Don’t let the quaint exterior of this Frisco home fool you into thinking this is a small house. This DR Horton-built home at 7920 Southmark Drive is long and narrow, but it’s a huge two-story with four bedrooms and three full baths coming in at 2,635 square feet. It’d be a perfect home for a family with kids, perfectly situated at Preston and Rolater in Frisco, the city most recently named the best city in Texas for families.

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Frisco was named the best city for raising a family, closely followed by Allen, and Southlake as part of a new 2018 “best Texas cities” list, ranking the best and worst Texas cities for families. Wallethub, a D.C.-based personal finance site, compiled the new June 2018 report that ranked the 117 largest cities in Texas based on family life, fun, education, health and safety, affordability and socioeconomic environment.

What makes a city good for raising a family? Plenty of attractions such as museums and theaters, a quality school system, high graduation rates, number of playgrounds per 100,000 residents and a whole lot of pediatricians were all factors that Wallethub took into account when it named the best Texas cities for families.

While the weighted scores and rankings provide a holistic view of cities, a look at the raw data we requested provides some interesting headlines as well. Missing from the list is Highland Park, which did not rank among the largest cities in Wallethub’s data.

Eagles vs. Dragons

Turning to education, Allen had the number one highest graduation rate in Texas – 96.6 percent, according to Wallethub’s data. Frisco, the overall number one, has a 91.8 percent graduation rate, and Southlake, overall number three on the list, had a 87.3 percent graduation rate, according to Wallethub. (more…)

I am fully on board with the $80 billion driverless car industry. Last weekend, I was almost creamed by a speeding black Mercedes whose driver ignored the stop sign at Park Lane and Douglas in Old Preston Hollow. (There are four.) Fortunately, I waited and thusly avoided a wreck. I also spent 2 hours on the Dallas North Tollway last week coming south between Frankfort and Keller Springs at about 5 pm. Two hours! Accidents (human error) are what create traffic jams and gridlock, and accidents happen because mortals drive cars. Let technology do it, and the errors will be greatly reduced.

Of course, Wall Street is thinking money. $285 billion:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predicts that robo-taxis will help the ride-hailing and -sharing business grow from $5 billion in revenue today to $285 billion by 2030. There are grand hopes for this business. Without drivers, operating margins could be in the 20 percent range, more than twice what carmakers generate right now. If that kind of growth and profit come to pass—very big ifs—it would be almost three times what GM makes in a year. And that doesn’t begin to count the money to be made in delivery.

So I was thrilled to be invited to Frisco on Monday to test-drive ride in the first self-driving car service in America, a pilot public partnership that will put driverless passenger vans on Frisco roads come July. A California startup called Drive.ai — at HALL Park all this week — will travel between fixed points in an area devoted to retail, entertainment and offices at HALL Park and the Star in Frisco. The pilot program, which will operate on public roads, is slated to run for six months. An expansion is planned to Frisco Station.

A host of Frisco dignitaries and developers and of course Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney, a Realtor with The Associates, were on hand to celebrate with a press conference and then driving riding demos. The biggest takeaway: this is a brilliant PR move to not only collect AI data (keep reading, I explain) but to get people more comfortable with the driverless car concept. As TexasMonthly.com pointed out, “Starting in Frisco is likely to give Drive.ai enough data for how suburban North Texas drivers operate that they’ll be able to spread out across the region. That’s no small deal when you’re talking about the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country, and makes the Frisco test an effective pilot program for how autonomous cars are likely to roll out across North Texas.”

“Today definitely marks a mobility milestone for our entire region, said Jeff. “It also gets us closer to achieving one of our council’s ‘Top Ten’ goals, which is to improve traffic throughout Frisco, one of the fastest growing cities in the country.”

Drive.ai is headquartered in Mountain View, Ca. in Silicon Valley. The company has raised more than $60 million, has more than 100 employees, and was founded by graduate students out of Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab. Andrew Ng, who spoke at the presser, said he studied at Carnegie Mellon, which is where a lot of driverless car talent has been hatched.

