Under DevelopmentJul 01, 2021 ● By Joshua Baethge
“It’s not just companies coming from the West Coast. The number of East Coast organizations looking at potential moves into this area is very high. The great news is, we are getting a lot of interest.” – Ron Patterson, Frisco Deputy City Manager
There’s no doubt that Frisco’s economy is once again humming. Some might even say it’s shifted into overdrive as pandemic restrictions have been lifted and many aspects of life continue to return to normal. It doesn’t take much more than a look around the city to notice that area restaurants and shopping centers are filling up, dirt is turning at large residential- and commercial-development sites, and companies of all sizes are looking to set up shop here.
The city’s Economic Development Corporation regularly tracks the number of active prospects considering a move to Frisco. These are businesses that have either reached out to EDC staff or those with whom city officials have initiated discussions.
Before the pandemic, there typically were between 25 to 30 active prospects at any given time. That’s an impressive number to sustain, particularly for a city the size of Frisco. The economic shutdown related to the pandemic obviously put some projects on hold. However, by May 2021, the number of potential new businesses had surged to 46 active prospects.
“It’s not just back – it’s better than back,” says Frisco Deputy City Manager Ron Patterson, who was previously president of the Frisco Economic Development Corporation. About businesses interested in coming to the city, he says, “It’s not just companies coming from the West Coast. The number of East Coast organizations looking at potential moves into this area is very high. The great news is, we are getting a lot of interest.”
Current active prospects have the potential to bring in well over 12,000 new jobs to the area. While not all of these prospects will end up in Frisco, the city does seem to consistently win a large share of them compared to neighboring communities. Mr. Patterson chalks much of that success up to executives who visit the city and see that it truly is a community. He also credits local businesses for helping one other while working side by side with a business-friendly local government and supportive organizations such as Frisco ISD and the Frisco Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Patterson cites Wiley X as a perfect example of this. The protective-eyewear manufacturer announced earlier this spring that it would move its global headquarters from Livermore, Calif., to Frisco. According to Mr. Patterson, company executives were impressed by the local schools, including the University of North Texas’ new campus that is under construction along Preston Road. He says they also liked the fact that Texas has no state income tax, and that Frisco’s property taxes are relatively low.
When Wiley X began discussions with city officials, company executives were initially only looking for a warehouse-distribution center in the central part of the country. Discussions with Frisco city officials led to talks about adding a research-and-development facility as well. When all was said and done, the company ultimately decided to move all of its operations to Star Business Park in Frisco in 2022. The move will bring nearly 90 jobs to the city. Wiley X was enticed, in part, by a $372,000 incentive packaged tied to the jobs.
At the time of the announcement, Wiley X Co-Owner Dan Freeman said his entire team was committed to piloting smart and sustained growth for many years to come. “To take Wiley X to the next level, Frisco is the ideal location geographically and economically to set us up for a successful future,” he said. “The City of Frisco and Frisco Economic Development Corporation have already been great business partners.”
Part of Frisco’s success in attracting new businesses has been its willingness to establish public-private partnerships. The Ford Center, the training facility of the Dallas Cowboys, and Toyota Stadium, home of the Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas, are two high-profile examples. Both also host Frisco ISD games and events.
Mr. Patterson says the city also actively works to connect local businesses to one other, especially newcomers, so that they can quickly begin to establish community connections. That process often starts with Frisco officials connecting incoming companies to a local business that can assist with the relocation process.
The `North Platinum Corridor’
Although there are many areas of Frisco that are ripe for development, a 9.9-mile stretch along the Dallas North Tollway, between SH 121 and US Highway 380, continues to set the pace. Now marketed as the “North Platinum Corridor,” it is home to several high-profile developments including The Star, which is anchored by the Dallas Cowboys’ headquarters. Meanwhile, Keurig Dr Pepper is moving into a recently completed building overlooking the team’s practice facility. The move will bring 1,100 employees with the potential to add an additional 1,500 jobs. Phase IV of The Star development also calls for the construction of an 11-story office tower. The 325,000 square-foot building is slated to open next spring.
Around the corner at Frisco Station, at the northwest corner of the tollway and Warren Parkway, developers had a nine-year plan to fill three office buildings. Each would have been built after the previous building was filled. The first building – a seven-story, 228,000 square-foot office tower – opened in 2017 and is fully occupied. The second six-story building is nearly filled, which led to the construction of the third building well ahead of schedule.
Then there is the redevelopment of Hall Park, near the intersection of the tollway and Gaylord Parkway. It currently boasts 15 buildings that are home to nearly 10,000 employees. Developer Craig Hall is a pioneer of development in Frisco. When work began at the site nearly three decades ago, the city only had a dirt road to access the area. Now, Mr. Hall is leading the way again: Market data shows that many companies prefer taller Class A office buildings with updated amenities. This led Mr. Hall to recently tear down two buildings that were hardly more than a decade old. The structures will be replaced with a much taller building that is sure to attract additional businesses.
