THE HANDSOME EX-GENERAL, SHARP AS always in his grey pin-striped suit, takes the podium by storm. He grips its sides, standing his ground, and leans closer to the microphone to address the fifteen members of the City Plan Commission. Hugh Robinson’s soft, eloquent speech sounds earnest and sincere. His words are slow and measured, practiced. They contradict his body language, revealing nothing of the explosive emotion unleashed in back-room negotiations over the past several months.
This is not a foreign battleground for Robinson; he has stood before various city bodies more times than he’d probably like to remember during his five-year tenure as president of Cityplace Development Corporation. But never before this moment has his mission been so crucial-and its outcome so uncertain. Robinson’s task-to get zoning passed on roughly 135 acres of land in Oak Lawn and East Dallas-could either make or break The Southland Corporation’s vaunted “city within a city.” Even if the zoning is approved, the battle is just beginning). But if Cityplace’s proposal fails, its parent, Southland!, will have been dealt a swift, debilitating blow just as ill struggles to survive as a newly private, heavily leveraged company.
Until this year, Southland was Dallas’s largest publicly owned corporation-with $8 billion in annual sales. In 1987, Southland employed more than 6,500 people in the Dallas area alone. Financially, it was fat. But a stormy leveraged buyout by its founding family-led by brothers John P., Jere W., and Joe C. (Jodie) Thompson Jr., to avoid a hostile takeover-left Southland in a precarious financial position. Yes, the Thompsons took Southland private, but they are far from autonomous owners. During the next several years, the Thompsons will be working for their bankers. To pay off their vast debt of more than $4 billion, they will have to auction off seven operating divisions of 7-Eleven, the firm’s mainstay business, plus sell a thousand of those 8,296 convenience stores. They are also cashing in on the value of license royalties on Japanese operations-no easy task with the rising yen and falling dollar. But more dramatic in terms of its relevance to Dallas is the fact that Southland must glean $150 million in cash from its Cityplace project by 1990-money that will come from land sales or joint ventures with other developers. The consensus within the real estate community is that without the new zoning that Robinson is seeking, without a complete victory, those land sales on that time schedule will be virtually impossible. And Southland can’t afford to wait: loan payments in 1988 alone amount to a staggering $828 million.
Today Robinson faces his foes without the visible support of his bosses, the Thompson brothers. Though the Thompsons have all of the trappings of many of Dallas’s founding families-debutante daughters, skyboxes at Texas Stadium, an inherited home in Old Highland Park-they perpetually dodge the limelight. Their contributions to the community have been made in a Christian spirit-through the guise of Southland with the Thompsons staying one step removed. In city politics, too, they have remained behind the scenes, contributing to their candidates of choice, but rarely making public appearances in their behalf. The Thompsons have been influential in this city, but not through the conservative “old boy network.” Like their father, Joe C. Thompson Sr., the man appointed by a bankruptcy judge as receiver of the Southland Ice Company during the Great Depression, the Thompson brothers have stuck to business. Their source of power in this city has been the success of their massive Southland Corporation.
Critical as it is, the zoning of Cityplace matters not just to Southland and Hugh Robinson. Dallas-area nonprofit organizations, from groups supporting the arts to those helping the homeless, root silently for Southland. They know that success for Cityplace in its zoning appeal is critical to the survival of the many community programs that rely on the company’s philanthropic largess.
But there are enemies at hand as well. Even before Robinson approached the City Plan Commission today, his opponents were busy launching their assault. Neighborhood group leaders, never fully supportive of Cityplace, have become rabid in their opposition to it since the leveraged buyout of Southland. They say the LBO makes this whole zoning case an airball; that the Cityplace plan is no longer real. “There is no market for this development,” says Cay Kolb, charter member of the Oak Lawn Committee. “And with the leveraged buyout, there is no money for it either. Cityplace is a project in search of a market.”
Kolb’s words have been echoed by powerful city council member Lori Palmer and those echoes have been heard citywide. In fact, there are a lot of echoes going around city council chambers today. And Hugh Robinson and his Cityplace team can’t believe their ears.
SOUTHLAND VERSUS THE STOCKMARKET
JERE THOMPSON, FIFTY-SIX, SITS STIFFLY IN AN armchair in his private office, trying to act relaxed. But there’s action all around him. Cowboys and Indians, broncs and steers fight old-time skirmishes in the paintings of Western masters that decorate his office. Outside the door behind him, Jere’s older brother John fights today’s battles. John, sixty-two, practically runs in and out of his own office back and forth, back and forth to talk to his secretary. These are hectic times for the Thompsons. The meeting with the city plan commission is approaching, but that is just the soup. The Thompsons’ plat( is very full right now, and it has been for some time.
