LIVE LONG IN PROSPER: Joe Hickman, Jerry Jones, and Stephen Jones (left to right) see dollar signs in Far, Far North Dallas. photography by Dave Shafer

Fields of Fortune

Jerry Jones- yes, that Jerry Jones- has big plans for Prosper, Texas. He and his Blue Star Land real estate firm want the tiny town to be its signature development. Only the entire country is watching.

PLAN OVERHEARD: Prosper’s town administrator Douglas Mousel likes what he’s seen from Blue Star so far. photography by Dave Shafer
photography by Dave Shafer
And then there’s Prosper itself. This railroad junction town had only 1,000 residents in 1990, according to the U.S. Census. A decade later, that number had only doubled, despite the growth throughout the rest of North Texas. Now, just six years later, the population is pushing over 5,200. In 2005 alone, Prosper experienced 28 percent growth, and it is the fastest-growing municipality in the four-county region of Tarrant, Denton, Dallas, and Collin counties, according to the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The growth is mostly young and rich. The median age is 32 years, and the average new home is valued at $255,000. Prosper’s more prosperous residents include former Dallas Cowboys Randy White and Deion Sanders, among other high-profile owners. Sanders owns an $8 million ranch home along Preston with 84 acres and his own herd of Black Angus. Just south of Sanders, residential lots are going for as much as $60,000 per acre, and homes are popping up all over, ranging from $200,000 to $1 million and more. Commercial land is no longer priced by the acre but by the square foot—upwards of $6 per, according to the town’s economic development office. Just to give an idea of the individual wealth, the median income in 2000 was $68,542 (compared to $40,921 in Dallas and $91,162 in Plano). That figure has risen substantially in six years, Prosper officials say.

“In general, the typical Prosper resident moved here for the larger lots, the larger homes, and to be on the edge of development instead of right in the middle of it,” says Douglas Mousel, town administrator of Prosper. “But there’s a growing desire for the conveniences and amenities of the quality Blue Star is talking about.”

Blue Star isn’t alone in betting Prosper. Carrollton-based CTX Builders Supply has bought 50 acres along the railroad line in the boomtown where it plans to build and relocate their headquarters to a new $12 million component manufacturing and lumber distribution center.

“It just follows that US 380 is the next big east-west corridor for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and we’re not worried that it pushes too far north,” says Stephen Jones, scion of the Cowboys empire and a limited partner in Blue Star. “That’s where the growth is headed. We know that its time will come, and we think it may be sooner rather than later.”

In some small towns, “developer” can become a four-letter word. Fast-talkers with big promises and ready checkbooks breeze in, throw their weight around, flip the property, and leave the locals to deal with the turmoil they’ve caused. But the town of Prosper is taking its inevitable growth seriously, recently adopting an extensive master land-use plan with detailed construction codes to ensure the rural character that brands the town stays put, even as the empty fields disappear. On the flipside, some developers chafe at municipalities big on such restrictions. Not Jerry Jones.

“There’s a can-do climate in Prosper. They’re very positive and very progressive. The leadership is all about master-planning,” Jones says. “And they’re enthusiastic. It’s not all about land and money—it’s about enthusiasm and selling. We’re going to build and manage this property as something we’d keep for the next 50 years.”

Mousel says what he’s liked about Blue Star so far is that they’ve dealt with the small town and its leadership as equals, and on a cooperative, not coercive, basis. There’s a confluence of vision.
As this magazine went to press, the town council and the Prosper Economic Development Corp. were taking preliminary steps toward a tax increment reinvestment zone for the land around 380 and Preston. The deal that Prosper Mayor Charles Niswanger signed says that Blue Star Land will install public improvements—roads, drainage, water, and sewer—upfront and be reimbursed later by the increase in taxable values collected by the zone. The private improvements will be much more noticeable.

Jerry Jones’ vision for Prosper certainly befits the town’s name. The primary Blue Star plot, future home to The Gates of Prosper, is located between Preston and the Dallas North Tollway on the north side of 380, which serves as the diving line between Prosper and Frisco. They have additional plots on the northeast and northwest corners of Preston and 380, bringing Jones’ holdings to more than 1,100 acres.

The Gates of Prosper will get underway with a 200-acre first phase on that primary plot, creating a 2.5 million-square-foot mixed-use complex. Site renderings and preliminary plans incorporate elements of many of the premier master-planned lifestyle developments like West Village, Southlake Town Center, and the Shops at Legacy.

“We want to create the kind of density and work-play-live environment people like, while preserving the feel and personality of Prosper,” says Joe Hickman, general manager of Blue Star and vice president of Blue Star Investments Inc., who has worked for Jones for going on 15 years. “This will be a mix of the old and the new, like what you see in Frisco or Legacy. But we will take it further, so that this doesn’t look like just one more New Urbanist development, but something that says, ‘This is Prosper, Texas.’”

Of course, this is all on paper. In the meantime, Blue Star wants to watch how fast residential development will grow. The partnership even has its own residential plot set aside on Prosper’s south side waiting for that same infrastructure so they can prep the land for residential builders.
“We’ve got to have rooftops to support the development. The Gates of Prosper will draw from Frisco, The Colony, Celina, Plano, Little Elm, and McKinney,” Hickman says. “At this pace, the demand for what we will build will be there. It may take a few years, but it’s coming.”

And as far as Stephen Jones is concerned, that’s peachy. While developments such as Southlake Town Center and West Village have proven their short-term popularity and financial viability, he wants to see how they fare over a longer haul.

“We always look at what’s successful and we have the luxury of a little time to see how some of these newer concepts play out over another five-year period,” he says. “We get to play a little option quarterback in that sense to ensure that we’re not just following the trend, but doing what the market really responds to.”

Like son, like father. When you talk to the Joneses, you can expect to hear a football analogy or two. “When you do a highly visible project like this, you choose your partners well, and you have to be able to adjust during the game,” the elder Jones says. “You use all your resources and you don’t do anything less than the very best you can. You bring quality. That’s how you have to play it if you’re going to have a shot at the Super Bowl.”

Expectations are equally high on the other side of the table. This is a town that lives up to its name, after all, with its higher per capita income, celebrity residents, and old cattle, farming, and oil money.
“Blue Star has a reputation to live up to, and there’s a high level of quality we anticipate in what they want to do, and it’s what we expect,” says Prosper’s Mousel.

For Blue Star, that expectation is not just a matter of what it takes to get the deal done. It’s a matter of pride. The younger Jones thinks of The Gates of Prosper as a true blue chip property—a benchmark for developers throughout the region.

“It’s going to be indicative of everything our company and our family works at,” he says. “We plan to build it in a way that we can hold it and enjoy it for a lifetime. We want this to be a key piece of real estate as far as the whole Dallas-Fort Worth area is concerned. We want to set a bar in Prosper and make a statement with what we are building. We see ourselves as stars on the field and stars in the field.”

Jerry Jones is a more modest man in his role away from the gridiron than people suspect. Still, he is well aware of his celebrity as the owner of one of the most recognizable sports franchises in the world. That’s what makes his real estate accomplishments like Prosper hard to measure: is it a big deal because he’s behind it? Or is he behind it because it’s a big deal?

A few years ago, Jones was heavily involved in Blue Star’s Starwood development in Frisco. One day, while touring the neighborhood, a resident approached him. Probably just another autograph-seeker, he figured. “You’re Jerry, right?” the man asked, shaking Jones’ hand. “You’re the developer here.”

“That’s how he knew me,” Jones says with a smile.

Touchdown, Jerry.

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