Mr. Patterson notes that the tax dollars resulting from commercial projects such as these allow Frisco to provide city services without increasing local taxes. “Every time we get a new office building, corporate relocation or any kind of commercial development, every dollar that comes from there is one less dollar we need to operate the community on rooftops, so that’s a big deal,” he says.
Hall Park is also slated to be the home of a new performing arts center. On June 1, the Frisco City Council unanimously approved an agreement between the city’s Community Development Corporation and Economic Development Corporation, Hall Park and Frisco ISD to build the facility on a five-acre plot of land. Plans call for the center to include a 1,250-seat main performance hall, a smaller 250-seat venue and a 1,100-space, multi-story parking garage. There will also be a five-acre park with open space and a children’s playground.
Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said in a statement following the vote that he is very excited about the possibility of the facility, noting that it was something the community had been dreaming about for years. “Frisco is known for its innovative public-private partnership model used to develop thriving sports and entertainment venues. However, there’s growing need for greater investment in the arts. … We recognize many of our artists host audiences outside of our community. We hope our arts enthusiasts are encouraged and hopeful” given the council’s action.
The performing arts center project is expected to cost around $130 million, with $105 million coming from public funds and $25 million from Hall Park. This amount does not include the value of the 10 acres provided by Hall Park. The design process should begin next January.
Golf Brings New Opportunities
Newcomers to Frisco – as well as some longtime residents – may not realize that PGA Frisco will be more than just a golf course. In 2018, PGA of America announced that it would move its headquarters from Florida to Frisco to serve as the anchor of a 600-acre mixed-use development. Located along PGA Parkway, a major east-west thoroughfare along Frisco’s northern edge, its three golf courses are nearly complete, and the headquarters building was topped off early this spring. Twenty PGA employees are already working in Frisco, officing at Hall Park while the new facility is under construction.
In May, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Omni PGA Frisco Resort, which is slated to open in 2023 with 501 guestrooms, seven villas, a dozen food-and-beverage options, three pools and 127,000 square feet of meeting and event space. When completed, it will afford guests breathtaking views of the golf courses.
While PGA’s links have received quite a bit of attention as of late, other projects underway throughout Frisco will also be consequential to the future of the city. The Fields, a community planned adjacent to the PGA site, will include a collection of retail outlets designed to complement the PGA headquarters building. The University of North Texas’ Frisco campus is also underway, with construction having gone vertical in recent months. When it opens in 2023, university officials expect it to service around 3,500 students. However, enrollment numbers may reach 30,000 students within the next three decades.
Infrastructure improvements already in the works should open up nearby areas for additional residential and commercial development. A few months ago, crews finished work on PGA Parkway, and plans are now to connect Legacy Drive to PGA Parkway. Another road known as Fields Parkway will also go west from The Fields development to FM 423.
More Development on the Horizon
According to Frisco City Manager George Purefoy, one of the biggest challenges the city will face is
creating an environment that modern workers gravitate toward. He praises Plano’s Legacy West retail-office-residential development as an example of a recent large-scale project done well. He also says the city’s recent accomplishments at Frisco Station, the PGA complex and Hall Park bode well for Frisco’s ability to stay on top of today’s business needs. “We’ve been able to create that magic before and have some great potential projects on the horizon,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to be able to do that when working on other projects.”
Although the Dallas North Tollway corridor seems busier than ever, there is one area along that stretch that remains as quiet as ever.
Wade Park, a 175-acre site at the southeast corner of Lebanon Road and the tollway, was once planned to be one of the region’s largest
real-estate development projects. Plans called for a movie theater, restaurants, high-end apartments and more. Accounts vary on exactly what happened between the 2014 groundbreaking and the halt of construction three years later. Today, the site languishes as litigation makes its way through the courts. Despite the site’s history, Tony Felker, Frisco Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, believes that it will eventually be transformed into a place of which the city and its residents can be proud.
“As I tell everyone, the land down there is not going down in value whatsoever, and there’s going to be a lot of future opportunities there,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of new developments going on in different parts of town, and when the time is right, we’ll come back down to Wade Park. We’ve got a lot of incredible opportunities down the road there.”
Reflecting on the challenges of the past year Mr. Patterson, who became a Deputy City Manager on June 21, says he felt blessed to have led Frisco's Economic Development Corporation. He credits local businesses for being resilient and the Frisco Chamber of Commerce for doing outstanding work.
Prior to starting in his new role at City Hall, Mr. Patterson was hesitant to reveal details about other projects and developments that Frisco residents may expect to see transforming the local landscape in coming months and years. Regarding business prospects that the city is currently pursuing, he said their potential impact ranges from a few hundred jobs to “some over a thousand.”
However, he was willing to share about a name with which some may already be familiar. “It’s called N.D.A – as in non-disclosure agreement,” Mr. Patterson joked. “On 99 percent of all projects, we have to sign one,” which prevented him from discussing details about what specifics may be planned. “But, yes, there will be more major projects. That I can say definitively.”
Joshua Baethge is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in publications large and small across the country.