When it comes to life in the suburbs, residents want good schools and safe streets. And they’re willing to go a long way to get them.

In The Dallas Morning News’ yearlong analysis of the best neighborhoods in the suburbs, most of the top 10 were in the outer reaches of the Dallas metro area. The top suburb, based on factors residents said they wanted most, was Southlake, a 30-minute drive from downtown Dallas even when there is no traffic. (And when is there no traffic on State Highway 114 and Interstate 35E?)

But Southlake, a city of about 27,000, didn’t have a murder or forcible rape in 2009, 2010 or 2011, the three most recent years in the annual FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. There were only 29 motor vehicle thefts in that time.

“We focus and take pride in that,” said Mayor John Terrell. “Recently, we elected to put officers on the campuses of all of our schools. That is a commitment by the city and a partnership with our school district to ensure very, very safe schools.”

Of all the criteria that The News analyzed to determine which suburbs came out on top, the most important one to suburban residents was safety, so it isn’t surprising that towns like Southlake emphasize their extremely low crime rates.

45 minutes each way

On most weekdays, Jeremy Derucki spends at least 1.5 hours in his car.

He leaves his house in west Frisco at 7:15 a.m., heads down the Dallas North Tollway and merges onto eastbound Interstate 635. He reaches his office near the High Five interchange around 8 a.m. — as long as traffic isn’t too bad. Then, after a long day of work, he repeats the trek in reverse around 5 p.m.

“I hate fighting traffic on the Dallas North Tollway — it just feels wrong to pay over $5 per day to crawl from 635” to the Bush Turnpike, he said.

But it’s worth it, he said, to live in Frisco. He feels comfortable sending his kids to the local schools, and he likes the safe suburban feel.

“We picked the right area,” said Derucki, who moved to town from Georgia about a year ago. “There is a very good sense of community and lots of things to do locally. But we are still able to go into downtown.”

Others seem to agree. Derucki’s neighborhood placed 10th in The Dallas Morning News’ list of best suburbs. Two other parts of the Collin County city — east of Preston Road and north of El Dorado Parkway — also made the top 10.

Three neighborhoods in Flower Mound made the top 10, along with two in McKinney. East Colleyville ranked third.

Top-notch schools

The rankings indicate that many residents, like Derucki, are willing to spend large amounts of time in a car in exchange for other benefits. Living in a walkable neighborhood, for instance, was the second-lowest priority listed by suburbanites in The News’ analysis. Suburban homeowners care far more about safety, affordability and, especially, quality schools. And the exurbs deliver.

Carroll ISD, which encompasses all of Southlake, claims an exemplary ranking from the Texas Education Agency. Its website boasts that 98 percent of its graduates attend college. SAT reading and math scores average a combined 1155.

The school district also serves as a rallying point for the community. The Southlake Carroll football team has won eight state championships and plays in a $15 million stadium that was known as perhaps the best high school stadium in the country until Allen opened its facility this year.

“Everybody in the city of Southlake is a Dragon,” Terrell said, referring to the team’s mascot.

Big-city amenities

The popularity of Southlake and the other exurbs on the list can be distressing to some urban planners. All of the top 10 neighborhoods have grown within the last few decades, replacing closer-in cities as the hot suburbs of North Texas.

“What worries me about this type of development is they are not sustainable and energy-efficient in the long run,” said Taner Ozdil, associate director for research at the University of Texas at Arlington’s Center for Metropolitan Density.

But officials in each of the cities on the list say that recent denser, mixed-use developments are among their main draws. Frisco residents shop, eat and live in Frisco Square. McKinney has revitalized its historic downtown.

And Southlake’s City Hall is surrounded by Southlake Town Square, a walkable area with upscale shopping, restaurants and a post office. A park in the middle of the development hosts popular annual events such as an arts festival in April, an Independence Day celebration in July and a holiday event in November.

Each city has ample shopping, meaning many residents need to travel far only for work. And many residents work far from downtown Dallas. Southlake is home to many CEOs who were attracted by its proximity to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Frisco has worked hard to attract jobs and is close to multiple corporate headquarters in Plano.

The result is towns that have the safety and community of a small town while also enjoying the proximity to jobs and cultural offerings of the big city.

“There are a lot of wonderful cities here in North Texas,” Terrell said. “We are blessed to be in the middle of it and to have the opportunity to create such a quality of life.”

Data analysis by staff writer Daniel Lathrop.



The Dallas Morning News evaluated the best places for buyers who want to live in the region’s suburbs. The News ranked eleven features that make a community more for each census tract in Dallas, Collin, Denton, Rockwall and parts of Tarrant counties. Scores indicated how far above or below average an area fared. Individual ratings were combined according to how they scored among suburbanites in a News survey, This ranking is limited to areas outside the city of Dallas and the enclaves within its borders. In general, suburbanites were most interested in about good schools, safety from crime and being someplace where property values are likely to rise. They cared less than other groups about walkability, being close to shopping and entertainment, and affordability. For more on our methodology please go to: watchdogblog. dallasnews.com/category/methodology/

1. Southlake

This town in northeast Tarrant County and southern Denton County has a lot going for it including low crime, rising home values, first-rate schools and pet friendliness. But it doesn’t come cheap: median home values are close to half a million dollars.

2. Frisco (east of Preston)

Among the best ‘burbs, the subdivisions east of Preston Road and just north of State Highway121 have an interesting distinction: short commutes. It also contains some of the best public schools in the region.

3. Eastern Colleyville

Even by the standards of this list, the part of Colleyville east of State Highway 26 has attractive landscaping, a key concern of suburbanites. Data shows that the average household here spends $1,200 a year on landscaping.

4. Frisco (north of Eldorado)

This was the safest area in The News’ analysis and the second-best for schools. At the northern tip of Frisco, residents say the tradeoff of long drives to work, places to go and things to do is well worth it.

5. McKinney (near Nesbitt Park)

This family-friendly area in western McKinney south of Eldorado Parkway and north of Stacy Road offers a combination of safety, schools, and quiet neighbors. It’s also got the 30,000-square-foot McKinney Skate Park.

6. Flower Mound (from Lake Grapevine to Flower Mound Road)

Got parks? Residents of this area sure do. The 8-mile North Shore Trail and Murrell Park give residents a front-row seat to rocky bluffs, fishing, hiking and camping and make this area a great pick for lovers of parks and nature.

7. Flower Mound (near Jake’s Hilltop Park)

The most affordable neighborhood on this list. The area north of College Parkway and west from Garden Ridge Boulevard holds is home to Lamar Middle School. Residents here take pride in their landscaping; and data shows more than 40 percent have a garden.

8. McKinney (north of Craig Ranch)

The fast-growing area east of Custer Road and north of the well-known Craig Ranch planned community offers strong schools, newer homes and tree-lined streets for a variety of prices.

9. Flower Mound (along Stone Creek)

Follow Flower Mound’s Main Street west from I-35E to Long Prairie Road. The area due south offers residents a beautiful place to live and some of the region’s best schools.

10. Frisco (west of Dallas North Tollway)

The area due west of the Starwood planned community had one of the highest projected rates of property value appreciation on this list.