When Linda Wylie and her family moved to Little Elm 11 years ago, there was one road in and out of town. But there was land, the houses were large and affordable, and the nearby lake was nice. There were also only 12,000 residents.
Today, more than 32,000 call this suburb home. Since 2000, Little Elm has grown some 18.4 percent annually, faster than any other suburb in our survey. Based on town limits, Little Elm could grow more, too, to between 65,000 and 70,000 people. It could also add another 25,000 to 30,000 if it were to annex a bordering unincorporated area, says assistant town manager Doug Peach, who has worked for Little Elm for 21 years.
The city with nary a Kroger back then now has a wakeboard park, a pub, live bands playing a lakeside amphitheater on Friday nights in the summer, a farmers market, and, opening soon, a Hula Hut (the second location for the Austin-based Mexican-Polynesian restaurant).
“I can’t think of very much in the community that has been untouched over this last decade or two,” Peach says. “It’s not anything like it was when I started, when it was just a little lakeside community. In reality, it’s a brand new town.”
To accommodate large-scale changes, Little Elm was forced to make water, sewer, and streets top priority for some time. But things settled in the urgent-infrastructure column six to eight years ago, allowing city officials to expand their focus to public safety, a new rec center and senior center, and now, parks and leisure. Jennette Killingsworth, executive director of the Little Elm Economic Development Corp., is working to keep residents within city boundaries to eat, work, and play.
“We’re trying to take advantage of the natural amenity of the lake being a destination and a place that people want to live, bring their families, and have a good time,” she says. “That’s our focus point.”
Because the main draw, after all, hasn’t changed—66 miles of lakefront along Lake Lewisville. — Dawn McMullan
- Median Age: 30.9
- Population Growth (2000-2013): 796.90%
- Population Density: 2,244 people per square mile
- Students Passing STARR K-11: 78%
- Average SAT Score: 1352
- Students Taking SAT/ACT: 66.40%
- Instruction Spending Per Student: $4,078
- Violent Crime Rate: 0.88 per 1,000 residents
- Non-Violent Crime Rate: 9.4 per 1,000 residents
- Average Price of Homes Sold (2013): $197,601
- Sales Price Change (2011-2013): 21.70%
- Owner-Occupied Homes: 82.40%
- Walkability (New York City is an 88): 15