When Southland put the seven divisions of 7-Eleven on the auction block, more than 700 inquiries came in for all divestitures. Since the LBO was consummated on December 15, 1987, the Thompsons and their bankers have been weeding out bids, looking for the best deals from buyers. Just nine days after the LBO went through, on Christmas Eve, Southland announced an agreement to sell Chief Auto Parts to a new corporation formed by Chief’s management and Shearson Lehman Brothers- an LBO within the LBO-for $130 million in cash and the acceptance of some liabilities. In between all of that, and the brouhaha over Cityplace, and trying to sell the other divisions, Jere Thompson has agreed to fit me in.
The Thompsons have no great love for the financial pres, which has tended to tag along the heels of Wall Street analysts, regurgitating their views as gospel. As a result, the press on Southland for the last several years has been pretty negative. Even before Southland’s stock was put into play early last year, threatening the Thompsons with a hostile takeover, The Southland Corporation had a stormy relationship with the stock market.
Given its sixty-one-year heritage, Southland’s struggle with the New York Stock Exchange was a relatively short one. Southland was first listed on the NYSE in 1972. The Seventies were expansionary years when Southland emerged as this country’s premier convenience retailer. That was also the decade that Southland took on the world In 1974 Southland licensed the first 7-Eleven store in Japan; early last year, the 3,000th 7-Eleven opened there. Today patrons can buy Slurpees around the world from Malaysia to Ireland.
Analysts don’t argue that when Southland sticks to retailing, it comes out a winner. But they don’t like it when management turns attention away from the core business. So with the acquisition of Citgo Petroleum Corporation in 1983, Southland’s relationship with the stock market hit the skids. As a convenience retailer, Southland had a very predictable earnings stream-the difference between a good quarter and a bad quarter meant profit went slightly up or slightly down. But with Citgo in the pot, Southland’s earnings stream was terribly volatile-up drastically one month, then within two or three months substantially in the red. Says Ed Gagnon, an analyst with Robertson, Colman & Stephens in San Francisco, who followed Southland for almost five years at Rauscher Pierce Refsnes in Dallas, “Southland was much more expose i to the vagaries of the oil market, and that affected the stock price. Investors weren’t willing to pay up for Southland because of the earnings volatility.”
In August of 1983, when Southland finalized the Citgo purchase, Southland’s stock price was fluctuating at around $44 a share. By December, when Southland announced net earnings-which were negatively affected by erosion in Citgo wholesale margins-the stock price was all over the board, varying from $29.50 to $44.75 and closing at $32.125.
But Jere Thompson has a ready answer for the analysts. He argues that the Citgo acquisition did everything Southland wanted it to do and more. “Wall Street criticized the Citgo acquisition because of the way they operate,” Thompson says. “They have a group of analysts who follow retail and they have a group that follows energy, People don’t like to learn new things. The oil people didn’t want to learn retailing. The retailers did not want to learn the refining and marketing and transportation side of the energy field.” So Wall Street, unable to fit Southland into a prefabricated category, calls the Citgo acquisition a bad deal, Thompson says.
But Wall Street had the nosediving oil market on its side of the quarrel. Less than a year after Southland bought Citgo, the market went to hell. “It was not a very pretty picture, and we were criticized again,” Thompson says. “Timing is everything, and like Don Meredith used to say, if I knew I was going to throw that interception, I wouldn’t have let the ball out of my hand.”
But regardless of Wall Street criticism and the hurting oil market, Thompson likes the Citgo purchase because it guarantees 7-Eleven stores a supply of gasoline secure from any recurrence of an oil embargo. It also increases Southland’s profit margin at the pump. At the time Southland bought Citgo, Thompson says, 7-Eleven was selling a billion or so gallons of gasoline a year. The Citgo acquisition was a way to increase profit by as much as a penny a gallon, or $10 million a year. Then on September 30, 1986, Southland sold 50 percent of Citgo to a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. Says Dennis Telzrow, retail analyst at Eppler Guerin and Turner, “Effectively they sold half of Citgo for what they paid for it. Now if you and I had bought an asset and sold half of it for what we paid for it and got money in the interim, we would be called a genius. Wall Street still called them dummies for buying it originally.” Still, Telzrow sticks with most of the analysts who say it’s better to mind the store: “I think it took a lot of the Thompson’s management time to understand the [refining] business, and I think that may have hurt 7-Eleven”
With gasoline now the biggest selling single category in 7-Eleven stores-past the two billion-gallon-a-year mark-Thompson would still disagree with the analysts. And his view of the Citgo acquisition is a prime illustration of how the Thompsons have run Southland: more like a private company than a public one. They’ve never hesitated to buck Wall Street’s conventional wisdom when they thought that what they were doing was right for Southland. And sometimes that attitude hurt the stock price, as it did with Citgo.
