Velocita plan: Sandow, Texas
The vision of Velocita Holdings’ CEO Doug Hutchison for a high-tech “green” city at the site of Alcoa’s Rockdale Operations came into sharper focus Tuesday during a meeting of the Rockdale Rotary Club.
Hutchison told an attentive group of about 60 business leaders the development, which is eventually envisioned to provide 5,000 jobs, will be known as “The Community of Sandow,” an homage to a 19th Century strong man who is looked on as the father of modern, healthy lifestyles.
Velocita is currently negotiating with Alcoa’s Rockdale Operations to purchase 11,000 acres at the plant site where Alcoa operated an aluminum smelter until 2008.
While it’s an ambitious, multi-billion dollar project, Hutchison said it’s based on the Rockdale-area’s greatest selling point.
“Small-town America is the most soughtafter lifestyle in the world,” he said.
LIFEST Y LES— The complex would include research and development areas, educational facilities, business, recreation, green industry and housing.
Hutchison said three lifestyles are envisioned in the community of Sandow:
• Heritage farming/ranching. A self-sufficient agricultural approach.
“It’s based on the next generation of sustainability,” he said. “Ironically, that’s going back to the family farm concept, grow what you can use and every farm also had a cash crop.”
• Mechanical/motor and marine sports. “This would be people who have their ‘toys’ (cars, boats) in their garages and want to go out and test them.”
Hutchison said the former Alcoa Lake is envisioned as a part of that lifestyle.
“Our plans call for canals, fountains, something that wouldn’t interfere with Luminant’s ability to use the lake as a cooling facility,” he said. “In fact it will cool the lake even more.”
• Health/wellness. Organic farming, fitness and recreational facilities.
Ironically, the “patron saint” of that approach is the man for whom Southwest Milam County’s large-scale coal mines were named early in the 20th Century.
Eugene Sandow (1867-1925) was a Prussian bodybuilder and weight lifter who was known for having “the perfect physique.”
Velocita’s proposed name for the development pays homage to Sandow.
“We’ll have ball fields, trails, all kinds of facilities, prompting healthy lifestyles and wellness,” Hutchison said.
“I’m not here to burst your bubble, just maybe flatten it out,” Hutchison said.
“Everything’s not going to be built overnight,” he said. “Nobody is going to show up with a $5-billion check.”
He said the full effect of Velocita plans are envisioned in 15 years. Alcoa and Velocita have set an Oct. 31, 2011, deadline to close on the 11,000 acre land deal.
But Hutchison dropped the names of some heavy hitters who are looking at being involved in The Community of Sandow.
Balfour-Beatty is a world-class infrastructure business service.
Jacobs Engineering is one of the largest engineering companies in the United States. Its 2009 revenues were $11 billion.
Hutchison said Rice University, the number-three research institution in the United States, is also interested.
“This is a big project but we’re a pretty low-key company,” he said.
He said Velocita is composed of eight partners including two-time Formula One and Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi of Brazil.
BRICK-BY-BRICK— Hutchison said the first construction at the site would be a technology building with a super computer center and a “fab lab” (fabrication laboratory).
“Next we would see something like a wind tunnel, and a highspeed marine testing facility,” he said.
That would be followed by a sustainable agriculture community. “Probably the first housing would be student housing for those coming to use the research facilities,” he said.
Hutchison urged the Rockdale business community to work with Velocita in helping make the complex project a reality.
“This is not something that’s being done to you, it’s going to be something that’s done with you,” he said. “We invite you to come work beside us and build this brick by brick.”