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Couple keys Rockwall's new lakeside project
Dallas Business Journal - November 3, 2006
by Sandra Zaragoza
Staff Writer

DYNAMIC DUO: Developer Rob Whittle and his wife, Sara Whittle, say their mixed-use project, The Harbor, has been their largest collaborative effort.

Some couples build a dream home. If you are Rob and Sara Whittle, you build a dream mixed-use development on the city of Rockwall's lake shore.

Residential developer Rob Whittle compared The Harbor, a 31-acre retail office and hotel project that is under development on the shore of Lake Ray Hubbard, to "building a house together." Whittle, who owns Rockwall-based Whittle Development, declined to specify the project's price tag, but says they've invested substantially more than $60 million on the Mediterranean-style development.

"We, literally, live five minutes from the project," Rob Whittle said. "It's been fun."

The couple tapped architects O'Brien & Associates of Dallas and Cleveland-based Kaczmar & Associates for the project.

The city of Rockwall spent about $19 million to pepper the development with public boardwalks, fountains, plazas and walkways, according to Julie Couch, Rockwall city manager. The city-funded areas will open to the public on Nov. 4.

The Harbor may be similar in name to the Bass Pro Shops-anchored Harbor Pointe mixeduse development in Garland, but Whittle believes each project's distinct look will help people avoid confusion.

The Whittles hand-picked the Harbor's restaurant and specialty boutique lineup. Gloria's Mexican restaurant opens on Nov. 5 and a Ruby Tuesday is set to open on Nov. 15. Other tenants set to open soon include Dodie's Cajun Seafood, Finnegan's sandwich shop, En Fuego cigar shop and Omaha, Neb.-based Scooter's Coffeehouse.

Bob Voelker, of Cleveland-based Gateway Hospitality, is opening up a 7,000-square-foot restaurant, Blue Canyon. Gateway Hospitality also has been tapped to manage the Whittles' 230-room full-service Hilton Hotel. The $30 million hotel, which faces the lake, will have 25,000 square feet of conference space.

The Whittles plan to make available an additional 100,000 square feet of retail space in 2008.

Bob Young, managing director of Dallas-based The Weitzman Group, says that while lakeside developments are hot right now, the long-term success of The Harbor will depend on sustaining the right tenant mix that makes it a destination.

But The Harbor's family ownership is an advantage, Young says:

"Where you have an owner and operator in the retail business, and you are there minding the store, the chances of success are far greater," Young said. | 214-706-7113


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