“We are ready to work with governments and businesses to solve their transportation needs,” Sameep Tandon, co-founder and CEO of Drive.ai., said in a press release. “Working with the city of Frisco and Frisco Transportation Management Association, this pilot program will take people to the places they want to go and transform the way they experience transportation.” 

The service works through a smartphone application that lets users hail complimentary, on-demand rides, just as you would an Uber. The big convenience will be for lunch patrons who don’t want to get in their car and park. I’d like to see them try one out from say, Valley View Mall to Legacy. 

I have so many questions, and I got some answers.

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Credit: NASA

There’s gonna be two kinds of stars in DFW this weekend: the kind that walk the red carpet and the kind that light up the sky.

On Saturday night, April 21, into early morning Sunday, April 22, North Texans can check out the Lyrid meteor shower, which coincides with Earth Day this year, when as many as 20 meteors can be seen “falling” in the night sky every hour.

Just look for the burning shards of rock and natural debris slicing through the sky at tens of thousands miles per hour. The experts at Accuweather say this should be one of the best shooting star displays of late on Earth. Depending on clear skies here in the Metroplex, you can catch a glimpse of these stars streaking across all areas of the sky, with no telescope required. 

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It’s not surprising that this 3,000-plus-square-foot Frisco Colonial for under $400,000 went under contract after just two days on the market. Not only does this red brick colonial at 10306 Mallory Drive have plenty of room — and four HUGE bedrooms — it checks all the boxes with an optional HOA in this sought-after neighborhood, great Frisco schools in walking distance, and easy commuter access in the “sweet spot” of Collin County.

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Safer Water North TexasIs our water safe? That’s the question concerned residents are still asking three weeks after activist Erin Brockovich called B.S. (literally using the hashtag #StopTheBullshit) on Plano and the regional water district’s claims that the water was fine, despite its pungent chlorine smell. Now those residents are especially fired up after Brockovich revealed Thursday night at a citizen town hall that the North Texas Municipal Water District was issued a violation by the state of Texas for failing to perform some tests for volatile organic compounds last year. [UPDATE 10:35 p.m. Friday] Though it initially released a statement acknowledging the violation, the water district rescinded its update on late Friday night, explaining the violation was a miscommunication because the plant in question was closed. 

A sold-out crowd of nearly 600 Collin County residents — just a fraction of the nearly 13,000 who’ve joined a Facebook group called Safer Water North Texas— packed into the Frisco Celebration Hall to hear Brockovich and water quality expert Bob Bowcock speak. Safer Water North Texas organized this event in a matter of days, after assembling themselves to speak up about water quality at local city council meetings and demand answers why their water doesn’t seem right. Brockovich and Bowcock flew to North Texas on their own dime after thousands of residents contacted the famed water safety advocate for help guiding their own activist efforts, much like the famed water quality advocate did in the eponymous 2000 movie by Steven Soderbergh.

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Photo: Shelby Skrhak

A thousand years ago, I was the founding editor of a weekly newspaper called Plano Insider, which covered features, society events, youth sports and an “around town” calendar of events. Of course, the best part was the “What We’re Drinking” column I wrote weekly, in which I visited Plano bars and restaurants sampling their signature or most unique cocktail. Now I’m brand new to CandysDirt.com so I won’t push my luck pitching that, but I will “get a little Plano in here” to bring you what’s going on outside the loop, starting with a fun Crayola ticket giveaway and this weekend roundup of stuff to do in Plano and Collin County. 

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If you’ve always loved the underground house at 2001 N. Buckner Blvd., you may soon have the chance to build your very own. A developer based in India has proposed a cluster of earth-sheltered homes just like this earth-friendly East Dallas landmark. A prerequisite of ownership, however, is a lawnmower. At least that’s our bet. 

According to an NBC (Channel 5) report, the developer, Total Environment, wants to build 122 houses on 23 acres, with the other half of the 55-acre development remaining mostly wild, with hike and bike trails for residents. The homes will be priced in line with Dallas’ first underground house, which was marketed back in 2014 for $870,000. Each home in the Frisco development will run around $900,000.

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