‘The walls are coming down’: How North Texas’ master-planned communities are changing

Dallas Business Journal | by Claire Ballor
Published: 12/17/2018

At the end of the northernmost point of the Dallas North Tollway — where raw, undeveloped land still exists and fields of cotton line two-lane roads — a master-planned community is reshaping North Texas suburban living.

Straddling the border of Celina and Prosper is Light Farms, a dense suburban enclave on 1,000 acres. There, community is king and homes vary dramatically in price and size. While Prosper may seem far removed from the activity of the Metroplex, the area is experiencing exponential growth due to the many people flocking to communities like Light Farms in search of more affordable living.

Prosper has more than doubled in size over the past five years, making it the fastest-growing city in North Texas, and Light Farms is growing almost as rapidly. So far, about 1,200 homes have been constructed since it opened in 2012, and developers anticipate 2,000 more once it reaches full build-out.

As North Texas continues to grow and home prices continue to climb, developers are looking far outside the urban core to build master-planned projects where land is available and homes can be constructed at a lower price. The challenge they face, though, is bringing the conveniences and connectivity of a developed city to suburban islands surrounded by farmland.

Community is key

Tony Ruggeri and Jake Wagner, co-chief executives officers of Republic Property Group, the development firm behind Light Farms and Fort Worth’s Walsh development, have found success by prioritizing community building.

“Our main priority was to create a really engaging and strong sense of community. We wanted people to know their neighbors,” said Ruggeri.

To do that, the developers focused their efforts on incorporating elements into the project that bring some of the walkability and convenience of the city to the suburbs, like a central lawn, regular farmers markets and a designated program director who coordinates around 200 neighborhood events a year.

Ruggeri said their goal was to create a master-planned community that could be responsive to the homeowners’ needs and wants as they evolve over the years.

As the master-planned community has evolved and come into its own, Ruggeri and Wagner have added amenities to cater to the families who have moved there, like golf cart parking in front of the community’s Prosper ISD elementary school, campsites and a sand beach along a 11-acre recreational lake. The most recent addition is the Farm Stand, a restaurant, coffee shop and small market open to the public where people can go for a bite to eat or pick up pantry staples.