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Destination Anna: Why This Collin County Town Is On Developer Wish Lists

When Younger Partners broker Tyler Hemenway grew up in the Collin County town of Anna in the 1990s, commercial development in the community was limited to a few truck stops bordering the city's main intersection at U.S. Highway 75 and Farm-to-Market Road 455. 

Commercial development begins to infill the intersection of U.S. Highway 75 and F.M. 455 in Anna as the sleepy Collin County bedroom community takes off.

"We grew up there when all of the schools [for every grade level] were on the same campus, and the high school looked like Rydell High," Hemenway remembers. 

Hemenway first moved to Anna in 1999 when the community had a population of roughly 1,700 people, and the local bank doubled as the town's unofficial gathering place, where elders met for coffee and good conversation.

Today, Hemenway is a land broker, his own young family still living in Anna. But he's watching Anna's population explode around him. Commercial real estate development in the form of medical office buildings, apartments, hotels and retail is expected to follow closely behind. 

Commerical development near Downtown Anna.

"We are one of the last blank canvases in Collin County," Anna Mayor Nate Pike said. "We have 61 square miles of [developable] planning area, and we want to grow. We want to become a unique community in Collin County."

Anna, Frisco and Celina are the three Collin County cities with the most land still available for fresh development, Pike said.

Commercial developers are already eyeing the town, which now has nearly 20,000 residents, Pike says. Anna expects its population over the next few years to reach 25,000 ― the benchmark used by developers to justify more retail, office and entertainment development. 

"It's absolutely a hot market," said Christiane Miller, a real estate broker with eXp Realty in North Texas. "You've got people from all over, out of state and within the metroplex venturing out to Anna, so it's growing from [the arrival of a] diverse set of people from all over and all walks of life."

The faster the city can build housing, the more interest Anna can expect from commercial developers.

An intersection near Downtown Anna is expected to benefit from mixed-use development activity.

Many of the residential communities coming in have land zoned for multifamily, drawing the attention of multifamily developers eager for an investment in the fast-growing community. 

"We probably have, give or take, on average about five to seven different multifamily developers reaching out monthly because they see this next progression, so we haven't had to really market ourselves to multifamily developers because we have so little [multifamily] today," Anna Economic Development Corp. Director Joey Grisham said. 

With demand for industrial space in overdrive across Dallas-Fort Worth and Anna offering its own business park — along with an active railway system that runs through the center of its downtown — Grisham said he expects industrial development to be one of the next big CRE plays on the horizon.

"We are talking to multiple spec building developers, so that has been very positive," Grisham said. "There is a lot of industrial activity in this market, so I am excited about our business park."

Anna's EDC expects to keep the Downtown area's 19th-century patina intact while adding mixed-use development to revitalize the historic area.

The city and Anna EDC also are working on a Downtown Master Plan and a city vision for 2050 with the expectation of creating a suburban town center that preserves the downtown that popped up in the 19th century along the Houston and Texas Central Railway, while adding mixed-use components that offer pedestrian-friendly entertainment, breweries and multiple retail and restaurant options.

"I see multiple developers coming into downtown," Pike said. "I see a lot of what you saw happening in Downtown McKinney ... an opportunity to preserve a lot of that historic look and feel, while at the same time bringing some entertainment and mixed-use into the city."

Anna EDC is already in talks with Collin College to bring a campus into the area, and the city intends to expand on its new emergency room with the addition of 40K SF of medical office.

Grisham said he expects land prices to rise as more greenfield space is consumed in the coming years. Hemenway says land speculators are about 10 years too late to benefit from long-term holds with the city already in high-development mode. 

Hemenway, as a longtime resident, said he is excited about the city's progress and expects Anna to morph into the next McKinney by 2050. But he still feels a tinge of nostalgia for the historic rural railroad town Anna was 20 years ago. 

"It is bittersweet to see the town change," he said. "I think over the past five years, especially in the last year with the intersection of U.S. Highway 75 and FM 455 being expanded, it has jump-started the growth of Anna and put it on the growth path that it's on now. It is not the Anna it used to be, but it still has that small-town feel, which is nice."