Celina overhead

In June, the city of Celina raised eyebrows when it announced that it had outpaced neighboring Frisco in the number of residential building permits that had been issued during a recent cycle.

The assertion marked a milestone that somewhat rendered Celina a beacon for the region’s future: for Celina Development Services Director Dustin McAfee, it’s a signal that Celina is now the fastest-growing residential community in the region, probably in the state and possibly in the nation.

For some, the advent of accelerated growth brings concerns about losing the city’s heritage and identity. For others, it spells opportunity. Either way, the city of Celina has known for years that it is “next” and that growth management is key.

“I would say most cities get caught by surprise by their growth,” McAfee said. “And we haven’t.”

He added that the city was intentional about hiring City Manager Jason Laumer, who has a 10-year development background with the town of Little Elm, and that Laumer in turn has been intentional about hiring staff who have development experience.

“And we’re putting in place everything we need to have in order to better manage our growth,” McAfee said.

Celina’s announcement about surpassing the Frisco figure may have swiveled a regional spotlight on the home of the Bobcats, but that doesn’t mean the city has been shuffling its feet when it comes to preparing for growth.

The city approved an award-winning Downtown Master Plan in 2019 outlining a vision for what is already touted as a sort of crown jewel for the community. It also approved a Celina Trails Master Plan in 2019 and a Parks and Recreation Master Plan in 2020.

From an even higher-level view, Celina approved its newest comprehensive plan in April, moving beyond the previous 2013 plan in the face of significant growth and looking toward the future: the new plan sets its sights on 2040.

“With Celina being, we believe, probably the fastest-growing city in the nation, how we manage our new growth is extremely important,” McAfee said. “That’s where the comprehensive plan comes into play, because that is the number one policy document for your new development.”

The 273-page comprehensive plan provided on the city website touches on broad themes like equity, economic vitality and a “Green Celina.” In addition to analyzing input from community surveys and outreach efforts, the plan declares city goals for multiple facets of its future, including advocating for land use diversity, encouraging tourism and increasing housing choice both in terms of housing type and price range, a “top goal” for the city.

“The concept of age-in-place was a major topic during community engagement, with many residents expressing concern over the price of housing and not having places for elderly and young adults to live,” the plan states. “By encouraging a mix of housing types, the community will appeal to a variety of residents and thereby foster a differentiator for economic development in Celina within the region.”

So what will Celina look like in 2040?

“I think Celina’s going to be a city with great schools, great parks and all the quality of life benchmarks that people expect,” McAfee said.

With the future ahead, McAfee acknowledges that some of the elements outlined in the comprehensive plan are ambitious.

“But I don’t think there’s anything we can’t get accomplished,” he said.

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