The Citgo acquisition also follows a tradition started by Joe Thompson Sr.: rather than just sell what someone else makes. Southland historically has sought to supply the product as well, thus gaining tighter control of supply and distribution and increasing Southland’s profit margin. Back in the Thirties, milk was one of 7-Eleven’s fastest moving items, so in 1936, Southland opened Oak Farms, the first of ten regional dairies acquired by Southland. Eventually the dairies produced more milk than 7-Eleven alone could use, and now Southland dairies serve thousands of other customers.
Southland’s recent venture into the movie video rental business with MovieQuik was squarely in the supply-it-yourself tradition. While other convenience stores contracted with third party suppliers to get a piece of the video business, Southland took a $20 million plunge and purchased the movie inventory for MovieQuik. Ed Gagnon and other analysts were critical of the MovieQuik venture: “It was clearly a move where potential profits got in the way of decision making,” Gagnon says. With a third party operating the movie rentals, Southland could only have earned 20 or 30 percent commission on rentals. But Southland decided to take the risk of owning the movies and thereby grab all of the profits-if there were any. Gagnon says the movie rental business has not yet proven successful in the convenience store industry and he points to Circle K stores, Southland’s chief rival, as a prime example. “Circle K also jumped on the video rental business, but had a third party owning the inventory,” Gagnon says. “Now they are having trouble keeping their third party afloat. The company is going Chapter 11 and it has movies in 3,000 Circle K stores. A lot of people have stubbed their toe on this business.” Since the leveraged buyout, Southland has reversed its position and sold MovieQuik to a third party supplier.
True to form, analysts and shareholders have also criticized Cityplace as a departure from the core business of Southland, calling it a needless risk and an adventure of ego rather than a prudent business decision. Given the short view and today’s real estate market, the critics sound pretty smart. But Jere Thompson takes the long view. His company has been here for sixty-one years and will be here a lot longer, he says.
“When we started acquiring property,” Thompson says, “real estate was a good item in this city. In the long term, it still is. Dallas is going to continue to grow, and City-place is going to be a premier place for this city, something that this city is going to be proud of. We wanted something that was going to be here forever.”
BUT ALONG THAT TIMELINE TO FOREVER, Southland ran into some unexpected changes. Black Monday for the Thompsons may have been May 28, 1987, when The wall Street Journal and USA Today reported that Southland stock was in play and the company was “under siege” by an unidentified hostile buyer. On that day, analysts put Southland’s breakup price at $65 to $72 a share. The articles set off another wave of fluctuation in Southland stock price. Between May 28 and July 5, when the Thompsons made their tender offer, Southland stock bounced from $51.25 to $76.
We’ll never really know if there was a hostile buyer of Southland stock willing to go the distance. The Belzberg brothers of Canada were said to have a 4.9 percent interest in Southland, and the Thompsons have said they talked with the Belzbergs. But Southland had been rumored to be a takeover candidate for some time. With the bull running wild and a new stock play or leveraged buyout emerging every week, Southland was ripe for the taking.
Certain types of companies are prime for takeover plays. The company might own some real estate (which could be sold off to finance a leveraged buyout). It might have strong cash flow (which would help pay off the debt). Earnings might be down so the stock price has fallen (putting the company in a weak position), One family may own a significant portion of the stock (and be willing to pay a premium to keep control). The company may be fat with assets easy to divest (to pay back the debt), or have fat management (easy to trim back to cut costs after the LBO). In the spring of 1987, Southland fit all of the above. It was an easy back-of-an-envelope calculation, so the kids on Wall Street dreaming up the deals could scribble. . . “1,800 stores at $500,000 apiece gets you $900 million”. . .and before they finished salad at lunch, they had figured out how to pay off the debt.
