Boutique real estate firm plans big Lone Star state expansion with Frisco foothold

Boutique real estate firm plans big Lone Star state expansion with Frisco foothold

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The Associates has recently opened its more than 5,000-square-foot office in The Star in Frisco, as it adds to its team. Recently, Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney and his real estate team joined the group.

In just a few weeks, Robert Elliott’s boutique real estate firm The Associates has bolstered its new Frisco office, bringing a real estate group led by Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney to its northern operations center at The Star in Frisco.

This office is the second location for The Associates, a Dallas-based residential real estate firm, with its corporate office on Travis Street in the city’s Knox-Henderson neighborhood. But this won’t be the last operational base for The Associates in the Lone Star state.

In the next few years, Elliott and his team plan on opening about 10 offices in Texas, including additional Dallas-Fort Worth locations and others in major metros, such as Austin.

"We want to be in major Texas markets and in multiple locations in those markets," Elliott told the Dallas Business Journal."Clearly, we are on a growth path that we expect to continue over the next several years. We are pretty excited."

The Associates has added The Cheney Group, led by the Frisco mayor, to its growing team. Since the group’s inception in 2003, Cheney and his team have racked up nearly $900 million of sales in North Texas.

"They are well entrenched in the community and they know what people are looking for and how to help people in Frisco," Elliott said.

With the new partnership, Cheney has been tasked with helping expand the office in Frisco, which is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. And there’s a lot of potential for more growth.

"This is a very dynamic city, with pretty much every real estate brand having a presence in the Frisco market," Cheney, who moved his group from a Keller Williams Realty franchise to join The Associates, told the DBJ.

"Frisco is just over 60 percent built out, and there’s still a lot of growth left in the community as we try to attract major corporate relocations," he added. "I think Frisco will continue to be a fast-growing city in the next decade."

The expansion of The Associates from the Park Cities area to Frisco is tied, in part, to the growing number of developments its affiliate Robert Elliott Custom Homes has gotten underway this real estate cycle. In Frisco, the custom home builder recently started a $100 million luxury condo project within 100 yards of The Westin Stonebriar Hotel & Golf Club.

Now, The Associates has opened a new office within a mile or two of the project in a roughly 5,000-square-foot office at One Cowboys Way at The Star in Frisco, the same address as the Dallas Cowboys’ world headquarters.

The new office has a coworking style, with an open design featuring a huge kitchen island with high-top seating, a seating area resembling a coffee shop and huddle and conference rooms.

Frisco was one of the North Texas cities to submit a bid for’s proposed HQ2 campus. Cheney said the city put together a bid to include at least six development sites along the Dallas North Tollway.

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Stonebriar Centre Frisco: Black Friday Hours

Stonebriar Centre Frisco: Black Friday Hours

FRISCO, TX — With Christmas just around the corner, shoppers in Frisco will take to the malls Friday to hunt for the best bargains around. Stonebriar Centre, a popular destination for holiday shopping, is no exception.

The mall will be open from 6:00 p.m. until midnight on Thanksgiving day. It will close its doors, but reopen shortly after for Black Friday. The mall will be open to shoppers from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Black Friday.

While you’re busy planning your Black Friday shopping spree, check out these deals:

Image via Pixabay

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When it comes to the size of its high schools, Frisco ISD thinks small

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In Frisco ISD, size matters. For more than two decades, the district has followed a small-school model for its high schools. Rather than one mega campus, like neighboring Allen ISD, educators decided to limit the size and build more of them.

But with tens of thousands of new residents, its 10th high school set to open in the fall and more growth on the way, district leaders decided it was time for a review of that practice.

"Formally we hadn’t engaged our community since the early 1990s on this topic," said Todd Fouche, deputy superintendent for business services. "Are we doing what the community still wants?"

The district formed a long-range planning committee made up of residents at the beginning of the school year. Nearly 300 people applied. The district chose 50 of them to serve three-year terms. Similar discussions are happening with the district’s faculty council, which includes representatives from each campus and members of the district’s instructional support teams.

