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Expert: SH 121 growth ‘a matter of time’

Stonebriar Centre, constructed along a relatively undeveloped stretch of SH 121, put Frisco on the map in 2000 when it opened, spurring large amounts of the city’s growth.

However, outside of the Preston Road and Dallas North Tollway intersections, the remaining portion of Frisco’s nearly 8-mile stretch of SH 121 had remained relatively dormant in the years since. The attention on the Frisco side recently shifted to the DNT and its 1-mile stretch of major development known as the

$5 Billion Mile.

At the same time, the largest Volkswagen dealership in the country—Hendrick Volkswagen Frisco—opened in April along SH 121. Nearby, Crest Auto Group is building three more dealerships–Cadillac, Infiniti and Volvo–on a 35-acre plot, which will include a car wash and collision repair center.

The neighboring cities of Plano and The Colony that have seen their respective stretches of SH 121 become landing zones for major development as well. The Colony’s Grandscape mixed-use development sits on more than 400 acres and includes Nebraska Furniture Mart, which is expected to bring in 8 million shoppers per year, said Keri Samford, The Colony economic development director.

Plano’s Legacy West, a 240-acre mixed-use development, will open the headquarters for FedEx Office late this year, Toyota North America in 2016 and an office for Liberty Mutual Insurance in 2017.

The completion of construction along SH 121 in Denton County has made the area more attractive to developers, said Bill Cox, principal for commercial real estate firm Carey Cox Co.

“Once the dust settles and people actually see where entrance ramps are and exit ramps are, developers turn their eye to that area,” he said.

The type of development that could come to Frisco’s side of SH 121 outside of the Preston Road and DNT intersections is still undetermined, said John Lettelleir, Frisco development services director. He said developers like the fact that the state highway has access to the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, making it a prime corridor for development.

Cox said the Collin County side of SH 121 has the potential to draw more development.

“It’s only a matter of time before the area [east] of Denton County, [east] of The Colony and, specifically, Frisco develops,” he said. “The [land] pricing today is as low as it will be for the foreseeable future. Prices are only going to continue to increase as demand increases.”

Future plans for SH 121

The city’s draft Future Land Use Plan shows business parks and commercial development on SH 121. Lettelleir said he sees opportunity for high-density, urban living projects. For instance, medical offices with residential and office space could surround Centennial Medical Center, he said.

“[Mixed-use developments are] going to be critical in the future for attracting the labor force for employers,” he said. “State Farm [in Richardson] is a good example, where they’re building their corporate headquarters along a rail line, and it’s in a mixed-use setting. One of the main reasons for doing that is to be competitive for the labor force.”

Other retail projects are planned along SH 121, including a Wal-Mart at Custer Road, which will expand the Custer Bridges development.

Catalyst for growth

The sales tax revenue from the Stonebriar Centre shopping center helped bring in other projects to the city, including Toyota Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters, Lettelleir said.

“It started with that mall,” he said. “That mall developing in Frisco provides a significant revenue source.”

The Grandscape development is expected to assist in The Colony’s growth, Samford said. “It’s the front door to our community,” she said. “… It will be a real destination.”

For some time, the DNT and SH 121 intersection has been the “center of the universe” for development, Lettelleir said. Other areas along

SH 121 in Frisco have not seen the high-density living and commercial space similar to Stonebriar Centre, mainly because nothing has warranted that type of development, he said.

“Once you get away from that [Stonebriar Centre] mass and you try to do something like that, it’s hard to justify the rents to make that happen until you have that synergy that takes place,”

he said. “That’s the sense that I’m getting from the development community.”

Though several car dealerships have been planted on the west side of Frisco, it will be a while before SH 121 development on the east side of Hillcrest picks up, Lettelleir said, although he predicts it will happen.

“It’s an ‘address’ to be along the Dallas North Tollway,” he said. “It’s known regionally, but eventually [SH] 121 will be, too.”

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