The Evolution of “Comet Town”

October 20, 2021

The Northside sign, a large orange “N” partially overlapped by a dark recatangle, within which reads “Northside.”

Northside at UT Dallas, AKA “Comet Town.”

Many factors go into the development of a world-class university, including state-of-the-art research equipment, top talent and generous endowments. One factor which can occasionally be overlooked is an institution’s environment; comfortable physical surroundings that stimulate the mind, provide a welcoming sense of home and become a destination for the surrounding community. Over the years, the Office of Facilities & Economic Development (F&ED [Facilities & Economic Development] ) has not overlooked this factor when adding and upgrading dozens of facilities, from laboratories to landscaping, for The University of Texas at Dallas.

Several construction vehicles, including cement mixers and cranes, work between two rows of buildings.

Early construction along the central spine.

Unlike educational institutions which were founded in the middle of cities, UT Dallas sprang from an empty tract of Texas Blackland Prairie, so it didn’t have the sort of college town environment experienced at other schools. UTD started out as a place where Comets came for class or work, but didn’t stay. F&ED [Facilities & Economic Development] has addressed this in various ways, including building residence halls and more inviting outdoor spaces, but its most ambitious approach so far has been to construct the University’s own college town —a “Comet Town”— from the ground up.

An asymetrical pool surrounded by lounge chairs in the middle a four-story building's courtyard.

One of the three Northside courtyards that feature a pool.

Named Northside at UT Dallas, this multi-year, multiphase project broke ground on April 16, 2015, and was formally dedicated on October 20, 2021. From the beginning, the complex was envisioned as a place for people to live, work, study and play. It was designed with a mix of living units in different configurations: furnished one-three bedroom apartments, unfurnished one and two bedroom apartments and unfurnished two and three bedroom townhomes. Several indoor common areas are dedicated study lounges, while others are used as game rooms, media rooms and exercise studios. Its outdoor facilites include three pools, a basketball court, outdoor living rooms, places for grilling, green space, a dog park and plazas. Soon after the completion of its central spine, an outdoor area which can be closed to traffic, Northside began hosting neighborhood festivals. Several dining and retail venues operate on the ground level, facing towards Synergy Park Boulevard.

All of these amenities have been loaded into a plot of land across the street from the north end of campus, right next to the UTDesign Capstone® lab space and just south of the UT Dallas station for the upcoming Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART [Dallas Area Rapid Transit] ) Silver Line. This special combination of complimentary facilities and the public-private partnerships which made them a reality have been recognized by organizations such as the International Economic Development Council (IEDC [International Economic Development Council] ) and the University Economic Development Association (UEDA [University Economic Development Association] ). The real prize, of course, is the enjoyment that Comets, visitors and the surrounding community receive from having a true college town experience at The University of Texas at Dallas.


“Comet Town” by the Numbers
Phase Completed Gross Square Feet Living Units Beds
* Includes 20,760 gsf [gross square feet] of retail space.
** Includes 3,925 gsf [gross square feet] of retail space.
*** Includes 24,685 gsf [gross square feet] of retail space.
1 2016 407,000 * [Includes 20,760 gsf of retail space.] 313 595
2 2018 389,648 ** [Includes 3,925 gsf of retail space.] 275 900
3 2020 211,607   246 370
4 2021 361,745   387 675
Combined 2021 1,370,000 *** [Includes 24,685 gsf of retail space.] 1,221 2,540

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