The goal is to gather information to help guide major decisions as the district of more than 58,461 students continues to grow. Efforts so far will be presented at the Frisco school board’s next meeting on Dec. 11.

A big component of that report will be the results of a recent online survey that found overwhelming support for the district’s smaller-school model. Currently, the district’s high schools have a capacity of about 2,100 students.

In the survey, 22 percent of the 4,181 respondents said the model was the reason they moved into the district. A total of 80 percent of respondents said the model played at least some role in their decision to locate in Frisco ISD.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

Limited options

With 10 high schools already built, the district has limited options moving forward. It can’t scrap the existing campuses for smaller high schools. And several schools don’t have the available land to expand and become larger campuses.

Its high schools are currently classified under UIL rules for competition in 5A, which caps enrollment at 2,149 students. Frisco ISD could continue building at that size with the remaining campuses. It could make its 11th high school — which still must be designed — large enough to accommodate about 4,500 students. It could also reconfigure its schools like Plano ISD with high school campuses for ninth- and 10th-graders and separate senior high campuses for 11th- and 12th-graders.

According to survey respondents, the biggest advantage to sticking with the current campus size is the feeling that students are more connected to their school and their peer group.

Having more high schools also increases participation in extracurricular activities. Instead of just one starting varsity quarterback, Frisco ISD will have 10 next year. The same goes for other activities, from theater to marching band to student council.

More high schools also means that rezoning to balance enrollment is an annual event that triggers angst among some families whose students have to switch schools. Larger schools don’t have to deal with rezoning because everybody goes to the same school.

‘Priority No. 1’

The operating costs for the smaller high schools are about 3 percent to 5 percent more when compared with mega campuses, according to estimates from Kimberly Pickens, the district’s chief financial officer. The bigger difference comes with capital costs.

The district has $100 million approved from the last bond election to build high school No. 11 at the 2,100-student size. If the district decides to go with a larger 4,500-student campus, $60 million more will be needed, Pickens said.

"This high school thing is really priority No. 1 for us to get information on," Pickens said.

Phil Lohec volunteers on the district’s long-range planning committee. Two of his kids have already graduated, and a third is still in high school. He said he moved to Frisco ISD 15 years ago because of the smaller high school size and hopes to see that concept continued.

"It’s the biggest way that we can separate Frisco from other communities across D-FW," he said.

Fellow committee member Megan Holland has two children who will enroll in Frisco ISD when they get older. She also has a background in education and previously taught high school in Louisiana.

She also favors Frisco ISD’s current model. Having a larger high school doesn’t change class sizes, she said. But it does become more apparent in shared spaces, like hallways, the cafeteria and the gyms, which can become crowded, she said.

The smaller-school model also encourages more students to participate in extracurricular activities and connect with groups outside of class, she said.

"Students need to feel like they’re a part of something bigger than just themselves," she said.

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Texas High’s season ends in round one of the UIL Playoffs

Texas High’s season ends in round one of the UIL Playoffs

FRISCO, TX — A 21-point halftime deficit was cut to seven at multiple points, but the Texas High Tigers couldn’t make it closer than that as they fall to Highland Park in Frisco as their season comes to an end in the first round.

"We said there’s two kinds of teams in the playoffs, ones that don’t want to lose and the ones that want to go home and we showed that we wanted to be a team that didn’t want to lose and wanted to keep fighting to the bitter end. I don’t think it’s a loss. I think we kept fighting and we just came up short and ran out of time. Kids battled all night long and just couldn’t be more pleased with the effort they gave in this game tonight," said head coach Gerry Stanford.

"We fought pretty hard we just in the beginning we made a couple of mistakes, but we adjusted, but they made the last better play than us," added star wideout Tevailance Hunt.

There were trying circumstances to start the season for the Texas High Tigers, but this group of seniors banded together and put together a lot of memories, "Just, the most thing we did was we came together as a team throughout the season. We been through a lot and we handled a lot and I’m going to miss playing with them. It’s just great playing with them," explained Hunt.

