Just as the railroad led to the development of Irving one hundred years ago, today it continues to bolster the city's growth. In December 2000, the City of Irving and Dart approved an agreement to bring light rail transit through Irving en route to the north entrance of DFW International Airport, on a line that will serve Texas Stadium, the University of Dallas, the Las Colinas Urban Center and north-central Las Colinas.
About the time the Tax Increment Finance District (TIF) Project Plan was materializing, it was adopted in August 1999, DART was establishing the route for light rail service through Irving. The land use study was instrumental to the TIF to determine which land uses would best spur new development and assure full build-out, and for DART to determine the best route for its proposed line.
Phase I of the land use study , which was completed by RTKL Associates, Inc. in Fall 2000, focused on transit-oriented development, including mixed use residential and office environments near rail stations. The Urban Center offers the growth potential and public amenities to make it the premier transit-oriented development in the country.
The rail line is expected to enter the Urban Center near Teleport Drive south of Lake Carolyn and continue northward on the East Side of the lake along the planned route of East Las Colinas Boulevard. Design of the roadway is currently underway with an anticipated road construction completion Spring of 2002. East Las Colinas Boulevard will become a pedestrian friendly transit mall with both automobile traffic and light rail service. Flanked by Lake Carolyn to the west and Campion Trails to the east, this is a prime development location. The Las Colinas Area Personal Transit system will connect with the light rail line to take workers, visitors and residents to their destinations on the West Side of the lake. Further north, beyond Northwest Highway and south of Royal Lane, a transit village has been proposed. This site, also referred to in the plan as a "dot com" or transit village, offers a fresh approach for companies who want to offer their employees the amenity of living close to the workplace. Many people have grown weary of long commutes, and the idea of a "live-work" environment holds tremendous appeal. This part of Las Colinas also has ready access to Lake Carolyn and Campion Trails. To realize the potential of this area, the City will review land use modification, development standards and requirements as recommended in the land use study.
Phase II of the land use study is being pursued by the TIF Board and resulted in Irving TIF District Development Guidelines and Irving TIF District Design Standards for Streets and Open Spaces. It focuses on public amenities and the transit mall development, particularly on the lakefront and open spaces. The TIF Project Plan provides $5.5 million to develop a promenade around Lake Carolyn with fountains, and another $6 million for parks and open spaces. (This is in addition to the millions of dollars for funding capital improvements such as roads, flood control, water, sewer and transportation services.) Phase II of the land use study is also expected to refine development and design issues within the TIF District. The City, working with the Las Colinas Association, Dallas County Utility and Reclamation District (DCURD), property owners, tenants and the public, will conduct this phase.
Irving continues to be a multi-modal transportation center, with rail leading the way to new development. Consequently, the marketability and potential of Las Colinas stand only to be enhanced by the presence of light rail transit. Las Colinas has long been heralded as a premier development. The addition of the TIF District further enhanced it, and the advent of light rail and other TIF funded projects will solidify and accelerate is future growth.