Richardson Mayor Bob Townsend delivered the annual State of the City Address January 30, 2013 at a free, open-to-the-public event held at Richardson’s Eisemann Center. Noting Richardson’s strong condition, Mayor Townsend’s remarks focused on the City Council’s statement of goals in various “areas of excellence” and the City’s major accomplishments during 2012 in each of those focus areas.
Several particularly significant accomplishments received special recognition, due to their anticipated positive impact on the community for years to come:
- Developer KDC recently announced plans to create a $1.5 billion, mixed-use, transit-oriented development project on property adjoining the DART Bush Turnpike Station, and State Farm Insurance subsequently confirmed its signing of a 1.5-million-square-foot office lease at the site. This lease is the largest office lease in the Dallas area’s history. More announcements related to prominent tenants at the site are expected soon. KDC’s massive project includes build-to-suit office buildings, an integrated healthcare facility, nearly 4,000 multi-family homes, hotels, retail space and restaurants.
- Adjacent to KDC’s project, the Zale Corson Group started construction on the first phase of 800 new Class-A apartments. Together, the Corson and KDC projects make this the largest commercial real estate development in North Texas in several years, as well as the largest built-to-suit office project currently under construction anywhere in Texas or, it is believed, anywhere in the U.S.
- Methodist Health System broke ground for a new, $120 million regional hospital at its Renner Road campus near the President George Bush Turnpike. The expansion will bring a four-story, acute-care hospital to the site, in addition to the cancer center, outpatient hospital and medical offices already there. Methodist Health System’s existing facility on Campbell Road will be renovated to maintain emergency/urgent care, primary care, and diagnostic and outpatient services, as well as to expand its post-acute care services such as inpatient rehabilitation and long-term acute care, and to add geriatric behavioral health services.
- The iconic Austin movie theater Alamo Drafthouse began construction last year on its first Metroplex location, which will be in Richardson’s Heights Shopping Center. Wired.com has declared the Austin original as “the coolest movie theater in the world.” The theater’s grand opening is anticipated for late spring 2013.
- The Richardson Economic Development Partnership (REDP) was just recognized by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) as one of only 32 economic development organizations worldwide to have achieved the prestigious Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO) designation. Richardson is the first entity in the DFW area to earn this accreditation, and stands apart as the only community in Texas – and only the second nationally – to have earned both AEDO accreditation and five-star accreditation for its Chamber of Commerce. Communities strive to attain AEDO recognition because it signifies excellence in ability to boost business tax base, retain existing business, and support retail revitalization among other services.
Other 2012 accomplishments featured during the remarks, divided into areas of emphasis that reflect the City Council’s statement of goals, included:
- The City redesigned and re-launched its website, offering expanded online services for community residents, businesses and visitors. The new site earned several prominent awards, including the Gold Tami Award for web design from the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.
- The City’s “Richardson Today” monthly magazine earned the Silver Star Award for best publication in Texas from the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers.
- Social media efforts expanded to increase access to City projects, services and events, including social media activities related to the Main Street/Central Expressway enhancement and redevelopment study, and live social media reporting during signature City festivals and events.
Community Vitality and Neighborhood Integrity
- Richardson property owners applied for more than $300,000 in tax rebates last year through the City’s Home Improvement Incentive Program, enabling them to make an estimated $6.4 million in improvements to their homes and bringing significant added value to local neighborhoods.
- Nearly all of the neighborhood vitality-related projects from the City’s 2010 Bond Program will be complete by the end of 2013. Those projects, totaling approximately $24 million, include new screening walls, neighborhood entry features, bridge aesthetic projects, new alley segments, resurfaced residential streets, and flood erosion and prevention projects in various neighborhoods.
- Richardson earned recognition as a Gold-Certified Scenic City, making it one of only nine Texas cities to earn Scenic City Certification last year.
- The Richardson Economic Development Partnership (REDP), a joint effort between the City and the Richardson Chamber of Commerce, earned a Gold Medal Award in the High Performance Economic Development category during the International Economic Development Council’s annual meeting. The award recognized Richardson for announcing the most jobs and capital investment created anywhere in the U.S. over the previous year, among communities with a population of 25,000 – 100,000.
- The Mayor’s Office of International Business Development hosted multiple trips of representatives from China and Japan to Richardson.
- Richardson ISD now has 23 nationally recognized Blue Ribbon Schools and has earned the rating of “Recognized” for six consecutive years from the Texas Education Agency. The District’s 2011 bond program projects are also approximately 40 percent complete, including projects to create new classroom space, upgrade equipment and create a better environment for education.
