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Realtors Caution Eager Residents: Land Value Hikes Slow To Come

November 13, 1988

WAXAHACHIE, Texas (AP) _ Marching bands played, champagne corks popped and residents gleefully speculated what they could get for their property when they learned they’d be neighbors of the new ″super collider.″

But real estate agents Saturday warned that any property value increases would be slow in coming.

″The thing that we have tried to do is be realistic with our sellers,″ said Lucille Boardman, broker associate with Merrill Lynch Realty in DeSoto, between Waxahachie and Dallas. ″We don’t see any getting rich quick.″

Energy Secretary John Herrington announced the selection Thursday of Ellis County, south of Dallas, as the home for the $4.4 billion atom smasher, a 53- mile tunnel scientists hope will give an unprecedented view of the basic structure of matter.

Waxahachie, a town of small buildings and 18,000 residents that is seat of primarily agricultural Ellis County, will be encircled by the super collider.

The giant science project is expected to result in 4,000 construction jobs and 3,500 permanent jobs. The project will take eight years to build; the Energy Department hopes to complete it in 1996.

But deficit reduction pressures will toughen the fight to fund the super collider, Texas congressional leaders warned.

Real estate agents in Ellis County said that funding battle has tempered some of the enthusiasm generated by Herrington’s announcement.

″Some of the homeowners feel there’s going to be an immediate appreciation,′ ′ Ms. Boardman said. ″We feel it’s going to be gradual. They’ve got to get the funding first.″

The city’s economy is based largely on the region’s cotton and sorghum crops, but Hollywood has discovered Waxahachie, too. ″Bonnie and Clyde,″ ″Tender Mercies,″ ″Places In The Heart,″ ″True Stories″ and ″A Trip to Bountiful″ have all been shot in or near the town.

Waxahachie is a Tonkawa Indian word for ″buffalo creek.″

The county blossomed in the early 1980s but not as much as its northern neighbors, Dallas and Tarrant counties. Two years ago, the largely rural area felt the blow of the Texas recession.

″Residential values have gone down significantly in the last two years,″ said Dan Batte, sales associate with Lowry and Associates in Waxahachie. ″Raw land and commercial values have been real flat. ... We’ve had almost no sales of raw land near Waxahachie for the last 18 months to two years.″

Vera Kamerbeek of the local Coldwell Banker office said many property values in the area dropped between 6 percent to 8 percent last year, but she hopes the prospect of the atom smasher will turn that around.

″We think Texas has already bottomed out and it’s only a matter of how long it will stay at the bottom,″ she said. ″We’ve even had a lot of calls from people out of state.″

Elmer Nooner, 73, who has a real estate business in Waxahachie, said there probably will be a lot of land sold soon.

″I just kind of think there will be a lot of speculation,″ he said. ″People will want to move down from some other states and be in on the action, and there will be some houses sold.″

Batte said he had an appointment Saturday to show a Chicago investor some land.

″Homeowners don’t need to increase their prices yet,″ Batte said. ″The people interested now are interested in raw land as an investment.″

A typical two- to three-bedroom home costs about $90,000, said Edwin Farrar of the Coldwell Banker office.

A real estate agent in Midlothian, a town of 5,200 between the super collider and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, said land values near the super collider campus may jump $500 an acre once Congress approves funding for the project.

But the agent, Janet Calvert of Ramsey, Ramsey and Associates, said large tracts in the long term may jump from a current level of about $4,000 an acre to $6,000.

Doris Bratcher said she would cooperate with the government if it needs her 25 acres on the outskirts of Waxahachie, but she doesn’t want to sell to a developer.

″It would have to be a lot more than most people could rig up before I would sell,″ said Mrs. Bratcher, who raises cutting horses with her husband.

Molly Herrera, an employee at Waxahachie’s Trinity Pharmacy, said not everyone is excited about the super collider.

″Most of the old timers are not,″ Ms. Herrera said. ″It’ll just be a big mess.″

″You always have some who don’t want them to mess with a little gingerbread town,″ Nooner said.

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