The recent General Motors blockbuster announcement bringing a couple thousand jobs and a new $250 million project to Arlington has been well covered by the news media.
The economic triumph brought out senior management officials of the big car company, its affiliated parts suppliers, and a phalanx of public officials to commemorate the achievement.
But there is a largely untold story that now can be revealed. Underpinning the whole project is the most extensive redevelopment of industrial and commercial property in the city’s history.
We can call it Arlington’s own “art of the deal.”
Most are likely to logically conclude that GM bought the old Six Flags Mall and are preparing to replace it with new buildings where parts will be manufactured for the SUV’s being assembled across the highway.
While an obvious conclusion, it is really way too simplistic to describe what actually has taken place.
One of the holders of the property needed for the new development was, in fact, the owner of the remnants of the defunct mall.
That’s a good starting point, for sure. But there were almost 20 other parcels and their owners who were going to have to agree to sell their land if the deal was going to get done.
Veteran Arlington real estate professional Coy Garrett accepted the challenge to make that happen.
It would take all his considerable skills at negotiation along with uncompromising tenacity to succeed – and four years of long days and nights to complete the task.
Coy worked tirelessly with corporate executives of the big companies including Macy’s, Sears, Dillard’s, Firestone and Cinemark, along with owners whose names are not so familiar.
Parcels ranging in size from just over one-third of an acre to the largest of more than 25 acres were needed if the project was going to get put together.
Complications, delays, disappointments and legal entanglements might have dissuaded others, but Coy wasn’t going to give up.
“Most of these properties had little if any value,” Garrett said, “until a buyer shows up and then prices tend to skyrocket.
“In order for any of this to happen the land had to be acquired at a price that made economic sense for GM and its partners. Most of the negotiations took months to bring to fruition.
“I even became sort of an expert on international time zones dealing with foreign owners of some of the properties. That meant I was up during the middle of the night here to accommodate business hours halfway around the world.”
For his successful efforts, Garrett became the first commercial real estate broker from Arlington to receive the prestigious William C. Jennings Award by the Texas Association of Realtors in the 68-year history of the organization.
The final deal from the public sector would require the adroit leadership of Mayor Jeff Williams, the city council, County Judge Glen Whitley and the county commissioners court, along with support from the city’s legislative delegation and others.
Over on the private side, Garrett would address the very specific needs of General Motors and their partners, who considered 11 other sites in Tarrant and southern Dallas counties.
Using the ideal proximity to the big GM plant, improvements of the highway systems, adjacency for railroad access and championing the “can do” reputation of Arlington, he kept steering them back to the city where they belonged.
It’s unlikely you will run into Coy Garrett, since he maintains a relatively low profile in the community.
If, by chance you do, you may want to tip your hat for his resolve to play a critical role in helping advance Arlington into the position of the second largest car manufacturing center in the country.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.