With his first season as the Tiger head coach now in the books, Stanford is proud of what his team has accomplished, "Yeah what a way to go out. Just a true class and I told them before the game I don’t know if there’s been a team that’s been through more adversity than what they’ve been through all year long and just to pull together and pull through and to keep fighting even in adverse situations today, when they could have easily laid it down. There’s no quit in this team."

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Week 11 bowl projections: Are the Cougars Frisco bound? Longhorns-Aggies on collision course

Week 11 bowl projections: Are the Cougars Frisco bound? Longhorns-Aggies on collision course

With less than three weeks until college football’s bowl announcements, the University of Houston is being mentioned for a handful of destinations.

The most popular, according to several national media outlets, is the Frisco Bowl in suburban Dallas. Other possibilities include Birmingham, Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla, Boca Raton and Hawaii.

Some of the highlights:

– 4 of the 7 projections have Houston playing in the Frisco Bowl.

– 4 of the 7 have Tom Herman and the Longhorns playing in the Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium.

– 3 of the 7 have Texas A&M playing in the Music City Bowl.

– 2 of the 7 have TCU playing Southern Cal in the Fiesta Bowl.

– All 7 have Central Florida winning the American Athletic Conference and playing in a New Year’s Six Bowl.

Each week, the Houston Chronicle is compiling bowl projections for UH, the American Athletic Conference, other Texas schools and the Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium.

Here are projections from seven national media outlets through Week 11.

David M. Hale: Houston vs. UCLA in Birmingham Bowl
Kyle Bonagura: Houston vs. UAB in Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl

Frisco: Houston vs. Ohio
Peach: UCF vs. Auburn
Fiesta: TCU vs. USC
Texas: West Virginia vs. Utah
Liberty: Texas vs. Kentucky
Belk: Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Hawaii: SMU vs. Colorado State
Birmingham: Memphis vs. UAB
Military: Navy vs. Virginia
St. Petersburg: USF vs. FAU
New Mexico: North Texas vs. San Diego State

Frisco: Houston vs. Middle Tennessee
each: UCF vs. Ohio State
Texas: Texas vs. California
Music City: Texas A&M vs. Iowa
Alamo: TCU vs. Washington State
Heart of Dallas: Texas Tech vs. North Texas
Hawaii: SMU vs. Fresno State
Birmingham: Memphis vs. Boston College
Military: Navy vs. Virginia
Cure: USF vs. Appalachian State
Boca Raton: Temple vs. FIU
New Mexico: UTSA vs. San Diego State

Boca Raton: Houston vs. Marshall
Peach: UCF vs. Georgia
Texas: Texas vs. Texas A&M
Alamo: TCU vs. Washington
Frisco: SMU vs. Utah State
Heart of Dallas: North Texas vs. Kansas State
Hawaii: Memphis vs. San Diego State
Birmingham: Temple vs. UAB
Military: Navy vs. Virginia
Armed Forces: UTSA vs. Army
Gasparilla: USF vs. FIU

Hawaii: Houston vs. San Diego State
Peach: UCF vs. Auburn
Fiesta: TCU vs. USC
Texas: Iowa State vs. Washington State
Outback: Texas A&M vs. Penn State
Liberty: Texas vs. Kentucky
Heart of Dallas: Texas Tech vs. North Texas
Frisco: SMU vs. Toledo
Gasparilla: USF vs. FIU
Birmingham: Memphis vs. UAB
Military: Navy vs. Georgia Tech
Boca Raton: Temple vs. Marshall
New Mexico: UTSA vs. Utah State

Frisco: Houston vs. Middle Tennessee
Peach: UCF vs. Penn State
Texas: Texas vs. Mississippi State
Music City: Texas A&M vs. Indiana
Alamo: TCU vs. Washington
Birmingham: Memphis vs. Georgia State
Military: Navy vs. Georgia Tech
St. Petersburg: SMU vs. UAB
Boca Raton: USF vs. FAU
Armed Forces: UTSA vs. Army
New Mexico: North Texas vs. Colorado State

