Ask engaged North Texans to name the projects that make up the stretch formerly known as Frisco’s $5 Billion Mile and they’ll likely name The Star or Frisco Station. But the most under-the-radar site—The Gate—was actually the first purchased by developers on the stretch of Dallas North Tollway between Warren Parkway and Lebanon Road.
Before Invest Group Overseas, a division of Dubai-based Moafaq Al Gaddah Group, bought the 41 acres that would become known as The Gate in 2012, IGO CEO and Managing Partner Anas Kozbari couldn’t locate the city on a map.
“Frisco is a very encouraging market,” Kozbari says. “When we came in 2012, we bought the dirt, and I hired top-notch companies to do market research. I got a call from my chairman [Moafaq Ahmad Al Gaddah] who said, ‘Just buy the damn thing. I will use it to hunt squirrels, just stop doing all this research.’ So then I bought more, eventually getting to 40 acres.”
A year later, Jerry Jones said his Dallas Cowboys would build and relocate to a new headquarters called The Star, sparking a wildfire of development in the area. Unlike its neighbors, The Gate has managed to stay out of the press, remaining a mysterious project by foreign investors. (Kozbari declined to share details about the $800 million project’s financing, saying only: “We don’t owe anybody any penny.”) But soon, the project will be more noticeable as more vertical development gets underway.
As infrastructure throughout the development nears completion, IGO has turned its attention to putting up 17 buildings, including four offices totaling 854,000 square feet; an approximately 200-room boutique hotel; nearly 1,000 apartment units across seven buildings; 54,000 square feet of retail space; and an additional 47,500 square feet of food and beverage space. All 2.3 million square feet of forthcoming buildings will be centered around a water fountain and pond-like water feature.
Of the entire project, 63 percent is allocated for greenspace and walkways. The property sits partially in a flood plain. For the first nearly three years IGO owned the land, it worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design the project around the land’s topography. Kozbari estimates IGO has spent more than $50 million on “getting the project ready” with infrastructure, landscaping, water elements, and more.
IGO will find partners to buy various parcels to be developed under IGO’s master plan. “We are developing the office. … We will sell other parcels. We dictate the concept and design because we came up with design guidelines,” Kozbari says. About 30 percent of the office portion is “potentially leased” and IGO is “in serious negotiations” to sign leases, Kozbari says.
San Antonio-based Embrey Partners is building the project’s first vertical development—a 350-unit apartment building called Domain at the Gate, set to be completed in October. Irving-based apartment builder JPI is working on The Gate’s second multifamily property, which will have 440 units across five stories.
IGO has enlisted architecture firm Gensler to create its master plan. “The vision is for The Gate to be a walkable, mixed-use project with opportunities for several strata of housing,” Gensler Principal and Studio Director Barry Hand says. “We work with IGO to review all development partners and to make sure they comply with the design.”
Gensler, which also designed Legacy West’s urban village and The Star, aims to create a “neighborhood center” in the Gate, as opposed to the destination retail found at nearby projects. “This is a high-end development, but this is not a destination retail type of site. Retail here will be more neighborhood-based services,” Hand says.
Though the city of Frisco has officially retired the moniker $5 Billion Mile due partly to foreclosure proceedings at the $2 billion Wade Park, IGO is hyperaware that it sits next to The Star and Frisco Station. “We’re in the heart of the $5 Billion Mile,” Kozbari says. “We will not copy the others. … We will not have high-end boutiques. We’ll be very selective.”
Real estate firm Avison Young is working with IGO to find development partners for various parcels. Avison Young’s Mike Kennedy and Taylor Lynch are in the early stages of marketing the parcels. “Response has been amazing in the few days we’ve been marketing,” Kennedy said in May. “We’ve been inundated by high-quality prospects who get it.”
With 3,700 out-of-sight underground parking spaces and 425 structured spots, Kozbari says the project is made for people. “It’s European in spirit,” he says, describing patrons sitting at sidewalk cafés and observing the water fountains from benches.
IGO estimates The Gate will take five to six years to complete, and says there’s more to come in Frisco. “We are on the verge of signing a new project in Frisco. Don’t ask me any more. But it’s still cooking,” Kozbari says, declining to answer further questions. “This is how much we believe in Frisco.”