That spring and early summer, the Thompsons were trying feverishly to monitor those who owned their stock-a daunting task. Someone who wants to make a hostile offer can get the word out among arbitrageurs in minutes-as anyone who’s seen Wall Street the movie knows-and effectively keep their “position” a secret by remaining below the 5 percent filing level. When the time comes, they can start buying from the arbitrageurs.
The Southland stock play was also powered by another predictable source: rumors about family squabbles. There were rumors that older brothers John and Jere had kicked little brother Jodie out of the company, that he was the black sheep, an alcoholic. Jodie had left Southland to run Sigel’s Liquor Stores. A full fifteen years younger than chairman John, he saw that his turn at running Dad’s business was far down the line. Still, the wild tales of alcoholism and fraternal loathing flew between brokers as speculation on Southland stock escalated.
This hidden network posed a threat that the Thompsons didn’t tolerate for long. In July they made a preemptive offer of $77 for Southland stock. At the time, Ed Gagnon recalls, the highest value he could put on the company was $70 a share. But the Thompsons were through messing with Wall Street. They made an offer high enough to chase off any would-be suitor and bring their stormy relationship with Wall Street to a swift end. But the fight wasn’t over yet. (Jodie, by the way, was in on the leveraged buyout, a partner with his brothers in JT Acquisitions.)
Certainly few people expected the stock market crash in October that we all now know as Black Monday. The Thompsons, who reportedly lost some $800 million on paper during those tumultuous market days, were to feel the repercussions of Black Monday for longer than most. The Thompsons had completed one leg of their two-tiered bid to take Southland private. Then, when they had one leg over, the fence collapsed, leaving them in the rubble. Suddenly there was no market to finance the second leg of their offer. No one was interested in the risky high-interest junk bonds being peddled to finance the deal.
“You can’t imagine a worse scenario,” says Gagnon. “I can’t think of anything else that could have happened to Southland that would have made it worse.”
It was too late to go back-the Thompsons had made that $77 offer for Southland stock. Had the brothers tried to renege, they would have been sued in a minute. And they were having trouble going forward. Goldman Sachs & Co. and Saloman Brothers Inc., Southland’s underwriters at $100 million each, couldn’t sell the $1.5 billion in junk bonds to finance the buyout-even at 18 percent interest. In the new, cautious bear market, Wall Street thought the deal was too risky and wanted the Thompsons to sweeten it with more equity. During late November and early December, all eyes were on the Southland deal. If Southland flopped, this could be the end of the high-flying junk bond market. But there was no such dramatic ending. The complicated solution that led to a done deal involved issuing stock warrants that would entitle holders to purchase shares in the new, closely held Southland. Thus the new Southland is not entirely private; a tiny minority owns Southland “merger preferred” stock. Critics of the deal, usually competitors of Goldman and Saloman, say Southland ended up having to give the company away to get the deal done. But Southland was the first LBO after October 19-no enviable position. The financial press was predicting the demise of the LBO. Southland may have been lucky to get its deal done at any cost.
So Southland remains at least partially public. But it is vastly more private-there will be no more four-color annual reports, no more public annual meetings, and entirely to the Thompson’s pleasure I’m sure, fewer encounters with the press.
THE NEW SOUTHLAND
IN THE FUTURE, WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT Southland,” says Jere Thompson, “you are really talking about 7-Eleven.” Naturally the analysts like that; they say it will be good for the company to trim off the fat and get back to doing what it does best-retailing.
The Thompson’s plan of action is no different than the plans envisioned by those back-of-the-envelope calculators on Wall Street. The Southland Corporation is being broken up, parceled out piece by piece as dictated by the banks. MovieQuik was the first to go. Then 270 7-Eleven stores in the Houston area, followed by Chief Auto Parts, the dairies group, another 473 7-Eleven stores, and Reddy Ice. And eventually, perhaps even before this story sees daylight, the Thompsons will bid farewell to Tidel Systems, the snack foods division, Southland Chemical/Food Labs, and approximately 250 other 7-Eleven stores.
Southland hasn’t released any numbers of employees laid off due to the LBO, but the shrinkage is apparent. The corporation once planned to occupy the entire forty-two-story East Tower of Cityplace Center. The new Southland, post-LBO, plans to take only about 50 percent of that building as its corporate headquarters. And though many employees will continue their old jobs under new ownership, there are no guarantees.