Frisco: Houston vs. Appalachian State
Fiesta: UCF vs. USC
Texas: West Virginia vs. South Carolina
Camping World: TCU vs. Virginia Tech
Music City: Texas A&M vs. Georgia Tech
Cactus: Texas vs. California
Hawaii: SMU vs. Fresno State
Heart of Dallas: Texas Tech vs. Utah State
Armed Forces: North Texas vs. Army
Birmingham: Memphis vs. Oregon
Boca Raton: Temple vs. UAB
Gasparilla: USF vs. FAU
Military: Navy vs. Boston College

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Gift to railroad museum will bring working steam locomotive back to Frisco

Special Contributor

FRISCO — The steam locomotive that led to the founding of Frisco more than 100 years ago is returning to this booming suburb.

Frisco residents Phil and Geda Condit donated a mini custom-made steam locomotive to the Museum of the American Railroad, which recently put it on display.

A fundraising campaign will kick off soon to build mini tracks and buy three to six mini passenger cars. The plan is to run the locomotive in a loop around the nonprofit museum’s rail yard to showcase its collection of full-size locomotives and passenger cars.

Think of the 16-foot-long, 5,000-pound locomotive as the baby brother to the museum’s prized Union Pacific Big Boy No. 4018. That behemoth steam engine is 133 feet long and weighs 600 tons — 1.2 million pounds.

Third-graders from Frisco ISD’s Tadlock Elementary look at the miniature steam locomotive as part of theour tour of the Frisco Heritage Museum.

The one-fourth scale replica — to be named later — includes all the bells and whistles of an 1880s- era steam locomotive: a boiler, cylinders, pistons and, yes, even a vintage train whistle.

"It’s a wonderful educational piece," said museum CEO Bob LaPrelle, who hopes to have the mini train running within six to 12 months. "This is a really great opportunity for us to demonstrate steam."

‘A lifetime love’

Phil Condit’s name may be familiar to some. He’s the retired chairman and CEO of Boeing Co. who moved to Texas about 13 years ago. So how does the former head of an aerospace company get hooked on trains? For Condit, it’s been a lifetime love.

"As a kid, there were two things that fascinated me: airplanes and trains," said Condit, who fondly recalls the model train he had as a boy.

His career fed his appetite for aviation. And trains became a side hobby. His home in Frisco, for example, includes an operating G gauge model train.

Condit originally ordered the miniature steam locomotive from Mammoth Locomotive Works in Palisade, Colo., for private use. He had planned to install tracks on his farm outside Seattle and have his own little railroad.

Then came a bit of nudging from his brother-in-law, former Frisco mayor Maher Maso. He shared the city’s plans that brought the railroad museum from Dallas’ Fair Park several years ago. Its new home is on about 15 acres behind the Frisco Discovery Center.

"We decided it would be even better to donate it down here," Condit said of the 10-year process to get the mini train built. "There’ll be a chance for lot of people to ride it and enjoy a real steam locomotive."

City’s origins in steam

There’s nothing quite like the signature chuff-chuff-chuff of a steam-powered locomotive. The city of Frisco can trace its founding in 1902 to a watering hole created to feed the steam locomotives that traveled through the area.

Condit said he did his research before commissioning the hand-built mogul type engine. It was considered a workhorse for the railroads more than a century ago. He estimates the value of his gift at more than $100,000.

"To have something that had historic value as well as just fun is really what I wanted," Condit said.

The Frisco Community Development Corporation has set aside about $40,000 to help pay for the 15-gauge tracks and passenger cars. And the mini locomotive will remain on display at the city’s Heritage Museum until it gets up and running.

"It’s a cooperative effort," Frisco deputy city manager Henry Hill said.

Maso reached his term limit as mayor earlier this year and now heads the Prosper Economic Development Corp. He said the steam locomotive offers another unique attraction for the area.

"It preserves the history of Frisco and reminds everyone how we got here," Maso said.

