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The Newest Massive Project North of Dallas: Karahan Follows Up Legacy West with Fields West

July 5, 2023

Most developers would be more than satisfied having completed the 240-acre urban oasis of Legacy West. After all, the office, residential and retail project in Plano, a northern suburb of Dallas, has become one of the country’s most successful recent mixed-use developments in recent years.

But now, Fehmi Karahan is building upon that success with a new project seven miles north, in fast-growing Frisco. As Legacy West was, Fields West is part of a larger planned development, in this case known as Fields, a $10 billion, 2,500-acre project stretching along the Dallas North Tollway and bounded by Preston Road, Panther Creek Parkway and U.S. 380. Fields West, the urban component, will include more than 1 million square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space; as much as 11 million square feet of office; 8,500 urban residences; a Ritz-Carlton hotel and an Autograph Collection hotel from Marriott.

Fields West will include more than 1 million square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space; as much as 11 million square feet of office; 8,500 urban residences; a Ritz-Carlton hotel and an Autograph Collection hotel from Marriott.

The Karahan Cos. has been active in Dallas-Fort Worth real estate since 1982. At The Shops at Legacy and of Legacy West, it delivered $3 billion of residential and retail — along with major corporate relocations like Toyota, JPMorgan Chase and Boeing — in less than four years. So why the encore in Frisco? “I have said: ‘I won the Super Bowl two or three times, maybe the Masters. I am done. I am 60 some years old.’ But it was this particular property and the particular partners,” said Karahan.

Those partners include legendary oilman Ray Hunt and Chris Kleinert, president and CEO of Hunt Investment Holdings, the holding company for Hunt Realty Investments, which has deep roots and 45 years of experience in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. They approached Karahan in 2018 about their plan to purchase the largest remaining vacant property in Frisco from the estate of late Dallas businessman Bert Fields Jr. “They came and asked what I thought,” said Karahan. “This property is great. It is a doughnut hole with all the growth taking place, and with all the knowledge I have in the northern markets, this is an incredible opportunity. And that is when we decided to purchase the land together.” Co-investors Chief Partners and CrossTie Capital also have joined in the venture.

Office, Residential and Other Demand Drivers

Only months after the land was sold, the PGA said it would move its headquarters from Florida to the Fields project. The $33.5 million headquarters complex opened in August 2022, just one component of a $550 million, 600-acre development for the PGA within Fields. The PGA’s components include two 18-hole golf courses, a clubhouse, a 30-acre practice facility, a performance center and a 510-room Omni PGA Frisco Resort that opened May 2.

Fields West is the urban component of a $10 billion, master-planned Fields project in Frisco, Texas.

This year, five years after the partners acquired the Fields land, the first residents will arrive. The full master plan encompasses 14,500 homes in both single-family and multifamily configurations. Columbus Realty Partners is developing a $73 million, 257-unit rental community in the project on the south side of U.S. 380 that is expected to open in late 2024. Also, 1,000 student housing units are planned for the University of North Texas Frisco campus, which opened in January on 150 acres directly to the east of Fields. The university projects the satellite campus could exceed the student count at its primary Denton campus in the next 15 years.

In January, Universal Destinations & Experiences, formerly Universal Parks & Resorts, announced it would buy nearly 100 acres just east of the Tollway across from Fields West to build a 30-acre theme park focusing on children ages 3 through 11. The project will include a 300-room Universal-themed hotel. The Frisco City Council approved the project in March, along with $12.7 million in financial incentives, with the stipulation that the park open by June 2026.

The Plan for Fields West

Karahan expects to deliver the first commercial spaces in Fields West in summer 2026 and wrap up development by the end of 2027. Karahan pointed out that the urban core of Fields West will be 55 acres, versus 34 at Legacy West. But the playbook will be similar. “The older sister is Legacy West, and the younger sister is Fields West, but they are not twin sisters,” he said. “The younger sister watched the older sister develop but yet wants to express her own character. This is what we are trying to do at Fields West: implement a lot of things that made Legacy West a success and only make those types of changes that really give it its own identity.”

Shop Cos. founding partner Rand Horowitz spearheads the retail leasing at Fields West. “I was shocked at the interest when we started talking about Fields West,” said Karahan. “Retailers are literally lined up right now. When I was at the same phase of Legacy West, I was more concerned finding tenants. But at Fields West, it is totally contrary despite inflation and despite some concerns on the horizon like a recession and the debt ceiling.”

Karahan said at least a dozen leases are out to potential tenants for signature, and some names are likely to be familiar. “Some of the tenants in the Legacy area surprisingly want to open another store in Fields West because they view this market differently. While it is just seven miles away, they start seeing U.S. 380 and State Highway 121 as eventually being natural barriers.”

Dallas’ growth trajectory along Interstate 635 with Galleria Dallas, which opened in 1982, now is continuing farther north, to Frisco and on to towns like Prosper, Celina, Gunter and Sherman. “Retailers see that growth and see that Celina and Prosper could physically, land size-wise, become bigger cities than Plano or Frisco, and that is what excites them,” Karahan said. The demographics are increasingly compelling to retailers and corporate users alike. According to the latest U.S Census Bureau data, the median household income in Frisco is $130,118, compared with $95,002 in Plano.

Weaving the mixed-use components together and building a sense of community in a project of this scale is a challenge, but it’s one Karahan embraced in Legacy West and now is pursuing at Fields West. “The environment that we built — it is enticing people to want to be there, and we want them to come and feel they are comfortable and welcome,” he said. He added: “Growing up in Istanbul, Turkey, and then having traveled and studied the European crowd centers where people gather, this is where all of the activity takes place: in these … marketplaces. When I started looking at the Dallas area in 1999, I wanted to know: What do people do in Dallas? They shop and eat. You don’t have the mountains or the ocean, so people want to be in the outdoors and do things and be with other people and watch other people. I thought that giving them that type of environment that makes them feel that they are not necessarily in Dallas reminds them of someplace else.”

At Fields West, programming will draw in residents and tourists alike, and architectural cues will foster placemaking. Karahan pointed to the fountains at Legacy West as an example. In ancient city centers, people gathered near water, he said. “When you create the environment, that kind of geo-stamps the place. It becomes theirs. It is not mine, and it is not my partnership’s. It belongs to the people.”

Fields West also takes advantage of the area’s natural topography. “The character of these lands is unlike anywhere in Dallas because of the hills, creeks and lakes,” said Karahan. “We have so much land for golf and also 250 acres of open green space. If you count the golf and the open space … over 800 acres, or literally one-third of our land, is devoted to the area’s natural beauty, with more than 25 miles of biking and hiking trails. All of that makes Fields even more attractive for living, playing and working.”

Fields will include 800 acres of green space, including within Fields West.

By Ben Johnson

Contributor, Commerce + Communities Today


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