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'Poised to be another Frisco': Will Celina be the next North Texas city to see major growth and expansion?

The development roughly two miles east of the future Dallas North Tollway will tie into Celina's downtown square.

CELINA, Texas — Read this story and more North Texas business news from our partners at the Dallas Business Journal

With the expansion of the Dallas North Tollway, a flourishing historic downtown, and relative affordability compared to nearby northern Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, Celina has a lot going for it, says Ryan Griffin, principal at Rockhill Capital & Investments.

Against that backdrop, Rockhill has teamed up with Taylor Morrison and Toll Brothers to launch The Ranch at Uptown Celina, a 450-home residential community located on 150 acres between FM 455 and future Celina Parkway.

The development roughly two miles east of the future Dallas North Tollway will tie into Celina's downtown square by a golf-cart-friendly hike-and-bike trail. It’s also slated to have a pool, water feature, parks and green space.

Construction is underway on the project, with grading expected to commence in early 2023.

The Ranch at Uptown Celina is part of the broader four-community Uptown Celina district, a 675-acre project planned for about 2,500 single-family homes.

In the interview that follows, Griffin tells us more about the project, the housing market and why he’s bullish on Celina.

Why is it a good time right now to launch the Ranch at Uptown Celina?

Three reasons. One is that the Dallas North Tollway with the service lanes and the overpass over Highway 380 has really opened up housing in Celina to employment in Frisco and North Dallas.

The second reason is it's more affordable than obviously Frisco and Prosper. If you've been tracking this market, you know what Frisco is doing, and Prosper is right there with it (in rising home prices). In order to afford a home, Celina is a really good area.

And thirdly, Celina has made a huge investment in their downtown area. Their EDC focuses on their downtown area in a very similar way to how McKinney did their downtown area over the last 20 years through both private-public partnerships and to some extent organic growth. You can tell they really made a huge investment there.

This property (The Ranch at Uptown Celina) is all accessible to the downtown area via hike and bike trails. Celina is a golf-cart community and that's something that the younger generations today find attractive. They really don't want to get into a  vehicle. They want to be able just to hop on a cart and drive into downtown, eat dinner, have a beer and go home.

How do you see Celina developing over the next few years?

I think Celina is poised to be another Frisco. They certainly have done a great job of of masterplanning their city and deciding what goes where, just like Frisco did. We're bullish on Celina. We like that area. It's great community.

What is your timetable with The Ranch at Uptown Celina?

Taylor Morrison and Toll Brothers' plans are really close to getting approved. They'll be coming out of the ground pretty quick. I would say they're starting in the next 60 to 90 days, and they're hoping to have lots on the ground in late 2024 or early 2025. It will certainly be ready to have houses ready for the spring season 2025.

This is the first phase. What will be he total home count at full buildout?

 It’s a 2,500-lot community, and that’s not including multifamily and some townhome, and we might have some single-family rental go in.

I know this is difficult to predict, but are you anticipating changes in the mortgage-rate environment or the demand environment by the time these homes are available?

We have to take that day to day. Nobody has a crystal ball. I personally am in the camp that interest rates might tick up a little bit more then maybe stabilize over the next quarter or so.

I know that builders had a really good January and I am very optimistic about the spring. I think honestly that buyers are coming to grips with the fact that interest rates are 7%, not three. Keep in mind they can maybe get down to 5.5% if they buy rates down. Historically speaking, that's a cheap rate. We got a little spoiled when it was 2.75%. A lot of these buyers, if mortgage rates turn around and go back down, they always can refinance. So I think they're just getting comfortable with that. I think the last six months, the last year, it was just a such a shock to the system that everybody kind of froze.

Job growth is a huge driver, and Dallas-Fort Worth just doesn't show any sign of slowing down. Don't get me wrong, I'm always cautious, but I do think that we've got a bright future over the next 24 months, if not longer. 

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

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