Some of the nation’s largest companies—Wells Fargo, ExxonMobil, CitiGroup, McKesson, Caterpillar—have thousands of employees in Las Colinas. But “we are more than just a corporate center,” says Tim Glass, the director of urban planning for the Las Colinas Association. The Irving urban development is a 13-square-mile sprawl of office space, golf courses, entertainment, and, yes, neighborhoods. In celebrating its 50th anniversary, Glass wants to highlight where people actually live.
Las Colinas, Glass says, has 44 residential villages. Those include single-family neighborhoods, condominiums, and apartment complexes. In honor of the development’s golden birthday, Las Colinas is throwing open the gates (in some cases literally) to three of its neighborhoods May 20 and 21 for the development’s first-ever home tour.
Featuring six houses across the University Hills, Fox Glen, and Cottonwood Valley communities, “the home tour is the best way to showcase the single-family neighborhoods” and their histories, Glass says. He’s eager to prove that the development is more than commerce.
The History of Las Colinas
In the early 1970s, Dallas businessman Ben Carpenter and his family would drive out from the Park Cities to Hackberry Creek Ranch, their country retreat, in Irving for weekend getaways. The property had been in the family for decades, but over the past 10 years, things had been changing. A new residential neighborhood, University Hills, began construction nearby in 1963. Las Colinas Country Club was founded in 1964. And in 1968, the burgeoning Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport broke ground. “Suburbanization was coming,” Glass says, and Carpenter wanted in.
The Carpenters began buying up neighboring properties and developing the land themselves. The Las Colinas Association, which Glass describes as an HOA but for all businesses and residences, was founded in 1973. Carpenter “was very much a forward-thinking person,” Glass says. He got a master plan together and started construction on Lake Carolyn and the levee system. He began to sell land parcels to big businesses, like Allstate.
“The corporate response was humongous,” Glass says. “It was kind of the original Boomtown suburban commercial area in DFW.” Las Colinas grew rapidly through the mid-1980’s. Although things died down around the 1990 recession, business began to pick back up in the early 2000s, Glass says. And over the past 10 years, “things are really going crazy,” thanks to the opening of the Irving Convention Center in 2011, the DART line in 2012, and the Toyota Music Factory in 2017.
Now the nearly 12,000-acre development has 55,000 residents. Thousands more commute in each day, but many don’t know everything Las Colinas has to offer, or its history. So, Glass says they’re using the 50th anniversary and the home tour to shed some light.
“We’re doing a lot of special things to really communicate our message about the history,” he says.
The Home Tour
While some neighborhoods have held garden tours in the past, Glass doesn’t think Las Colinas has ever had a home tour before. Organizers thought it would be a good “chance to really go behind the scenes” of some of the area’s gated communities and to “just give an opportunity for some of our residents to show off.”
The Las Colinas Association put together a committee last fall and tapped American Institute of Architects – Dallas to cohost the tour and help them plan logistics. Last December, the committee invited 20 houses to apply, and in February a jury whittled the 10 applicants down to six. Glass says they’ve had a great response from the homeowners, as well as their neighbors, who have volunteered to help set up and represent houses. “They see this opportunity to show their neighborhood to a broader audience,” he says.
Between apartment complexes, townhomes, condominiums, and single-family neighborhoods Las Colinas has around 55,000 residents across 44 residential villages. The home tour will feature six homes across three of those neighborhoods.
- University Hills
- Fox Glen
- Cottonwood Valley
University Hills began construction in 1963, a full decade before the Las Colinas development. It is “one of the most interesting [neighborhoods] in the region when you combine the topography and the architecture,” Glass says. The 480-house neighborhood sits in and around Las Colinas Country Club, with many homes perched atop the rolling terrain. (Las Colinas means “the hills” in Spanish. “It’s a well-earned nickname,” Glass says.)
A smaller neighborhood, Fox Glen was developed in the mid-1970s, along with the rest of the area. There are only around 100 houses, but the lots are large, as are the houses. Fox Glen also borders Las Colinas Country Club. “It’s perfect golf course living,” Glass says. “Almost all the homes have some sort of golf course frontage.”
Developed in the 1980s, Cottonwood Valley Estates has about 450 homes that vary from small ranches to massive mansions. Many of the homes sit along the 18-hole Cottonwood Valley Golf Course, which is part of the Sports Club of Las Colinas. Plus, many feature views of Dallas, Plano, and Fort Worth. “You can see skylines in all directions,” Glass says.
There will be two houses each in University Hills, Fox Glen, and Cottonwood Valley. It’s a self-guided tour, but several of the homes will have the homeowner or another representative present to talk about the property. (Scroll through the gallery to learn more about each home).
You’ll have to drive from each location and register your license plate to get into the gated communities, but the total distance is only about three miles, Glass says. Homes will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 20–21. Your ticket covers both days, so you can break up the houses over the whole weekend. Tickets are $75 each, and Glass says they plan to cap it at 800 tickets.
All revenue from the home tour will be donated. The participating homeowners picked five local organizations, like Dallas CASA, the Irving Symphony Orchestra, and Irving Cares, to donate portions of the proceeds. The Las Colinas Association “is not making a dime on this,” Glass says. “All that money is going to charity.”
Other 50th Anniversary Activities
The Las Colinas Association has golden birthday activities planned all year long. Besides the home tour, they plan to host a commercial architecture tour in the summer or early fall. They’re launching an archive of the development’s history. There’s a mobile museum, called the Las Colinas Experience, that walks through the area’s history. The association plans to park it at concerts and community events, like the Irving Fourth of July fireworks, throughout the year.
On October 20–21, the Las Colinas Association plans to throw a massive party on the Mandalay Canal. The Glow Canalside Celebration is a two-day event will feature light, fire, and sound shows; food and drinks; and “spontaneous performances,” Glass says. “It’s gonna be unlike anything we’ve seen in Dallas Fort Worth.”
They’re putting a lot of money into the infrastructure for these light and sound shows, Glass says, because they hope to transform the canal into a “turnkey festival space” for other organizations. They want Las Colinas’ entertainment side to keep up with the development’s commercial growth.
And, Glass says, they want their 50th anniversary celebration to be long-lasting, like the festival space and the home tour. They haven’t done this before, but if all goes to plan, it will “maybe [start] a new tradition here.”
Buy home tour tickets here. Learn more about Las Colinas’ 50th anniversary plans here.