The Bell Tower seemed bigger before I entered from the outside through the heavy wooden door. But then as I sat on a small bench inside, I noticed the maximum occupancy sign read only 18. I wondered how accomplished developer Jeff Blackard could run a company like Blackard Global from such a small space.
Unable to call the elevator to Jeff’s office on the 7th floor, I dialed the phone number on a plaque sitting on a table. I was surprised that Jeff answered the call himself, and even more surprised when I shook his hand. Expecting a boardroom and a man in a suit ready to tell me about his life’s work, I got a Bell Tower and a laid-back guy ready to tell me his plans to change the way society — and perhaps the world — thinks about real estate.
I climbed the narrow staircase to his “tree house,” as he calls it — the top of the Bell Tower — and looked out over Adriatica. A European-like village set in the valley of McKinney, Adriatica, with its picturesque red clay roofs and stone buildings, looked and felt like something out of a travel brochure. Anyone would be hard pressed to enter the village blindly and not think they had stepped into Old World Europe.
Adriatica was created to become more than just aesthetically pleasing though. It’s Jeff’s vision for a self-sustaining, ever-growing and changing place. Bringing this old-world way of life, which has existed for centuries, to the present-day United States can best be described in his own term, NeoRetroism.
In residential terms, Adriatica has a property type to fit any need, including single-family homes, town homes and condominiums. But because a village is self-sustaining, goods and services providers have their place in the village as well. Within the village, Jeff’s vision of having one bank, one florist and one bakery to meet the needs of the village is unfolding. Currently, notable tenants such as Starbucks, Independent Bank and Keller Williams Realty call Adriatica home.
Determined not to replicate, but instead build on what he has learned and accomplished at Adriatica, Jeff found himself ready to build his village again — this time in Westlake. But the idea to come to the affluent small town was actually not Jeff’s.
In reality, Westlake chose him.
The half-billion dollar, master-planned project in the works for Westlake is a Spanish-inspired village named Entrada. But if you’re thinking it’s just another residential community — you’d be right. There will be 1.5 million square feet of residential space. Or, if you’re thinking it’s just another commercial real estate project — you’d also be right. There will be 550,000 square feet of office space and the same amount allocated to retail. Entrada is a mixed-use development. And that automatically sets it apart from many area developments. Just like Adriatica, there will be residences built among retail shops, and offices built among restaurants. But they won’t be arbitrarily placed.
“I’m trying to find out the needs of the people in [Westlake],” Jeff explains. “Entrada isn’t a retail development or a housing development; it’s not an office development. Entrada is as close as I can make a real village that serves the people in its area.” And according to WestlakeEntrad.com, Jeff already has a few things in mind. Plans include a 3,000-seat amphitheater, a chapel, a signature bell tower, a town hall and other government buildings, and a boutique hotel featuring 320 rooms.
The proposed land for Entrada is located at the northeast corner of Solana and Davis boulevards. The 85-acre tract is under the ownership of Centurion American. Mehrdad Moayedi, owner of Centurion American, contacted Jeff to develop the area.
Jeff’s vision for Westlake — supported by Mayor Laura Wheat — is that of a Spanish harbor village. Aesthetically speaking, the village will have the look and feel of Spanish architecture sitting next to a small harbor — which Jeff considers to be the heart of the village.
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