How West Plano Became the Center of the Universe
Ever play the license plate game as a kid? Usually reserved for long car rides, the goal was to find plates from as many different states as possible. At the time, you may not have been able to put into words what that basic game of youth stood for, but you’re older now and more privy to concepts such as diversity – which is exactly the term Plano Chamber CEO Jamee Jolly uses to describe what she sees happening in West Plano.
The license plate anecdote was inspired by Jolly’s firsthand account of commutes down Legacy Drive, but what her experience tells isn’t just about a diverse group of out-of-town visitors traveling for work or play; new faces from around the state and the world are relocating to our city in droves. And the license plates? They are signs of the time for West Plano – a time of substantial growth.
Within the past few decades, a number of corporations have either relocated to West Plano or opened a new regional or North American headquarters in the area. Although by no means exhaustive, here’s a rundown of some of the earliest entries that now line Legacy and Headquarters Drives: Frito-Lay, J.C. Penney, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Beal Bank, Ericsson, PepsiCo and Bank of America Home Loans. It wouldn’t be until 2014 that a whole new era of explosive growth would hit West Plano.
Toyota Motor Corporation announced that year that it would be moving the global auto manufacturer’s North American headquarters from Torrance, CA to Plano, bringing with it two of its other major offices in Kentucky and New York. This trifecta turned out to be a “trigger,” according to Jolly.
“Toyota moving to Plano is the biggest relocation in the United States to happen,” she said. “It was huge on a global scale, and other large corporations saw this as a big opportunity, as well.”
Shortly after the Toyota announcement, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company announced that it would be opening a regional headquarters location here this year. And wouldn’t you know it? These two major corporations soon became neighbors. According to Jolly, Toyota and Liberty Mutual moving to the same key area in Plano played a major role in the sudden big business growth in West Plano.
Just how much growth are we talking about? The largest of these developments is Legacy West, developer Fehmi Karahan’s $3.2-billion, 255-acre project. The major corporations located at the mixed-use development take up nearly 4.5 million square feet. This includes Toyota, Liberty Mutual, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and FedEx Office. But the Legacy West mixed-use development isn’t all business. There are 415,000 square feet of open-air retail and restaurant space.
According to Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, what’s good for West Plano is good for the rest of Plano. “The growth brought by all of the businesses, including retailers in Legacy West, is significant for our city,” he said. “It allows us to generate more revenue to deliver quality services to our citizens at the lowest cost in the metroplex. Half of our property tax revenue comes from businesses, and that is the absolute envy of all of our cities locally.”
The city’s economy will also take a boost from the amount of job opportunities available. If job seekers were busy writing resumes before Toyota and subsequent corporations landed in West Plano, consider the numbers now. According to Mayor LaRosiliere, between 18,000 and 20,000 new jobs will be added to the city’s economy with the addition of not only the larger corporations, but places where waiters and waitresses, retail therapists and sales associates are needed to make West Plano’s circle of life function.
More people means more people any way you look at it. These new faces need new spaces. Legacy West is adding more than 1,400 new residences that will include apartments, villas and condos. Another new residential building will open at the corner of the Shops at Legacy and Legacy Business Park. The Residences at Legacy, a luxury apartment high-rise tower, will feature 300 units.
…Means More Traffic
Even if folks are thrilled to see more big businesses moving to West Plano, worrying about growing pains is reasonable. Combine local individuals with those commuting from afar (think Richardson and North Dallas), questions or concerns about inevitable additional traffic are likely.
According to Peter Braster, the director of special projects for the city of Plano, it takes quite a bit of planning versus jackhammers and new concrete. That’s right; there will not be new street construction, per se; no new traffic lanes will be added in the area – but there will be a collaboration between businesses now calling the area home.
After completing and reviewing a traffic study last December, the individuals who drafted and carried out the study created a Traffic Management Association (TMA). As Braster refers to it, “it’s similar to an HOA.”
“If all the employees at these new companies had to start work at 8 a.m., traffic would be more than just a hassle,” Braster reasoned. Instead of focusing on changing infrastructure, the TMA plans to work with business owners in West Plano to coordinate aspects of a job that include arrival and departure times for employees. There will be a learning curve at first, but no matter how sudden the growth in West Plano may seem to us, Plano was already primed for such progress according to Jolly.
“Plano city leaders have been working on keeping the city robust and ready for corporations all along. They have focused on making Plano a ripe business community. We have stellar schools, a low cost of living, lots of acreage available, and we are in close proximity to an international airport,” she said.
The city laid out its welcome mat, waited for just the right opportunity to knock at its door – and did it ever – and now the city will reap the benefits that West Plano’s phenomenal growth has to offer.