Updated July 5 at 3:52 p.m.

The city of McKinney has scheduled a public input meeting on the SH 5 pedestrian connection options. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. July 12 at Ruschhaupt Hall at the McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee St. Those in attendance are invited to learn more about and provide input on the three options that will make it easier and safer for people to cross SH 5 at Virginia and Louisiana streets in downtown McKinney. More information about the meeting can be found here.

Additional reporting and graphics for the three different options being examined can be found here.

Posted April 29 at 2:23 p.m.

The city of McKinney is scoping out what could be an ambitious project to reimagine SH 5.

SH 5 bisects the downtown cultural district and the city’s historic neighborhoods on the east side. At an April 26 work session, city staff presented to McKinney City Council three different options for a deck park, which would use community spaces to bridge the two sides of the highway.

“Ultimately, the council wanted to connect these two neighborhoods ... so that a pedestrian could cross [SH] 5 without worrying about crossing big lanes of traffic and having any vehicular conflicts,” Assistant City Manager Kim Flom said. “The notion there is that we can possibly leverage the potential of some dynamic public space to really reconnect two parts of McKinney that SH 5 historically has kind of separated.”

The first deck park option Director of Engineering Gary Graham presented the council with was inspired by waves, with a precedent coming from Pacific Plaza in Dallas. In this option, SH 5 would go underneath the park that would span across Virginia and Louisiana streets.

This option, however, would require “quite a bit of property acquisition,” with 27 different properties in this area affected, Graham said. The estimated cost for this option would range from $50 million to $70 million, which does not include the costs to install the park. The retaining walls would also limit vehicular and pedestrian access, Graham said.

The second option was inspired by rings and ripples in the water, with a precedent from the Galaxy Soho Plaza in Beijing. In this vision, the deck park would be constructed underneath SH 5, with elevators and stairs to provide access to the park.

The second option would impact five properties and has an estimated project cost range of $13 million to $20 million, not including the cost for the park, Graham said.

The third option was inspired by the green space at North Park Mall and Cityplace in Houston. It creates two distinct parks at Virginia and Louisiana streets, but while the other options separate the parks from the traffic, this option does require pedestrians to cross vehicular traffic either at Virginia or Louisiana to access the parks. In this third option, the same five properties would be impacted, with an estimated cost range of $5 million to $7 million, not including the cost of the park.

There are multiple factors spurring the development of SH 5, Flom said. One is the redevelopment initiative the city is kicking off on the east side of SH 5, which will feature a new city hall and other projects, and the second are state plans to improve the road.

The Texas Department of Transportation’s project will reconstruct the highway from south of CR 275 in Melissa to Spur 399 in McKinney. TxDOT will start accepting bids on the first phase of the SH 5 project in the summer of 2024. Once a bid is accepted, construction is expected to take three to four years to complete.

“When TxDOT came and said, ‘We’re going to redo the [SH] 5 corridor, staff was never excited about what traditionally TxDOT does on the design,” Graham said during his presentation. “We knew it wasn’t what we wanted for the area, and we were challenged to think of something bigger.”

Currently, city staff are scoping out the feasibility of the options presented to the council. There is the possibility of some funding opportunities that could help the project be its biggest and boldest version, Flom said.

“I feel strongly we have an opportunity to do something really great,” Mayor George Fuller said following the presentation. “We already are taking steps to do that with our city hall and the Tupps project and the infrastructure improvements that we’re going to be making over there.”

During the work session council provided feedback indicating that as a majority they preferred the second option inspired by ripples. This option had the best “compromise” of providing pedestrian connectivity with an ambitious concept while also being conscious of the surrounding area affected by the project, the mayor said. The first option also received some favorable remarks.

Council member Justin Beller, however, expressed concerns with all three options presented. He pointed out that the city has several opportunities already that create a space for the community, and said he did not want to add any more to the disruptions that are coming to downtown, such as city hall’s move.

“I think that there are some other places that we need to be putting our attention and our efforts into improving connectivity along the [SH] 5 corridor and spurring development within our downtown corridor,” Beller said.

Currently the project is in “early stages” Flom said. City staff will seek to gain feedback and answer questions from the public. The project will be refined over the summer and in the August timeframe staff will seek direction from council on which option to pursue and how to best realize it, Flom said.

The public engagement portion of this project will begin as the summer kicks off. City staff anticipate scheduling an in-person open house meeting, as well as an online platform for the public to review information and provide comments, staff said. Information will be updated at www.mckinneytexas.org/eastside.

“I try to think of what we’re doing over there 20 years from now,” Fuller said. “Hopefully ... looking across at what we helped create and we directed, and how incredibly innovative, forward thinking it would have been to do something like this—to connect those two areas so majestically.”