The Harbor entertainment district owner files for Chapter 11 reorganization

By J.J. Smith. The company which developed and owns the lakeside entertainment and shopping district in Rockwall called The Harbor has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

According to a City of Rockwall news release issued late Tuesday afternoon, the City has been notified that Mariah Bay Leasing Corporation, owned by Rockwall-area residents Rob and Sarah Whittle, filed for reorganization so the company could address their financing issues and “come out of this in a stronger and better position.”

The news release read that “the city has every confidence that the long term prospects for the Harbor as a successful business development in the City of Rockwall are strong and this area will continue to be an asset to the community.”

No one at the City was available to comment since it was past 5 pm.

“The purpose of this Chapter 11 reorganization is to try to get the debt reorganized so retailers can get the rent concessions we need to give them,” said Whittle. “We need an interest rate reduction from the lender so we can pass it on to our tenants.”

Rents advertised in windows of vacant stores at The Harbor have revealed rates as high as $9,700 per month.

He said although some of the retailers are definitely struggling with the down economy, business at the movie theater, restaurants and hotel are “off the charts.”

“Cinemark is having their best year ever. The restaurants are doing spectacular. The Hilton Hotel just had its second best month ever!”

The highly popular weekly Thursday evening lakeside concerts will continue as usual and begin in May, said Sarah Whittle.

He said he is very optimistic that necessary changes can be worked out with the lender, which nowadays has to deal with “a highly-regulated environment.”

According to the City news release, Mariah Bay Leasing Corporation is located in the Harbor Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District that was created by the City of Rockwall to fund the public improvements the City constructed at the Harbor, including roads, utilities, spray fountains, walkways and other public enhancements located along the lake edge.

The City issued debt to pay for the public improvements and that debt is paid for through the property and sales taxes that are collected within the TIF.

Mariah Bay is one of 38 property owners that pay property taxes into the TIF, which incorporates 113 acres.  The total property taxes owed to the city under the TIF equals $529,419.  This number includes taxes collected by Rockwall County and pledged to the city for the TIF.  The total collected in the TIF to date equals $300,050.

The Harbor development has paid a total of $256,061.  The property owners still owe a total of $223,063, only a portion of which is owed by Mariah Bay.

“Property taxes are still owed and payable, even in the event of a bankruptcy,” read the news release.

“These dollars will be collected by the city. Sales taxes continue to be paid by the tenants and the businesses will continue to operate.”

Rija Boutique was the latest store to go out of business at The Harbor at the end of January, but the new Dragonfly Asian Grill and Sushi Bar just opened this week. Owner Lorie Price, who already owns two restaurants in Dallas with her husband, says she expects business will be excellent and is excited to be located at The Harbor.

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5 Responses for “The Harbor entertainment district owner files for Chapter 11 reorganization”

  1. Thank you for your insight. Your thorough presentation is appreciated. Keep up the good work.

  2. Flimflam man says:

    One of the great stories in recent Rockwall lore–Whittles ability to flim flam so many out of their money while padding his own bank account. After a decade of such misdeeds and he’s still at it!

  3. Jane says:

    Judy, Since you have seemed to have predicted this, what do you think should “draw interest” at the Harbor? The movie theater and restaurants are great and the shopping is coming along… If they can get rent rates down then more stores will come in and more shoppers. The concerts are fun for the whole family and and so is just walking the walkways along the water. It’s a beautiful combined effort by the city and the developer. Not sure what you’re so snarly about.

  4. Judy says:

    Hopefully the City of Heath will take a long hard look at doing business with the Whittles…this isn’t the first of his developments that has gone bust.. Think we all knew this was going to happen..not much to draw interest at the Harbor.

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