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Launchpad City Named Official Sports Innovation Partner of the Texas Legends

Launchpad City Named Official Sports Innovation Partner of the Texas Legends

FRISCO, TX (Nov. 10, 2017) – The Texas Legends are proud to announce a partnership with LaunchPad City that brings a new level of innovation to the Mavericks’ G League affiliate. LaunchPad City, conveniently located at the corner of inspiration and innovation, will be the official sports innovation partner of the Legends and the presenting sponsor of all staff call-ups.

LaunchPad City is a collaborative space that connects entrepreneurs, investors, and the startup community in and around Frisco. As part of the partnership, the Legends will serve as testing grounds for LaunchPad City’s companies to deploy their new products, ideas, and innovations. This unique partnership will be the first of its kind for both the Legends and LaunchPad City, paving a path for progress in both organizations.

“LaunchPad City, like the Legends, is all about innovation,” said Legends President and General Manager Malcolm Farmer. “The partnership made sense from both angles. We hope to serve as a stepping stone for their startups while they hope to help fuel our call-ups.”

The partnership will focus on advancement, whether that be from a Team staff angle or from within the Legends’ family of partners. LaunchPad City will expand their network while broadening that of the Legends sponsors and premium clientele.

“The Texas Legends have been known as a leader in the Developmental/G League since their first season,” said Co-Founder of LaunchPad City Brian Dick. “Their innovative spirit combined with entrepreneurial spirit make a great partnership for LaunchPad City. We want our member companies to be able to bring technology and products to the sports industry that elevate the experience for players and fans of the Legends.”

For more information on LaunchPad City, visit The Texas Legends will release their full season schedule at a later date; for more information visit

About LaunchPad City:

Based in Frisco, TX, business incubator LaunchPad City specializes in growing and supporting North Texas’ startup and innovation community. In partnership with the Frisco Economic Development Corporation, LaunchPad City champions supporting digital media/entertainment, social influencer, sport, and eSport startup companies. For more information visit

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JQH Hires Charles “Cee Jay” Jones Jr. as Association Sales Manager at Newly Renovated Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Frisco

JQH Hires Charles “Cee Jay” Jones Jr. as Association Sales Manager at Newly Renovated Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Frisco

DALLAS & FRISCO, Texas & SPRINGFIELD, Mo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts (JQH) today announced that Charles “Cee Jay” Jones Jr. has joined the company as association sales manager of JQH’s newly renovated Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Frisco Hotel, Convention Center & Spa in Texas, which is located north of Dallas near the $5 Billion Mile development. Jones will serve as the point of contact for large association events at the completely refreshed Frisco Conference Center, connected to the 330-suite, 2017 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence hotel. With more than 25 years of experience in hospitality and travel sales, Jones most recently served as sales manager for the Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas DFW Airport South in Irving, Texas, where he was responsible for the Texas association/SMERF business. The upscale Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Frisco is owned and operated by Springfield, Missouri-based JQH, a leading private, independent owner and manager of hotels in the United States. JQH also operates more than 1 million square feet of superb meeting space.

Jones will report to Mike Woodfin, hotel director of sales, and also work closely with Michèle Geller, who was recently promoted to director of convention services, catering and event sales.

“Cee Jay is a strong addition to JQH’s Dallas Frisco sales team,” Woodfin said. “His award-winning sales background with two top airlines is impressive. Plus, he brings hands-on experience building association business in the Dallas market with the Embassy Suites by Hilton brand and with other well-known hotel franchises.”

In addition to his time with the Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas DFW Airport South, Jones served as senior sales manager with the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, where he was responsible for the Texas association/corporate business. His hospitality experience in Dallas also includes his role as sales manager for the Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West, where he was recognized for exceeding revenue sales goals. During his extensive career with American Airlines, including as global sales manager responsible for group and meeting travel, Jones was a recipient of the Global Sales STARS Award on multiple occasions. While with United Airlines, he concentrated on building convention business, leading to a Customer Satisfaction Team Award. Jones graduated from Kent State University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in speech communications. He is a member of the Texas Society Association Executives (TSAE) and the Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He has served on numerous meeting and convention industry boards and advisory councils. Jones is recipient of the 2005 Thurgood Marshall College Fund Founders Award, recognizing volunteerism. As an avid traveler, Jones has traveled to all 50 U.S. states and to numerous international destinations.

