THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 59 58 THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 majority vote of adjacent homeowners, thus paving the way for Barisi Village. The initial poll of Pharaoh Valley homeowners showed 83% support, which has since grown to 97%. Blackard announced that he would close the sale within 10 days, and that improvements could start within weeks. But that would be far too easy—especially in Corpus Christi. You see…our fair city possesses a special talent. In some ways, Corpus Christi is like the tennis player up a set and two breaks of serve who ends up losing in three sets. We are the pitcher up four runs in the eighth inning who throws a walk with bases loaded followed by a grand slam homerun. Our capacity to snatch failure from the jaws of success is uncanny, and our treatment of Blackard Global is but a symptom of a larger disease. There are the long-heard rumors that Sea World wanted to build on North Pa- dre Island before they chose San Antonio—but that story was never confirmed. The same tale was told about Schlitterbahn as they built on South Padre and Galveston Islands ten years before breaking ground here. That was true. The sister property to the Kemah Boardwalk south of Houston was supposed to be on our downtown T- Heads—that was twenty-five years ago when Landry’s was just regional and before Tilman Fertitta was a billionaire or had a reality show. A cabal of the local establish- ment shot that down. Corpus Christi native and King High School graduate, Robert Rowling, the 108th wealthiest person in America according to Forbes, who owns Omni Hotels (all of them) and Gold’s Gym (all of them), among his many assets, has tried for de- cades to invest in Corpus Christi. At one time, his company, TRT Holdings, was the largest land owner downtown—but after one effort after another, and one rejection, scoffing, and dismissal after another—it seems that he gave up on his hometown. In 2005, after the opening of the American Bank Center, TRT proposed to redevelop the Memorial Coliseum site into a public entertainment area, and presented a plan to city council that included renderings from Disney-level theme park designers. Owners of the vacant—and still vacant—lot located across Water St. vehement- ly opposed the idea because the proposed Ferriss wheel would ruin their view of the bay, should they ever decide to build condominiums on the site. So, our fellow resi- dents once again kicked sand in the face of a billionaire developer—a Corpus Chris- tian at that—and he moved on and has since divested much of his local portfolio, and all of his effort to improve his old hometown. But the property owners on Water St. still have a clear view of Corpus Christi Bay—twelve years later there is nothing on The proposed Barisi Village development plan would return a nine hole golf course to the site, as well as tennis courts and other recreational facilities, all part of a 42-acre mixed use, Italian village-style community. their lot or the old coliseum site. Mission accomplished. Bass Pro Shops wanted to purchase the old coliseum, before it was finally demolished, for a new megastore right on Shoreline Blvd. They were run off by local busi- nesses in the fishing industry who feared the competition, and it was heard that the company’s CEO swore he would never come here again. Let us not forget the all-time hands-to-the-face of billionaires, when in 2006, voters said no to restricting vehicular access to a one-and-a-quarter-mile stretch of gulf beach along the North Padre Island seawall, a mea- sure that could have secured a $1.5 billion resort complex on Lake Padre built by Intrawest, one of the biggest re- sort developers in the world. About the same time, a lo- cal reporter was told by Ray L. Hunt, president of Hunt Oil Company in Dallas, who owned a side business called Woodbine Development, “If you had two hundred yards of beach without cars on Mustang Island, you would have had a Hyatt golf resort five years ago.” That was in 2007. Intrawest built San Destin and is the number one ski resort owner in North America. Woodbine built the Westin La Cantera and Hyatt Hill Country resorts in San Antonio, along with the Hyatt Lake Las Vegas Resort and others. But…eh…who needs that kind of investment in an eco- nomically, educationally, challenged community like the Coastal Bend? We Corpus Christians must ask ourselves an hon- est—painfully honest—question, “How much has our wonderful community lost to the naysayers? What is the cost of giving in to the curmudgeon class over and over again?” Why did so many successful Corpus Christians get their start here, then leave? It was once heard that four professional sports team owners come from here. The for- mer owner of KIII-TV Channel 3 got his start here, and eventually owned the NBC affiliate in San Diego, a couple of radio stations and magazines, and even a 60-story tower downtown on the bayfront. San Diego, not Corpus Christi. We breed and raise some very smart, very successful young people here. First, they left due to a lack of educa- tional opportunities, that was brain drain. Sadly, many of them never return, and instead make their marks in the big Texas cities or on the thriving east or west coasts. While it may not be that hard to get them home for the holidays, it is so hard to get them to stay, for lack of cultural, social and professional opportunities. While we complain about fees on our utility bills to pay for street repairs, or hotel tax used to offset millions in losses at the American Bank Center, or increasing prop- erty taxes even as we try to recover from a historic hurri- cane—do we ever think about millions, or billions, in tax dollars lost because we have chased one eager developer after another north of the Corpus Christi City Limits? Some of us seem to think that even one of these bil- lionaires needs Corpus Christi—or has ever needed Cor- pus Christi—to make their fortune. They’ve made their fortunes and we just won’t let them spread their wealth here, and the opportunities that come with that. Even after 97% of Pharaoh Valley homeowners voted in favor of Barisi Village, and the developer led a new law through state government in order to let it happen, a small band of motivated naysayers are pulling every legal maneuver available to block the project. Plaintiff Francis Garrigues and his attorney Gay Gilson argued in federal court that SB 1168 was unconstitutional, but their case was dismissed in February 2017. They have since pursued a civil suit in state court against fellow homeowners who led the effort to give Barisi Village the go-ahead. Will the curmudgeons get away with it—again? “I’m not going to let a couple people destroy a bunch of other people’s lives,” said Blackard. “Otherwise all the mission work I do is kind of pointless, right?” we ever think about millions, or billions, in tax dollars lost because we have chased one eager developer after another north of the Corpus Christi City Limits? TCB