Friday , 9 December 2016
South View of Sheraton Gateway Hotel
South View of Sheraton Gateway Hotel

Ben Lane: Why 2014 Could Be Crucial to McKinney’s Future

ben laneAs the calendar flips to 2014, the previous 12 months saw huge changes throughout McKinney. In the last year, McKinney’s residents and its leaders agreed to take on larger financial burden for the sake of the city.

In September, the citizens of McKinney approved a tax increase to fund the McKinney Independent School District, raising McKinney’s property taxes to some of the highest in the area. The city also spent $25 million to purchase and subsequently take complete control of Collin County Regional Airport

These decisions were both made with an eye towards McKinney’s future. The citizens decided that having quality schools in McKinney was worth paying an average of $268.59 more in property taxes every year.

City leaders also decided to spend some money to make some money, literally and figuratively speaking. The city council approved the purchase of $25 million worth of assets at Collin County Regional Airport with the plan to use the airport as a carrot to attract large corporate tenants to McKinney. More corporations in McKinney means more jobs, increased tax revenue and more money spent in McKinney.

Those items were just two of several 2013 events that will shape McKinney’s future.

opinionIn May, the citizens of McKinney re-elected two city council members, and the mayor and elected a new city council member.

In the last year, progress was also made on several massive projects that will help to shape what the kind of city that McKinney becomes as it continues to develop.

In 2013, the Gateway Hotel project finally began to move forward. Plans were reviewed, criticized and ultimately changed. A corporate namesake for the hotel was named. Meet the Sheraton McKinney Hotel and Events Center.

In September, MISD announced plans to rezone to relieve overcrowding in its high schools.

Over the course of 2013, plans for the long-rumored aquatic center were revealed. Ground was broken at the Craig Ranch corporate center. The city council also debated what the future of the city’s town center would look like.

And recently, several members of the city council have questioned City Manager Jason Gray’s performance.

All of these developments point to one thing: 2014 could end up being one of the most important years in McKinney’s history.

Investing In The Future

Over the course of the last year, the city invested millions of dollars into its future. The continuing development of the airport is vital to the city’s success. With the city now in control of everything at the airport, from the land to the buildings to the fueling operations, the city is positioned to try to attract other large corporations to McKinney.

Any corporate relocation is a process that takes years to develop, but the city, in coordination with the McKinney Economic Development Corporation, needs to be pushing the airport even harder as a selling point than they were before. Real progress needs to be seen soon. With so much money now invested in the airport, the corporate airport tenants need to increase quickly for the city’s investment to begin to pay off.

The city is also preparing to spend at least $18 million to the Gateway hotel project in 2014. There are finally small rumblings of activity at the Gateway hotel site. Bulldozers and other construction equipment have been spotted on the site. The city’s own construction timeline states that the hotel is scheduled be completed by February 2015. With the city contributing that much money to the project, it’s imperative that real progress be made on the construction of the hotel in 2014.

If this project succeeds, McKinney could become a realistic location for conventions and other gatherings that the city currently loses to Plano, Allen or Frisco. That means more money spent in McKinney, more taxes collected from hotel guests and more development for the future at the Gateway site and beyond. Having a hotel and events center of this magnitude at the city’s entrance could have a long-lasting impact on the city.

If the project stalls again or ultimately fails, the concrete skeleton that has lived on the Gateway site for years will cease being an eyesore and become a ghost haunting the city and reminding us all of what could have been.

McKinney ISD is set to see big changes in 2014 as well. When the 2014-2015 school year begins in August, many of MISD’s high school students may be attending a new school. Students are likely going to be given the opportunity to grandfather into their current school, but the impact of rezoning will be felt for years to come.

Will the new high school zones affect real estate in McKinney? What about the higher property taxes due to the passage of the TRE? McKinney now has one of the highest property tax rates in the metroplex. Opponents of the TRE said that higher taxes would impact real estate. Will they be right? Only time will tell. No matter what, 2014’s real estate figures will give a good indication of the viability of McKinney’s future.

Over the next 12 months, the city will most likely begin laying the groundwork for the future of downtown McKinney. In 2013, the city received proposals for development on the city-owned land near downtown McKinney. In 2014, the city is likely to determine which of the developers it wants to task with expanding the city center to potentially include more retail, apartments, condominiums, and even a new city hall.

The decision about reshaping McKinney’s town center is crucial to the continued development of McKinney.

Not to mention the release of the next “Best Places to Live” list from Money Magazine. McKinney placed second on the 2012 list. Money Magazine will release another list in 2014 and the question simply is: Where is McKinney on the list?

Placing high on the list has been beneficial to the city. It has raised the city’s national profile and helped with everything from property values to real estate values to whether a large corporation chooses to relocate to McKinney or not.

Is it possible to go from second to first on the list? It seems unlikely based on the list’s history, but stranger things have happened. Placing high on the list is something that the city values very highly and there will be plenty of folks tuned in when the new list is released.

And what about the man who is at the heart of almost all of these developments? The man who has been at the forefront of the airport purchase, the Gateway project, the town center development and countless other projects that the city is currently pursuing.

What happens to Jason Gray in 2014 may be the single most important event that takes place in McKinney next year. City Manager Jason Gray has connections to nearly every active project in McKinney. That’s the nature of his position. But there are several members of the McKinney City Council who think he’s performing poorly in the city’s most important job.

Gray’s recent review, reported by TownSquareBuzz.com, revealed that there are at least three members of the McKinney City Council who rated Gray’s job performance as fair, poor or unsatisfactory. Gray has another review scheduled in February and the results of that review will be crucial to determining the city’s direction is in this most important year.

If Gray receives a more positive review in February, then Gray will be allowed to continue shaping the direction of McKinney’s future. If the results aren’t pretty, then will McKinney be looking for a new city manager in 2014? And what impact would a change like that have on all of these unresolved projects? And subsequently on McKinney’s future?

At this point, any talk like that is simply conjecture. But that doesn’t change the fact that the next twelve months are critically important to McKinney’s future.

In 20 years, how will we remember 2014? What about when we look back at 2014 as we tick towards 2015? Will 2014 be thought of as the year that McKinney continued its growth and moved towards the next phase of its development? Will it be a year of change and upheaval? Will it be the year that McKinney’s future becomes it’s present?

No matter what, 2014 should be a very interesting and potentially historic year in McKinney.

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