- Plano ISD, which covers part of Richardson, now has 23 national Blue Ribbon Schools. The District is also introducing three new and very distinct student choice programs through its academies for Health Sciences, International Baccalaureate and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
- UT Dallas experienced record enrollment for the Fall 2012 semester, and the incoming freshmen class boasted the highest average SAT scores and the largest number of National Merit Scholars in the school’s history.
- The City achieved its water conservation goals in 2012, and also began developing new supply connections to support continued water access in times of future resource scarcity.
- All of Richardson’s most recently constructed civic buildings have achieved Silver LEED Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The recently completed Fire Station Number Four and the newly opened Richardson Gymnastic Center are both designed to meet LEED certification standards, and the City is currently constructing a new Heights Recreation Center and a new Fire Training and Emergency Operations Center, each of which is designed to meet LEED certification standards.
- The City won a 2012 Working for Clean Air Award from the North Texas Commission, recognizing organizations that demonstrate outstanding efforts to improve local air quality.
- The City maintained AAA (highest available) ratings from both Standard & Poor’s (five years consecutively) and Moody’s (three years running), and received a clean opinion from KPMG during an independent audit of the City’s financial records.
- For the third consecutive year, the Texas Comptroller recognized Richardson as a Gold member in the Comptroller’s Leadership Circle Awards for fiscal transparency.
- The City negotiated a new five-year agreement for the purchase of electricity from the Texas General Land Office, saving the City approximately $750,000 per year beginning in Oct. 2013.
- Richardson was named a top-10 digital city government by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government and the Digital Communities Program, recognizing its use of technology to create operating efficiencies and realize strategic objectives despite fiscal constraints. Richardson was the only Texas municipality recognized in the top 10 of its population category.
- The City was the only municipality nationwide to earn a 2012 Best of Business Intelligence Editor’s Choice Award from Computerworld Magazine. The honor recognized Richardson’s use of business intelligence and predictive analytics to gain valuable operational insights from existing data.
Healthcare Facilities and Community Wellness
- The City participated in the regional response to the West Nile Virus outbreak last year, proactively spraying to help control the spread of the disease and taking steps to reduce resident exposure to the illness.
- The newly opened Gymnastics Center, part of the 2010 bond program, offers state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for gymnastics program participants.
- New zoning regulations are being studied to bring improvements to Richardson’s historic downtown and portions of the Central Expressway corridor. Based on public input during the study process, City officials are now developing an implementation plan to support redevelopment in this area.
- A separate study focusing on the large quantity of older, underperforming flex space east of Central Expressway is now underway.
- The City of Richardson and UT Dallas earned a Dream Study Award from the Greater Dallas Planning Council, in recognition of the UT Dallas North Campus Transit-Oriented Development master plan. The plan creates a framework for potential development near the proposed UT Dallas DART Station along the Cotton Belt Rail Line, at the north end of the university campus.
- The City received recognition from national media, such as a feature on the Anderson Cooper Show, showcasing its Telecom Corridor® brand and its partnerships with the international business community.
- The Eisemann Center celebrated its tenth anniversary with a series of special, open-to-the-public events.
- The City declared April the “Month of Volunteerism” to highlight the work of Richardson-area organizations for people in need throughout the community.
- The Richardson Police Department recently implemented shift changes to put more officers on the street during peak call times. The department’s Crime Prevention Unit also celebrated another successful National Night Out, earning recognition as second nationwide for best National Night Out event among similarly sized cities.
- The Richardson Fire Department relocated Fire Station Number Four, to improve fire and emergency response times. The department also began construction on a new Fire Training Center, which includes a new Emergency Operations Center.
- The City’s Animal Shelter earned recognition as the Humane Educator of the Year from the Texas Animal Control Association.
- Sherrill Park Golf Course Number One earned recognition, for the second year in a row, as the top-ranked economy course in Texas from The Dallas Morning News. Course Two also earned top-ten honors statewide in the same category.
Transportation and Mobility
- As part of the 2010 bond program, nearly $24 million is being committed to local roadway improvements, new alleys and neighborhood sidewalk replacement projects. Much of this work is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.
- In 2012, the City installed an Intelligent Transport System to improve traffic flow into and throughout the city, allowing the City’s Traffic Management Center to monitor intersections via video camera and to remotely control signals at 150 key intersections in order to alleviate congestion.
- Half of the City’s planned 20 miles of bike lanes have now been installed, including lanes on Custer Parkway, Grove Road and Waterview Drive.