Episode #015 - Mayor Pat McGrail, City Manager Mark Hafner, and Director of Public Services and Economic Development Trina Zais from the City of Keller join us for our 5th Community Highlight Episode. These episodes are specifically tailored to introduce you to our local leaders and to learn more about how they serve us. Join us as we get to know these folks and the city they serve!
City of Keller Bio:
A small town bent on, “Successfully Balancing Big-city Comforts with Small-town Charm”, Keller is one large residential community. Offering its residents 11 parks, 24 miles of hiking & biking trails, and a thriving school district; Keller promises an outstanding quality of life.
Since its start in the 1800’s as a small railroad community, Keller has maintained a reputation of consistent growth. Today, Keller is a fantastic platform for residential and business growth, and lots of folks are taking them up on that opportunity.
Links from this episode
City of Keller website:
Episode #015 REN Podcast Transcription - Keller Mayor & Team
Jason: Hey everybody, Jason Reynolds here with the real estate now podcast. So today I'm really excited, we are focusing on Keller Texas which is a town north of Fort Worth, a great area, been really growing a lot over the last few years and we have the pleasure of having the mayor, city manager and I believe the Economic Development Director joining us today, so, I just pulled up but wanted to jump on and give you guys an idea of what we're going to be doing today and also if you have any questions please comment below, we're always looking to engage with everybody looking-- watching and listening through the podcast and please feel free to like, share this podcast in this post as well. Thank you guys and welcome to the real estate now podcast.
All right, hey everybody, so I've got to set up here it's a GoPro, I've got the road mic here so it's recording our audio and you guys are actually the first group that wanted the whole team here, so I've got another mic back there recording you guys picking up your audio.
Pat: So we're kind of trendsetters.
Jason: You are trendsetters.
Trina: That's what Keller is all about.
Jason: That's what Keller is all about!
Pat: That’s what it’s all about.
Jason: Okay everybody, so I'm really excited, I did an intro you guys know who we have, but I want to walk through, we got Mayor Pat McGrail right here with us-
Pat: Hi there
Jason: -and in the back we've got Trina how do I pronounce your last name?
Jason: Zais, okay she is a director of public services and economic development here in Keller, and then we've got Mark, how do you pronounce your last name?
Jason: Hafner, okay he is the city manager here in Keller, so we're going to drive around a little bit, you guys have seen the podcast or part of it, so I'm just going to drive around and if you don't mind starting introducing yourself.
Pat: So, before we get started now am I going to sing or not?
Jason: Well here, let me let me pull the radio really quick [laughter] - you know we'll save that for the end.
Pat: So you know I’m Pat McGrail, and I am the mayor of Keller and I have been involved with the city for 20 something years and I’m probably pushing 25 so-
Jason: Okay, yeah.
Pat: I've been involved for a little while-
Jason: Just a little while?
Pat: - yeah, very proud of the city.
Jason: Okay, what was your career before becoming mayor?
Pat: I was with American Airlines, I spent 38 years with American in management and I traveled quite a bit over the years so, it was a good thing you know for me professionally and more importantly got to see a lot of cities, I learned a lot of good and a lot bad and hopefully I've been able to bring some of that to Keller you know since I have learned living in other cities throughout the country.
Jason: So how long have you lived in Keller?
Pat: I came to Keller in 1989, I was at the point in my career where I was ready to settle down because the company prior to that moved me every two-- the most three years and the kids started to grow you know you get a place you have to call home.
Pat: So at the time DFW was our major hub we just moved the headquarters down here and a matter of fact I was involved in the process of helping build the Alliance facility, I knew there was always going to be a future here so-- and I like Texas, so I thought you know what this looks like a place to call home. So I come down here and spent a lot of time looking around and settled on Keller, I just fell in love with the town.
Jason: Okay. Awesome, all right Trina you're up, how about you, what brought you to Keller?
Trina: Well I came to Keller as a consultant helping with the city’s development goal and after doing that for nine months Mark asked me to join the team in the position of economic development and public services director, and so I did and I'm enjoying every minute of it, it’s been well over three years full-time with the city.
