Tyler is fast becoming a retirement destination of choice‚ but don’t look for rocking chairs and shuffleboard.
With its “10 Reasons to Retire in Tyler” campaign‚ the city is taking the idea of the quiet‚ sleepy retirement community and turning it on its head. Promoting everything from the area’s many recreational opportunities to its houses of worship and outstanding medical facilities‚ the campaign is heightening awareness of Tyler as a great place to live‚ no matter what your age.
And‚ based on the amount of new residential properties geared toward older Americans popping up all over town‚ it’s working.
“In 2001‚ we started doing some strategic planning‚” says Henry Bell‚ chief operating officer of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce‚ of the organization’s run-up to the current campaign.
“We tracked our inquiries‚ and for several years‚ six out of every 10 were people asking about retiring here. So we started brainstorming on how we could tap into that market.”
There was plenty to work with. Tyler’s proximity to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex‚ as well as Houston and Shreveport‚ were obvious pluses. And then there’s the area’s natural beauty‚ showcased in multiple city and state parks. Cost of living‚ several top-notch medical facilities and new residential development round out the package.
According to Bell‚ the chamber looked at retirement certification programs in Mississippi that were designating communities as excellent retirement locations‚ and the idea just took off.
“We said‚ ‘We can do that‚ we already market and promote all the same things they are‚’” he says.
Certified Retirement City
Tyler now is a certified retirement city in the state of Texas based on the criteria that make up the “Top 10” list‚ which can be found at retiretyler.com.
The influx of new residents has made for a construction boom‚ as planned communities‚ apartment complexes and high-end residential towers are being built to meet the growing demand. The Cascades of Texas‚ a 500-acre golf and lakeshore community‚ was 75 percent sold during its first phase of development in 2005. The development has added more amenities, as well as additional homes‚ to meet continued interest‚ says Steve Braley‚ president of Cascades Properties at Cascades Golf Club.
While the area’s hospitals and warm climates are major draws for some retirees‚ Braley is quick to point out that facilities such as The Cascades – with golf‚ tennis‚ swimming and other activities – also have broad-based appeal.
“We seem to be attracting a little younger age group‚ people that are either anticipating or preparing for retirement‚” he says. “But we’re also getting people who have already retired but are still very active and are looking to live somewhere where there’s a lot for them to do.”
It was Tyler’s natural beauty that first appealed to Tom and Melba Harken‚ but the medical facilities in the area also were a draw. Founder of Harken and Associates and Harken Partnership for Literacy‚ Tom Harken is also the author of the autobiographical The Millionaire’s Secret‚ published by Thomas Nelson. As an in-demand motivational speaker‚ Harken often traveled through the area‚ and one day‚ he says‚ the couple just decided to stay.
They purchased a home in October 2006‚ with plans to build in the Cascades‚ and say they couldn’t be happier.
“We could have gone anywhere in the world‚ but decided on Tyler‚” Harken says. “Going back and forth from Dallas to Beaumont‚ we stayed in a hotel here. We saw all this development‚ nice homes‚ pretty hill country‚ folks out walking‚ playing tennis‚ and of course at our age‚ we looked at the excellent medical facilities‚ local government and law-enforcement‚ and decided it would be a good move.”
Former owner of 13 successful Mexican restaurants‚ Harken always attracted customers with unique enhancements. “That’s what Tyler has – pizzazz – and we felt at home right away‚” he adds. “I tell people we have found a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ street. We definitely made the right move.”
That kind of advertising can’t be bought‚ and it’s music to Henry Bell’s ears.
“We’re a boom area‚” he says. “The retirees are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to our growth‚ but they bring so much to town. The monthly Social Security paycheck to the area is $32 million‚ which is significant‚ but it’s not just their disposable income. They bring experience‚ volunteerism‚ intangible assets that benefit the community as well.”
Read more about neighborhoods in Tyler, TX.