“I have found that JQH cultivates a very welcoming environment. It’s an exciting time in Frisco and that enthusiasm and warmth infuses the team culture,” Jones said. “The beautiful, refreshed Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Frisco facilities and extensive attractions in Frisco have so much to offer our association customers. I look forward to collaborating to grow JQH’s Dallas Frisco property’s important role in burgeoning North Texas.”

About Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Frisco Hotel, Convention Center & Spa

Located at 7600 John Q. Hammons Drive in Frisco, the newly renovated Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Frisco Hotel, Convention Center & Spa in Texas is adjacent to the Dr Pepper Ballpark and connected to the Frisco Conference Center, which also received a complete makeover. With 90,000 square feet of versatile meeting space, the updated facilities with modern fixtures offer the third-largest ballroom in Texas. The stylish hotel is less than a mile from the Ford Center at The Star and is also close to several major business headquarters, millions of square feet of shopping, and the $5 Billion Mile under development. Each spacious two-room hotel suite features a separate living room with a sofa bed and two TVs. Guests can enjoy internet access, a large desk with ergonomic chair, a mini-refrigerator, and a microwave. The contemporary hotel features a fitness center and an indoor pool. PURE allergy-friendly rooms with air purification systems are also available. Guests can start their day with a free made-to-order breakfast. A nightly two-hour reception with complimentary drinks and snacks is offered in the hotel’s open-air atrium. Guests can also dine at Cyprus Grille for a casual, relaxed environment or stop by Caffeina’s Café for an American fare menu with a Texas twist. Guests can indulge in a massage or facial at the luxurious on-site Spa Botanica. For more information about the Embassy Suites by Hilton Dallas Frisco Hotel, Convention Center & Spa, go to, connect at, or call (972) 712-7200.

About John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts

Springfield, Missouri-based John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts (JQH) is a leading private, independent owner and manager of hotels in the United States, representing brands such as: Marriott, Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Sheraton, IHG, Chateau on the Lake Resort / Spa & Convention Center, and Plaza Hotels Collection. With a portfolio of 35 hotels representing approximately 8,500 guest rooms/suites in 16 states, JQH’s properties are dominant in their markets. Founded on the extraordinary vision of John Q. Hammons and built on his continued legacy of excellence spanning more than 50 years, JQH has become one of the most recognized and award-winning companies in the hospitality industry. Built to be the best, JQH continues to set the standard in hospitality management and hotel development. Go to for more information, or connect with JQH on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Frisco economic development chief who helped propel city’s rapid growth is retiring

Vernon Bryant
Frisco EDC President Jim Gandy

Jim Gandy, president of the Frisco Economic Development Corp. for 21 years, will serve as a special adviser until March 31 while the city seaches for his successor. Assistant City Manager Ron Patterson will take over in the interim.

Gandy is part of a trio dubbed "Team Frisco," a unique blend of city leaders who set Frisco on course to become one of America’s fastest-growing cities. When Gandy joined the development team in 1996, Frisco’s population was about 16,500. Today, it’s nearly 170,000.

The Frisco Economic Development Corp. was established in 1991 when voters approved a half-cent sales tax to support efforts to attract investment in the community that straddles Collin and Denton counties.

Working closely with City Manager George Purefoy and now-retired Frisco ISD Superintendent Rick Reedy, Gandy’s tenure included the city’s emergence as a sports mecca, shopping and business hub and residential hot spot. Frisco is now home to the Dallas Cowboys’ new headquarters and training center, the Ford Center at The Star, as well as venues for the FC Dallas professional soccer team and a minor league baseball team.

"His successes range from the pivotal role he played in the development of Stonebriar Centre to the recruitment of the Dallas Cowboys," Purefoy said in a statement.

Th city recently commissioned a study to gauge the impact of Gandy’s agency on Frisco.

The report by Insight Research Corp. credited the agency with boosting the city’s economy by $31 billion by attracting 345 development projects over 25 years. Those expansions, relocations and new development helped Frisco’s tax base grow from $654.7 million in 1991 to $25 billion in 2015.