Jason: Okay, and so how long have you been in the Keller area?
Trina: About four years.
Jason: Just the four years. Okay so before then where were you at?
Trina: So as a consultant I have worked all over Texas, before that I also had some other consulting experience, I have worked for non-profits, private and public corporations for 25 years in Texas.
Jason: Okay. Awesome, so familiar with Texas then.
Pat: But Trina let me add has very rare experience and we're really fortunate to have work she does fantastic job for us.
Jason: Perfect you're going to be the Guru on all the numbers when we start talking about that I bet [laughter]. Alright Mark you're up, tell us about yourself.
Mark: I have been in Keller since 2000, I came here for after nationwide search to be the police chief and I was police chief here for 14 years, moved my family from another state where I had a 20 year law enforcement career before-- like I said spent 14 years here as the police chief, loved every minute of it, then the city manager job I started doing it in from-- for and I tried it on for nine months and the council asked me to stay on permanently and I've been doing that now for four years being the city manager.
Pat: And again doing a fantastic job.
Jason: Yeah, you've got a good team.
Pat: Yeah, and this guy in honesty, he was instrumental in making what we have today as far as our police department goes, and it is second to none here in the state of Texas matter of fact nationwide, we want to top 10 safest cities in the entire United States, so that says a lot about what Mark did.
Jason: Wow, that's great. So then, I think what we'll do is we’ll kind of popcorn around. You guys can kind of take the questions but-- you know so I moved here to the Fort Worth area roughly about five years ago and when I moved here Keller was already the place to go based on, you know, when I work with clients-- there are great schools, can you guys, based on your knowledge-- I guess you've (Pat) been here the longest, what's been the development of Keller just over the last-- you know since you've been here, how have you seen the growth, has it expanded just a lot in the last five to ten years-?
Pat: It has, and especially - we went through what I call high growth period back in the late 90s’, early 2000s’ and we had several major developments coming to town one of those being a community called Hidden Lakes, and Hidden Lakes is a master-planned community and it brings a lot to the city of Keller. It has its own 18-hole golf course which is open to the public, it has its own recreational facilities and all the amenities; three swimming pools, parks, playgrounds, a lot of things that didn't provide a drain on the city services themselves and actually Hidden Lakes is as big as some of our neighboring communities-
Pat: - so that says a lot about it, but you know it started with that and it just continue since but what makes Keller unique is the quality of life, people come here because the quality of life which is our parks and our recreational facilities, schools-- you know and it still has we've been able to maintain that small-town charm-feel and that's what people like about it, so-- but it's growing a lot since I came here, when I came here we had about-- I think at about 6,400 people, now we're pushing 50,000, so we've seen a lot of growth, so now a lot of roads go from two lanes to four-lane in some cases six lanes, a lot of traffic lights, a lot of you know-- but it's all part of growth, it’s inevitable, you can't stop us so you do the best you can to manage it and try and get good quality growth and I think we've done that.
Jason: Right. So then Trina maybe you could speak on; is Keller landlocked in some regard and-?
Trina: It is landlocked.
Trina: Unless we do a swap with another city there is no more expanding the boundaries of Keller.
Jason: Okay, so then in terms of developer land is just dwindling here but--?
Trina: Yeah, the amount of green space available and by green I mean it’s never been developed on before, is reducing, however given the age of Keller there’s a lot of up and coming redevelopment opportunities so, even though we see our brand spanking new opportunities coming to a margin reducing availability, we’ve got investors, developers looking at, you know, what about if we took this particular thing, scrape it, rebuild.
Jason: Right. Okay, so that's kind of what's the main thing in Keller right now in terms of re-development.
Trina: Yeah, we seeing growth in that re-development opportunity.
Jason: Okay, so and is the population still growing exponentially though?
Trina: Non-exponentially, so 10 years ago we were growing at almost 16% and last 5 years we’ve dropped to little over 8%, so we are growing at a reduced rate.
