With the old charm of a classic downtown square, a landscape of ranches and farmland, 15 years ago this could have been almost any city in Collin County. Welcome to Celina.
Shirley Bell O'Neal, is a lifer. "64 years, 64 years!...All my life, born and raised,"
O'Neal has been styling hair for 45 years; her life here spans three generations.
"I graduated with 24 in my class and I think there's maybe 124 graduating this year," she says.
Growth has been slow, but over the next 10 years, O'Neal Celina -- currently population 5,000 -- will transform.
"We could very easily be at 25,000 in the next 10 years," says Celina City Manager Jason Gray. "The keys to that growth are transportation, the ability to access jobs, entertainment, shopping, all those kinds of things and we've got a lot of that coming into Celina right now."
Celina's pastures and farmland total 99 square miles, larger than Plano and Frisco.
Service roads for the Dallas North Tollway already extend to the edge of Celina, and the tollway itself will eventually run through the town.
Preston Road, also know as State Highway 289 will be expanded into four -- and in some areas six -- lanes thru town, both roads should be complete in the next three to five years.
"Ten years from now this is going to be a hotbed of development. It's going to be office, it's going to be commercial retail, some high density residential, it's going to be it all," says City Planner Kevin Billick.
Some folks aren't waiting. New neighborhoods are sprouting up where crops once grew and Celina High School is filling out.
"Currently this high school has about 570 students and it's planned to be built out at 1,200," Superintendent for Celina ISD, Rob O'Connor says. Though the building itself is only three years old, O'Connor says, "within the next 10 years we'll have a second high school on the ground."
O'Neal's not sure she wants Celina to change. "Ten, fifteen years ago, what did Frisco look like?" We asked her. "Celina! It looked like Celina!" O'Neal exclaims.
And what does it look like now? "Dallas," she mutters.
O'Neal's fear is that growth will ultimately equal the loss of small town innocence, the only town she's ever known.
A salon customer assures O'Neal saying, "you'll adapt to it, Shirley...And you're going to have business galore."