JCPenney may be open, but not much else remains the same at Collin Creek Mall, now shuttered for one year. Its expansive parking lot is filled with massive dirt piles, obscuring the view of Central Expressway and the city beyond. Oversized trucks run rampant across the apocalyptic landscape, dotted with heavy equipment and other random construction materials.
The shipping dock next to the surprisingly busy Penney’s is flanked by a row of relocated trees. The huge oaks appear to be well-maintained in this most unusual concrete orchard.
A smiling tiki statue stands near a small entrance. Its origin or future nobody quite seems to know. A short walk past the loading dock reveals a lone office occupied by Rob Romo, vice president of development for Centurion American. He is one of the people responsible for transforming this 1980s relic into the modern live-work-and-play destination that today’s consumers are clamoring for.
Keeping the Heart of the Mall
After giving a brief overview of the latest blueprint, Rob’s ready to show off what’s left of the old mall. Shockingly it is all still there as we remember it. The escalators. The food court. The white tiles and the skylights. Even the kiddie playground. All of it still stands. There are no broken windows or useless junk strewn about. Put the names back on the store fronts, and the mall would seemingly be ready for Black Friday bargain hunters tomorrow.
“The heart of the mall is staying,” Rob says. “The big boxes are coming down, but most of the rest will remain.”
Revised plans by developer Centurion American now incorporate much of the heart of the old mall into the new development. The skylighted atrium section of the scuttled mall where the food court once operated will now serve as a “grand paseo” for the reimagined retail centerpiece. It will be partially open-air and overlook a park. Other wings of the mall will be remodeled and refinished, but not demolished.
Over the past year, crews have demolished the anchor spaces most recently occupied by Macy’s, Sears and Amazing Jake’s. This makes for an interesting perspective as walkways on the upper level abruptly end at outdoor ledges. The views are impressive, but also knee-shaking close to the edge.
By the end of this year, the former Dillard’s site will be torn down as well, leaving JCPenney as the only anchor standing. That store will continue to operate for the time being. Its long-term location is an unanswered question, as the retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-May.
The remaining central structure will be the centerpiece of the massive mixed-use Collin Creek development that will include a hotel, two multifamily units, single-family homes, extensive park space and a signature water feature. In order for those features to become a reality, the developers had to figure out where to put all those people they hope will be flocking to the area.
Parking Will Be out of Sight
Their plans call for three levels of underground parking. When complete, visitors can expect high ceilings, lots of light and greenery in the garages. The goal was to make guests feel not as if they were in an underground bunker but a safe and secure public space, accessible day and night.
The subterranean garages will be expected to handle all of the public parking needs for the facility. There will also be designated spaces for residents of the multifamily buildings and for hotel guests.
“As opposed to the traditional retail village where you are going to have a lot of surface-level parking, we’re burying that all underground to make it all a little bit more pleasant and welcoming for guests,” architect Michael Zizik of Bush Architects said.
The digging will only increase as crews begin the massive excavation effort required for the multiple parking levels that will be between 11 and 13 feet tall each. Once completed, the garages will also serve as the foundation for three future buildings.
Much of the former Collin Creek Mall site sits lower than the surrounding area. Those enormous, towering, earthen hills in the parking lot will eventually be used to raise it. Luckily for the developers, a Texas Instruments construction project in Richardson made all that dirt readily available. When it’s all said and done, more than a quarter of a million tons will likely be imported into the site.
While the mall reconstruction continues, plans are also being finalized on the residential section to the west. The parking lot closest to Alma Road will be transformed into a new neighborhood of more than 400 single-family homes. There will be a mix of architectural styles of detached homes as well as duplexes and townhomes.
Closer to the mall building, plans call for two five-story multifamily units that will each accommodate 200 families. The lower level of those buildings will include retail needed to sustain a vibrant pedestrian community.
Green space will also be a huge part of the project. The development will connect to Plano’s Chisholm Trail. The collection of massive, relocated live oak trees will eventually be moved to various places in the development to give it more of an established feel. The shade they provide will also be welcome in the hot summer months.
Expect plenty of construction over the next few years. The project is so massive that there are still some funding and permitting issues to work through. It will be a while before retailers will begin moving in, or even announcing plans to. However, despite COVID-19 and other challenges, the work continues with no slowing down in sight.Collin Creek >