About 25 years ago, Preston Road in Frisco was a nearly vacant state highway running through a rural town. Despite this, Mariano Martinez, the owner of La Hacienda Ranch, said he knew Preston Road would be essential to area growth and he wanted to be part of that.
“The developers identify that the best and most popular roads go north for some reason,” Martinez said. “… So I just used a real estate/developer mentality when looking for a location.”
Martinez said his plan was to build a restaurant where he predicted development would come and then wait for it. Martinez’s prediction proved true as La Hacienda Ranch, which opened in 1993, is located on what is now Frisco’s busiest and most congested roadway.
Drivers along Preston Road will soon begin to see construction along the historic roadway as the city adds more intersection turn lanes this summer to accommodate future growth.
Assistant Director of Transportation Brian Moen, who has been working for the city since 2001, said he has seen the traffic volume increase on Preston Road, especially north of Warren Parkway.
“When we look long-term at the build-out of Frisco, I think those are improvements that are going to be needed in those [intersections], so this is just furthering that and getting it done,” Moen said. “We’re bringing [these intersections] up to the standard if we were to build them new today.”
The most recent traffic counts available show Preston Road can currently have more than 58,000 drivers per day, according to city data.
To relieve some of that congestion and prepare for future traffic, additional turn lanes will be added this year to intersections between Warren Parkway and Main Street.
The city of Frisco and the Texas Department of Transportation will be working together to reconstruct the intersections.
The project overall will cost $2.8 million with both entities providing funding.
The project also includes adding a turn lane at the intersection of SH 121 and Ohio Drive.
Moen said there is no official start date for the project until TxDOT completes the right of way acquisitions to build, widen or enhance roadways for the project. However, he said once the acquisitions are complete the project is expected to be done within 10 months.
Moen said intersections along Preston north of Main Street, such as Eldorado Parkway, Panther Creek Parkway and Rockhill Parkway, are already built out and are up to city standards.
The catalyst for growth
Former Frisco Mayor Bob Warren was born the same year Preston Road was first graveled, which was in 1921.
By the time Warren became the mayor in 1989, Preston Road was a two-lane highway with little development on either side of the road.
In the early 1990s, Martinez came to Frisco wanting to build a restaurant along the nearly vacant Preston Road.
“Everyone thought he was crazy because there was nothing else out there,” Warren said. “There was Lebanon Baptist Church, and across the street was a massage parlor.”
The newly developed Frisco Economic Development Corp. took Martinez up on his offer to come to Frisco and awarded La Hacienda Ranch the city’s first economic incentive to build a water line to the restaurant.
La Hacienda Ranch opened in 1993, which is when Warren said Preston Road started seeing more restaurants and retailers migrate to Frisco.
Martinez said when the restaurant opened about 80 percent of the customers traveled from south of Frisco to get there.
“It really drew people from everywhere …,” Martinez said. “The restaurant was such a regional destination for people outside of Frisco.”
Martinez said the restaurant was a catalyst to what was to come for Preston Road.
“[La Hacienda Ranch] started the first wave of development on Preston Road,” Warren said. “… Preston Road had started to grow before the mall came in.”
The additional business along Preston Road brought with it additional traffic. Frisco was in talks to attract a mall when the city signed a contract with TxDOT in 1996 to widen Preston Road to six lanes from SH 121 to Main Street.
The road-widening project was completed in 1999, a year before Stonebriar Centre opened.
Warren said Frisco is proud to have Preston Road as a major corridor.
“A Preston Road address is a prestigious address like something along the toll road now,” he said.
The ‘golden corridor’
Ted Wilson, principal at Residential Strategies Inc., said it is not difficult to see why Preston Road has been so popular for developers over the years.
“It’s [been] the ‘golden corridor’ for the last 80 years or so,” he said. “Most people who have moved northward have followed that Preston Road corridor.”
Although other major local north-south corridors, such as the Dallas North Tollway, have attracted a lot of office development, Preston Road has mainly attracted a lot of retail development, Wilson said. However, he predicts Preston will start seeing its fair share of office development in the not-too-distant future as well.
“We’re a metropolitan area of 7 million people,” he said. “It makes sense that you spread out these office nodes or workplace nodes and keep them near where a lot of the population resides.”
Much of Preston Road’s development begins to taper off at Main Street because of the undeveloped Brinkmann Ranch property that lines the east side of Preston Road north of Main Street, Wilson said. But development will occur when that land sells.
“Baxter [Brinkmann] has been selling several of his properties but retaining that main parcel, kind of the mothership if you will, of his different holdings,” he said. “I would expect when that property becomes developed you’ll see a lot more retail go into that neck of the woods.”
Wilson said Preston Road will continue to be an important thoroughfare in the years to come to the point that traffic may start shifting from driving south to Dallas to traveling north to Frisco, Prosper and Celina.