Pat: I'd say we're just about-- the build-out and what's left to build if you figure whom go forward is about 50,000 it's always been that case, about 50,000 was what people will call Keller home and being built out at 50,000 people.
Trina: And today we are at 44,490.
Pat: And that plan has been in place for a long time and I think we have done a good job as far as that goes, I think we're going to end up exactly where we expect to be.
Jason: Yeah, so, I know in my opinion as a realtor, a lot of clients seek this area out for schools.
Pat: Yes, very good schools.
Jason: So great school ratings, but you know so that's usually what I always hear, but if you guys had a chance to speak to future potential residents, what are the new developments going on or that are down the horizon? I know behind the City Hall is the natatorium which looks like an awesome facility, can one of you guys talk more about that?
Pat: That belongs to the school district and when we created the town hall concept years ago, we created a TIF which the school district and the county participate in and as part of it the school district was able to build the natatorium and it’s for cold water, best for swim competitions, and any given weekend it’s packed ultra-full.
Jason: Yeah, it’s packed now.
Pat: They come from all over the state of Texas to freeze competitions and then right down the street from there we have what we call a counterpoint, which is a fun water pool and we have both indoor and outdoor water features there and-
Mark: Splash pad, the water park, indoor physical fitness, it's about 88-90,000 Sq. facility that is equal to any of the 24-hour fitness or any other private establishments that you can be a member at-- just by being a citizen of Keller.
Jason: So, I know when I've driven through and shown clients houses I've seen-- you know I've driven through a lot of great parks as I'm driving through can you guys kind of talk about-- I've only seen a few but how much how many parks are there in Keller in terms of how friendly it is for folks that love the outdoors-?
Pat: And as we speak we're approaching one right here is our sports-
Mark: The one coming up is our sports park that's the one people are probably most familiar with because we get more than 50% of people coming from outside the city of Keller in total playing the sports so, in that sports park we have soccer, we have baseball, we have softball tournaments and leagues, Keller youth association baseball and soccer leagues and that is jam-packed every single weekend with the fields being used all the time, then we have passive parks we have Bear Creek Park, that place to stroll around through our trail system, and our trail system is unique in color, there's right now 26 miles of trails and-
Mark: you can virtually go from one side of the city to the other side without ever getting off the trail.
Mark: And City Council is committed in the next 10 years to double that in size, so we have over 50 square miles of walkable trails and I'm talking about 8 to 10-foot-wide trails where people stroll, ride their bikes and it goes through all the different parks that we have in town, we have two parts of North Overton Ridge-- is up there and we-- so we continue to put emphasis, if you ask me what brings people here you're absolutely right, schools, parks and safety. Those are the-- if you ask me the three things, but it's also a complete package, we have some retail and some dining establishments, probably not as many as some other larger communities but just enough where our citizens don't get burdened with traffic problems and that's what I see that they really want is they want to come here and call this home and not be not-- there usually coming from someplace else-
Jason: Yeah, we don't want to go out of the city limits.
Mark: You are in Fort Worth now.
Jason: So is this the limit right here is this Walmart-?
Pat: We just passed it.
Mark: It's actually the railroad tracks for most purposes except we've got our Sports Park that's carved out on the other side of the track.
Jason: So then Trina, what are the major employers in Keller that kind of feed the economy?
Trina: So the major employers are going to be the school district, the city and then your big bulk store like Walmart, probably Sam’s, and the mayor comments about quality of life, what we offer in Keller are unique boutique establishment, so boutique retail you need restaurants, chef owned restaurants that give you something that you can't find anywhere else-
Trina: - which is something we're very proud of and that's what we're continuing to develop, you know sometimes you'll hear I wish we had something like a La Madeline's, which is a nice place to go but the performer they’re looking for is counter purpose to what Keller residence is all about, they don’t want to have to deal with the traffic that La Madeline’s demands and we are [the captive areas?], so they are looking for free way run age, and in Keller they don’t want to have that traffic, we look for establishments that meet our goals, both in unique quality as well as low traffic demands.
