Is Explosive Growth in Frisco Creating ‘Orange County 2.0’?

Dallas Business Journal (February 7, 2020) – At commercial real estate firm esrp, they jokingly call Frisco “Orange County 2.0” because the North Texas city’s explosive growth and development pattern seem to be mirroring that of the Southern California county.

Others in the office use the term “boomburbs” to describe Frisco and other fast-growing northern Dallas-Fort Worth communities.

esrp hosted an event Thursday highlighting the rapid-fire growth occurring in Frisco and surrounding cities in Collin and Denton Counties and exploring the drivers and demographics of that growth now and into the future. The commercial property firm moved its headquarters 18 months ago from Dallas to The Star in Frisco, where the event was held.

Collin and Denton Counties — and especially Frisco, which lies in both counties — are developing their own business ecosystems and identities separate from Dallas, said Steve Jarvie, president and partner at esrp.

“Orange County is about 30 miles from L.A.,” he said. “Nobody ever says, ‘I live in a suburb of L.A.’ They say they live in Orange County. The same thing is happening here.”

Collin County’s population is about 1 million now and estimated to climb to 3 million over the next 30 years, said Evan Stair, esrp’s senior vice president, Data and Analytics.

According to Stair, much of the growth is occurring because Collin and Denton Counties have the best transportation access in Dallas-Fort Worth, with Interstate 35 to the west, Dallas North Tollway running up the center, U.S. Highway 75 to the east, George Bush Turnpike on the south, State Highway 121 cutting across the middle, U.S. 380 to the north and the future Collin County loop on the far north in both counties.

“Nowhere else in DFW do you have this much access to people,” Stair said. “Nowhere.”

Jarvie said in addition to staying ahead of infrastructural needs, it’s the people factor that has turned Frisco and its neighboring northern communities into “boomburbs.”

“What drives business is people,” he said. “Our market is leading the country in the type of people that we have, the access to people and the available talent.”

Panelists also gave updates on high-profile projects underway in Frisco by PGA of America, Hunt Realty Investments and the University of North Texas.

UNT, based in Denton, will start construction in the fall on a campus in Frisco at the corner of Preston Road and Panther Creek, said Wesley Randall, dean of UNT at Frisco. The $118 million first phase, which includes a 132,000-square-foot academic building, parking lots and a bridge, is on track to be completed in the summer of 2022.

UNT already has about 1,500 students in Frisco at a temporary campus in Hall Park, Randall said.

He said Frisco is booming because city leaders in the past made good decisions on issues such as infrastructure and land use.

“Folks have made smart decisions in every step of the way,” he said. “They’re not acting like there is endless land to the north and the east and the west.”

Frisco’s central U.S. location and proximity to major airports, along with North Texas’ young, highly educated workforce, drove the PGA of America’s decision to move its global headquarters from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to Frisco after a nationwide search, said Darrell Crall, chief operating officer of the golf association.

PGA executives often travel worldwide, so having Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field nearby is a big plus, Crall said.

“We really loved the comfortable confines of tropical south Florida on January or February days, but it’s hard to get around the country and it’s hard for people to get to us,” Crall said.

A hard-working, team-oriented, pro-business culture in North Texas was another draw, he said.

“This is a business-centric, business-supportive region,” he said. “It’s not just about me being successful. It’s about us being successful.”

The PGA considered keeping its headquarters in south Florida, where it has been for 60 years, or relocating to Charlotte, Atlanta or the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, Crall said.

About 10 percent of the PGA’s workforce has already relocated to North Texas, he said.

The headquarters will eventually house about 250 employees and will host major PGA tournaments, including the PGA Championship, on its two golf courses.

The 660-acre, $600 million PGA project will include two 18-hole “championship ready” golf courses and a 10-hole “short course,” with holes from 50 to 200 yards, Crall said. A 2-acre practice putting green is also planned.

A sprawling, 500-key Omni resort will be part of the project as well, Crall said.

The PGA headquarters will also have events and programs for children, families, schools and businesses, he said.

“We want PGA Frisco to be part of the community, very much like The Star (Dallas Cowboys headquarters) is part of the community,” Crall said.

The PGA headquarters will be part of the Fields development, a more than 2,500-acre former ranch owned by the Fields family in north Frisco. Hunt Realty purchased the land from the Fields and is leading the development of the massive mixed-use project.

The Fields development will have more than 10,000 homes and the project could ultimately be valued at more than $10 billion. Hunt Realty is developing it with multiple partners, including Fehmi Karahan, developer of Plano’s highly successful $3 billion Legacy West property.

Chris Kleinert, president and CEO of Hunt Realty parent company Hunt Consolidated Investments, said during the panel discussion that Karahan is a longtime friend and he sought his advice before buying the land for the Fields development.

“I took it to him and said, ‘You don’t need another thing to do, so I’m not asking if you would want to work on this with me,’” Kleinert said. “I just want to know if you think it’s a good idea for Hunt to do it. His response was, ‘Not only do I think it’s a good idea, I want to do it with you. That’s the place where I want to, in essence, finish my legacy.’”

The Fields development will have more than 20 miles of trail that wind from the north side, through the PGA land and to the UNT campus, which is being built adjacent to the Fields site.

Due to the project’s size, the zoning process has been complex, but it’s expected to go before the Frisco City Council for final approval in March, Kleinert said.

He said he is confident that demand for the large corporate campuses and the thousands of houses that will make up the Fields development will remain strong in Frisco as the project builds out.

“There is an innate human desire to go to where the quality of life is going to be better for you and your family,” Kleinert said. “For that reason, I don’t see growth slowing down in any meaningful way in North Texas and especially in Frisco.”