Developers plan more than 7,000 new homes for Rayford Road corridor in the coming years

As The Woodlands nears its final phases of residential development, much of the projected growth in the southeast Montgomery County area is expected to be east of I-45 along the Rayford Road corridor. The area has already drawn the attention of new Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack for its mobility challenges, and real estate and commercial developers are either capitalizing on the growth now or making plans for future development.

According to a 2012 population and demographics survey conducted by Conroe ISD, throughout the next decade the Rayford Road corridor will house five of the top 10 fastest-growing subdivisions in the district.

“With the construction of Grand Parkway and with the opening of ExxonMobil and Anadarko [expansion], and all the other companies that have signed leases, there is a very strong job growth factor that is beginning,” said Jim Holcomb of Holcomb Properties, developer of Imperial Oaks. “In fact, it has already begun.”

Holcomb said one of the reasons for the strong residential growth in the area is the success and reputation of Conroe ISD. The district will open Ann Snyder Elementary School in the fall near the intersection of Rayford Road and Riley Fuzzel Road. The new school will be Conroe ISD’s sixth campus in the Rayford Road corridor.

Lisa Meeks, spokeswoman for Conroe ISD, said the district will need to construct a second high school in the Oak Ridge feeder zone in about the next six years.

Commercial development

In addition to housing growth, commercial developers are claiming tracts of land ahead of increased populations and the opening of Grand Parkway.

In March of 2012, H-E-B announced it had purchased a 21.3-acre tract of land on Riley Fuzzel Road on the southwest corner of Rayford Road. According to the J. Beard Real Estate Company, which brokered the sale, that parcel is part of a larger 67-acre tract designated for commercial use.

Plans for a Wal-Mart at the northwest corner of Rayford Road and Riley Fuzzel Road are nearly finalized, said Jeff Beard of the J. Beard Real Estate Company.

“Most of their growth is going to be retail,” said Josh Feinberg of the J. Beard Real Estate Company. “But most of the office space [in the area] is controlled fairly tightly by The Woodlands.”

Feinberg said he expects about four or five restaurants to open in the area along with consumer service amenities, such as pharmacies, insurance companies and anchored pad sites.

Real estate development

In the last year, residential real estate developers have announced plans to build more than 7,000 new homes in the next few years in the Rayford Road corridor.

Among those developments is Harmony, previously known as Discovery at Spring Trails, which, according to Johnson Development, still has about 2,000 home sites remaining to be developed. In November of last year, Toll Brothers announced its plans to develop a 692-acre tract along Riley Fuzzel Road that will see construction of 1,350 luxury style homes. Similar homes have recently sold in The Woodlands for between $443,000 and $575,000.

“We will add probably another 3,000 or 4,000 units divided into three projects,” Holcomb said of the Imperial Oaks development.

Johnson Development will develop Harmony’s 2,000 home sites during the next six to eight years, while the Toll Brothers project will begin in 2014.

“I think if you take everything into consideration, Grand Parkway is the driving force for that corridor,” said David Assid, assistant vice president for Toll Brothers. “I would anticipate the east side [of Montgomery County] to develop a little quicker than [the west side].”

Mobility challenges

Population numbers are expected to steadily increase over the next decade in southeast Montgomery County. According to a study conducted by the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the population around the 77386 ZIP code will escalate to 39,595 by 2025.

“A lot of growth puts a lot of pressure on infrastructure,” Holcomb said.

Noack said one of his goals as the new county commissioner is to bring more attention to the mobility concerns of the Rayford Road area and develop a plan to address those concerns.

“From a residential standpoint, the east side of I-45 is going to see the strongest residential growth in Montgomery County,” Noack said. “I am working on a major thoroughfare and road plan, and no doubt I want to do everything I can to keep traffic moving out there.”

Among the improvements Noack said could potentially ease congestion along Rayford Road would be a west-to-northbound direct connector from Rayford Road onto the Hardy Toll Road.

“That would pull so many cars out of that Rayford Road line,” he said.

As Noack and other mobility planners look for ways to ease congestion in a rapidly growing population segment, real estate developers will continue to take advantage of a shifting focus of development.

“All of the dynamics are pushing growth somewhere other than The Woodlands right now,” Beard said.


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