Officials innovate to attract urban-focused residents

City Council approves rezoning request for urban mixed-use development

In November, 86.2 acres west of Coit Road was approved by City Council to be rezoned for urban mixed-use development for a project called Beacon Square. This follows the approval of Heritage Creekside, a 156.3-acre parcel in south central Plano, also rezoned as urban mixed-use two weeks earlier.

Both rezoning announcements join that of Fehmi Karahan's Legacy West urban mixed-use development announced earlier this year, which will occupy 240 acres along the west side of Dallas North Tollway.

Urban mixed-use development

To be dubbed an urban mixed-use village according to the city's comprehensive plan, each project must incorporate three uses: residential, retail and office. By intertwining these uses, the development invites individuals to live, work and play all in one spot, said Richard Grady, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission. The three new developments follow a trend within the area that pursues this urban village concept, he said.

"It's a concept that seems to be accepted by younger generations who prefer not to drive long distances—[to] be able to work in a small environment, live there and have attractive accommodations there. Basically to live in a small city within a city," Grady said.

Grady said a project's primary use cannot be greater than 70 percent and no less than 40 percent, the secondary use no greater than 40 percent and no less than 20 percent and the tertiary use no more than 20 percent. The project's acreage must also be 50 acres or larger. Each project can vary in primary use depending on the property, he said.

Christina Day, director of planning for Plano, said the city requires retail development to be evident in the first phase so as to attract the most people throughout the day.

"We want something that will draw people out onto the street so it's not just an 8-to-5 environment that you would get in an office park or a residential component where you really only see people in the evenings or on weekends," Day said. "[We] want to have the mix of uses so that at all times of the day, [there is] activity that creates a level of safety and interest."

The attraction

At the end of 2013, feedback from the public outreach phase of the city's comprehensive plan update process showed citizens liked the current suburban feel of the city. However, Day said residents also want the city to be innovative.

"People love to go to destinations. Creating more of those opportunities for people to have those experiences is positive because it keeps people in Plano, and it keeps their tax dollars in Plano," Day said. "We're able to do more things for the community if we have the resources to do it."

While Grady said the younger generation favors the urban village-style development, he also explained it benefits retirees and empty nesters looking to downsize.

"It's not just the millenials that are driving this [development] but also the [baby-boom generation] moving out of the structure they're in," Grady said.

In turn, those who move into the urban mixed-use village allow real estate opportunities for new families in need of the now-vacated single-family homes.

"It's a continuous turn in the community," he said.

Changing landscapes

City officials initially tabled Billingsley Company's proposal to develop Beacon Square in 2013. Billingsley continued to work with city staff and revise development plans per the desires of neighboring communities, such as reducing the number of apartments and including townhomes.

"This has been a long hard journey," said Lucy Billingsley, partner with the company. "It takes time for communities that are developed in a certain era to see the future coming next door."

The urban village will be a new sight to the area west of Coit Road, but Billingsley said it is what the area's growth requires.

"Society wants urbanity. Density and job growth are surging. [Beacon Square] will have great housing to serve employees [of leading corporations in the area] and retail for current and future residents of Plano," she said.

Heritage Creekside, a Rosewood Property Company development, will utilize Pitman Creek as a natural main street that is unlike developments throughout the region, said Scott Polikov with Gateway Planning, a firm working on the project.

Lynn Ellis, a resident of Pitman Creek Estates for eight years, said she expects the urban village to bring necessary revitalization to south central Plano, which she said has become less attractive with retail on every corner.

"Nothing spurs on redevelopment like massive investment. So this is frankly the first step in getting retail to match the neighborhood," Ellis said.

City officials also expect Heritage Creekside will be a catalyst for the revitalization of Collin Creek Mall. Increasing the number of high-end restaurants and aesthetically improving the area will spur developers of existing retail to revitalize their own storefronts to compete with incoming retailers, Grady said.

Anchored by Toyota Motor North America Inc., Legacy West is the first of the three developments to break ground, scheduled for February 2015.


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