While we hear all the time that people are moving to Texas, what we don’t often hear about is the urban exodus or “Great Reshuffling” that is happening across the country, including right here in Dallas-Fort Worth. The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the influx of Americans looking to make Texas home, spurred our residents’ desire to escape the hustle and bustle of urban living in exchange for a move toward growing, outer-ring cities and towns on the cusp of a population boom. Because of this, the perspective also shifted on how far the metro can reach, making the exurbs a win for everyone and giving North Texas a golden ticket to keep up with its growing population.
With our region’s advantage of unlimited 365-degree development opportunities, developers, and homebuilders are expanding in the exurbs, preserving North Texas’ premier reputation and its promises of a low cost of living in the process. As the economic development director of the City of Anna, an exurb 45 minutes outside Dallas in northern Collin County, I can attest that people are on the move, and, as a result, developers are capitalizing on this migration, adding housing, shared office spaces and other necessities, including medical facilities and retail centers, to support the quick growth in these smaller towns.
On the housing front, homebuilders are utilizing the plentiful land in the exurbs to build acres of master-planned, mixed-use developments that diversify housing options, attracting a range of age groups from young professionals to families and empty-nesters. As the population grows in these areas, this diversification combats the inevitable rise in housing prices and rents, offering residents a wide-ranging selection of single-family homes, townhomes, multifamily, and build-to-rent single-family housing, not always found in other parts of the region or urban core. By maintaining attainable costs for the population further out, developers are also reducing overcrowding in the more populated urban and suburban areas and helping steady the uneven housing market.
However, even with this urban exodus, the resident-friendly lifestyle that more-developed cities can offer is not lost on North Texans moving out to the exurbs. The ease of walking to numerous restaurants and entertainment options is still on people’s wish lists, and the desire for highly-amenitized communities where a person can have it all is at an all-time high. As a result, homebuilders are focused on resort-style accommodations, often developed in exurb communities where land is still abundant, making their developments extremely sought after by potential homeowners. In Anna, for example, we are working alongside Megatel to build a 2.3-acre crystal-lagoon anchored community, AnaCapri Laguna Azure. This type of at-home luxury has proven to be a selling point for North Texans. In fact, Megatel sold every Phase I lot of AnaCapri before breaking ground, demonstrating how the phrase “live, work, play” has taken on a whole new meaning.
With the exponential growth in more homes in the outer ring of the metro, the retail, office, and restaurant sectors are quickly following suit. As populations increase, developers are revitalizing historic downtowns and small-town main streets to mobilize the economies of these smaller cities. Now, these exurbs are actively contributing to the North Texas economy, driving both local and national chains to consider exurbs as their next destination. With remote and hybrid schedules here to stay and long commutes less of a factor, North Texans are reexamining how where they live is now also where they work. This is driving developers to add office buildings and coworking spaces in these communities, capturing more local residents while also attracting companies searching for affordability and close proximity to workers in this new age.
It is important to note industrial developers are also benefiting from the rise of the exurbs. With 360-degree access for land development in smaller cities, they are moving projects once planned for urban or suburban areas to the outer ring and building speculative warehouses and build-to-suit commerce centers that help keep and recruit business in our region. By leveraging the more affordable exurbs, industrial developers are also ensuring their workers can live where they work, giving North Texans the sought-after, flexible work-life balance they crave.
Unlike other major U.S. metros, North Texas benefits from its ability to withstand explosive growth. With a range of housing options at a lower price, excellent highway infrastructure that continues to expand for easy access to urban centers, and a small-town feel mixed with big-city amenities, our exurbs have proven to be the region’s hidden secret to success. They are creating balance for our residents, opportunity for our developers, and economic development for our region, serving as our golden ticket for managing sustained growth.
Joey Grisham is the director of economic development for the City of Anna.