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Developers' North Beach vision starts with "seaside village"

In Texas oilman Lynn Frazier's office there's a wall opposite his desk, painted floor-to-ceiling, depicting a scene he knows well.

It's not an oil derrick or a depiction of any of his more than 100 inventions in action. It's one of his secrets to success, and it's a driving force behind his latest venture.

There's bright blue water, soft white sand and a leaning palm tree. In the adjoining conference room, there are two more framed pictures of similar views.

Nearly two decades of business trips spanned the globe, but most were near the equator, so they almost always ended next to the water.

"I always wanted to sit on a beach after all those long days and just let all the troubles slip away with a drink," Frazier said. "That's what I want to bring to Corpus Christi."

He's begun creating that relaxing vibe with Fajitaville, his colorful restaurant on North Beach, but he's just getting started.

Frazier is teaming up with global developer Jeff Blackard — the man behind the proposed Barisi Village project in the Pharaoh Valley neighborhood — to create a mixed-use development on the far edge of the North Beach community.

"It's iconic for Corpus Christi as a city on the water," Frazier said. "Coming across the bridge from the city, we want this to be an icon that draws you in."

Frazier is hoping for a seamless development process because he owns the land outright. His goal for the area is to expand its tourist label to encourage more year-round investment and activity, as he did when he opened Fajitaville in 2011.

"(North Beach) is more of a tourist draw, so my plan is to build on that and also do something for the people who live here," said Frazier, who lives less than a mile from his proposed development.

The North Beach development still is in the early stages, with a permit application expected to be filed shortly after the new year, but the plans are ambitious.

"If you set the standard in Corpus Christi on two projects like this, you set the standard for the city and everybody has to go by that standard," Blackard said. "It's going to immensely help Corpus Christi."

Early plans include three "three- or four-story" apartment buildings, a building for larger condominiums and a boating club facility. Near the entrance, the group is planning a lighthouse that will rise somewhere between 120 and 140 feet above the water. 

The base of the lighthouse may feature a restaurant or nautical museum. That largely will be determined by what the city leadership wants, Frazier explained. 

"When you're an entrance to a city or town, you want people to be in awe," he said. "You get to set the stage."

But don't expect top-of-the-line rental prices — at the core of Blackard's development philosophy and Frazier's mentality is a desire for people from many income levels to get back to living in the same areas.

"I figured out that was wrong and we were destroying America, so I decided to start building villages that bring people from all walks of life back together," Blackard told the Caller-Times previously. "I’m trying to get the world to wake up and realize we’re killing ourselves by separating everyone."

Frazier's plans are centered around middle-class families being able to live somewhere they're excited to show off.

"We're making this a resort-like experience for people who will live in this area," he said.

In addition to the residential buildings and boat club, there are plans for additional buildings that could house retail, restaurants or a spa. Plans also include an infinity pool, and a volleyball court with ample grilling areas. 

The rear of the development will be lined with smaller boat slips for residents from around the city who want to experience a night out in a different way.

The development is just one part of his ultimate goals for North Beach.

A decade from now, Frazier hopes the area draws visitors from all over the state, but his main goal is serving excitement to the regional crowds. While the plans for the seaside village concept are nearing reality, the plans for the rest of the district are still glimpses into Frazier's imagination.

Perhaps the future holds another roller coaster on North Beach, or a bungee jump attraction like the ones on South Padre Island. He's still considering a zip line from his hotel to either his restaurant or the beach just beyond.

Still, even though he's the leading developer in the community, he doesn't know exactly how the area will develop.

He's optimistic because of the support his ideas have engendered from city leaders like Mayor Joe McComb and City Councilwoman Carolyn Vaughn who has long called the area Corpus Christi's "hidden jewel."

"Lynn Frazier is a prime example of someone who just loves North Beach," Vaughn said. "He's continually invested over there because he sees what the future can be, and he's making it happen."

But it's not only a matter of what future economic conditions will be — Blackard said their development makes sense now without any of the anticipated economic expansion in the region.

"I'm volunteering my time to paint a picture to show the potential based on market conditions ... on how great North Beach really is," he said.

Vaughn called the proposal "exactly" what the area needs. She's been a vocal advocate for prioritizing North Beach development and planning during City Council meetings.

"It will get North Beach up and running. It's exactly what we need over there — I love it," Vaughn said of the plans. "I think it's going to be a domino effect. We're going to start seeing more and more investors getting involved once they see what they're doing over there."

Blackard echoed that sentiment, saying both the North Beach development and his Barisi Village project will have lasting ripple effects in the surrounding areas.

"People will work together, but they don't know how to work together until you give them a manual of how to work together," he said.

The duo's ambitions for turning the entire area into an entertainment mecca aren't limited to land. Frazier also has reached agreements to use concrete from the existing Harbor Bridge once it's taken down to create three barrier islands along the beach.

His hope is to create a more relaxing environment with the islands blocking out the industrial developments on the horizon and creating a calmer body of water for paddle boarding, swimming and other water sports.

Still, the plans to build the islands would need federal approval and a sign-off from the Army Corps of Engineers after numerous reviews and considerations.

As for what comes next for North Beach, that depends. Blackard said he plans to buy more tracts of land on North Beach, but only if he feels City Hall has embraced the duo's vision for the area.

But whether Blackard's investment in the community expands, he praised Frazier as a pioneer who's changing the neighborhood's course.

"He lives there and he has some love for it," Blackard said. "He's kind of North Beach's unsung hero."


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