Feature Illustration (above): Rendering of the Twelve Cowboys Way condominium tower being constructed at The Star at Frisco complex.
by Edmond Ortiz and Adolfo Pesquera
McKinney (Collin County) — The drive from downtown Dallas to McKinney, the county seat of Collin County, is 32 miles, and if you had made the trip in 1970 you would have quickly found yourself in farm and ranch country on your way to a community of barely 15,000 people.
The total county population was not quite 67,000 then and it seemed as unlikely as any place in rural Texas to be the next major urban center. But in 2018, for the first time, the county population surpassed 1 million. Demographers estimate the population will surpass that of Dallas County by 2050.
A statue in McKinney’s Towne Lake Recreation Area recalls a simpler time. Image: Google Streets/Rajesh Desai.
In April of 2016, Virtual Builders Exchange noted that five of the school districts in Collin County had a larger bond proposition request (more than $1 billion) than those of the school districts in Dallas, Tarrant and Denton counties combined ($955 million).
The U.S. Census Bureau released its latest estimates in April — Collin County has been the nation’s fourth-fastest-growing county. Collin County’s population explosion only boosted the growth being experienced by the Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington area. The North Texas Metroplex had the largest numeric growth – an additional 131,767 in 2018 – of any U.S. metropolitan area in the past year.
To understand what has fueled this juggernaut, one need look no further than the boundaries of the City of Dallas. In decades past, suburbs cropped up around Dallas, the state’s finance center through most of the 20th century. Dallas leaders chose limited annexation and over time the city became landlocked. Today, city leaders depend on increasing the tax base through neighborhood gentrification, higher density development and redeveloping its downtown.
The suburbs immediately adjacent to Dallas got their start as industrial parks whose warehouses and railroad infrastructure fed the urban centers of Dallas and Fort Worth. This is especially true of Garland, Mesquite, Irving and Grapevine. They were not very attractive for the live/work/play mixed-development lifestyle, a concept that was virtually unknown in those days. So developers looked north for the next big strike.
In Collin County, it started with Plano. In 1970, it wasn’t unusual to find a new affordable apartment in Plano and look out your window to see cows grazing across the street. The population then was less than 18,000 but within a decade it had jumped to more than 72,000. Today, Plano is home to almost 300,000 residents and it has an enviable corporate base.
First Plano, then Frisco, and now McKinney. The march of urbanization has been inexorable. In effect, Collin County has become Dallas’ second act.
The Census Bureau, just last month, revealed that McKinney along with Frisco were among the top 15 U.S. cities for the largest number of residents added year over year. McKinney was 13th while Frisco ranked 10th.
McKinney estimated a total population of 187,802 at the start of 2019 and projects growing that number to 196,000 next year and 284,000 by 2040.
Local economic development and business leaders owe the phenomenal growth in Collin to more than taxes, affordability, health care options, schools, public safety or its proximity to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
The immediate presence of large employers, mobility and overall quality of life all are important factors in an area that economic development executives describe as something more than “classic suburbia”.
“It’s hard to ignore the significant corporate locations that have come to the North Dallas area as a major contributor to the growth in our region and specifically McKinney,” said Peter Tokar, president/CEO of the McKinney Economic Development Corporation.
“However, the population boom in McKinney, in my opinion, has to do more with the quality of life that McKinney has to offer. The majority of the development in our city in the past decade has been a broad mixture of residential development,” Tokar said.
Lobby of the Raytheon campus in McKinney. Image: Google Streets/Arthur J. Rischman.
Residential growth has outpaced commercial growth in McKinney. The city has seen thousands of new homes and multi-family communities built in the past decade.
Commercial development is gradually ramping up. In 2018, the city’s development services department issued 105 new non-residential building permits, collectively valued at $295.7 million. Much of the new commercial development in McKinney is retail/service industry-oriented, and focused along U.S. 380, an increasingly busy west-east corridor on the city’s north side.
Tokar said he thinks McKinney has a diverse enough mix of housing options that make the city even more attractive for recruiting mid-size to large companies.
“One of the major factors being evaluated in communities for corporate locations is the diversity of housing and availability of executive and workforce housing,” Tokar said.
Notable recent commercial developments in McKinney:
Wholesale roofing supply company SRS Distribution, already based in McKinney, announced in March it will build a new corporate headquarters – a four-story, 100,000-square-foot complex at the Hub 121 mixed-use development. Construction was to begin this spring and be finished by August 2020. Dallas firm KDC is developing the project on a 4.2-acre plot.
Independent Bank Group recently opened its new 165,000-square-foot corporate campus at the McKinney Corporate Center at Craig Ranch, an office park.
Last fall, truck manufacturer PACCAR celebrated the opening of a truck part manufacturing facility for its Dynacraft division.
Minnesota-based Cirrus Aircraft, a personal aviation company, announced last month it will begin building a factory service facility at the McKinney National Airport in early 2020. The structure will serve Cirrus aircraft owners in the Metroplex area.
Tokar said the city’s investment in the local airport has already paid off dividends in helping to attract new business. The city in May opened a new 40,000-square-foot hangar, the airport’s largest hangar, as part of a private-public partnership with Western LLC.
“Already the executive aircraft home to some of Dallas most prominent businesses like Toyota (Motor North America) and Texas Instruments, McKinney National (Airport) is a growing location for MRO (Maintenance Repair Overhaul) operations and is being master-planned to be able to potentially host commercial passenger traffic,” he added.
