13 Dec CONTINUED SOLID GROWTH: Residential, Commercial Development Underway In Celina BY LISA FERGUSON

Driving on Preston Road through Celina, it is easy to spot the many large “For Sale” and “Coming Soon” signs that dot the landscape, as well as massive earth-moving equipment churning up dirt on vast swaths of former farmland. Both nod to the monumental changes underway as the city experiences unprecedented population growth, which is spurring local residential and commercial development as Celina marches toward its anticipated future as the second largest city in Collin County.

Attracting the interest of major national retailers and restaurant chains, as well as high-tech companies, manufacturers, educational facilities and medical institutions, among others, is the city’s 78-square-mile footprint and prime location alongside the future expansion of the Dallas North Tollway. Then there is the future Collin County Outer Loop. Its proposed route runs through Celina’s southern half and will eventually connect the city to Interstates 20, 30, 35 and 75.

It also helps that Celina’s geographic center, at the intersection of Preston Road and Sunset Boulevard, boasts a short 15-minute drive time to bustling US-380, which is traveled by more than 50,000 cars per day, and other nearby up-and-coming burgs including Weston, Pilot Point and Gunter. It is an attribute retailers consider demographically desirable.

“We understand what drives retail (development). It’s rooftops,” said Corbett Howard, executive director of the Celina Economic Development Corporation. More of those are on the way: The Celina City Council has already approved the development of more than 21,000 residential lots in coming years. Look for the city’s current population of 17,600 to more than quadruple in the next seven years; it is predicted that some 70,500 people will call Celina home. By 2052, that number is expected to top 340,000 residents. “As people start to move in,” Howard said, “that’s going to open the door for [the city] to have new retail centers.”

Earlier this year, the City Council approved the development of four future retail hubs, including the proposed Celina Gateway complex at Frontier Parkway and the DNT; The Columns, to be situated on 20 acres near the sprawling Light Farms community; Heritage Plaza, currently under construction on Preston Road north of County Road 94; and a large, regional shopping center on 60 acres at Glendenning Ranch, where the DNT and future Celina Parkway will intersect. There, upscale retail offerings and residential opportunities will be akin to those featured at The Shops at Legacy in Plano. “That’s the vision for that piece of property,” Howard said.

Also on the horizon for the Glendenning Ranch property is a massive mixed-use development that may feature corporate offices, high-tech businesses and medical facilities. The complex could one day serve as the workplace for graduates of Collin College’s forthcoming 75-acre Celina campus on County Road 88. Construction, which may begin in 2019, will be funded by the $600 million bond proposal voters approved this spring. “It will be the training ground for the kids who live here,” Howard said. “They can be part of the workforce of tomorrow we believe will be right here.”

There are also big plans for sites along the BNSF rails that run through Celina. The area is zoned to support light-industrial and manufacturing businesses as well as distribution centers and warehouses. Meanwhile, Howard said, the city is working to preserve its adjacent historic downtown district, and has also begun renaming streets in honor of some of its founding and other notable residents. “We’re building a quality community,” he said. “At the same time, we’re trying to retain our heritage, our tradition and our culture.”