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Historical Marker Unveiled at Site of Hackberry Creek Ranch

Photo by Ariel Graham

Irving—The Irving Heritage Society and the Las Colinas Association unveiled a historical marker at the former site of Hackberry Creek Ranchon Wednesday, Dec. 15.

“We are here to pay homage to the Carpenter family, who made a significant contribution to the growth and development in the city of Irving, especially the creation and development of Las Colinas,”Carol Huntley, president of the Irving Heritage Society, said. “Ben Carpenter was a visionary, an innovator, a dreamer, a philanthropist, a forward thinker, a master planner, and we thank him for his positive vision of Las Colinas.”

Danny Opitz, vice chairman of the Las Colinas Association, gave a brief history of the Carpenter family.

“I was privileged to go to work for Mr. Carpenter in 1980,” Optiz said.“I served 41 years working in the Las Colinas developments. This is a very special day to me and to the thousands of employees who were fortunate enough to work for the Carpenter family, and help build this dream, and bring it to fruition.

“In 1928 [the Carpenter family] acquired the first piece of property for Hackberry Creek Ranch. It was approximately 200 acres, and through time it grew to be approximately a 1,500 acre ranch.By the time Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter, today that’s Ben and Betty were wed in 1948,they became curators and the caretakers for the Hackberry Creek Ranch.

“Hackberry Creek Ranch was primarily a horse breeding ranch. They did have cattle here, but most of the cattle operations had been transferred to other ranches spread out throughout Texas. The Carpenter family became concerned about the spreading growth of Dallas and Irving, and so with the help of his brother-in-law, Dan Williams, who is the husband of Carolyn Williams, who was Ben [Carpenter’s] sister and is who Lake Carolyn is named after, they started acquiring more land. The ranch grew to 6,000 acres.

“In 1962, we were able to christen the Las Colinas Country Club as the start of the Las Colinas development. He also started building in the southern part of this area along Northgate, so Northgate Plaza became a reality,” Optiz said. “During these times, he also dedicated property to the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, where the University of Dallas now sits.As time expanded, he donated property for Baylor Scott and White and the Irving Arts District.

“Mr. Carpenter had a vision to make a master plan development that no one had ever seen before.Through the help of his brother in law, and other family members, and a tremendous design staff, he started putting together the pieces. First he developed University Hills and that was our first residential development here.

“He also started Lake Carolyn, [which] became the centerpiece of the Las Colinas Urban Center. It was during these times, we went through the typical ups and downs of the real estate business. A lot of people told Mr. Carpenter, ‘This will never succeed. You can’t do it.’ But he never gave up. He spent whatever money it took to make it the best.

“We are so fortunate to have this. In Las Colinas, we’re sitting here at 12,000 acres. We added all the property up north of Royal Lane,” Optiz said. “We added the Kinwest development.We currently have approximately 55,000 people living in Las Colinas, and we have 135,000 working in Las Colinas. That represents since the year 2000 a 100 percent growth in population, and a 50 percent growth of businesses and employees.

“We’re very fortunate and pleased with the work that Hammond and Tim, as my leaders with the Las Colinas Association now, and the vision they have of carrying forward with things that we’re going to do to make Las Colinas even more special and to bring more people here to enjoy what we have.”

“Pioneer is proud to call Irving home,” Scott Nix, senior director for Pioneer Natural Resources, said. “This has been our home since the company founding in 1997. A few years back, when we began discussing options for building a new building, there was no question it would be located in Irving. We looked at a number of available sites, and of course, none compared to this property from a natural beauty, value in history, amenities access. Once we found the property, we heard the story, and it was the choice for us going forward.

“Our building is located on the site of the original Carpenter family home, which is one of the highest points in Irving. The views are spectacular, especially from the higher floors.

“We wanted to leverage the natural beauty of the property and incorporate as much of the native landscaping and design as possible. We’re honored to be permitted to work with this property and share the history of the Carpenter family.”

“Back in the early 90s, when I was first appointed to the Planning and Zoning, Mr. David Brune was our contact,” Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer said. “David took the time for me and Mr. Carpenter to spend a couple hours together to talk about the ranch. [Mr. Carpenter] was concerned about the future of the Las Colinas Association and how would it continue his vision and his dream.

“He was a very interesting man. I was much taken aback by his ability to bring things out and talk about them, such as the design of a bridge, because it was something he had seen in his travels and had done a sketch of.He would say, ‘This is why we did this and this is why we did that.’The thing I’m most impressed with more than anything was his vision.

“He told me more than once in order for this to be successful, you got to have a good university. Today, we have the University of Dallas. He also talked about how important was to have a great hospital. The other thing was the arts. He felt if you were going to bring people in, they needed to be able to have some culture. We have the Arts Center. Those are things we have for the whole city to use. They weren’t specifically designed for Las Colinas; they are something that brings the city to a whole different level of what a city should be.

“I look at what he was able to do in his vision of the amenities we needed to make a city great, as well as how to utilize the land to the best benefit, how to reuse your water. He was a true visionary in that respect,” he said.