Feature Photo (above): UNT Inspire Park, the temporary home of University of North Texas’ Frisco branch. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Frisco (Collin County) — The planning for a 150-acre University of North Texas branch campus will take into consideration a private mixed-use master planned development that is occurring on 2,544 acres adjacent to the future UNT-Frisco.
Bob Brown, Senior Vice President-Finance & Administration at the University of North Texas. Courtesy: UNT System.
At the Nov. 15 session of the UNT Board of Regents, Bob Brown, the university senior vice president for finance and administration, said several meetings have held with representatives of Hunt Realty Investments Inc. and The Karahan Companies regarding their plans for the Estate of Bert Fields Jr. As was announced Aug. 7 by Hunt Realty, the former Fields headquarters ranch was acquired by a group of investors–Hunt Realty being the lead investor.
Hunt Realty and Karahan have joined forces to design a mixed-use development that will include commercial, office, retail, single-family and multifamily residential, and education uses. Karahan was the master developer of The Shops at Legacy and the 245-acre Legacy West office, residential and retail development in nearby Plano. Hunt Realty has a 40-year history of development ventures, primarily in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Brown told the regents there are no immediate plans to include student housing in the new campus.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t partner with developers in the area who want to meet those needs,” Brown said. “Our preliminary and our subsequent discussions reveal the Hunt group is very open to the future needs of the UNT Frisco community.”
In addition to the potential for student housing, Brown said the Hunt group wants to coordinate on architectural design where the two developments will meet.
“They’re very interested in having both of our edges having the same look and feel and working with the city to create safe ways across Panther Creek Boulevard, so that when you drive down that road it will essentially extend the value on both sides of the street,” Brown said.
UNT Frisco Timeline
In May, the regents approved a partnership with the Frisco City Council, Frisco Economic Development Corporation, and Frisco Community Development Corporation whereby 100 acres of land southwest of the Preston Road-Panther Creek Parkway was gifted to the university system. Shortly after, the regents exercised an option to acquire an additional 50 acres.
UNT also acquired the Frisco technology incubator building, known as Launchpad City, 6170 Research Road. The building is located several blocks west of the future campus and much of the buildings is leased to various start-up companies. UNT wants to use the building is a base for classes during the interim.
In October, the building was rebranded UNT Inspire Park. Preliminary efforts are underway for a smooth transition with the existing tenants to get them under a common UNT contract framework. One floor of the building will undergo renovation to provide for chemistry, biology and kinesiology classrooms and laboratories.
In September, UNT hired Ayers Saint Gross as the architectural/engineering firm on the master plan design. Ayers Saint Gross specializes in higher education facilities and had previously worked with UNT on the design of its new Health Science Center.
“They’re working hard to complete the campus master plan by June of 2019,” Brown said. “With the master plan in hand, we would kick off the detailed design in January of 2020 and begin construction by Spring of 2021. Approximately 18 months later, construction would be substantially complete, with the campus available for a soft launch in January of 2023 and full Fall classes beginning later in the year.”
Brown added that if the regents get the master plan design by August and approve it then, the project timeline could accelerate by as much as four months.
The UNT regents have high hopes for the success of the Frisco campus. Plans are to have 5,000 students enrolled within several years. A significant portion of students on the main campus come from Collin County and the student age demographics in the county are very strong, Brown noted.
“Collin County and Frisco in particular is one of the fastest growing regions in the country and demographic forecasts show that the population of Collin County will eventual exceed that of Dallas County,” he said.
The UNT Frisco campus will be located directly south of where Hunt Realty and Karahan Companies are planning a 2,500-acre mixed-use development. Image: Google Earth.