Celina leads U.S. in population growth

May 2024
Jake Dean

Celina recently topped a list of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, reaffirming North Texas’ growth and the hold its northern suburbs have on the region and country. 

A new population estimate for 2023 says that Celina has 43,717 residents — an eye-popping 26.6% increase from July 2022 to July 2023, according to data released May 16 from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Several of Celina's neighbors were close behind, including Princeton at No. 3, Anna at No. 4 and Prosper at No. 9. 

Historically, cities in Central Texas have topped this list. The Austin area, which lays claim to high-growth cities like Georgetown and Kyle, toppled from its position among the top 10 largest U.S. cities. It is now No. 11 behind Jacksonville in North Florida. 

But the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests the population tide is shifting to the north. Cities at the top of the list like Celina, Anna, Prosper and Princeton are getting new shopping centers, residential neighborhoods, grocery stores and schools at a faster and faster pace.

This comes on the heels of data showing that Collin County experienced the second largest population increase in the country, according to census data released in March. Celina is on the northern outskirts of Dallas-Fort Worth and straddles Collin and Denton counties.

The new statistic naming Celina No. 1 in population growth doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise, Celina Mayor Ryan Tubbs said. The town is an increasingly desirable place for families to put down roots in part due to good schools and quality city services. 

“I believe people want to move to Celina because they're excited to be a part of the growth,” Tubbs said.  

Huge retailers including Costco, Lowe’s and Walmart have recently announced plans to open in Celina, which will boost employment numbers in the growing town. Additionally, Methodist Health System is working on a $237 million medical center in Celina that is slated to open in mid 2025. The campus is expected to to hire more than 200 locals once open.

Moreover, H-E-B recently acquired a 21-acre tract in Celina, according to The Dallas Morning News. This purchase is a testament to the city’s ability to attract big-name grocers and popular retailers. H-E-B tends to follow the growth of the region, as evidenced by its latest openings. 

The story of growth in Celina is also closely linked to a rise in home starts in DFW and Celina, said Ted Wilson, principal of Dallas-based Residential Strategies. The city of Celina generated 3,127 starts in the first quarter of 2024 compared to the fourth quarter, which produced 1,841 starts. 

“You can kind of describe it as like rungs on a ladder,” Wilson said. “It was North Dallas, and then it was Plano and then it was Frisco and Prosper and now it’s Celina's turn.”

Celina’s mayor said that single-family home permits in the town are projected to reach 3,000 by the end of the year, with projects like NorthSky, Legacy Hills and Parks at Wilson Creek coming on line soon or already open. As a result of these developments, Celina plans to add anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 people by the end of 2024. 

“We have a lot of activity going on to be able to accommodate the demand for all of these single family housing permits,” Tubbs said. 

Celina also boasts an impressive school system, Wilson said. Public schools in Celina are a part of the Prosper and Celina school districts, which are highly rated and thereby coveted districts in North Texas. 

“There’s a motivation for people to buy houses there because the school district is very well rated and perceived,” he said. 

Celina ISD plans on building at least one new elementary per year over the next decade. With more families to serve in the future, the district will likely triple in size over the next six years, Tubbs said.

People also live in Celina to be close to the amenities of downtown Dallas, according to the town’s chamber of commerce website. 

“Life in this small town is relaxed, with an emphasis on family, community and sports,” its website reads, adding local restaurants and small businesses are downtown Celina’s bread and butter. 

Challenges with growth

Similar to the struggles of other towns in the region that have grappled with a spike in activity, new and quick growth comes with its challenges, Tubbs said. In short, better and increased infrastructure is needed to keep up with Celina’s growth. 

“Our challenges definitely have to do with infrastructure as far as keeping up with water, sewer, roadway connectivity, providing east-west connectors that help residents move throughout the city a lot more efficiently,” he said. 

Many people also live in Celina to be near job centers south of the city, particularly in Frisco and McKinney, so more roads are needed to alleviate traffic and improve regional mobility.

While a six-mile extension of the Dallas North Tollway is in the works, this roadway project alone is not enough to keep up with growth and improve connectivity to surrounding cities. The Collin County Outer Loop is a proposed east-west roadway project that will connect U.S. Highway 75 to Interstate 35, which will also expand and create roads in Denton County.

Sustainable and lasting growth will also require the continued cooperation of city officials, its economic development corporation and its chamber of commerce, Tubbs added. 

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