Las Colinas is a commercial and residential community on State Highway 183, Interstate highways 35E and 635, and Belt Line Road within the city of Irving and ten miles northwest of Dallas in western Dallas County. It is southeast of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. At the center of Las Colinas is Lake Carolyn; the community also includes the University of Dallas, North Lake Community College, Las Colinas Country Club, Texas Stadium, and the Trinity River Greenbelt Park. The site was settled during the late 1800s, and by the early 1900s a number of small towns, including Kit, Sowers, Finley, and Irving, were in the vicinity. In 1928 John W. Carpenter, father of the founder of Las Colinas, Ben Carpenter, established a ranch in the area; by 1959 the ranch, originally called Hackberry Creek Ranch, had grown to 6,000 acres. The ranch was renamed El Ranchito de Las Colinas (the little ranch of the hills) and was managed by John Carpenter's son Ben and Dan C. Williams. In the late 1960s the westward growth of Dallas prompted the men to develop the ranch as a residential area, but after plans for the D-FW Airport were revealed, Carpenter and Williams began developing a master-planned commercial and residential community. The project was to take some twenty years to complete and would originally encompass about 7,000 acres, 3,450 of which would be used for recreational and educational facilities and Lake Carolyn, a 125-acre man-made lake. The remaining acreage would include numerous business parks built around a public transportation system that would include the Mandalay Canal (a series of canals and water taxis) and the Area Personal Transit system (a system of elevated tracks and passenger vehicles that would serve 1,000 acres of Las Colinas). The community would also have residences for 50,000 people; the residences would be developed so as to preserve the natural setting.
The development of Las Colinas was announced on September 14, 1973, as a joint venture of Southland Financial Corporation (represented by corporate president Ben H. Carpenter and chairman Dan C. Williams) and its subsidiary, the Las Colinas Corporation (represented by chairman Wayne Hurd and president Ernest O. Perry). At the date of the announcement the Las Colinas Country Club had already been completed and two residential areas were under construction. University Hills Village was next to the country club, and Northgate Village was at the southern end of the community. Additional acreage had already been donated for the University of Dallas and for a park on the nearby Elm Fork of the Trinity River. The Dallas County Community College system had also secured a section of land in the community for North Lake College. Construction on the infrastructure began along State Highway 114 (the John W. Carpenter Freeway), and Allstate Insurance Company, the first corporation to settle in Las Colinas, bought a section of land in the site for its new regional office building. In the next two years Las Colinas developed slowly because of a poor economy, but by 1975, 627 acres had been fully developed and two business parks had also been completed.
In 1976 the Associates Corporation of North America moved its national headquarters to Las Colinas, and American Honda Corporation moved its regional headquarters there. Around 1977 the Las Colinas National Bank was chartered, and the world headquarters of Sunmark Exploration Company was established there. In 1978 the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America was moved to Las Colinas; both General Telephone and Electronics Corporation and General Motors Corporation established new headquarters in the community. Warehouse and distribution space was established at Las Colinas for Pioneer Electronics, Panasonic Company, and Super Valu stores. By April 1978, 831 apartments had been completed and 417 were under construction, and 1,807 homes had been completed and eighty-two were under construction. The number of corporations in Las Colinas had reached 100 by 1979. By 1980 raw land sales at Las Colinas totaled some $30 million, and the community itself had expanded to 12,000 acres. That year Las Colinas was estimated to have 2,000 single-family homes and some 9,000 residents living in apartments. Some 12,000 daily workers were employed in businesses in the community. The world headquarters of the Zale Jewelry Corporation was in Las Colinas, and Levi Strauss and Company had a site there for its data-processing center and regional office. Construction began on a number of buildings, including the twenty-seven story Mandalay Four Seasons Hotel, a manufacturing plant for Boeing Aerospace, the corporate headquarters for the J. A. Majors Company, the North American headquarters for Scor Reinsurance Company, and the corporate headquarters for the industrial chemicals and plastics division of the Diamond Shamrock Corporation.
In 1981 Caltex Petroleum began construction on Caltex House in the Las Colinas Urban Center, and Xerox began construction on Xerox Centre, a consolidation of all of its Dallas operations. That year Gifford-Hill and Company began its eighteen-story national headquarters, and the Associates Corporation of North America began two new office buildings. In 1981 also the third building of Las Colinas Towers was completed; it was leased to International Business Machines Corporation. By 1982, 350 businesses were established in the community. These included United Technologies Building Systems, the Burroughs Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric Sales, McDonnell Douglas Automation Company, the Warner Lambert Nuclear Medical Laboratories, Data Communications Systems, TeleVideo Systems, and Technicare Corporation. Many of the corporations locating in Las Colinas emphasized research and development, and in response to a demand for research facilities, the Las Colinas Corporation began development of the Royal Tech Center, a high-technology business park in the northwest part of the community. The Studios at Las Colinas, the first phase of the Trammell Crow Company's Dallas Communications Complex, was completed. A number of recreational facilities were also finished, including the Las Colinas Equestrian Center. By around 1982 the Mandalay Canal had about twenty retail shops operating along its banks, and the golf course of the Las Colinas Sports Club had been made the site of the Byron Nelson Golf Classic. Residential sales at Las Colinas outpaced commercial sales in 1983, when four out of seven residential areas were completed. By that time more than 6,000 homes were serviced by a communications network that provided security services, information services, and audiovisual entertainment. Fully one third of the Las Colinas acreage was used for recreational and educational facilities.
In its first decade of existence Las Colinas had developed steadily, and within the next two years it became one of the most prominent areas in the country for businesses and corporations to base operations. Undeveloped land sales since 1980 quadrupled to $124 million in 1984 and then decreased to $96 million in 1985. When the Dallas real estate market collapsed in 1986, however, the parent company of the Las Colinas Corporation, Southland Financial Corporation, was operating with a tremendous debt and land sales in Las Colinas were at an all-time low. The community's development stalled, and the Las Colinas development company was close to bankruptcy or foreclosures by its numerous creditors. In the next few years, Southland was forced to restructure its debt with the aid of several financial partnerships. After these settlements, Southland was still unable to service its debt and was forced to sell the remainder of its holdings to a new partnership in 1989. By 1990 Las Colinas had renewed its development and had some 900 companies in its business community, including fifty Fortune 500 companies. In 1990 Las Colinas had a population of about 19,000, of which only 30 to 40 percent worked in Las Colinas. By that time Las Colinas residents were living in six single-home or apartment communities. Homes ranged in price from $180,000 to $3 million; the average cost was $400,000. In 1990 the community also had 110 stores, forty restaurants, twelve banks, four hotels, and three country clubs. In 2002 water taxis no longer operated on the lake and canals, but the community was served by a gondola style cruise service.