Jere Thompson wouldn’t call firing loyal employees “trimming fat.” And therein lies one essential difference between a hostile takeover and the Thompson’s leveraged buyout: attitude. It’s not easy to find a disgruntled Southland employee. The Thompsons have long been applauded for knowing how to attract and keep top corporate talent. People work for The Southland Corporation for a lifetime and are rewarded well. The Thompsons have taken a patriarchal view toward employees since the company’s early days as a pioneer in corporate profit sharing. So, rather than anger and hostility, the mood at Southland is one of sadness, a belief that the Thompsons did only what they had to do to save their father’s company.
“We have had to let some long-tenured people go, and a lot of them I really counted as part of the family,” says Jere Thompson. “It hurt to do that. It still hurts.”
And Thompson says there’s another difference between the family LBO and a hostile takeover: “No one knows our business like we do.” He says after Southland pays off its debt-no small charge-7-Eleven will continue to grow, and the profit in that growth will be shared by some 115 partners within the new corporation. “I don’t think any of the other LBOers would necessarily do that,” Thompson says.
And in the future, when people talk about Southland, they will also talk about City-place. Whether they like it or not-and they say they like it-the Thompsons are real estate developers.
THE WILD CARDS
ONE DAY LAST SUMMER, WHILE Southland stock was being hotly pursued, Walt Disney Productions’ Michael Eisner popped a cassette into the VCR at his Burbank offices and watched a musical sales pitch from some of Dallas’s heaviest hitters. Cityplace Development Corporation footed the bill for this song and dance that featured appearances by Starke Taylor. Bill Clements, and Ross Perot.
The video was a creative way to sway Disney toward Dallas in its search for a site on which to develop a new entertainment retail concept. Disney and the Maryland-based Enterprise Development Company (of “festival marketplace” fame: Faneuil Hall in Boston, Harborplace in Baltimore) had teamed up to create this new retail concept. Cityplace, coincidentally, had hired James Rouse, founder of Enterprise and the man behind the festival retail concept, as a consultant to develop a retail component for Cityplace. Naturally, Cityplace also thought it would be a great idea for Disney to pick Cityplace as ii|s development site.
Though the video didn’t actually mention Cityplace, Hugh Robinson was part of the group that male the presentation to Eisner. So you can bet the point was made. And since last summer, Robinson has kept up the contact with Disney. Disney has said that its plans are not on the front burner, but it has narrowed its choice cities to San Antonio, Miami, Philadelphia. Chicago, and Dallas. It’s a long shot, but the Disney development is the wild card in Cityplace’s hand. If Disney chooses the Cityplace site, Southland could sell joint ventures at a premium.
But the neighborhood interests have a wild card, too. Her name is Lori Palmer and developers of late have taken to calling her “the giant slayer.” The nickname has its roots in Palmer’s liberal, populist upbringing. She’s not afraid to take on anyone regardless of size, as was exemplified by her legendary battle against Southwest Airlines over noise levels at Love Field. But the name also implies that Palmer bears a knee-jerk hostility against the big guys, and that scares Dallas developers to death. Palmer has certainly been instrumental in mobilizing the effort against Cityplace. Though she has specific objections to the project, Palmer-like the other neighborhood leaders-appears to be more bothered by attitude, specifically Hugh Robinson’s attitude.
THE DART DEAL
WITHIN THE CITYPLACE planned development (PD) is a DART station, a critical hub on Central just north of downtown. Hugh Robinson worked closely with DART in planning the station. The two share an obvious interest in the development that planners say will inevitably cluster around transit stations. From DART’s point of view, the office, residential, and retail activity that will be created by Cityplace is a virtual guarantee of rail ridership. For Cityplace, the DART stallion is an important marketing tool. To sweeten the deal, Cityplace has offered to contribute as much as $22 million toward building the $34 million station.
To some, the alliance between Southland and DART would seem to be natural and harmless. To others, namely Palmer and some neighborhood activists, cooperation began to smack of collusion. The group let go with both guns, threatening DART with organized opposition to its upcoming referendum on long-term financing-a vote that many see as a referendum on the transit authority’s proposed rail system itself. Reeling from accusations that DART played footsie with Southland, in effect “auctioning off” the transit station site, making a private deal, and therefore excluding the public from the planning of DART station areas, DART staffers made a dramatic reversal, distancing themselves from the Robinson camp.
But at that February 11 plan commission meeting, the planners had trouble explaining DART’s position. After contradicting each other on several key points-the most important being DART’s position on high-rise development around DART stations-Charles Anderson was called to make an emergency appearance to bail out his bumbling staff.
