By Steve Brown

January 6, 2012

Frisco Square was supposed to be finished by now.  Changes in sponsorship and economic bumps derailed the development several times over the years.  And the expected 10 year completion time stretched out.  But two new developments in the Collin County project promise to get it back on track.  The 145 acre project at the Dallas North Tollway and Main Street was designed as a business and residential anchor for fast-growing Frisco.  With work on a two-building medical center under way and construction about to start on more offices and apartments, Frisco Square may finally become what planners hoped for in late 1990s.

“We think we are getting close to the tipping point,” said Jim Leslie, Frisco Square’s managing partner.

Frisco Square now has almost 400 apartments to go with its three central blocks of storefronts.  A new building starting soon will add 220 apartments and 50,000 square feet of retail.

“We can still build a lot more apartment units out here,”  Leslie said.  “And we want more retail.”

When plans for Frisco Square were unveiled in 2000, the $600 million project was much different.  It was intended for more than 1 million square feet of office space, 700,000 square feet of retail and hundreds of high-end townhomes.  There was only one problem – you couldn’t get there easily.

“The tollway wasn’t built up here yet, and Main Street was just a two-lane asphalt road,” said Leslie, who took over the project with new investors in 2005.  “People were calling this Fiasco Square.”

Since then the tollway has been built, rural Main Street has become a divided thoroughfare and Frisco’s population has grown from around 34,000 to more than 117,000.  The town’s municipal building is Frisco Square’s centerpiece.  And just across the street is the 21,000 seat FC Dallas Stadium, until recently called Pizza Hut Park.  A 12-screen Cinemark theater opened in Frisco Square last year.  The next phase of construction, which kicks off soon, will add 100,000 square feet of office space along with the additional apartments and retail.  Plano-based Gearbox Software, a developer of interactive entertainment products, has leased more than 60,000 square feet of the planned offices.

“We haven’t had any big office tenants come this far north,”  Leslie said.  “Gearbox is the first one. But we are already talking to other businesses.”

Founded in 1999, Gearbox looked at multiple locations before picking the Frisco project.

“I think the vision for Frisco Square is quite exciting – especially for a technology business such as ours,” Gearbox president Randy Pitchford said in an email.  “having the most modern facility in the most modern town center becomes a very attractive feature for our company and the people who are a part of it.  The city of Frisco has also been very enthusiastic about seeking our influence and guidance with respect to surrounding businesses and up and coming projects,”  Pitchford said.  “It is very exciting to have the opportunity not only to live within the city, but to have influence in how the future of the city is shaped.