- Sapphire Bay Land Development, the new developer for the $1 billion waterfront mixed-use project in Rowlett, Texas, of the same name, broke ground on the Crystal Lagoons feature Nov. 25, marking a major milestone for an undertaking that has seen two previous teams unsuccessfully try to make headway with the development near Dallas. Crystal Lagoons is the name of the company that provides the technology for the crystalline floating lakes that require no land for construction.
- In addition to the "crystal lagoon," manmade lake feature, the 117-acre beach-themed Sapphire Bay development, formerly known as Bayside when it was being developed by another company, will first see the construction of a resort, conference center, marina and beach club. This first phase should be complete in late 2023.
- When the entire live-work-play project is built out, it will have 1.4 million square feet of commercial space and 1,600 residential units. In addition to individuals and businesses that relocate to Sapphire Bay, the development is also being positioned as a conference and vacation destination.
The development of a successful mixed-use project along the shore of Lake Ray Hubbard has been a priority for Rowlett for years. City officials estimate that Sapphire Bay will generate almost $165 million in property, sales and hotel occupancy tax revenue during the next 17 years.
The Dallas suburb expected to break ground on the project with the first developer, Bayside Land Partners (BLP), in March 2017. BLP, with help from the California-based Lifescapes International, flushed out the beach theme, paving the way for plans for surf machines, cabanas, swim-up bars and small watercraft rentals, with a Crystal Lagoons' lake as a focal point.
However, when the development team, which included Bayside District Partners, decided to rethink the design of the project, replacing the tropical beach elements with native Texas plants and aesthetics, the city pushed back, declared a default and took its case to court in order to preserve the vision of a development filled with beach amenities.
In fact, Rowlett officials said the developers were attempting a “textbook bait and switch” by eliminating the very features that had generated such excitement, especially since the city said it lived up to its end of the deal by offering economic development incentives, creating a tax increment reinvesting zone and securing state tax support for a convention center.
In the end, the city was able to repurchase the property and transfer the necessary licensing so that it could move forward with the project under a new developer. Rowlett officials and Sapphire Bay announced an agreement for the development in August.
Early on, the Rowlett development was going to be the first Texas project to include a Crystal Lagoons, but Balmoral near Houston snared that honor. Crystal Lagoons have been built, are in progress or are in the planning stages around the world.