Friday, May 2, 2008

Frisco Faces Rapid Aging Process

Are you the 100,000th resident of Frisco? We may never know exactly which person tipped the scale, but we do know that whoever you are, you moved to Frisco in April of 2008 to join the other 15,000-plus other folks that have moved here since 2006, and the 60,000 in the 6 years before that.

If you are new to Frisco, chances are you live in one of the brand-new subdivisions along the north side of town. You probably don’t remember a Frisco without Pizza Hut Park. Or the new City Hall and Library complex. Or Safety Town. Or Harold Bacchus park. Or any number of other improvements we’ve seen over the past few of years. Yes, Frisco is shooting up a lot like my 13-year-old son – and along with the growth spurts comes ample teenage growing pains.

Fast forward 15 years.

Neighborhoods are starting to show some age. The rapid-growing trees planted by cost-conscious developers are poking their roots through your yard – and possibly your home’s foundation. Streets are buckling in places, making for a bumpy ride through the neighborhood. The grass in the local park is wearing thin in places and non-existent in others. Rust is showing on the swing set. In short, we’re starting to show the civic equivalent of the middle-age bulge.

If you’d like a glimpse at how things might unfold, you don’t have to travel far. Indeed, you don’t have to leave town. In 1999, I moved into the Plantation Resort area in southeast Frisco. At the time, it was one of the gems of suburban development in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Now, less than 10 years later, some of those signs of age are setting in. And it’s not that local residents have let things go. We take a lot of pride in our neighborhood. But the ravages of time, as they say, are more powerful than the best intentions.

Frisco is going to face a unique challenge in the coming years. Because we’ve grown so quickly, we’re going to age just as fast. All of the facilities we’re opening now will start to show their own wrinkles and age spots. And the cost of maintaining and renovating our infrastructure is going to be steep. As our growth starts to flatten out - and even decline - we’ll have a harder time accessing funds through borrowing. To counter this problem, the city council established a Capital Reserve Fund. Built on today’s, relatively inexpensive money, this asset can be used over time to maintain and renovate facilities at a much lower cost. But while the mechanism is in place, we need to ensure that funding it continues to be a priority for future administrations.

Another challenge is keeping our eyes on the past while we develop the future. As we add new housing developments and retail space to fill in the corners of the city, we have to ensure that the mature areas receive some attention as well. It’s wonderful that parks and playgrounds are a staple of every new development, but some of our existing neighborhoods haven’t been so lucky. We didn’t have the cash to create such elaborate features back in 1995. Now that we do, development funds should flow to the older areas of town as well.

Rapid growth has provided Frisco with amenities that are the envy of cities throughout the region. But now is the time to plan for the day when we turn the corner from civic adolescence to municipal maturity.

No comments: