in five or six years.
“But it can’t happen in less than five years. We’ve got an operator talking to us right now about a nursing center. If that development comes about, it may outrun all of it, because they want to go quick. And then the golf course and the tennis courts will follow. We’ll probably have some playgrounds and that type of thing, too.”
It won’t be the first shopping center Parker has built.
“We did the Marina Village in Nassau, which is all these restaurants and shops and stuff – 21 designer retail shops spread over 65,000 square feet,” he said.
He has agreed to do a project in Honolulu.
“It’s not a problem. I can do three or four at a time,” Parker said.
He has never bid for a project, he said.
“You know, people know what you’ve been doing all your life. I’ve just been doing hotels and resorts all along. I do the pre-construction services, kind of put things together. I determine which way to build it, the best way to build it.”
He’s had only three customers over the past 20 years.
“The Atlantis (in Nassau) and the One & Only resorts are owned by the same guy. And so for 12 years, I only did stuff for them. And of course the Ritz Carlton. That’s owned by Mr. Marriott himself, so I’m in with the Maryland group up there. I did the Doral Country Club remodel up there for them,” Parker said.
“I just know a bunch of people. I just got lucky. I don’t know if we’re good, but we sure work hard. We’re there until we’re done. We don’t leave early; we get it done,” Parker said.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
Construction will begin this year on a 125-bed hospital and a 1930’s-era shopping mall on the southeast loop “with lots of restaurants,” the builder confirmed on Saturday to eParisExtra!
The Paris Lakes Hospital and Paris Lakes Shopping Center will be built at a cost of about $300 million on 100 acres on the east side of Southeast Loop 286, a short distance south of U.S. 271-South.
“I’ve done this all over the world; it’s my first time to ever do it at home,” said Ron Parker, who lives 15 miles southeast of Paris, near the community of Detroit.
Parker, 59, owns Wildcat Creek Quail Hunting Resort off Farm Road 410 south of Detroit, but he has spent his life building luxury resorts around the globe.
The shopping center he’s building in Paris is “the nicest thing I’ve ever taken on as an individual,” Parker said.
Construction will begin in November and will take about 16 months to complete, Parker said.
Then, Phase II of the project will kick in – a retirement community, a 180-home residential subdivision, and a lighted par-3 golf course on 400 acres on the back side of the property. The price tag for it is another $200 million to $300 million.
Steve Gilbert, executive director of the Paris Economic Development Corporation, said Paris Lakes Development is planning a shopping center that will rival any in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“It’s going to be a destination for people. I think it’s just going to be cool. It’s going to be really great,” Gilbert said.
Parker noted that in addition to about 1,000 workers who will be employed at the hospital and shopping center, some 1,500 construction workers will be needed. Their job will last for at least five years and perhaps twice that long, he said.
“They’ve got to eat, and many of them will be staying in local hotels,” Parker said.
“Obviously, this kind of investment in the city is huge,” Gilbert said.
“Analysis we have done shows that people from Paris are going to Sherman and Rockwall and Greenville to eat and shop. So we know there is a need here for more restaurants and shopping,” Gilbert said.
“The second thing is, this kind of investment in the city … I mean, this is a private investment. These guys are going to pay taxes on it. There’s going to be retail and commercial expenditures that will generate additional sales tax for the community,” Gilbert said.
The land on which Paris Lakes will be built was once a rolling, wooded tract with two ponds.
“We want to use chip-and-seal roads, so it will look like it did back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. No curbs, no concrete. The mall is an indoor-outdoor mall. Street lights will be on wooden timbers, with the old lamps that hang down,” Parker said.
“There’ll be a lot of stone, a lot of wooden structure posts, a lot of fountains – the old water well-looking fountains – stuff like that. It’s going to be a park setting, so that when you’re strolling through you can just walk into a shop from either side of the building. Outside, you can walk up and under covered walkways, or you can walk out in the sun if you want to,” Parker said.
“It will be a destination shopping center. It’s a place where you can drop someone off at the hospital, and instead of sitting in the waiting room, have the kids go to the shopping center.
“They’re going to go to the Subway sandwich shop, or they’re going to the Lunch Room. I’ve got a restaurant sold; it’s called the Lunch Room, and it will have breakfast and lunch.”
The shopping mall will have “lots of restaurants,” including the Wildcat Creek Steakhouse, owned by Parker, which will hang over one of the lakes.
“We’re trying to get lined up with (a well-known restaurant) for that building,” Parker said, pointing to a building on the map. “But don’t mention their name because we don’t have it done.”
“There’s also a duck pond and walking trail,” he said.
“We’re going to utilize the setting, all these existing trees that we can. The nice thing is, we’re built on a hillside, a perfect slope,” with a fall of about 45 feet over 800 yards.
Parker praised the PEDC, and Gilbert, for their help over the past two years.
Some months ago, the PEDC awarded Paris Lakes Development an infrastructure assistance grant in the amount of $250,000 to offset the cost of getting the site connected to the city sewer system.
“Steve has been very instrumental in helping put all of this together,” Parker said. “The PEDC has been a big help with opening doors and making things happen, as far as expediting the sewer situation and introducing me to people.”
