On January 16, 2024, against city staff’s recommendation, the Planning and Zoning Commission passed case 2023-005 to rezone the Willow Bend Mall. The new zoning will allow for a hotel, an office building, private clubs, and 965 apartments. Forty of those units will look like townhouses, but be apartments. The developer plans to demolish around 530,000 square feet of the shopping mall, with some of the mall remaining.
The first problem with this zoning change is the city doesn't have the infrastructure to support this development. According to City Staff, the city will need substantial additional offsite wastewater due to the increase sewer demand. We also don’t have enough water to support any growth because Texas is running out of it. The graph below shows the amount of water we have and the projected amount vs the population now and in the future. The red line is water, and the blue is people/demand. Do you see the problem? If you said too many people and not enough water, you would be right.
(Chart From TX Water Development Board)
One area that has seen the most increase in demand is the DFW area. According to Glenn Hegar’s report, The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Texas Water: Present and Future Needs 2023,
“[The] Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex – will see a projected 67 percent increase in water usage” from now until 2070. This is already having an impact on our economy.
(Chart From Texas Comptroller)
The above chart is the economic impact on each water category. As you can see the loss of income and jobs gets worse with each passing year. More information can be found at
Another major piece of infrastructure we don’t have enough of for this project is power. In November of 2023 Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said, “there's a 20% chance of going into emergency operations if a bad winter storm hits.” That means rolling blackouts. The increase in demand also causes congestion in the flow of energy during the coldest and hottest months of the year. When that happens we get outages. While improvements have been made to winterize the equipment to prevent blackouts like we saw a few years ago, demand on the grid is still too high. Housing developments are being built as you read this. We don’t have enough power for them let alone this redevelopment.
The city will also have to improve the streets that surround the mall by adding more turn only lanes on Chapel Hill Blvd. Right now staff cannot answer the question of who will pay for the wastewater treatment and road improvements.
Another problem with this zoning change is it does not conform to the Comprehensive Plan. Some of the reasons are, too much density, not enough open space, and not enough variety of uses. At this point I don’t think a majority of the Planning and Zoning Board or City Council care about the Compressive Plan. Why do I think this? Well, they keep passing items that go against it. At the Planning and Zoning Meeting on January 16th, Commissioner Brunuoff asked the developer if he would be willing to turn one apartment building into condos that are owner occupied? The answer was basically, no. Commissioner Cary asked if allowing private clubs by right will have an affect on the surrounding businesses, and would there be a limit to the number of clubs? The only answer given was that there will not be a limit to clubs. A private club in this context is a place that would allow for the sale of alcohol without food sale minimums.
During the presentation, the developer claimed that a 100% shopping venue (mall) can’t be successful anymore, and they needed the apartments to support the restaurants and retail. This is simply not true. The North Park Mall is packed, even on a week day, and is doing well. They added things to bring people to the mall like art and events. The Stonebriar Mall and the Galleria are also still doing well. The problem with the Willow Bend Mall is poor management. I went to North Park and Willow bend recently. The difference could not more apparent. North Park is updated and the art draws people in and makes the mall look vibrant, modern, and inviting. The Willow Bend is out of date, dark, and depressing. The empty stores are not even covered, making the atmosphere uncomfortable. It’s as if the owners are not even trying to make the mall profitable. I suspect the reason is that the current owners did not buy the mall to use it as one. The current owner is an investment firm that bought the mall in May of 2022. According to an article in Plano’s Community Impact on May 4, 2022, the firm bought the mall not to run it but to redevelop it into a mixed use development. So, if the owners did not buy the mall to manage it, they are not going to do a good job running it. They are also not going to make any improvements to bring people to the mall as it currently is.
The only area of the mall that did look joyful was the kids play area. The day I went, moms with young kids were playing in there and the kiddie train was going around the first floor.
The applicant claimed the redevelopment would be unique, however what I saw presented was just another Legacy West and Shops at Legacy. This is just going to be another mixed use development with apartments. We have these in abundance, and another one will not help reduce home prices. It will not help the empty nesters looking to downsize to a smaller one-story house or young couples looking for their starter home. It will not bring people who want to put down roots and stay in a home for decades. Instead, people will only live in this development for about two years on average, according to a survey by Resident Rated.
The last problem with this zoning change is it is in the flight path of the small private airfield, Air Park-Dallas Airport. That means it will require an FAA permit, which will not be easy to get, and will take a lot of time. The FAA does not like planes coming in for a landing near tall buildings.
If this zoning change passes, I will bet the developer will come back to Council to ask for it to be a TIF Zone or something like that. A TIF (Tax Increment Financing Zone) by definition is, ”a geographically targeted economic development tool. It captures the increase in property taxes, and sometimes other taxes, resulting from new development, and diverts that revenue to subsidize that development.” In simple terms, the taxes generated from that zone goes into a separate fund and is only spent in that zone. The money does not go into the general fund to pay for police, fire, and so on.
This zoning case is suppose to be presented to City Council at the February 12, 2024 meeting. If you don’t want this zoning change write to the council and show up to the meeting. You can speak or register your opposition to the change with the secretary. You must register to speak. You can register at the the following https://www.plano.gov/1444/City-Council-Agendas .
This is Plano’s Political Pit Bull Signing off