LINDALE – Chad Franke's smile when he describes the new development taking shape in downtown Lindale hints at the eagerness and excitement felt by others in this town of about 5,000 that straddles U.S. Highway 69 in the northern part of Smith County.
Franke, a partner in the mixed-use development that could change the face of the city, sees the potential for making Lindale a destination for East Texas music lovers and a hub for residents to eat, shop and relax.
He first came to Lindale as a 16-year-old to attend Youth With a Mission then returned as a camp staffer. He never left.
Now 40, Franke has been involved in residential and commercial development in Lindale for more than a dozen years. He's built single-family homes, apartments and duplexes, including the Mission Ranch development that includes 100 units. Past success and local and regional indicators give Franke confidence in the plan. Recent developments with signing and courting tenants and a tax increment agreement with local taxing entities reinforced his instincts that The Cannery Lindale will be a success.
"It's exciting to see where we've come from and where we're going," Franke said.
A year ago, Franke and two partners, Bill Andreason and Chad Michel, approached the city to discuss developing 40 acres adjacent to Lindale City Hall on U.S. Highway 69.
City officials had other plans. City Manager Craig Lindholm told the developers the city loved the concept but that they were in the wrong location. The city pitched the developers to move their plans to the city-owned cannery properties.
"It mirrored the same vision and many of the same components," Franke said. "All the pieces are coming together to make this development and downtown Lindale unique."
The city purchased the cannery buildings and 13 acres in 2005 for about $200,000. The city also purchased 30 adjacent acres as a possible location for a park and trail system.
Council members viewed the properties as a prime location for attracting residential and commercial investment, Lindholm said. The area was in decay and property values had been falling up to 5 percent annually, he said.
Understanding the Lindale Relief Route likely would bring growth to north Lindale, council members wanted to focus on revitalizing downtown to create an entertainment, dining and shopping destination for residents and visitors.
The city approved creating a Tax Increment Financing Zone to capture tax revenues from future growth for investment in future city infrastructure.
The city sold the cannery property to Franke's development partnership, Lindale CBC, for $945,000.
Lindale committed to a $5 million bond for improvements, including sewer and water, curb and gutter, landscaping, park improvements and streets within the development.
Recently, Tyler Junior College and Smith County approved participation in the TIF.
Franke and his partners committed to a $5 million investment in the properties but expect that number would double to $10 million because of the agreement with Love and War in Texas, The Pink Pistol, owned by Miranda Lambert's parents who are Lindale natives, and conversations with possible restaurants that would bring casual dining to the development. There has been a very positive response from potential tenants for the loft-style apartments.
Construction on the development began in June and Franke said it is scheduled to open in spring 2016.
Lindholm said the investment would be paid back through the TIF and that he estimates the improvements and development would increase property valuations in and around the development by $50 million within five years.
He called The Cannery the biggest development in Lindale since Target brought a distribution center to the town in 1998.
"I'm very encouraged by the rapid pace of the development and the support from taxing entities in the TIF," Lindholm said. "It's six months into construction and they've got tenants signed on and residents ready to move in."
Franke, his partners and the city have taken an aggressive approach to the development. He said he is in tune with the housing demand and what residents, including young families and millennials, are asking for in the way of dining, entertainment and shopping.
"They want a centralized location where they can live and walk down the street for a coffee or an event," he said. "They want to be in the middle of an active, vibrant area that offers them dining, shopping, concerts and parks and that's what we're bringing."
The Cannery at Lindale will transform two vacant buildings, 30,000 square feet and 60,000 square feet, respectively, into residential and commercial spaces that include restaurants and retail shops.
The development will include 22 living spaces, including 16 single-bedroom loft apartments and six two-bedroom flats that capture a modern industrial warehouse look.
Franke announced Tuesday the development had landed Love and War in Texas and that The Pink Pistol would make a short move from Hubbard Street to be neighbors with the restaurant. Plano-based Love and War is known for bringing Texas music artists from across the state and local singer songwriters and national acts.
There are four music and event venues planned within development.
Love and War's patio and stage area would have a capacity of 300 people for nightly shows featuring, local, Texas and national acts and singer-songwriters. The existing Pickers Pavilion would be available for larger music showcases, chili cook-offs and seasonal events.
The plans also call for creating a stage area to cap the end of The Cannery building to create an amphitheater setting that could accommodate up to 5,000 attendees within the park and cannery area.
A larger amphitheater-style setting built within adjacent park would be improved to allow large stage setups that would accommodate national acts and possible crowds of up to 15,000.
Lindholm and Franke said bringing Tye Phelps, owner of Love and War in Texas, who is experienced and known within the music industry, makes the development a likely destination for musicians at all levels.
Phelps also is longtime friends with the Lamberts. Miranda Lambert started her career at 16 opening for other musicians at the Plano location.
Her mother, Beverly Lambert, who owns The Pink Pistol, said residents and East Texans should be excited about the development and what it would offer. She said The Pink Pistol and Love and War attract visitors from around the state and country and that pairing creates a partnership that caters to the customer base for both.
Mrs. Lambert said Phelps is respected in the Texas music scene because of his promotional ability and willingness to give beginner singer-songwriters a stage where they can be heard.
She said she expects the available capacities at the various venues to attract entertainment talent from every level of the industry.
Mrs. Lambert said the development would be great for Lindale tourism and its economy.
"We stand on the fact that we want to revitalize the downtown area," she said. "This is perfect for us, for the city of Lindale and for East Texas."
Joe Don Terry has lived his 63 years in Lindale. He grew up a few houses down from the bank where he works downtown. He's been watching the activity across the street at the cannery properties.
Terry has witnessed incredible change since he was a child. Lindale was rural and its economy ran on agriculture then. There were four canneries producing canned vegetables, fruits and meats then. Most businesses established at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 69 and Farm-to-Market 16. There was no stoplight.
Businesses remained anchored to downtown for decades but commerce began shifting toward Interstate 20 in the past two decades.
Today, Lindale is attractive as a suburb of Tyler, he said.
Toll 49 allows Lindale residents to reach shopping, dining and entertainment destinations in 20 minutes. The town is close to three colleges and three major hospitals.
Residents can take Interstate 20 to Dallas or Shreveport in a little more than hour.
Lindale ISD has performed well and is a big draw for young families, he said. Lindale businesses cater to residents in other surrounding communities, including Hideaway Lake, which has almost 4,000 residents, Terry said.
The city's industrial park continues to attract employers and potential employers because of its access to I-20 and its regional location, he added.
Terry said he couldn't comment on the project's potential because, as a 30-year banker, he's seen a lot of potential that never came to fruition. Developments of The Cannery's nature take vision and risk, he said.
But there was a reserved sense of optimism and excitement in his voice when he spoke about the town's future, especially after listing Lindale's appeal and potential.
Terry said there is a demand for single-family homes and rentals for single-bedroom spaces around the town. Commerce follows residences, he said, and the signs point to continued demands for housing.
"Anything new and progressive would be good for the city," he said. "I don't know enough about the specifics of (The Cannery development) to comment but if they pull it off I think the people would support it."