Following Finisar Corp.’s arrival in Sherman, Denison is hoping to attract a major manufacturer for more than 150 acres of land the Denison Development Alliance owns along U.S. Highway 75.


During a meeting last week, the DDA approved a $109,200 contract with consulting firm Kimley-Horn for the development of a master plan for the land near the intersection of FM 84 and Hwy. 75. The contract follows discussions late last year with consultants on the best use of the land along the city’s northern border.


“We have an idea of what we want to do, but Kimley-Horn has a lot of expertise and a wide scope of work,” DDA President Tony Kaai said.


Kaai said the project is still early on in development, but current plans for the land involve courting advanced manufacturing and high tech as the highest priority. With this development Kaai said he wants to bring in employers who will offer wages on a higher pay scale than the current industries in Denison.


The move coincides with the announcement last year that electronic components manufacturer Finisar plans to move into the former MEMC building on Sherman’s south side and will begin production of components used in Apple iPhones this year.


“The fact that Finisar did make an announcement affected what targets we felt we could market for,” Kaai said, describing Finisar as a “great marketing tool” for Denison.


In addition to the industrial component of the project, Kaai said there is opportunity for commercial and retail development closer to the intersection, and residential construction could take place on the portion facing Randell Lake.


The 159 acres of land, located near Randell Lake near the northwest intersection of FM 84 and Hwy. 75, was originally the favored site for the new Denison High School. However, due to the property’s favorable location for development, the second choice was used, and the location has since been reserved for future development.


Late last year, officials with the DDA held meetings with consulting firms to choose who would lead the efforts in finding the best use for the land. Following nearly five months of work, the DDA elected to choose Kimley-Horn for these efforts.


The project comes as the city and organizations like the DDA have finished a long list of long-term projects that have taken the city’s focus in recent years. While traditionally the DDA focused its efforts on industrial development, Kaai said stakeholders want to take Denison to the next level with this development.


“Obviously, we want the land to create jobs and investment,” Kaai said. “It always will be about creating more jobs, but right now that isn’t the highest priority.”


Kaai said the greater portion of the contract approved by the DDA will deal with the design work of the infrastructure, which will include water, power and gas connections to the site. The scope of work includes design and engineering for infrastructure improvements to the site and visioning and conceptual planning for future use of the land. Of the $109,000 in the contract, more than $68,000 is attributed to design costs.


Initially, the DDA budgeted close to $200,000 for the project, but was able to find some savings by conducting some of the work itself, without the need of the consulting firm.


Beyond the planning itself, Kaai said the infrastructure improvements will likely be a large scale project that could cost close to $2 million to complete. Moving forward, Kaai said the contract will also require the DDA to amend its budget for the current fiscal year. This will next go before the city council, who will also need to amend the city budget for the project.