The heart of the Telecom Corridor® needs some updating. That’s been clear since a 2013 report by the S.B. Friedman Company out of Chicago was commissioned by the City to analyze the area’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges.
The most distinctive aspect of the study area, generally bounded by E. Collins on the north, Apollo Rd. on the south, Greenville Ave. on the west and Plano Rd. on the east, is the presence of flex space -- that single-story blend of office, showroom and storage uses that was perfect for the real estate market of the 1970s – 1990s. Yet, when the telecom downturn came in the early 2000s, vacancy in the area’s flex space soared from its historic 8% to 10% range to over 30%.
Even though vacancy rates have shrunk to a more modest 13.7% over the past decade, there’s a strong sense that the area has much greater potential if it can adapt to current market demands. Friedman noted that greater parking capacities, repurposing to value office usage, walkable retail and food amenities, a more robust communications infrastructure, attractive landscaping and a theme/brand all figure in to creating greater demand and value.
For that reason, in 2016 the Chamber launched a private sector initiative to seek a business stakeholder consensus on both private and public measures that would enhance the area’s economic vitality. The RCC’s “East Arapaho Task Force”, comprised of major property owners and employers in the area, held its first meeting on March 29.
Chaired by Richardson-native Digital Realty executive and RCC Vice Chair of the Economic Division, Bryan Marsh, the first stakeholder meeting led off with a briefing on the 2013 S.B. Freidman report by the City’s Director of Development Services, Michael Spicer. The discussion that followed centered around the area’s history and potential for hosting entrepreneurial activities as well as some of the features of international science parks and the Dallas Design District that might complement a plan. Most significantly, a group decision was made to expand the boundary on the north from E. Collins to Campbell Rd. where flex is still the dominant property type.
A second meeting of the East Arapaho Task Force was hosted by Digital Realty at their Richardson campus on June 6. At that meeting, there was a clear agreement that creating more walkable retail and restaurant establishments, currently impaired by some zoning restrictions, was vital for the ability of area companies to recruit the coveted Millennial workers. In addition, Martin Molloy of the civil engineering firm Halff Associates, advanced the idea that the area should embrace its legacy of innovation by branding itself the “Collins Innovation District” in honor of Arthur Collins, the founder of Collins Radio, whose Richardson campus established in 1957 spawned many discoveries and innovations before the company was acquired by Rockwell International in 1973.
Those with interests in the area should contact RCC Executive Vice President John Jacobs (firstname.lastname@example.org) about participation in future meetings.