Pat: You want to make a right here, it’ll take you down straight to the west side of old town. Right here.
Jason: Oh, okay, I thought you were talking about that right there, I'll go back that way then
Pat: Sorry, well you can win the next street but basically this is our latest project that we just completed it’s about four and a half million-dollar investment into the west side of old town, and as we speak Mark can tell you more on training, but getting them ready we're doing a study now on the East side, see the enhanced entry way, you see Trina you've been instrumental, just you may want to talk a little bit about old tunnel what we've done down here.
Trina: So there are empathies behind this revitalization project was updating the infrastructure primarily, the water and sewer lines were antiquated and needed to be replaced, we also recognize that need for parking, so we added that and while we were doing that we added in public aired, landscaping, some beautification efforts to create a destination that retail and restaurants would want to come and while we were embarking on this, we did have interaction with seven mile cafe which is on your left, they actually bought the Old City Hall and converted it into one of our best restaurants in the city, at the same time Roscoe's Smokehouse which we’ve just passed also took the lead on this recognizing this was going to be the next up-and-coming area and they wanted to get on very early, as a matter of fact, they were under construction at the same time we were under construction, and since that time both have come out of the ground doing very well.
Since we finished the project, we have also now seen this new restaurant on your last issue the station ice house, they are expecting to open this fall, initially it was spring but they've got such a creative owner he has a new idea every now and then that sets them back just a little bit in their construction but they moving along and we're really excited to have them open up overall-
Pat: It’s just been real success.
Trina: Yes, and we're seeing a great return on investment already, we still got some parcels like this one on your left and the one across the street that are yet to be developed.
Jason: Okay, so this whole treat area right here is-
Pat: And there's two examples in a public art Trina was talking about.
Jason: Okay. Yeah, right here on the corners.
Pat: And as we were driving down in the back there, there was what we call promenade a walking area adjacent to all the businesses and it's online with public art, another two examples here-
Jason: Right here.
Trina: This wide sidewalk is a continuation of the promenade and it connects to the trail heads straight ahead.
Pat: You can actually walk under 377 to get to Bear Creek Park.
Mark: You can take this all the way to the-- all the other-- on the other side of our city, all the way up to Davis Boulevard.
Pat: See right down there it goes down under and it actually goes under railroad tracks, so you can walk to the sports park or you can go over to Bear Creek Park and then to the other end of town eventually, so you can actually work from one end of Keller to the other on our trail system.
Jayson: So how many-- in terms of tourists traffic from outside of Keller, is this driving a lot of that now making it a destination kind of location place to go?
Trina: We have seen an increase in activity here, now our retail trade areas is about 150,000 people, when we look at how much of available revenue is been spent outside of that bubble and what we can draw in, this has increased what we can draw in from the retail restaurant perspective.
Jason: Right. I love the fact that they're not maintained, like he said they're kind of local business owners.
Pat: And again, this was the Westside and now we've hired consultants within the last year and they’re doing the study as we speak for the east side and we're going to do something similar to the east side trying to revitalize it and make it more business friendly.
Mark: We're going to try to connect the East and West together probably either with some type of walk-- a pedestrian device that can get across this heavily used roadway or even a walk over that maybe we can connect a parking garage or something, because we need some more surface and garage parking because there's a parking issue here on the weekends for people that want to go to a hotel and go to the restaurant.
So we've got a consultant right now that’s going to bring back a plan to say how can we connect the two and what should we do over here on this side, we don't think it’s going to look exactly like the other side but it's going to be with these boutiques in this small little shopping areas as well, but the key is how do we tie them both together and people feel comfortable getting from one side to the next as you can see right now-
Jason: It’s difficult.
Jason: Okay, what were you saying?
