Maharishi eyes Colony project

Dallas Business Journal / May 8, 2000
By Lisa Y. Taylor and Christine Perez

New York investment fund controlled by Beatles guru planning mixed-use development

The Colony -- An investment group established by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a meditation guru who once inspired the Beatles, is apparently hoping that a mixed-use development in The Colony will hasten its plan to establish "heaven on earth."

Jenkens & Gilchrist, a Dallas-based law firm, has submitted a zoning change application on behalf of the Maharishi Global Development Fund for 329 acres at the southeast corner of Plano Parkway and State Highway 121. The property is currently zoned for planned development, split into various tracts for a business park and general retail and multifamily uses.

Harry Persaud, planning director for The Colony, said the MGDF hopes to modify how the tracts are segmented. "Their request is to do the business park, retail and multifamily, but it's not quite split the way they want it, so they have to go through the process," Persaud said.

The application, which was made on April 20, will be considered at a joint city council and planning and zoning commission meeting on May 15, said Michael Hampton, a planner with The Colony.

Jennine Fellmer, a spokeswoman for the MGDF, confirmed its purchase of the Colony property, but did not have specific information about development plans. Bill Dahlstrom, an attorney with Jenkens & Gilchrist who's involved with the project, could not be reached.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is credited with bringing transcendental meditation, or "TM," to the world in the 1960s. Transcendental meditation is a meditative technique in which a "mantra" is chanted that aims to nourish creativity and well-being. Today the yogi is said to have 4 million worldwide followers, a global network of meditation centers and universities, his own 24-hour TV channel in Holland and the Maharishi Global Development Fund, which is based in New York City.

According to its mission statement, the development fund was established in 1997 with $430 million in seed capital from investments and donations of cash, property and stock. It has reportedly received hundreds of millions of dollars in cash donations since then. Follows `Vedic' principles

The fund's goal is to help eradicate the world's problems by constructing buildings that follow the ancient principles of "Vedic" architecture and planning, beginning with projects in the world's 1,000 largest cities. Vedic, or Hindu, principles use the stars and planets to govern the orientation of buildings and the placement and proportion of their rooms. Ultimately, the group says its goal is to "create heaven on earth." It plans to do that by first creating satellite cities around the larger cities.

According to the group's literature, Phase I of its plan calls for "controlling the expansion of the city by establishing a masterplan with parallel roads in east/ west, north/south directions." Phase II calls for "construction of ideal villages and satellite towns around the city, free from pollution." Phase II calls for "starting to demolish congested areas in the city center, replacing them with beautiful gardens, parks and fountains." Phase IV consists of the "final stage of the expanded garden city, providing ideal living conditions, including a modern communication and transportation system."

The MGDF says it has the potential to handle developments with a total value of several billion dollars in several countries simultaneously. The fund's guidelines call for local management of its projects. Specifically, they are to be managed by "well-established local construction companies, guided by Maharishi Global Construction, local banks, a reputable law firm and nationally recognized companies for promoting and advertising the building projects."

One of the group's most ambitious developments is a $1.6 billion, pyramid-shaped structure planned for Sao Paulo, Brazil. At 1,622 feet, the Brazilian skyscraper would be the world's tallest building. The MGDF is partnering with Brasilinvest Group of Sao Paulo to fund that project, and hopes to have it built within six years. The development would reportedly bring more than 2,100 jobs to the city.

It's too early to project what the MGDF's local plans might mean for The Colony, said Persaud, the city's planning director. "We haven't seen specific plans yet," he said. "At this point, it would be impossible to guess at the economic implications."

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