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FRISCO, TX-About six months after taking control of a stalled mixed-use development, the majority owners are ready to advance the $500-million-plus plan. A revised site plan for Frisco Square will be in city officials’ hands in a month, setting up the final step for an early September groundbreaking for the next wave of construction.

“The core story is the same, but it’s not the same density,” Jim Leslie, one of four managing partners in Fairways Group Ltd. of Dallas, tells GlobeSt.com. “We are making the story more intriguing for the community and the people working there.” Fairways Group and a handful of investors that includes former Mavericks’ coach Don Nelson bought controlling interest earlier this year from the Flower Mound-based Five Development Co., which began the 147-acre, private-public partnership project in early 2002.

The design of renowned architect David M. Swarz of Washington, DC has been revised by RTKL Associates Inc.’s Dallas office, using input from the majority owners and the Retail Connection LP for an undeveloped 70 acres. “The big picture is getting the right retailer in the right space for the project,” says Alan Shor, president of Dallas-based Retail Connection. The firm’s shifted from an advisory role to preleasing the project. “We are merchandising it right to ensure the best retail spots are being used for retail and not residential or office,” he says.

The revised plan tentatively calls for 400,000 of retail, two million sf of office and medical office product, 1,900 “for sale” and “for rent” residential units plus entertainment space to create a pedestrian-friendly downtown for a 150,000-sf municipal complex that opens in spring 2006. If Fairways holds true to its schedule, a 70,000-sf to 100,000-sf building, bearing a $10-million to $14-million development cost, will break ground around Labor Day, just weeks after the opening game in the $65-million Frisco Soccer and Entertainment Center, home field for FC Dallas, formerly the Dallas Burn.

The building, set to rise at the corner of Frisco Square and Coleman boulevards, will have retail on the first floor and office space on top, just like the 250,000 sf that Five Star developed. In November or December, Fairways will start work on an 80,000-sf office-and-retail building. And by spring 2006, Lincoln Property Co. will be ready to dig into a 280-unit multifamily development.

“The project is enjoying some pretty good momentum,” Leslie says. A 35,000-sf to 40,000-sf office lease should be signed within a week. Trammell Crow Co. executive Jim Yoder, Jeff Eckert and David Reed are preleasing the office component. Talks for office space open at $21 per sf to $23 per sf plus electric and retail runs $22 per sf to $24 per sf.

Shor says the redefined plan calls for “pods” of restaurants, shops and a theater. “This project is not going to be a large duplication of retail or restaurant concepts that exist up the street,” he says. The far North Dallas city, like its neighbor Plano, has had retailers’ attention since Stonebriar Mall and the Shops at Willow Bend delivered a few years ago. “I’m not sure there’s a category that isn’t represented somewhere in Frisco,” Shor says, adding the team intends to chase first-class restaurants and sports-oriented shops.

Frisco Square is Fairways’ largest undertaking since it formed in 2002 when Leslie, Brant Bryan, Cathy Sweeney and David Stringfield broke away from Dallas-based Staubach Co. to form an advisory investment group. “We don’t envision trying to turn into a development company, but if we see a development opportunity, we’ll capitalize on it,” Leslie says. “But, we’re not out trying to find vacant pieces of land.”

For now, the Fairways investors are soloing on costs for the completion, but the project scope is such that it would qualify for an institutional buy-in. “At some point, we may elect to bring in someone,” Leslie says. “If we do it right, there’s some opportunity to bring in an institutional partner, but we really need to firm up the whole story first.”

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