Vast park could come to life in 2018 Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said he considered Grand Park such an important asset to the city that he first ran for Frisco City Council to be a part of it. That was 10 years ago.

Since then, the country has fallen into and come out of a recession, Cheney was termed off from City Council and Grand Park became what he called an “urban legend.”

For years, City Council has pinpointed Grand Park as a top priority for the city. Now that Cheney is mayor, he has set a goal to break ground on the first phase of development in 2018 and said the plans for the park could be even bigger than ever.

A long-awaited permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could get approved this year, which would help the city break ground by next year, city officials said. And depending on environmental cleanup efforts, the city could add approximately 180 acres to the park that currently surrounds a shut-down battery recycling plant.

Grand Park is planned to be a 350-acre, master-planned regional park near the heart of Frisco. The most recent plans for the park include a lake feature, walking trails and large amounts of open space paired with commercial development fronting the lake.

“The park is so vital to the city, and this is the time when we actually need it the most,” Cheney said. “As we start building out that commercial corridor … we need that open space. The need is more than ever for us to have more park space, so it needs to be a priority now.”

Bigger vision

The latest master plan for Grand Park has the park bordered by the DNT, Legacy Drive, Cotton Gin Road and Stonebrook Parkway. It is planned to be built in phases, Cheney said.

Grand Park is already planned to be the largest park in Frisco, but it could grow as it is developed. Future phases of the park could include adding acreage to the park east of the toll road and just south of the Frisco Discovery Center. This land could include approximately 180 acres that the city plans to purchase one day surrounding the former Exide Technologies battery recycling plant.

Factoring in all the land that the city already owns for Grand Park and near Frisco Square as well as the land the city could eventually own around the Exide plant, it is possible to have more than 600 acres of park and open space in the heart of the city, City Manager George Purefoy said.

“The vision for Grand Park is even growing bigger than it previously was,” Cheney said.

Cheney said the city is in talks with developers, some of which have proposed plans that include the land east of the DNT.

Several factors have to be considered before expanding the park eastward, including whether the design could allow pedestrians to travel to either side of the DNT and how visitors use the park land as it is developed, Cheney said.

Expanding the park also hinges on whether the land around the Exide plant will be cleaned up enough for park development, Purefoy said.

Vast park could come to life in 2018Cleanup and holdup

After the city purchased the land for Grand Park in 2006, the initial master-planning process took place. Today, construction has not started on the park.

City officials say several factors have contributed to progress delay on Grand Park, including a nationwide recession in the late 2000s.

One of the biggest factors has been a permit the city submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the lake feature. The lake would be created using Stewart Creek, which is managed by the Corps.

The city first submitted a permit after the initial master-planning process was completed, but a new permit was submitted after the master plan was revised in 2011, Deputy City Manager Henry Hill said.

That permit is scheduled to undergo a public comment period in the next  few months before receiving final approval from the Corps, Cheney said.

Another factor that has slowed progress on Grand Park is the closure of the Exide plant. Battery chips from the former recycling plant, which is directly east of the Grand Park site, were found contaminating Stewart Creek and the surrounding area.

Following the plant’s closure in 2012, the city entered a Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to oversee the cleanup of the creek and the land around the plant.

Though the cleanup has delayed developing the lake feature, Purefoy said not cleaning up the creek could have caused more issues down the road.

“While it’s been a sore spot [not getting started on the lake], it’s probably been a blessing in disguise, because we’d be dealing with a mess all over the park with moving hazardous waste,” he said.

Lasting impact

As a regional park, Grand Park could have an effect on Frisco that extends beyond opportunities for recreation. Parks could mean more economic development for cities, according to the National Recreation and Park Association.

NRPA Vice President of Research Kevin Roth said a well-planned park can draw both people and businesses to a community. He said businesses looking to relocate are attracted to communities that have a strong parks system.

“No one has ever chosen a community and said, ‘I want to live there because they don’t have any parks.’ It’s always the opposite,” he said. “That’s why it’s such a key factor in attracting companies, because companies have to able to attract quality workers. It’s not just about them having great salaries and benefits, but it’s also having a place where those employees want to live.”

Large regional parks can also support the local economy by giving cities a return on their investment, Roth said. The commercial development planned for the west side of the park can boost jobs and economic growth, he said.

“The infrastructure that’s being put into place, that’s money that’s being poured into the community that will not only drive income of the residents there but also the people who live near it,” Roth said. “You do tend to see this positive impact of property values.”

Cheney has referred to Grand Park as being an important part of Frisco’s legacy.

“Once Grand Park is completed, I feel that’s what Frisco will be best known for,” Cheney said. “It’s that kind of caliber of park.”

Read more background on Exide Technologies