Frisco scopes out workforce development sites on prime town-owned real estate
August 25, 2017
Frisco is scoping out at least four possible workforce-housing projects on town-owned land, some of which could add dozens of affordable units on prime downtown real estate.
The proposals are still very preliminary, but they're the latest step in the town council's efforts to build more affordable units and they provide the clearest vision yet of where those units might go.
"We have a very motivated council that has made workforce housing a top priority and they're taking action," said Joyce Allgaier, the town's community development director.
Earlier this year, the town council set up a 14-member workforce housing task force consisting of local developers and experts. Last week, the group presented its first design concepts to town council members, who were enthusiastic about the possibilities.
"I like all of them," councilwoman Kim Cancelosi said. "A lot of these we know are going to be costly and are eventually going to have to be done, and with some of the money now being available, I really think we should be looking at bonding so we know if we can do more than one project at a time."
The task force identified 15 town-owned lots, but narrowed in on four as the most promising: 113 Granite St., First Avenue and Main Street, the old community center on Third and Granite, and the Sabatini lot, also on Third and Granite.
Recommended Stories For You
At about half an acre just off Main Street, the Sabatini lot is one of the most coveted in town, although it currently sits empty and is primarily used for snow storage.
The most ambitious project proposed by the task force would put as many as 32 units on the property with a three-story building and underground parking garage. A rough estimate pegs the cost for such a project at slightly more than $10 million.
The development would also include enhancements to the Granite streetscape, potentially revitalizing a large block of town that currently sits desolate.
Still, the sheer size of the project could prove to be a stumbling block. Some members of the council were also concerned about the project's impact on parking with the elimination of the Sabatini lot as a snow storage site.
"When I look at the Sabatini lot, I think that's where we can get the most density right away and potentially public parking out of it as well, but that's also taking a big chunk out and it would cost a lot of money up front," Councilwoman Jessie Burley said.
Directly across the street, the task force proposed that the town's old community center could be scraped to make way for as many as 16 affordable-housing units, 12 of which would be studios.
On First and Main and 113 Granite, the task force estimated that nearly two-dozen workforce units could be built on the west and southwest sides of the Frisco Historic Park, where the town's museum and a handful of historic structures sit.
Some members of the council, however, were apprehensive that building there would encroach too much on one of Main Street's last remaining green spaces.
"That's this historic park, it's not really meant to be workforce housing," Councilman Dan Kibbie said. "I think we'd like to make the green space bigger, because there's not much of that on Main Street."
Money for the projects would likely come from a mix of the town's general fund and revenue from the 5A workforce housing construction fund, approved by voters last November and funded by a sales tax increase.
Town officials, however, have been leery of emptying that pot of money too quickly. But Joe Maglicic, a local engineer serving on the task force, explained to council that using a mix of for sale and rental units could help feed revenue back into new projects.
"Time is money, and the faster you get through these projects and the faster you get these projects done, the faster you can move on to the next ones and capitalize on the money you have," he said. "In theory, we're not just going out and spending every 5A dollar every year."
That's the thinking with the Mary Ruth Place project, a town-owned workforce-housing complex that officials hope will act as a springboard for other developments.
The project, which will add nine deed-restricted workforce units on Galena Street, had been approved by the town's Planning Commission, and officials hope to pour foundations by the end of the construction season.
"We hope that project will build momentum for others, especially if we put up some of the units for sale," Allgaier said. "If we can get some money back into the coffers, that starts a nice cycle of investment and gets the ball rolling."