Rail District Renovations

Leading The Renaissance Of Frisco’s Downtown

Right in the middle of Main Street—geographically the center of Frisco—is what's quickly becoming the hottest part of town, The Rail District.

While many big developments, such as The Star, offer the glitz and glam of the ever-growing suburb, this formerly quiet part of town is offering something unique:  an open-air marketplace where small, local unique businesses are popping up and giving alternatives for residents that they used to have to leave town to find.

With a focus on restaurants and startups with no chains in sight, this $50 million redevelopment of just eight blocks comes as a pleasant surprise to residents who wanted a place within walking distance where they can live, work and reinvest in downtown.

When local real estate superstar Matt Calloway started brainstorming with Nack Development founder Donny Churchman, something special happened. Matt had been selling about 90 percent of the available commercial properties in the area, but because he himself lived in a historic renovated home just a couple of blocks from the area and knew of a few properties for sale that were ripe for development, he knew just who could handle it.

Donny recalls, “I saw the Double Dip Frozen Custard place up for sale about four years ago and met with Matt to discuss purchasing that and he suggested pairing it with the car wash, which was up for sale as well. We envisioned what we could put there that would impact downtown and realized it could be a catalyst project if we did it right. Then I thought, 'Gosh, I can’t do just one. Downtown Frisco is really overlooked until this day.' A lot of people don’t know what’s going on down there. I can’t believe it. We just have to get a lot more focused on downtown and make it a cool place to go and this project acts as the catalyst to get a lot more folks down there."

The developer says once he realized more projects were needed, he bought the property that was the old Frank’s Tires and is now Tower at the Rails, which is a luxury brownstone and 8,000-square-foot of retail. Now they bought a property that's going to be The Nack Theater.

He says he's especially enthused about the 200-seat venue, which will open Dec.19 with Trey Kennedy, a “clean” comedian who is quite popular on YouTube and TikTok.

The duo is also enthused about Patios At The Rail, which is a 40,000-square-foot area that features restaurants, a park, an outdoor market and a new concept called Maker’s Gym. With historic homes being renovated, new businesses popping up, and something different to do, residents are gravitating to the area in a big way, as currently there’s only one restaurant space to fill and only two luxury brownstone homes left.

“People want an area like this. There’s a huge amount of people that want to get out of their bubble. We want them to experience that in Frisco,” says Matt, who put his money where his mouth is by investing in his own business there with his wife, Cibo Kitchens, a commercial kitchen for rent by the hour that caterers and chefs can use as one-offs for projects or they can teach classes.

“All in all, if people want to escape the suburban feel, they come down here. There’s an artsy, cool foodie vibe. I love being down here because I can be anywhere in Frisco in 10 minutes,' he adds. 

Now that property is a whopping $300 a square foot, the most expensive in town, anything in the area requires a more thoughtful use of space.

After sitting on the Downtown Advisory Board for eight years, Matt, who somewhat jokingly refers to himself as the “unofficial mayor of The Rail District,” saw that not everyone wanted the megahome, but the lifestyle: getting the picket-lined fences and the big trees, but also being able to walk to a park or restaurant. And he wasn’t alone.

Kevin Westerfield, a longtime resident with a certain amount of inside knowledge, has raised his family and worked in the area for decades. “I work three blocks away and I’ve watched it go from a car wash to a little ice cream joint to where we are today. It’s a little bit different! I think it’s an amazing project. This is going to be a game-changer. It will make downtown Frisco more of a destination and the nightlife more vibrant. It’ll add a whole new flavor," he says. 

Located between The Star and the future PGA site, the eight-by-10 block area was ripe for something new under the leadership of city manager George Purefoy, and Donny says he hopes he has realized his vision, as the city has grown and many believe The Rail District is a big part of that. This is something Matt felt all along. He says, “Frisco has always been the golden goose. All of these companies are relocating here, we have great schools, it’s the safest city in the country, it’s a strong economy, the average per capita income is $160,000. A lot of people want to have businesses here. We’ve still got 30% to build out so we’re not going to be stopping anytime soon.”

Kevin adds, “The cooperation of the city and the economic development council working with big organizations to being the Cowboys and PGA in but also small- to mid-size businesses, it adds a vibrance I don’t think a lot of other communities have.”

Visually, the project is about to stand out more in an artistic way, thanks to well-known mural artist Patrick Ganino, who is painting a 40-foot mural and is coming back for three other projects, which will likely include the renovation of the historic Ford building, bringing in the infrared heated yoga studio Karma Fitness and a hip hop clothing boutique called Miracle’s Closet. Somewhere between a Lower Greenville and Bishop Arts feel is the goal and so far, the group has somehow created something that might be even more appealing.

Matt says, “Five years ago I used to say The Rail District was going to be the biggest thing in Frisco, and they kind of laughed, but the timing is right. People want to experience something different, and now this is our area.”

Now Donny says he's toying with the idea of inviting a brewery to Frisco and making it “the best in Texas,” which is a personal goal of his—and he adds that he knows just where to put it. After a 135,000-square-foot office building plan was scrapped due to office demand falling after COVID-19, he admits “we didn’t want to take a $25 to $35 million bet the office was going to come back.”

He’s also thankful they were running six to 12 months behind to avoid a coronavirus fallout for the small businesses and restaurants, which he calls a “God knew what he was doing thing.” Now it’s full speed ahead as the area reopens and growth has returned. After all, he has a mission: “I’m leading the renaissance of Frisco’s downtown.”

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