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Dallas-Fort Worth scores with young families — especially Murphy

Dallas-Fort Worth scores with young families — especially Murphy

Staff Photographer

It’s good to be young and starting a family in Murphy. In fact, you can say that about several cities in Collin County and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to NerdWallet.

The financial management website looked at 239 population centers in Texas with a minimum population of 10,000 and took a magnifying glass to several quality-of-life rankings, including schools, median home values and income growth.

When they took a blender to all of those factors and mixed them up, Murphy came out on top —followed closely by Flower Mound and Frisco, another Collin County town.

"I’ve been here about a year now, and it really goes toward the commitment on the part of our city’s leadership to really focus on quality-of-life issues in our community," Murphy City Manager Mike Castro said.

A small business is going up along FM 544 in Murphy.

Castro came to Murphy from Jersey Village, a suburb on the northwest side of Houston (which had a population too small to be included on the list).

"We’re a fast-growing city, a city with a lot going for it," Castro said. "A lot of the things that make this city attractive for families I have to believe also make it attractive for businesses and other groups that make the city a positive place to be."

In all, eight of the top 10 places to feel young and alive in Texas are in what NerdWallet calls the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area.

"If the region was a state, it would have the ninth largest gross domestic product in the country, in large part due to corporate residents such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (Irving), AT&T Inc. (Dallas) and American Airlines (Fort Worth). This year, Toyota’s North American headquarters opened its doors in Plano, too," the website said in touting the D-FW region.

Murphy finished with a total score of 72.82, followed by Flower Mound at 72.18 and Frisco at 72.08.

Rounding out the top 10 Texas cities in NerdWallet’s analysis are New Territory, a 3,200-acre planned community about 30 miles from Houston; Wylie; Allen; Forney; Prosper, Cibolo — the only San Antonio-area city in the top 10 — and Royse City.

To find out where your city or population area ranked on the list, click here.

Warning: Although the top 10 is filled with D-FW locations, the bottom 10 is, too, including the 239th — the last place — finisher.

Walking and reading

Prosper finished eighth out of 239 spots on the NerdWallet list, but it also recently won acclaim for an effort to encourage children to read — while also getting a little exercise.

The Prosper Book Trail earned an award of excellence from the Texas Municipal League at its annual conference in Houston in early October.

The trail, near Rucker Elementary school, includes 23 stopping points with slanted platforms at the typical child’s eye level. Each platform includes parts of one book. The first pages are at the trail head, and additional pages are displayed as the trail continues, allowing readers to finish the book when the trail ends.

Books are changed out every few weeks.

"The trail is virtually always busy, and we are thrilled to see so many people embrace it," Prosper Library director Leslie Scott said. "As we move forward, we may entertain the possibility of other book trails in other parks and open spaces."

A high-tech playground

Speaking of being young in Collin County, some students are getting to play in a sandbox as they learn a little bit about geology.

Students at the Spring Creek Campus of Collin College will study topographical formations via an Augmented Reality Sandbox. The technology, which is often used in gaming, "takes a camera’s image of the world and overlays imagery — often interactive imagery — onto the real-world environment," according to the Collin College website.

Augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that augmented images add to what the viewer is already seeing, instead of replacing it. So it’s a modified world, rather than an imagined one.

In use at the college, a depth-sensing camera determines the elevation of the peaks and valleys in a sand dune. Camera data is delivered to a projector mounted above the sand, which projects lines of elevation and color banding onto the sand surface, showing higher elevations in a different color from lower ones — almost like how temperature changes are often illustrated with colors.

The augmented maps can be changed just by dragging a finger — and it looks pretty cool when you see someone doing it.

The sandbox was put together by geology lab instructor Stacey Bilich and professor Neal Alexandrowicz with software from the University of California-Davis.

"An Augmented Reality Sandbox provides a different representation of topography, beyond giving people a flat piece of paper and asking them to visualize in their head what all of those lines represent," Bilich said.

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