After years of near-misses, plans to revive a dying mall in Collin County are moving forward. Collin Creek Mall in Plano is nearly empty now, but a developer's plans to demolish parts of the structure and add new housing took a big step forward Monday night.
The city council voted unanimously to approve a zoning change that would allow developers to add new apartments, town homes and houses to the site. The vote followed a unanimous recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month.
Centurion American Development Group said it intended to build 2,300 apartments, 300 senior living units, 500 homes, a hotel, restaurants, parks and a lagoon.
Collin Creek Mall redevelopment plans have fallen short in the past, in part, because there were multiple owners. Centurion American acquired most of the property. The mall is down from five ownership groups to two: Centurion and J.C. Penney. A deal with a third seller is expected to close this month, according to Centurion.
The mall, bordered by U.S. Highway 75 and Plano Parkway, is also near homes.
Jim Cooper, president of the Pittman Creek Estates Homeowners Association, said many of his neighbors were looking forward to seeing new life in an overlooked part of Plano.
"If you look at a lot of the other developments around Plano, a lot of the development money has gone north and west," Cooper explained. "I think we haven't had that fair share of that new investment and all of a sudden we have a chance with this beautiful project to really get back in the game."
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Cooper said his HOA and two others surveyed home owners in the Dallas North Estates neighborhood and Canyon Creek in Richardson. Out of 129 responses, Cooper said 81.5% were in favor of the development.
Others, said Cooper, were either neutral or opposed. Those in opposition expressed concerns about apartment density and overloading local schools with new students and traffic.
"I'm willing to trust the city that they're going to manage that," Cooper said.
Sean Terry, vice president with Centurion American, said investors believed East Plano is ready for a major new development.
"If you build it, they will come and I think this is going to be something very unique for North Texas that really puts focus on the east side of Plano, but also something that all of North Texas can be a draw to," Terry said.
It is unclear yet how many taxpayer dollars would be used to make the project happen. The mall property is located over a creek and developers expected that would be part of future discussions.
"We know there's a big drainage problem there with the creek underneath," Terry said. "What does that really take to fix?"
"Until we get the land use figured out and know, 'Hey OK, now we've got a got a clear path where we can build,' then we'll come back to the city in the coming weeks and see what we can work out with them," Terry added.
During Monday night's city council meeting, speakers weighed in on the project.
One homeowner said she liked the vision of the project, but was concerned about the number of high-density apartment units. Another said he was worried about additional traffic on Alma Road, which would have access points to the Collin Creek Mall sight. He asked the council to wait on a vote until a traffic study is completed.
Other homeowners urged the council to approve the zoning change, saying the city needed to seize the opportunity. Several noted the deterioration of the building and the need for new development.