On the North Dallas Tollway in Plano, the Parkway Centre office campus can be seen in the distance. Image: Google Streets.
Plano is reaping the benefits from its proximity to the Metroplex, and its reputation as a stable home for major corporations. Plano is now among the top 10 biggest cities in Texas by population size, and 69th largest in the nation.
A good portion of the population growth is due to multiple corporate relocations to Plano.
The city now hosts corporate offices for Toyota Motor North America, Pizza Hut, Liberty Mutual Group, JP Morgan Chase and Co., Frito-Lay, WorldVentures, and General Dynamics’ Mission Systems division. Other companies such as Ericsson, Intuit, Nokia and McAfee have research-and-development operations in Plano.
Some say the transformation of the suburbs north of Dallas and Fort Worth, from bedroom communities to vibrant mid-size cities, can be traced to H. Ross Perot’s decision to move his company, Electronic Data Systems, from Dallas to his then-newly created Plano business park more than 25 years ago.
D (Dallas) Magazine, in a 2010 article, quoted Perot as saying the EDS move “initiated and has continued to help drive the explosive growth of Plano, Allen, Frisco, and McKinney.”
The Toyota Motor North America Inc. headquarters in Plano (above). A bridge over the lake at the Ericsson Market Area North American Headquaters (below), also in Plano. Images: Google Streets/Suman Santra.
In 2018 alone, corporate relocations and expansions in Plano accounted for more than 970,000 square feet and more than 3,000 new jobs combined citywide.
It’s been in the last several months that Samsung Electronics opened its new regional 216,000-square-foot campus at Legacy Central, an 85-acre technology-centric mixed-use complex that was once home to Texas Instruments.
“This move not only provides us with an opportunity to create an improved workplace experience for our North Texas employees, but it truly showcases our investment in our Texas roots,” said Tim Baxter, president/CEO of Samsung Electronics America, in the Plano Economic Development Corp.’s executive summary for 2018.
Some Plano-based legacy businesses have changed their business plans to keep pace with the times. JCPenney agreed in 2017 to sell its 1.3-million-square-foot campus building and the surrounding 45 acres to Dreien Opportunity Partners, but is leasing back more than half that space to continue corporate operations.
Dreien is renovating the former Penney complex, now called Campus at Legacy West, a mixed-use development. NTT Data is leasing more than 250,000 square feet at this development, where there are separate plans for a 10-story, 250-room Japanese Miyako Hotel, and the addition of 800 multifamily units.
Redevelopment of the struggling Collin Creek Mall is another major project in Plano. The City Council voted in April to approve Centurion American Development Group’s plan to transform Collin Creek Mall into a $1 billion, 100-acre mixed-use community.
The redevelopment will feature entertainment, retail, housing, a lagoon, nearly nine acres of parkland, hiking trails, 1 million square feet of office space, and a luxury hotel. A large section of the 37-year-old mall will be razed, with some parts to be turned into an open-air retail attraction. Construction could begin as soon as July.
In 1970, Frisco was an agricultural community with 1,845 residents. It has an estimated population today of 186,087 and is projected to grow to 298,000 by 2040.
Ron Patterson, Frisco EDC president, said Frisco’s central location and proximity to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, allow his city easy access to major metropolitan areas nationwide. He also said Frisco embraces partnerships with the Frisco Independent School District, developers, corporations and other local organizations to advance economic development.
“This approach of partnership allows for a unique approach and results in a win-win for all players, residents and community members that are involved,” Patterson added.
Such private/public partnerships have supported significant corporate relocations such as PGA (Professional Golfers Association) of America, which decided last December to move its headquarters from Florida to Frisco. PGA will anchor a 600-acre, mixed-use development along Rockhill Parkway with an initial investment of $500 million-plus. Just north of the PGA development, Children’s Health is planning a 72-acre medical campus.
The partnership between the city and school district backed the development of The Star in Frisco, the Dallas Cowboys’ new corporate home. It’s also a 91-acre mixed-use community to which Keurig Dr Pepper is relocating its Texas headquarters from Plano. Keurig’s new 350,000-square-foot campus will open in 2021.
The office/mixed-use submarket centered around the Legacy retail and office developments between Frisco and Plano is one of the largest of its kind in the Metroplex, totaling more than 24 million square feet, according to Cushman & Wakefield.
Notable commercial projects underway in Frisco include Frisco Station, a $1.5 billion, 242-acre mixed-use development featuring office, retail and residential spaces along with hotels and recreational destinations.
The Gate, a 41-acre mixed-use development, just saw the opening of its first project, Domain at The Gate, an apartment community. More residential development is slated for The Gate, along with hotels, restaurants and retail.
Invest Group Overseas (IGO), the Dubai developer that owns The Gate, is partnering with Minneapolis company Ryan Cos. to build Auspire, a multi-office-building complex at The Gate.
Local medical facilities are strengthening their foothold through expansion. Medical City Frisco last February began building a new medical office and ambulatory surgery center in Frisco Square. The $37 million project is set for completion in spring 2020.
Texas Health Resources and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center are building Texas Health Hospital Frisco, a $270 million project featuring an 80-bed acute care hospital and a 120,000-square-foot medical office complex. Clinical services will be offered there starting late this year.
Edmond Ortiz is a San Antonio-based freelance reporter and editor. He has worked for the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers. He is a contributor to Virtual Builders Exchange and the Rivard Report. His Twitter handle is @satscribe.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.