Cover Story: How the ‘$5-billion mile’ will transform Frisco

January 30, 2015

Unlike any other mile-long length of roadway in Texas, the Dallas North Tollway — bounded by Warren Parkway and Lebanon Road — has billions of new development underway.

Unlike any other mile-long length of roadway in Texas, the Dallas North Tollway — bounded by Warren Parkway and Lebanon Road — has billions of new development underway.
The short stretch of highway — dubbed the “$5-billion mile” — is expected to transform about 549 acres of land in Frisco into high-end developments.

And for two decades, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has invested in the northern outskirts of Dallas-Fort Worth, slowly buying up thousands of acres.
Now he’s migrating his Star north, where his new team headquarters will serve as the anchor of a $1 billion mixed-use development.
The 91-acre plot at the northwest corner of Warren Parkway and the Dallas North Tollway will be home to the $350 million campus.
Named The Star in Frisco, it has spurred a rush on land in close proximity to the club’s headquarters and practice facility.
So far, that Frisco land rush has brought investors from as far away as Korea, China, Germany, Dubai, Peru and Honduras. And Frisco Mayor Maher Maso expects to see more interest.
“They are all aware of the project and know about the [Cowboys] organization does things right,” Maso said. “Developers know if they are near it, they will be successful.”
The collection of development projects — if built as envisioned — will bring the following to Frisco:

  • 12.1 million square feet of high-end office space
  • 1.32 million square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space
  • 490,000 square feet of medical office space
  • 820 hotel rooms within multiple hotels
  • 3,700 apartment homes
  • Two, 10-story luxury condo towers or villas
  • A 12,000-seat indoor multi-use facility at the Dallas Cowboys headquarters that will allow Frisco high school students to play football and host city events

This could be just the beginning. Real estate investors with land holdings further northward up the Tollway are banking on big development plans following the pathway up the roadway.

However, before investors could make their million- and billion-dollar bets, Frisco had to create a marketable destination to support these massive projects.
Jones, through Blue Star Land, was one of the first developers of large single-family communities in Frisco, with his 550-acre Starwood custom home development in the early 1990s. Soon, Frisco began to emerge as a contender in North Texas for residents and the city’s infrastructure grew.
For Jones, he knew he needed the rooftops to support the potential commercial development in Frisco and is always looking at creating opportunity, said Joe Hickman, general manager for Frisco-based Blue Star Land.
“He’s been a patient land owner and he’s always looked for opportunity,” Hickman said. “He’s spent a lot of time investing in that corridor. He knew growth was coming and it was about buying good land in the right location.”
In the past decade, the city’s population has grown ten-fold to more than 145,000 residents.

