With change coming to east Plano, city outlines Oak Point development priorities

Lavon Farms, a family-owned dairy farm in east Plano, sits at the heart of the cityu2019s development plans for the Oak Point area.

Lavon Farms, a family-owned dairy farm in east Plano, sits at the heart of the cityu2019s development plans for the Oak Point area.

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Oak Point
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Oak Point Plan
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Oak Point Plan
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Oak Point Plan
City officials believe the quiet Oak Point area in east Plano—known for its giant nature preserve, a family-owned dairy farm, a community college campus and a nearly empty mall—holds tantalizing promise for developers.

The city of Plano on Oct. 11 released a broad vision for Oak Point that—if adopted later this year—could guide development in a manner that more than doubles the area’s projected long-term economic output, according to a city analysis. Compared to Oak Point’s existing development trajectory, the plan calls for a housing mix with a greater share of apartments, increased walkability and more parks and open space.

The plan reflects the enigma of Oak Point, an area defined by both its enticing land availability and its frustrating slowness to attract businesses and lodging near some of the city’s most prized public amenities.

“I think we’ve seen [economic] activity” in Oak Point, Plano Director of Planning Christina Day said. “It just hasn’t been at the scale that lives up to the potential.”

The city has key assets in this area, including the giant Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve, a recreation center and the Plano Event Center. But much of the nearby area is undeveloped, the site of a large dairy farm and other open land. The road network is not fully built out, lacking necessary east-west roadways and sufficient connections to the area’s major north-south thoroughfare, US 75.

The plan was a product of the city’s Envision Oak Point initiative, which has involved a nearly yearlong collaboration between city planners, independent analysts, residents and Oak Point business owners. Plano City Council is expected to consider adopting the development plan, which would ultimately inform decisions on zoning and city planning, before the end of the year.

“The city has the authority to initiate rezoning on property, so it could result in the city initiating rezoning of the area as a whole, an overlay district—I mean, it could come in a lot of different manners,” Day said. “Or it could be initiated by individual property owners as well.”

The challenges are substantial for city planners as they guide that expected growth and try to attract developers.

The area’s road network has only three main connections to US 75. And some of the property owners are struggling, such as the Plano Market Square Mall, which in early October had one active tenant operating in a long hallway lined with empty storefronts.

As new residents continue to flock to Collin County in the coming years, the largely undeveloped Oak Point area near the Plano’s eastern edge figures to absorb a chunk of that growth.

“We think that [Oak Point] was a natural choice for us [to examine] because of the vacant land, the cooperative spirit of landowners in the area, the amount of public amenities in the area,” Day said. “We just thought it was a very unique part of the city where we had a significant opportunity, and we thought the timing was right to take a hard look and see if we could really capitalize on this opportunity and make something very special that Plano can be proud of for years.”

What the plan entails 

As developers descend on Oak Point in the coming years, the area’s housing mix is expected to diversify. The existing housing mix—made up of 92 percent apartment units—would eventually give way to a combination of multifamily and single-family neighborhoods of varying lot sizes.

The number of housing units could reach more than 4,500, compared to the 3,130 housing units expected at buildout without the plan, according to city estimates.

The Oak Point area’s cumulative economic output, including temporary construction and permanent activity, would range from $5.6 billion to $8 billion, a range more than double that of the area’s current trajectory.

The plan also calls for roughly four times the open space and park land, compared to the area’s existing development trajectory. Most of that open space would run through and around the proposed large, single-family neighborhoods on the southern side of Oak Point. A small part of Lavon Farms, the family-owned dairy farm, would be preserved and maintain its rural character under the plan.

But the heart of the plan’s economic ambitions hinges on the corridors of K Avenue and Spring Creek Parkway, which city officials hope will attract a series of commercial and mixed-use developments to complement the various public amenities nearby.

City officials would like to attract a hotel next door to the Plano Event Center, where both properties could benefit from each other’s complementary uses. The city would also encourage mixed-use redevelopment of Plano Market Square Mall.

The plan, the consensus result of several hypothetical scenarios outlined in the Envision Oak Point process, is not yet a final product. The city has continued to gather public feedback before submitting a final proposal to the Plano City Council later this year.

“We really want to hear what the public has to say—if it confirms the comprehensive plan’s vision for the area or speaks to some necessary changes to the plan,” said Day, the city’s top planning official.

Transportation Hurdles 

The Oak Point area’s arterial network is insufficient for the development activity the city wants to attract, according to the analysts contracting with the city.

“It was obvious to us, even at the beginning of this project, that east-west connectivity was the key—that whatever happened, there needed to be additional east-west connectivity,” said Kurt Schulte, principal of Walter P Moore, one of the firms advising the city on the Oak Point plan.

Whether the city’s vision plan for the area is employed or development continues on its present path, the city will eventually need to install new roads, Schulte said. However, the city will face the same challenges that have delayed the road construction until now.

“There’s lots of reasons why that hasn’t happened,” Schulte said. “There’s creeks that run through here; there’s the DART right of way, the railroad tracks; and then Central Expressway is right there. You’ve got a lot of challenges to deal with, with any east-west connection.”

As important as the new roadways will be to meet Oak Point’s transportation needs, the city is focused on a combination of strategies to manage transportation as the area builds out, Plano Senior Planner Ken Schmidt said.

Someday, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit right of way that runs adjacent to the Oak Point area could become an expanded part of the region’s passenger-rail network, or perhaps a series of bus rapid transit stops, Schmidt said. These transit measures are a key part of the puzzle to managing transportation as the area develops, he said.

But another component of alleviating the anticipated traffic congestion is embedded in the city’s blueprint itself. To keep cars off the roads, city planners are calling for a series of walkable, mixed-use districts along Spring Creek Parkway and Jupiter Road. The close proximity of apartments and hotel rooms to restaurants and stores could nearly double the number of walking trips per housing unit, according to city estimates.

“The big thing that ties all [those transportation efforts] together is land-use, having land-uses that are complementary and supportive,” Schmidt said.
By Daniel Houston
Daniel Houston covers city government, transportation, business and education for Community Impact Newspaper in Lewisville, Flower Mound and Highland Village. A Fort Worth native and Baylor University graduate, Daniel reported previously for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City and The Dallas Morning News.


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