Some Plano City Council members’ concerns about the construction of apartments at NexPoint’s proposed $4 billion life sciences campus in the Legacy neighborhood weren’t enough to cause a fourth delay in the approval of a zoning change at the former Electronic Data Systems site.
“When I first heard what was planned for the EDS campus, I was genuinely excited,” Council Member Shelby Williams told NexPoint president Frank Zaccanelli on Tuesday night. “I only have two concerns about the current proposal.”
Those included NexPoint’s plan to open a research hospital the firm is calling “the Texas Research Quarter” on Legacy Drive and Parkwood Boulevard, as well as its intent to eventually build 775 mid-rise apartments for campus employees and others.
“Of course, successful life science parks around the country … are attached to a university,” Williams said. “That is not an option here. Who is going to run that research hospital? Without the university, I feel that the research hospital, based on the other parts that I’ve looked at, would make or break the success of the entire plan.”
Williams also had reservations about whether the inclusion of multifamily housing at that campus would be used efficiently.
“I looked at housing at the life sciences parks around the country, and I agree it’s a necessary component,” he said. “But in reviewing the packet in the Planning and Zoning meeting, I believe that these apartments are not going to be reserved at all for employees of the campus. Is that accurate?”
Zaccanelli tried to alleviate WIlliams’ concerns.
“We’re opening (leasing) up to the public,” Zacanelli said. But employees will “obviously have an ability to come in and be able to lease those. All the employees are not going to be here Day 1. I’d like not to open those apartments and start building them until we absolutely have to. We’re going to do this thing very scientifically. The research hospital w’ll be a real additive to this development, but it’s not going to be the win or lose of the 91 acres that we’re developing in Phases 1 and 2. Those companies want to be in North Texas for a myriad of different reasons — taxes, quality of life, housing.”
Plano’s deputy mayor pro tem, Maria Tu, also questioned NexPoint’s need for apartments on the campus, suggesting Zaccanelli wanted to build them “just because.”
And “my concern about that … is that the apartments are absolutely vital to house the people working there,” Williams said. “However, with 775 apartments, even if everyone has an employee, that is only 2.5% of the projected 31,000 employees, which is barely a dent.”
Zaccannell said he “couldn’t disagree more.”
“If we didn’t have to build these apartments, it is not the highest and best use of this land but because of the amount of jobs we’re going to create and the impact that we’re going to have, we have to make sure that we have enough housing to be able to do this. It’s probably the lowest level from an investment and a development standpoint to build apartments here. If we could build more manufacturing facilities — production facilities — it would make more sense to us economically.”
The Texas Research Quarter will be developed in three phases on the 91-acre site, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. Eventually, Zaccanelli said, the property will encompass 200 acres, with the main campus featuring office, lab and therapeutic spaces, education centers, a community park, and a 300-room hotel. On Tuesday, council members rezoned 99 acres from commercial employment to planned development.
“To bring this back to life as the most robust life sciences center in the United States is both a privilege and incredible challenge for me,” Zaccanelli, a Plano resident, said. “I’m so excited about the opportunity to finally put this phenomenal facility back to use.”
And in the Legacy neighborhood, NexPoint conducted “an enormous amount of neighborhood outreach,” Zaccanelli said.
“We’re not proposing sit-down restaurants and retail and all the things that exist right around the corner in the Legacy Association. “We’ve had many meetings with them, and I believe they’re very excited about this. What we think we’re going to do (is) bring this facility back to life and really create the … economic impact to those business owners.”
After council member Rick Horne asked to describe the salary range for campus employees, Zaccanelli said the average pay “is somewhere between” $120,000 to $150,000, with scientists and others making more.
Council members voted to rezone the site, 7-1. Williams was the lone dissenter, saying that more than a third of the housing in Plano is multifamily and that “any additional multifamily needs to make a whole lot of sense.”