3 years ago
Esteban Bustillos

Traditional college town living marks shift to residential focus

Construction on Comet Town, a housing complex that will feature shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and a DART station, is slated to begin sometime in 2015, according to UTD Vice President Calvin Jamison.

The DART station, which is part of the long-term plans for Comet Town, will be a part of the Cotton Belt Regional Corridor and connect to DFW airport.

Set to go before the Richardson City Council for zoning approval in May,  Comet Town has already been approved by the Richardson Planning Commission. Zoning for Comet Town needs to be approved before any work on the project can begin.

Headed by Jamison, vice president of the Office of Administration, the project is still early in its development phase. An outside developer has been chosen to work on Comet Town and will be responsible for the construction. This will not cause an increase in tuition for students, Jamison said.

“The city council has been very positive to what we’re trying to do,” he said. “This is the initial stage, and we have approximately 11 to 13 acres that have been designated for development.”

The land that has been assigned is located north of the Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory, across Synergy Parkway.

The idea for Comet Town was inspired by other college towns that have more of a traditional campus life, Jamison said.

He sees Comet Town as a major step toward Tier One status for the university. A history of commuter culture has made it difficult to develop a traditional campus environment at UTD, but with a growing number of students, that may change.

“The concept of Comet Town is to have a college town environment where the entire campus can take advantage of key amenities,” Jamison said. “If you look at what we’re doing with additions to the School of Management, the new parking garage and the development of the North Mall, we’re taking what was a commuter campus and making it into a very lively community.”

Student opinions have been taken into consideration, with a series of focus groups taking place with student ambassadors, along with other student groups on campus.

Students, faculty and staff surveyed suggested ideas like green space, areas to study and a mix of franchise and independent restaurants, entertainment venues and retail shops, Jamison said.

UTD currently lacks this type of community space, he said, which is something that most major campuses have.

There has not been any specific businesses that have been confirmed for Comet Town to date.

“The long term vision is for a person to land at DFW airport, catch the rail station to campus, get off at the UTD stop, check into their respective residence and then go to class,” Jamison said. “In between classes, they would be able to take advantage of the amenities at Comet Town.”

Cost estimates have not yet been made because it is still early on in the project, Jamison said. Construction on Comet Town is slated to finish sometime in 2016.

and a strong partnership has enabled the progress of Rollout, Jacobo said.

“Matt is a tremendous leader, and when you have the right partner, you can get to the next level,” he said.

The success of Rollout is indicative of a hardware startup community that may simply be flying under the radar. Surpassing the previous record of 29 fundraising deals set in 1999, 31 deals were secured by venture capitalists for hardware startups last year. Furthermore, hardware startups received a record $848 million from venture capitalists last year, beating the previous record of $442 million set in 2012, according to DJX VentureSource.

The lower capital investment requirements and quick development of software startups are reasons why investors may pass over hardware startups, but hardware is still essential as a platform for new services much like smartphones are to apps, Jacobo said.

A lack of media coverage has added to the prevailing view that there are few hardware startups, said Dan Bochsler, senior lecturer at the Jindal School of Management and member of the Metroplex Technology Business Council.

“It’s part of what we see,” Bochsler said. “There are plenty of hardware startups, but I think we hear more about the software startups because they are easy for a broad range of people. There are many phone apps that we hear about that are actually more of a cottage industry instead of being oriented towards a business.”

Despite the focus on software startups, launching a hardware startup company is possible for anyone with an understanding of how to develop a new company, Bochsler said.

Exploration is necessary before execution, meaning a careful understanding of customers is essential before releasing a product, which can be explained in a two-step process, he said.

“First, customer discovery, which is understanding customer wants and needs, competition and market,” he said. “And second, customer validation, which involves the construction of a minimum viable product (prototype) that will give customer feedback.”

Students interested in learning more about launching a startup company or becoming involved in the DFW startup community can participate in organizations like the Richardson Chamber of Commerce or the Metroplex Technology Business Council, but it is also important to focus on networking in general, Bochsler said.

“It’s not just about a technical bent; it’s about finding the right people and organizations that can assist you in development,” he said.

The Dallas Entrepreneur Center,

with student ambassadors, along with other student groups on campus.  

Students, faculty and staff surveyed suggested ideas like green space, areas to study and a mix of franchise and independent restaurants, entertainment venues and retail shops, Jamison said.

UTD currently lacks this type of community space, he said, which is something that most major campuses have.

There has not been any specific businesses that have been confirmed for Comet Town to date. 

“The long term vision is for a person to land at DFW airport, catch the rail station to campus, get off at the UTD stop, check into their respective residence and then go to class,” Jamison said. “In between classes, they would be able to take advantage of the amenities at Comet Town.”

Cost estimates have not yet been made because it is still early on in the project, Jamison said. Construction on Comet Town is slated to finish sometime in 2016.