Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Frisco's 2,500-acre Fields Development

According to Steve Brown of The Dallas Morning News, "Frisco officials have gotten a first look at plans for the city's biggest pending development, the more than 2,500-acre Fields development on the Dallas North Tollway...The massive development will have more than 10,000 homes and up to 18 million square feet of commercial space."

Here you might expect me to say something snarky, beginning with the development's name, Fields. Like the street I live on, Country Meadow, real estate developers have a knack for naming things after the things they destroy. I'll give them a pass this time, because the "Fields" in the name doesn't refer to the prairie they'll pave over, but to the surname of the family that ran a cattle ranch on the site.

So instead let me say something unexpected, something in defense of development, maybe not this particular development, probably not anyway, but development in general. In 1946, at the end of World War II and the beginning of the Baby Boom, the US had a population of 141 million people. Today, that population is 329 million. In other words, in the lifetimes of the Baby Boomers, the country has had to find housing for 188 million people. Unless you put them all in downtown skyscrapers, to do that you're going to have to develop some prairie. Let's not bemoan the fact that we have to accommodate a growing population. Frisco not only will develop to meet that demand, it needs to develop to meet that demand.

The real question is the form that development should take. The artist's rendition accompanying The Dallas Morning News story is not promising. It looks like Frisco is attempting to build an entire city from scratch, from central skyscrapers to sprawling suburbs. What have we learned about cities in the last half century? It looks like that city in Frisco will look like all the other developments built to accommodate those 188 million people we've added since WWII. Thousands of people are choosing to move to open prairie, only to reproduce the automobile-centric sprawl their parents created in their own attempt to escape the cities of their own era. Is there any place in America that Frisco should be looking to emulate? Is any place in America doing it right, accommodating massive growth in a smart, sustainable way?


Mark Steger said...

The Fields development in Frisco reminds me of what's been going on in China. Not the form Frisco has chosen, but the way China has built whole cities at once. In some ways, China's need exceeded America's. The US could grow steadily. China needed to bring a desperately poor rural population into modern housing as well as deal with population growth. I'm not for patting ourselves on our backs for getting it done. We screwed up in many ways. But we did get it done. Same with China. They screwed up, too. But they got it done, too.

Mark Steger said...

In today's DMN, Steve Brown reports on a new 261-acre development in Allen. "Monarch City — named after migrating butterflies that once were common on the property..." Note the "once", as in "once we completely pave over their habitat, we'll name a development after them."