Gilbert noted that the project will add millions of dollars to the tax rolls of the City of Paris, Lamar County and Paris Junior College. The front 100 acres is in the Paris city limits; the back 400 acres is just out of the city limits.
Parker said he has asked the City of Paris to annex the back 400 acres so that all 500 acres will be in the city limits.
Currently, the back 400 acres is in the Prairiland school district, he said.
Parker said prices for homes in the planned residential subdivision will “start at $130,000 and go as high as the multi-millions.” By annexing the back 400 acres into the city, the ad valorem taxes off those properties also would go to not only Lamar County but also to the city and PJC.
Initially, Parker was thinking primarily in terms of the shopping center.
Then, Gilbert put him in touch with two men who he thought could be persuaded to put in a store at the shopping center.
Instead, they asked Parker to build a 125-bed, state-of-the-art hospital and put it in the the shopping center. They said investing in hospitals was what they did.
“I said OK, because that’s what I do for a living. I’m a builder,” Parker said.
Once the hospital became part of the project, several doctors expressed interest in moving their medical offices to the shopping center.
In the shopping center plans now are a ‘physicians’ village’; a medical retail building; an urgent care center, a medical office building; and a “healing garden.”
“We’ve got six doctor’s clinics leased already,” Parker said.
A retirement village was a natural addition as well. It will provide for the four stages of retirement life.
“There will be private homes where you can live independently, but still inside the facility. There’ll be private homes with assisted living, and there will be apartments with assisted living, and then you’ll have a nursing center, complete with an Alzheimer’s unit.
Each unit will have a “call buddy,” a button that a resident can push to summon help — like if the resident fell and couldn’t get up.
“Then you have the assisted living, where someone will come by and call on you each day, but you’ll still do your own laundry, still clean your own house. Someone would mow your lawn. If you needed someone to take you to the grocery store or to the doctor’s office, if you can’t drive. If you fall, or if you want somebody to move a picture on the wall, they’ll take care of those kind of things,” Parker said.
“If you get where you can’t medicate yourself, but you want to live by yourself, you’ll move to the next stage.”
Parker said Paris-area residents will be invited to become shareholders in the project.
“We have not gone out public yet. We’ve got original investors, though – about 35 already, including 25 people who wrote out $300,000 checks,” Parker said.
“You can buy a share in three different functions – the real estate, the management and the equipment. If you participate in all three things, it’s a $300,000 value. You get your investment back in three years, and after seven years the projected payback is $840,000.”
The share holders will get a share of the rental property.
“We rent the hospital to the hospital operators, and the shareholders get a share of that,” Parker said.
Investments of $250,000 and $125,000 are also available.
“On the $125,000 investment, you get your $125,000 back in three years, then you get back a projected $396,000 in seven years. After that, you get paid each year,” Parker said.
The money to build the Paris Lakes development already is assured for whatever money does not come in from the investment of local money, Parker said.
“I don’t have anybody invested that doesn’t live in Paris or the surrounding area. So it’s going to keep money in Paris, he said.
Anyone interested in becoming a shareholder can contact Parker at 903-246-2590 or reach him by e-mail at Ron.Parker@ccbglobal.net.
“For 20-plus years, maybe more, we’ve not seen a population increase in this city. I think this is the first step to change that,” Gilbert said.
“I really think with this project, we’re going to start to see our retail corridor extend around on that southeast loop and on around to the south loop, near the new high school,” the PEDC executive director said.
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On the evening of his hiring in March 2011, public works director Ron Sullivan (left) visits with Steve McFadden, who was the acting public works director at the time. (eParisExtra! Photo by Charles Richards)
By CHARLES RICHARDS
Ron Sullivan, public works director for the City of Paris, was suspended Wednesday for five days without pay by city manager John Godwin.
Godwin declined to elaborate except to say the suspension “is for five working days, counting today.”
Because of the Fourth of July holiday next week, the 58-year-old Sullivan will be on unpaid leave through Wednesday of next week.
Godwin declined to elaborate when contacted by telephone Wednesday night.
“No, being a personnel matter, that really wouldn’t be fair to him,” Godwin said.
Mayor AJ Hashmi said he was aware of the development, but declined to discuss it.
“That’s a question that should be asked of the city manager. He’s an employee of the city manager,” Hashmi said.
Sullivan was public works director at Palestine, Texas, before leaving to take the same position in Paris. The Paris City Council hired him on March 16, 2011, on the recommendation of acting city manager Gene Anderson. Sullivan reported for work in Paris on April 18, 2011.
After graduating from Texas A&M in 1976, Sullivan went to work for the City of Arlington as a graduate engineer. He worked several positions for the City of Arlington over the next 13 years before going to work for the Texas Department of Transportation .
He worked with TxDOT for six years, then went to the City of Bedford for six years. There he was “everything from a staff engineer to city engineer.
He left Bedford and had worked in Palestine for six years before being hired at Paris.
In an interview with eParisExtra! two days after he was hired as Paris’ public works director, Sullivan said in studying engineering at Texas A&M, he “kind of continued the legacy” of his father, who was a TxDOT inspector for practically his entire career.
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