For the past few years, West Frisco has been one of the top submarkets in North Texas for developing single-family homes, said Ted Wilson, principal at Dallas-based Residential Strategies Inc., which tracks the region’s housing market.
“The market continues to drive people northward up the Tollway,” Wilson said. “The prices are up in Frisco and other markets have really mushroomed in the last few years.”
And home buyers are feeling maxed out on home costs, he said, causing builders to move further up the Tollway in search of cheap, raw land to develop.
“This is the area of North Texas where a lot of relocations are happening and those who have land continue to benefit from it,” Wilson said.
At one point in time, Toyota was eyeing Frisco as a potential site for its new $350 million North American campus, said Stan Thomas, president and CEO of Atlanta-based Thomas Land & Development, which is developing the $2 billion Wade Park project that sits in the $5-Billion Mile.
“We didn’t know the company was Toyota at the time, and I was looking at buying another parcel of land because I felt if we put one more piece together, it would work for them,” Thomas said, adding he and city officials countered a few times with the Japanese automaker.
Frisco contending with the much-larger and more developed Plano for a major relocation shows the city’s growing economic strength and gives real estate investors reasons to be bullish on the future northward development up the Tollway.
As Frisco’s notoriety travels, so has Jones’ real estate investment interest. Blue Star Land is buying up land in north Frisco, Prosper and Celina — the go-to parcels for future single-family development, said Hickman.
“We’re pretty well built out and the next logical place to go is in Prosper and jump the (U.S.) 380 corridor,” he said. “This is the next northern place to develop.
Dallas trial lawyer and longtime real estate investor Don Godwin said he’s come to the same conclusion.
Godwin, who owns more than 7,000 acres in the vicinity, has tied up two of the four corners at U.S. 380 and the Dallas North Tollway, a prized real estate investment that guarantees him at least an offer or two every week on the parcels.
The plethora of rooftops you can see within a mile of U.S. 380 and the Dallas North Tollway proves the investment grade of the Golden Corridor, he said.
“In my judgment, the growth you’ll see from Main Street in Frisco to 380 will far outweigh — and will come along sooner — than what we’ve seen from State Highway 121 to Main Street,” Godwin said. “The economy is going to be a major catalyst for growth and we’re going to see some major changes in the next 18 months.
“You’ve got some major investors working on some big projects in Frisco,” he added. “They aren’t doing it with the idea they are gambling, this is where smart people think they can make a lot of money.”
Longtime Frisco land broker Rex Glendenning — who incidentally works with Godwin and Hickman with Blue Star Land — said he’s seen the community blossom in the past 35 years.
“It is remarkable to see how fast it has occurred,” said Glendenning, who grew up on a cotton farm in Celina. “Today, the epicenter of development is in Frisco. The city really gets it and they understand how to be cutting edge and attract big business.”
Jones and Godwin aren’t alone. Other investors are making big buys and land prices are escalating, said Jim Riggert, associate managing director at Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.
Riggert said he’s seeing asking prices for an acre of land in the Golden Corridor reach $325,700 per acre, which has quadrupled in the past seven years. In Jan. 2007, investors could expect to pay about $75,000 an acre of land.
“The amount of development and the pace of development is increasing in Frisco and I think we’ll continue to see that for some time,” said Jim Gandy, president of Frisco Economic Development Corp.
In the past year, Gandy has been building up his economic development team — recruiting longtime executives from other cities — to accommodate the growing interest in Frisco.
“In the next five years, we’ll see far more development than we’ve seen in the past 10 years,” he said.
Jones hasn’t been the only investor to see the potential in Frisco, with the ‘$5-Billion Mile’ bringing in Dallas-Fort Worth and international investors.
Family-owned company, The Rudman Partnership, has held onto a 242-acre tract near the Cowboys-anchored development, waiting for the right time to develop the property fronting the Dallas North Tollway. Now, it’s time to develop the property, said Trey Sibley, general manager for the Dallas-based family-owned partnership.
The $1.7 billion development, called Frisco Station, will put millions of square feet of office space, thousands of apartment homes and other entertainment and medical facilities on the ground. The project will be developed in partnership with Hillwood Properties and VanTrust Real Estate.
“It’s a positive to have Frisco Station adjacent to and surrounding the Cowboys development,” said Mike Berry, president of Fort Worth-based Hillwood Properties, a Ross Perot Jr. development company.
The two projects will have a synergy between the neighborhoods to appeal to a broad spectrum of visitors, he said.
“The big picture is there is a lot of compatibility between the Cowboys development and Frisco Station,” Berry said. “The way this plan lays out, it will be cohesive and compatible with each part of the project.”
The development group hopes to attract a Toyota-sized corporate relocation to Frisco Station, which could bring thousands of jobs.
And the developers behind the two other projects have similar expectations.
Thomas Land & Development President and CEO Stan Thomas said he’s excited the Atlanta-based company gets to play a part in Frisco’s major growth, with hopes his $2 billion; 175-acre Wade Park development will become a destination upon completion.
In becoming a destination, Thomas said Wade Park is developing a retail village that will get Frisco residents and people from surrounding communities to shop, dine and enjoy an experience-based environment.
Dubai-based real estate investment group — Invest Group Overseas — is also playing off Frisco’s fast-growing stature in the United States, making a $700 million bet on nearly 41 acres of land on the Dallas North Tollway.
“True to its name, The Gate is conceived to be a gateway to the bustling corridor along the Dallas North Tollway in Frisco,” said CEO Anaz Kozbari. “The development will offer a refreshing take on the live, work, play environment in one of America’s fastest-growing cities.”