Pat: One of the things we accomplished was a prominent, was you can see the sidewalk is awful close to both the building front and the street itself, so when we put the prominent we took basically the front of their building and moved it to the back. So now people park in the back and they come in through the back of the building and it keeps the traffic off the 377 having deal with all the [unintelligible 00:19:01] traffic, so-
Pat: It’s been a real success story, one of our historic landmarks of Jersey, water tower and underneath that is our Veterans Memorial which honors all the veterans people who have lived in Keller, served in the military.
Trina: So, in anticipation of activity happening on the east side we've also had a turnover of this building up on the right, it used to be a capital one building now it has been purchased and will soon be occupied by the Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, a lot of people are excited about having that credit union in the city. And I think it'll be a good entry feature for Old Town, every old town has a banker right?
Jason: Yeah, no that's great.
Pat: And we just passed a construction site where they're building another new restaurant about two blocks back, so, there's a lot of activity going on down here which were excited about so and a lot of it is an anticipation of the revitalization of this side, so we expect to see the same thing happen on the east side as what we did on the west, because I can guarantee you that all this new commercial activity on the west side wouldn’t have happened without the repolarization.
Jason: How much is-- you know there's all the development also happening on 35 up towards Alliance-
Jason: - Is that-- once that started happening did you also see an increase and folks doing business here and companies coming here?
Trina: No, that didn’t really have any impact on this because we are looking at two different things, they are looking at the National chains, look at that freeway traffic, so we are fishing out of two different ponds.
Jason: So then, you know as a team where do you guys-- you know so Keller is developing, you guys are focusing on bringing in the boutique shops and increasing quality of life even though it's great here, you know just making it even better. Where do you guys see Keller long term like the next five to ten years, what are some of the big things you know this was one thing down that was coming down the pike, it's done you guys are looking at this side and developing that, is there anything else that's in the works that your-?
Pat: Well as we speak our next council agenda we're going to be talking about a new Senior Center for our seniors, putting it to the voters come this November, we've got a parks master plan under review, we're talking about a major expansion of our Sports Complex to improve it and all the other parts throughout the city. We're currently just finishing up a flop is that correct Trina?
Trina: Yeah, we are about to take a look at the future land use plan draft, and get council input, get some more community input so the whole future use plan-
Pat: New construction-- I don’t mean to interrupt you but we've got construction going on everywhere as see as you drive through here, I’m sorry Trina.
Jason: It’s ok, we’ve been through an extensive community outreach to try to get everyone’s vision for what Keller would look like for the next 5 – 10 years, even longer years, and now that we have all of that, we took all of that input and put it together into a draft the consultant provided and we’re expecting to present that to the council in draft form and get some more feedback, and we go back out to the community and say we think this is what you sent, let us know what you think.
Pat: The real opportunity is going to be north of here from running on 377 that highway we were just on, north to the West Lake town border, West Lakes is right next to us and they're having a lot of growth in-- Schwab is coming, the financial and that's going to help bring people that would want to buy our homes in Keller, at the same time I think we'll get that corridor going and I think it'll define itself once we start getting some more traffic on there, what that will look like whether it'll be mixed juice with some residential and commercial or all commercial, but it's definitely we see that-- we're also looking strongly for, we want to try to get some entertainment-- out reason for asking for some type of entertainment, will that entertainment be like a knock off top off or some type of tavern bowl, or-- it's a very young community with young families that like to get out and do active things, that's why our trails are active, but it's Texas and it gets hot so they're also looking for some stuff that they can do during midday when it's too hot to be in our parks and something like a tavern ball, an upscale bowling facility or something that has indoor components too, it would be indoor volleyball or those type of things, so we're looking heavily in too for that that corridor there, so maybe some type of entertainment.
The other thing is that we have a well-known beer brewery, Shannen brewery which is in probers now and it-- they brew their beer right here in Keller and they use the water from Samantha's Springs, Samantha Springs is a bottle of water that from natural springs here in Keller and they brew their beer with that and it's quite tasty and they're looking to expand too as well and maybe even look at a larger footprint where they are on north 377 and that's very popular on the weekends people want to tour the brewery and sit down and have a cold glass of beer.
