Just 25 miles north of Dallas sits Frisco, Texas, a city that’s famous for The Star — the 91-acre Dallas Cowboys’ world headquarters and practice facility. Like many Texans, Jeff Cheney, mayor of Frisco, loves The Star, but he loves even more the opportunities it provides to residents, visitors, nearby businesses and anyone who wants to be a part of the action.
“With seven million visitors a year, we’re known as ‘Sports City USA,’” Mayor Cheney says. “One of the biggest things you can do as a city is help local retailers through tourism. We’re very intentional with that strategy.”
The city has worked hard over the past decade to create and support live-work-play districts that provide ample opportunities for retailers and restaurants. Frisco is also home to mixed-use projects like Frisco Square and Frisco Station, with more in the works.
Developing Destinations — New Retail, Restaurants Complement Frisco’s Attractions
One of the many new projects in the pipeline is Fields West, which will feature more than 1 million square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space supported by up to 11 million square feet of office space, along with 375 hotel rooms within the planned Ritz Carlton and Autograph Collection by Marriott hotels.
The Fields development is also home to PGA of America’s new headquarters, as well as two 18-hole championship golf courses with more than 26 championship tournaments planned through 2035. This includes the PGA Championship in 2027 and 2034 and the 2023 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. The site also features a 550-room Omni Resort (which opened this May), 115,000 square feet of convention meeting rooms, planned Marriott-branded hotels, 25 miles of biking and hiking trails and 250 acres of open space parks.
For Mayor Cheney, this expansion of the Fields embodies the true live-work-play dynamic Frisco strives for.
“Our comprehensive plan is very detailed,” he says. “We want to support these urban corridor districts, and having multiple types of customers all in the same place makes those locations very attractive to retailers and restaurants.”
Fields West isn’t the only mixed-use project under construction in Frisco. HALL Group is expanding HALL Park to include a new 10,000-square-foot food hall supported by the addition of a Class AAA office tower, a 154-key boutique hotel and a 19-story luxury residential tower. The expansion is slated to open this fall.
Universal Parks & Resorts, owner of Universal Studios, is also debuting a first-of-its-kind theme park aimed at families with young children. The company purchased 97 acres in Frisco for the proposed park with plans for an adjacent themed hotel and room for expansion. Page Thompson, president of new ventures for Universal Parks & Resorts, noted the company chose Frisco due to its growing population and ability to attract businesses to the area.
Mayor Cheney admits that the relationship between potential customers and destinations can be akin to the chicken and the egg. Destinations need to know customers will come, but customers need to know there’s something to come for. So, which comes first? Fortunately, Mayor Cheney has been able to utilize The Star’s blueprint as a way to attract both customers and retailers/destinations in concert with the city council’s goals to further revitalize downtown by improving the streets and walkability. Plans are in place to encourage new retailers and developments through a more than $50 million revitalization budget.
“I very much believe in the ‘halo effect’ of certain assets,” he says. “The Star encouraged more development and more upscale and sports-related projects all around it.”
Aside from tourist destinations like The Star and the Omni PGA Frisco Resort and its golf courses, Frisco is bringing customers to its activated retail and restaurant zones through its available open spaces.
“We do a lot of our work through design,” Mayor Cheney says. “I believe we have the only commercial open space ordinance in the country that requires developers to devote a minimum of 10 percent of their space to parks. We want to encourage lingering, gathering and programming as part of our destination retail environments.”
Of course, having a variety of uses is another way to encourage lingering, which is why the city is happy to support multi-use projects. The Star District served as the example for this.
“When The Star first opened, the district didn’t have any residential or office components, so it was a challenge for some of those early retailers to generate a lunchtime crowd,” Mayor Cheney says. “Now that it has offices and hotels, the area is a lot more active during the daytime. Retailers thrive now because visitors want a mix of things.”
Keurig Dr Pepper moved its headquarters to the third phase of the Star District, a 16-story, 953,000-square-foot building, in February 2021. Bank of America, Comerica, RBC Wealth Management, PlainsCapital Bank, TIAA, McAfee and FM Global also have offices at the Star District.
Visitors and workers are supported by retail, dining and entertainment options within the Star District. Seven new restaurants opened within the district last year, including Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar, Lombardi Cucina Italiana and Snowbird Cocktail Lounge & Kitchen. Sidecar Social and La Parisienne French Bistro have just opened this year.
Prime Event Location
These dynamic mixed-use areas have done more than attract additional destinations, retailers and customers. They’ve also made Frisco a prime event location. In addition to the championship golf tournaments and Cowboys practices, Frisco also hosts the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Division I football championship at Toyota Stadium.
“Our retailers and restaurants have come to really look forward to all our visitors who come for these events,” Mayor Cheney says. “Some even recognize familiar faces who have come down to Frisco for years to root for their team, like North Dakota State, which has been in the FCS championship for 10 of the past 11 years. Our businesses call it the big Bison migration, as thousands of fans in green t-shirts migrate from Fargo to Frisco every year.”
Mayor Cheney wrapped up another event, the Academy of Country Music (ACM) Country Kickoff at The Star. This two-day event featured live music, food trucks and a beer garden ahead of the ACM Awards, which were held May 11 at the Ford Center at The Star.
With additional attractions coming soon, even more visitors will have a reason to migrate to Frisco, with its star power and welcoming atmosphere.
— By Nellie Day This post is posted as part of Shopping Center Business’ Retail Insight series. Click here to subscribe to the Retail Insight newsletter, a four-part newsletter series, followed by video interviews delivered to your inbox in May/June.