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Billingsley Nabs Former Howard Hughes Monarch City Tract

Billingsley Co. is the new owner of 238 acres of prime developable land in Allen previously owned by The Howard Hughes Corp. and once slated for its ambitious Monarch City master-planned community project. 

Rendering of The Howard Hughes Corp.’s Monarch City plans, which are now owned by Billingsley.

When Howard Hughes put Monarch City up for sale in March 2020 as part of a restructuring and strategic pivot at the company, the newly Houston-based developer had already obtained complex zoning for hundreds of acres bordering U.S. Highway 75 and State Highway 121 in the North Dallas suburb of Allen. 

Howard Hughes sold the asset along with its existing zoning for a planned development district slated to include 10M SF of multifamily, office, retail and hospitality.

Now the baton has been passed to Billingsley, which placed the winning bid and now owns most of the contiguous acreage — 31 acres remain in the control of the Allen Economic Development Corp

"Billingsley acquired that piece of property, and they have a fantastic track record as developers," Allen EDC CEO Dan Bowman said. "They are highly capable and able to motivate this type of development and move forward with it quickly. Obviously, they have done that already with Cypress Waters and you see that throughout the Metroplex in their other dealings."

Billingsley Co. partner Lucy Burns said when the opportunity came up, the development firm jumped at the chance to create an office and mixed-use development in the growing Collin County market.

The firm intends to spend the next month or so digging into the existing site plans to see what elements will change and what will stay the same. Burns expects the Monarch City name to change, but the company has not decided on a replacement name just yet. 

Burns and Bowman say the spirit of Monarch City, particularly its focus on landmark office products for corporate users, will remain the same. 

"We are digging into the minutia of it now," Burns said. "I am sure there will be minor things that we want to work with the city on as it relates to what we are allowed to do, but the overarching concept will be similar as far as it being a combination of multifamily, office, hospitality and certainly retail."

Billingsley is already a key player in the North Collin County Highway 75 corridor. In 2019, the developer and its partner landowner, the Petefish family, announced plans for a 242-acre mixed-use development at the intersection of U.S. 75 and State Highway 121 in Fairview. 

The projects it has planned are capitalizing on growth in Allen and the rest of North Collin County.

"What we are seeing in Allen and all of the surrounding areas north of us is just a huge continued influx of talented workers," Bowman said. "You see highly educated folks and that kind of workforce will be very attractive to a corporation looking to relocate."

Collin County has less office space than older DFW office markets.

The Richardson/Plano office market, which includes most of Allen and McKinney, had 12M SF in net rentable Class-A office space in the second quarter of last year, compared to 22.2M SF in Class-A office space in the Dallas Central Business District alone, according to CBRE's Q2 2020 report.

The addition of the Monarch City project allows Billingsley to tap into the unmet needs of future corporate tenants. 

"It's a major intersection of two significant freeways in North Texas, and they are both large and undeveloped," Burns said of the Monarch City and  Fairview developments. "It's an area that has experienced significant population growth and there is some office there, but there isn't a concentrated office core, and so we look at this intersection as an opportunity to do that."