Tablet Sports

Dallas architect creating ‘Cowboys Alley’ in Frisco

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had a vision for his team’s new headquarters a few years ago and began looking for someone to make his dream a reality.

Enter Jack O’Brien, the CEO and founder of O’Brien Architecture of Dallas.

O’Brien’s firm, along with other heavy hitters such as Lincoln Property Co., Gensler, Manhattan Construction and Rex Real Estate, will play major roles in the mixed-use development that includes the headquarters and a multi-use event center in Frisco at the northwest corner of Warren Parkway and Dallas North Tollway.

There are seven blocks in the 91-acre plan, simply known as A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2, C-1, C-2 and C-3.

O’Brien and his team will be responsible for what is called “Block B-2.” His group is the designer for the master plan that will surround the headquarters and special events center. Gensler will be the architect and interior designer for the headquarters and multi-use event center.

“They actually selected Gensler, but five or six showed interest and submitted work,” said O’Brien, who founded his firm in 1974. “ At the same time, the master planning was being issued, who gets to help decide where things go and again, a lot of people showed interest, and we won that.”

The entire project is expected to be completed in 2016.

When did you first meet Jerry Jones? I met Jerry several years ago in a shopping center when we were doing their development Blue Star.

Are you a Cowboys fan? I am a big-time Cowboys fan. I grew up in New Jersey so I was a Giants fan, but when I went to Texas A&M, that’s when I moved over to the Cowboys.

What is your favorite memory of the Cowboys? The first came in 1990 or 1991 and it was a Monday night game against Detroit. The Cowboys were being followed by Hard Knocks on ESPN, went to Detroit and won in overtime. You could tell the team was emerging as something very special. It was the nucleus of the upcoming Super Bowl teams.

How did you and the Cowboys come up with this vision? I met with Jerry and discussed what he was looking for. He was envisioning a place where there would be entertainment. He wanted a place where there would be balance. We came together and chased it down. We thought the Cowboys would take over the old Texas Stadium in Irving. So long before Frisco, we were chasing it down. The Jones family is great to work with. They’re bright and know what they’re doing. They have one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world.

What is your job/responsibility in the project? It’s called Cowboys Alley. That’s the block we’re doing, and it’s about 180,000 square feet of retail and restaurants and two garages. People will walk up the alley, which is the center line of the event center. We hope to do some of the other office buildings.

How is the 91 acres divided up? There’s 20 acres going toward the multi-use special events and sports facility. Five is going to the Cowboys and their headquarters, and the balance of the 91 acres was divided up into developing tracks.

How many meetings did you have with the Jones family before you got the go-ahead to be part of the project? One presentation. It was to win the master planning for the entire 91 acres, which consisted of locating 25 acres for the headquarters and the multi-use event center, the roads going through the site and the location of other uses on the site. We are master planning the balance of the site and have started to do specific planning and the design for Block B-2.

What is the cost of Block B-2? In the $40-$50 million range.

Does having the highway next to the project site help or hurt when doing a project of this size? It’s always helpful when having major expressways near a retail project. Good access is critical to retail and it doesn’t hurt that it’s next to the Cowboys’ headquarters. Our scope is the retail, Block B-2. It contains what is known as entertainment retail, the quality of the project is usually rent driven. The higher the rent, the more expensive the project. The tenant response has been good up to date.

What is the proposed timetable? We hope that it will be done by 2016, just in time for the high school football season.