Drivers on FM 423 are seeing the full effect of the roadway’s growing pains.
The drive at times is slow and bumpy because traffic cones, pot holes and narrowed lanes are what now define the roadway. To add to the action on FM 423, new development is also popping up along its edges.
But business owners and state and local officials say it’s all a sign of progress. The state roadway that runs through Frisco, The Colony and Little Elm is attracting more businesses because of its expansion to accommodate for growth, local officials said.
Several shopping strips have popped up along the roadway, and a few larger businesses—such as Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Wal-Mart—have made plans to anchor developments.
Because of the current and expected traffic increases, the Texas Department of Transportation is working to add additional lanes to much of FM 423 between SH 121 and US 380.
Many businesses are attracted to the corridor knowing that it is being widened, said Jason Laumer, Little Elm Development Services director.
“I think a lot of people just wanted to see the action; they wanted to see something done,” Laumer said.
To make development sustainable, FM 423 needs anchor stores, said Frisco Development Services Director John Lettelleir.
“An anchor store, like a grocery store, is kind of like the honey that attracts the bees,” he said.
Some of those types of stores have been making their way to the state roadway recently. For instance, Tom Thumb near Lebanon Road on the Frisco side of FM 423 has attracted some smaller businesses near it, Lettelleir said. A Wal-Mart at US 380 and FM 423 planned to open in 2017 will include shops and restaurants in its development.
In Little Elm, a Kroger grocery store at FM 423 and Little Elm Parkway has attracted some businesses, and developers have plans to add more retail, Laumer said. He said these anchor stores have helped accelerate interest from businesses to the area.
But it is the unique venues that will draw the most attention from consumers, said Jennette Killingsworth, Little Elm Economic Development Corp. executive director. She said one such venue would be Alamo Drafthouse, a dine-in movie theater that plans to open in 2016.
“[Little Elm has] a minimum amount of land available,” Killingsworth said. “We want to make sure that what we do capitalize on are unique venues that will draw from both Frisco, Prosper as well as Little Elm. That’s part of the reason Alamo was so important for us.”
The growth of housing near FM 423 has also helped spark growth on the roadway, Laumer said.
Sherry Tabaee, owner of ZuZu Handmade Mexican Food in Addison, said the growing population is one of the reasons she and her family decided to open another location along Frisco’s western border.
“The area is growing really fast,” she said. “Part of our clientele is family-based. We have discussed this and thought that would be the best fit for our concept because of new, young families [moving to that area].”
FM 423 is mostly a two-lane highway that was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, TxDOT spokesperson Michelle Releford said. But the development growth in the towns and cities near the roadway has resulted in a need to expand FM 423, she said.
“Denton County and this area specifically has been experiencing a population boom that doesn’t look to slow down any time soon,” Releford said. “The project will improve safety and traffic operations, improve travel times and reduce traffic delay along a congested and developing corridor.”
The roadway is being widened to six lanes in Frisco and Little Elm and to eight lanes in The Colony, where TxDOT counted an average of more than 41,000 vehicles per day in 2013 traveling at the intersection of SH 121 and FM 423.
“I think a lot of people just wanted to see the action; they wanted to see something done.”
—Jason Laumer, Little Elm Development Services director
When road construction is complete, the increased traffic capacity will help attract even more development to the area, Lettelleir said.
Laumer said developers have shown interest in the area now that the roadway is under construction. The Kroger in Little Elm was built while the middle section of FM 423 was under construction a few years ago, he said.
Other road projects have contributed to the increased traffic on FM 423, Killingsworth said.
The extension of Eldorado Parkway, which connects the east and west sides of Lewisville Lake, has allowed drivers on the west side of the lake to access FM 423 as a north-south route to get to SH 121 or US 380.
Having major developments along SH 121—such as Grandscape in The Colony and Toyota Motor Corp.’s headquarters in Plano—will also encourage drivers from Frisco and Little Elm to use FM 423 for commuting, Killingsworth said.
Ian Vaughn—who owns Rock 101 Patio Grill on Eldorado Parkway and FM 423 and will soon open Lava Cantina at the Grandscape development—said more drivers will start using FM 423 as a major north-south thoroughfare as development grows along SH 121.
Vaughn said the road construction will a negative effect on his business until it’s complete.
“As a business owner, you grow to expect a short-term loss [because of road construction], but you know it will provide exponential gain in the future,” he said.
As FM 423 grows, Killingsworth said she hopes it will also spur development to expand beyond that corridor.
“[FM] 423 we hope will be the draw from all of our surrounding communities and hopefully funnel [development]to the area to provide the services and amenities all in one consolidated location,” she said.