Jason: Okay, that's great. So they in terms of new residential building permits, is there much new building going on here in the area?
Trina: We have some trails of Bear Creek that they are right now actively building, and the we’ve got a couple that are coming down the road, over here next to Northwood Church, we’ve just recently approved plan development for another 96 homes.
Mark: Most of the stuff left though is; in filling some small spots of land where they’re going to do custom homes, take down 10 or 11 Lots, I think our days of 300 lot subdivisions are gone, we just don't have that raw land available, and without some without some significant redevelopment I really don't see that in the next 10 years. So we're going to see some infilled, the price of homes is getting very expensive in Keller, if they haven't already for most people, our new homes are hitting the next to the million-dollar mark, so what we see latter, custom built homes for people that want to have that, they're moving from other areas of the country California’s, there’s a lot of California's come to Keller because they can afford to sell their house and move here.
Pat: And a lot of these new housing-- people are coming here are because of west lake and all the corporate campuses, it’s been a real benefit to us because they are creating all these corporate campuses, you know as fortune 500 companies but the executives all need a place to live in and they choose Keller, so it has brought a lot of good people of living righteous color so it’s brought a lot of good people to town.
Jason: That's great, well we are pulling back into town hall is there anything great about Keller anything I missed, anything we didn't touch on that you guys want to make sure that the listeners know about Keller or-?
Pat: Well, you know again you know the education itself, and our school district is in my mind second to none, very highly ranked, quality life and again that’s what bring people to Keller, the quality life, but the most important thing, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention is our public safety and I see a compliance which makes me think of it, our public safety post police and fire are again second to none and I’m going to let Mark expound on it a little bit because I think it's very important that we give these guys the credit that they deserve, Mark you want to talk about the-?
Jason3: Well, besides a very, very low crime rate which we continually to experience in this community, our medical services both the ambulances that we have, or our medical units which most of our calls on the Fire side, our medical calls for service it's actually an emergency room rolling up to your house. They have advanced life support, complete communications with Baylor hospital and all the surrounding hospitals, they have all the medications to revive you from any type of sudden illness and it really is a great tool and what brings people to this community, they feel so safe with the police and the fire that the quality of life is just unbelievable and puts it over the top that people want to stay here.
Along with that, that country rural feel but still have the amenities they need in driving distance or walking distance.
Pat: And Mark mentioned Baylor Medical Center which is right down the road here, the good thing about them is not only are they one of the best hospitals in the country but they’ve just now received accreditation for trauma center, so in the past if we had a really severe issue trauma case we would have to fly whoever into Dallas, or Fort Worth, now we take them right to Baylor which provides a trauma center, so-
Jason: Yeah right here.
Pat: - it's nice to have it at your backyard, makes a big difference.
Jason: That's great.
Mark: Very responsive city government too, I've worked on the city governments, this city government whether it be the council, the city manager all the way down to the people providing the services on day-to-day basis, to the customer services over the top, no one will-- know what everyone's going to get a return on their email right away, the council member is going to call them back and there we have a very active community and they tell us what they want and we tried to exceed their expectations.
Pat: Did he say city management? [laughter] Actually he’s fantastic I tell you what, we're blessed to have him.
Pat: Does a great job for, [cemetery?] and everybody in our entire City Hall you know they're just fantastic people, they do a great job and like Mark says very responsive, to citizens, they're all here because they care about the city and the people who live in it, so a very special place.
Jason: Well, Mayor thank you, Trina, Mark, thank you guys very much.
Trina: My pleasure.
Jason: So, we're going to include-- I'll include a link to the city of Keller website in the show notes here and I believe there's a tab that I can link there too where they could get you all email or information in case you guys have any questions want to learn more about Keller, they’re responsive and they're helpful and they jumped on this podcast, so thank you guys so much for that.
Pat: Yeah, thank you so much, we appreciate chances to promote our city and—
Jason: You bet.
Pat: -let people know they're always welcome in Keller.
Pat: So, thank you sir we appreciate, good talking to you.