Accelerated Growth Case Study: McKinney, TX

McKinney lies in the heart of Collin County, Texas, the second fastest growing county in the state. The intersection of State Highway 121 (SH 121) and United States Highway 75 (US 75) falls right at the southern city limits and leads directly to Fort Worth and Dallas, respectively. McKinney’s population and economic growth can largely be attributed to the expansion of these highways and proximity to major cities and employment centers. In fact, McKinney is the fourth suburb of Dallas to spring up along US 75 (figure 1). Population growth started to pick up after 1980, when two planned communities, Eldorado and Stonebridge Ranch, developed on the west side of US 75. Now that cities along US 75 are reaching capacity, such as Richardson and Plano, McKinney is growing rapidly at an average of 5.8% annually. The population today exceeds 136,000 residents, and planned communities are changing to provide local amenities, recreation, and even jobs to reduce or even eliminate the current 30 minute commute.

Subdivision development from 1980-2005.

The 1980s was the start of a new phase in subdivision development for McKinney. Eldorado, a 1,100 acre subdivision, was one of the first planned communities to deviate from the typical suburban layout and as a result, greatly stands out from other subdivisions. Before homes were built, the area was characterized by grasslands, trees, and a rolling topography. Many developers might have took the opportunity to clear and level the land to maximize drainage and the number of lots sold, however, developer Mac Hendricks had a different approach. With few ordinances in place to guide Hendricks in site preparation and construction, he collaborated with a landscape architect through the design and development process to balance the need for drainage and desire for open space and tree preservation. Hendricks saw the benefit of preserving the existing landscape and says, “if you go in and destroy trees and topography, you destroy the value.” Over the past few decades, Hendricks has had the opportunity to be creative in how he platted the land and preserved landscape features on site. The flexible Planned Development District zoning ordinance and City-approved master plan has allowed Hendricks to determine allocations of land use types. The approved plan and ordinance will remain effective until every lot is developed. This process still holds for planned communities today.

In Eldorado, development involved the preservation of existing natural resources while also making room for them in the future. In several front yards and medians, there are wells and islands that preserve existing trees, soils, and grade. Though in many areas, land was still leveled for drainage, recreation, and accessibility. Through the process of leveling out the land, Hendricks was able to preserve several acres of open space and eventually replanted these areas with shrubs and trees (figure 2). In fact, Hendricks even used a tree spade during site construction to move trees to a more appropriate site location rather than removing the trees altogether. Trees transplanted using a tree spade had nearly a 100% survival rate and immediately increased property aesthetic and value. In some cases, trees were preserved or planted too close to homes and pose a potential risk to properties, but there were no design guidelines or best management practices in effect during this time. Today Eldorado is one of the most forested planned communities in McKinney and residents take pride in this.