Everyone was surprised to see Anderson. But most surprising was what came out of Anderson’s mouth: echoes, echoes of words heard earlier by neighborhood activists. It was almost as if the voice of Cay Kolb or Lori Palmer had been transplanted into Anderson. The words Anderson used in talking to city plan commissioners practically belong to neighborhood crusaders, they have been said by them so often, Robinson’s camp was visibly shocked.
“We do not want the Cityplace station to be the mistake,” Anderson (Palmer, Kolb) said. Anderson’s stance confused city plan commission members because he, too, distanced DART from Cityplace. He said any projections used to locate a DART station at Haskell and Central were made long before anyone knew about Southland’s development plans for the area. Anderson confessed to not listening to neighborhood interests, to “marketing” DART’s position the first time around, and he explained that another delay was essential to gather neighborhood input.
Anderson’s mention of neighborhood input hit on a key sticking point. The meetings held by DART and the city planning staff on the Cityplace station were poorly attended. On the average, as few as ten people came- not exactly a wide representation of public opinion. Those attending were the same neighborhood activists who usually haunt plan commission and council meetings. Their faces and their dogma are very familiar to plan commission members. But despite Anderson’s concession, late in February, neighborhood interests took their gripes to the press, and a tip to a Dallas Morning News reporter spurred an all-out battle.
Like Anderson, Robinson attracted neighborhood opposition in part because of the way he has handled neighborhood meetings. Southland is accused of ramrodding City-place down the throats of the neighborhood cadres. The General himself is perceived as immobile, uncompromising, and-the un-kindest cut of all-oblivious to the sacred Oak Lawn Plan. “Cityplace appears to believe that it has had community participation,” says Palmer. “But those meetings have been interpreted as marketing meetings. The community input never appeared in revised plans. And in Oak Lawn, people are particularly attuned to this process through the Oak Lawn Plan where their input was seen later in projects.”
The crux of the battle between the neighborhoods and Cityplace is the height of residential projects on the west side of Cityplace near Turtle Creek. Cityplace is asking for heights of 180 feet-or approximately fifteen stories, where two- and three-story condominiums stand now. The Oak Lawn committee is opposed to those heights, but Robinson argues that there’s already a band of 240-foot high rises along the Turtle Creek corridor. Neighborhood groups on the east side of Cityplace-the M-streets area-aren’t too keen on the plan either. They resent being subject to denser development guidelines acceptable in the Oak Lawn Plan. And the neighborhood activists keep returning to a familiar refrain: “Will Cityplace ever really happen?”
That question is on everyone’s lips these days. Jere Thompson says opponents of Cityplace, notably council member Palmer, have latched onto the widely publicized LBO and run with it, carrying it as a red flag of warning. Southland never intended to develop Cityplace-a $3 billion to $4 billion proposition-single-handedly, Thompson says. It always proposed selling off land and doing joint ventures with developers. But Thompson admits that he would be much more comfortable if Cityplace were not limited by time constraints imposed by paying off its massive debts. “You probably can’t generate $150 million from Cityplace in the next three years and have any interest left in the project,” Robinson says. But the plan is to generate $80, $90, or $100 million through joint ventures. And that plan depends on getting the Cityplace zoning approved. Thompson thinks that if Southland gets good prices on divestitures, lenders may grant leeway with Cityplace.
In the meantime, the little armies have all returned to base to prepare for the upcoming battle. If the DART board in March opts for the Cityplace station site, based on further input from the public, the next Cityplace zoning skirmish will take place this spring. Both camps will be working feverishly to line up votes on the plan commission and city council. One of the more interesting votes to watch will be that of Mayor Annette Strauss. Will she side with Lori Palmer, often an ideological soulmate, or with her old friends and major campaign contributors, the Thompsons? The Thompsons have already started to tug on their political strings, writing a letter to Mayor Strauss and taking out full-page newspaper ads stressing their commitment to Dallas.
Ask Hugh Robinson whether Cityplace will happen and the answer is not only yes, but hell yes. Certainly, the west tower of Cityplace Center, the twin to the forty-two-story building that Southland will soon occupy, will get built. No, Cityplace has no groundbreaking date set, But it is actively seeking a joint venture partner, someone looking for a signature tower in Dallas. Some of the work on the west tower is already finished. The central plant is finished and has been tested. Utility work is nearly complete on both the west and east sides for all of Cityplace Center. The granite for the twin tower has not only been purchased, it’s cut, and most of it sits in a storage yard in Seagoville. Yes, says Robinson, Cityplace will be built. It’s just a matter of time and market. And zoning. And money.