With roadwork projects already underway on Elm Street and expected to finish before the end of 2023, work on the nearly $50 million in projects designed to make the Rail District more pedestrian-friendly is in full gear.

Finishing Elm Street first is expected to allow for an easily accessible detour path when construction shuts down Main Street to replace the on-street parking spots with wider sidewalks.

“It’s a challenge to cross Main Street,” Mayor Jeff Cheney said. “[This project is] making it an easier distance to cross [and] more inviting for the pedestrian.”

Increasing foot traffic should help the Rail District’s businesses see more customers, host more events and create new experiences for visitors, Cheney said.

“We’d be able to walk around to all the different places and just really experience that rather than having to park at each place,” said Aubrey resident Marianna Cortes, who often visits the Rail District.

As of late August, the city’s capital improvement website listed an estimate that construction on Main Street and the Fourth Street Plaza will finish by 2025.

A revised schedule with concrete dates is expected to be released in October, Director of Engineering Services Paul Knippel said in an emailed statement.

“The ‘plaza’ will be a critical component in providing a central place for people to gather for social events, including live performances,” Director of Development Services John Lettelleir said.

Funding the projects

One of the biggest stand-alone projects planned for the new downtown layout is a bond-funded parking garage to replace the loss of street parking. Frisco residents approved the project’s funding as well as money for surrounding road developments in a May election.

“Frisco voters approved a $20 million bond for a downtown parking garage to meet the future need for parking,” Lettelleir said via email. “This additional parking is critical to the Rail District’s success.”

Once completed, the new parking garage will provide more spaces than what is being removed from Main Street, Lettelleir said.

City officials began selling some of the voter-approved bond funds in July.

“Design of Main Street and ‘the plaza’ has been underway for several months,” Knippel said via email. “The voter-approved downtown parking garage ... adds another element and is needed sooner rather than later. We think it’s important to build the garage, Main Street and ‘the plaza’ within the same general time frame.”

How we got here

Some of the plans for the redevelopment are more than two decades old.

“It’s been long recognized that any world-class city has a great downtown,” Cheney said. “Many years ago, the city decided that we needed to let it start happening organically, start taking its own shape, and that’s what happened. Now we realize this is an opportunity where the city can make investments to pour gas on that fire.”

What they're saying

Residents and business owners in the Rail District have also been providing input throughout the process, Cheney said.

Kristen Tsu has seen her business, Bittersweet Ivy, grow alongside the Rail District from its spot on Main Street since 2016. More pedestrian spaces will help people fully experience the downtown area and its businesses, Tsu said.

“You can see a few of the renovations with Elm Street right now as they’re working on the street. I’m excited—I’m ready for it to happen, and I’m ready for the Fourth Street Plaza, which will be really nice," she said.

What's next

Rail District improvements will not end once this most recent wave of construction does, Cheney said.

At a June 30 summer work session, City Council heard a potential idea for a small-business incentive program specifically for the Rail District, which could be funded by the Frisco Economic Development Corporation. Plans are still tentative, officials said.

Other projects, such as an incoming Three Empires Brewing Co. location, could also bring more foot traffic to the Rail District, Tsu said.

“Redevelopment in the downtown will continue indefinitely as the Rail District becomes more popular, especially with the development of Grand Park and Frisco Junction,” Lettelleir said via email.