Located in Historic Downtown McKinney

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The details get crazier everyday!!

McKINNEY, TX-The Blackard Group Inc., undertaking one of the nation's most innovative mixed-use developments, has tapped an expert local vintner to operate an underground, Croatian-style winery patterned after a 1,000-year-old operation in its European sister city. The 6,000-sf winery and bottling operation will be carved from bedrock overlooking a 50-acre lake.

Jeff Blackard, president of the internationally acclaimed development group, has contracted with John Wales, owner of the Wales Manor label, to operate a commercial winery and vineyard in Adriatica, a 45-acre, authentic European village of residential and retail at the heart of McKinney's Stonebridge Ranch development. Blackard tells GlobeSt.com that the complexity of the winery, tasting rooms and bottling area will require a year to 18 months to build. Construction begins in May.

"It's easy to do above grade. I could do that all day long," Blackard explains about the decision to replicate a 10th century underground winery. Not only is it "more fascinating," he adds, but "it's more realistic." The winery will be outfitted with an oak press and barrels from Croatia and a stone press from the Island of Brach.

It was always intended that Adriatica, emerging as a harbor-front destination, would include a winery, "whether John did it or I did it," Blackard says. "It's not about negotiations. He's the right guy. He's one of our most foremost vintners in this region." Wales will continue to operate his modernized facility at 4488 County Rd., also in McKinney.

Blackard says he's been nurturing thousands of grape seedlings for two years. The plants will go into the ground in March in select half-acre to one-acre sites scattered throughout the village. In all, 10 acres will be planted with the premium grapes, setting a timetable into motion for the first bottling in 2007. The winery stock will include Croatian imports as well as the label, Wales Manor of Adriatica.

Blackard is putting in piers now for the waterfront buildings. In 30 days, work will begin on 74 villas and a 7,000-sf medical building. In May when construction starts on the winery, crews will begin work on 297 condos and lofts. This month, work got under way on a 30,000-sf office building for Keller-Williams Realty, the first sculpture, a signature bell tower and the first retail spaces--a Starbucks, UPS Store and wine bar. The village, featuring stone fences and cobblestone streets, will include at least 250,000 sf of retail, some in spaces of just 400 sf, much akin to the shops in Supetar and elsewhere in Europe. Like the winery, a Croatian bakery and farmers' market are considered must-haves for authenticity.

"Our goal is to start a building every 60 days for two and a half years," Blackard says, estimating it will take five years to build out the land with the $200-million-plus development. "And we're seven buildings behind."

Meanwhile, Blackard is funding a plan to open a 100,000-sf university in Adriatica for Accessology Inc., a 15-year-old Texas company with ties to the World Academy of Universal Design. The village, he says, is a design testament to accessibility. "This will be a learning center for developers of the world," Blackard stresses.

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