SOUTHLAKE -- Today it's hard to imagine this city without Southlake Town Square, but it's only 13 years old.In that short time, a farm was transformed into a showpiece for "new urbanism," world-famous for its architecture and combination of high-end stores, restaurants, offices and parks.The vision and the reality belonged to Brian Stebbins. "Our community could never repay to Brian what he has given to us -- Town Square," said Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, who was Southlake mayor when Mr. Stebbins first proposed the project in 1995."It's such a marvelous place that we've been blessed with."Mr. Stebbins died Tuesday at his Southlake home of a rare neurological disease called frontotemporal degeneration, which causes a slow decline in brain function. He was 55.Frank Bliss, president of Cooper & Stebbins, worked with Mr. Stebbins for 25 years and remembers when he first proposed building a downtown from scratch. The two were searching the country for a real estate venture when Mr. Stebbins found Southlake."This is the type of town that needs a downtown," Bliss remembers Mr. Stebbins saying.Both Bliss and Mr. Stebbins moved their families to Southlake in 1996, reinforcing their commitment to the project even before the zoning was approved."Brian was unique in his ability to see things from 40,000 feet," Bliss said. "Projects like this are hard work every day. I don't think I've ever seen anybody put more energy, passion, creativity and good old-fashioned elbow grease into a project than I saw with Brian."Mr. Stebbins was born Sept. 18, 1957, in Rockford, Ill.He developed projects in Australia, New Zealand and Houston before coming to Southlake.Councilwoman Pamela Muller described Southlake and Cooper & Stebbins' partnership as the "perfect marriage." Government buildings such as Southlake Town Hall, which houses city and Tarrant County offices, and the U.S. post office help give the suburban city a downtown, she said.Mr. Stebbins drew inspiration from around the world, including his mother's hometown of Washington, Iowa, Bliss said.The 130-acre Southlake Town Square was his passion and its success drove others to try to copy it.City officials from Auckland, New Zealand, toured Town Square and tapped Cooper & Stebbins to develop a project for them.Mr. Stebbins also helped charities and organizations such as the Carroll Education Foundation and Southlake Women's Club.In December, Southlake honored Mr. Stebbins with a statue in Rustin Park that shows a father tying his son's shoelaces. The statue is visible from Mr. Stebbins' old office.Mayor John Terrell was on the Planning and Zoning Commission when Mr. Stebbins first proposed Town Square."He was a true visionary for the city," he said.Survivors include his wife, Pattie Stebbins; a son, Carter Stebbins; a daughter, Jenna Stebbins; his mother, Sheila Stebbins; and a sister, Dianne Stout.
6:30 p.m. Monday at the Southlake Hilton Hotel. The family suggests memorial donations to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.