The opening of two new Grand Parkway segments in the Tomball area is bringing developers to the far northwest, largely undeveloped parts of Harris County. Construction is starting to take off on a string of projects across a variety of development types, including residential, commercial and health care.
Segments F-1 and F-2 of the Grand Parkway opened to drivers in February, connecting Hwy. 290 through Cypress and Tomball to I-45 North. Transportation officials are predicting the economic boost along the new segments will follow a similar pattern to the boost given to the Katy area after Segment E opened in December 2013.
“Over the next five to 10 years, I would expect that you’re going to see some changes, similar to what has been observed in Katy,” said David Gornet, executive director of the Grand Parkway Association. “You’re not necessarily going to start seeing strip malls springing up everywhere, but you can expect to see more retail and office development to cater to the incoming residential communities.”
Local economic development officials said they expect the Grand Parkway to be a game changer, and the total economic value added to the region is hard to measure.
“Tomball today—and even in the past—has been at a crossroads,” said Bruce Hillegeist, president of the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce. “Hwy. 249 and FM 2920 has been kind of Tomball’s heart with Four Corners. And if you look just south now, the Grand Parkway and [Hwy.] 249 is another major crossroads.”
Even before the tollway opened to the public, developers began buying land around the area with the hopes that diverted traffic would push drivers to the region to make it a highly visible corridor for new businesses and homes.
“What we’re looking at is a strategic location essentially in the middle between [Hwy.] 290 and I-45,” said Kelly Violette, executive director of the Tomball Economic Development Corporation. “The locational benefit of Tomball has really come into focus because of the Grand Parkway. Being able to get to [Hwy.] 290 in about 10 minutes, and to I-45 in about 10 minutes, is really kind of something that we’re really marketing, and we’re seeing a lot of interest.”
[polldaddy poll=9434333]One such project is the 63-acre Grand Parkway Town Center, located at the southwest corner of the Grand Parkway and Hwy. 249 intersection. The property, managed by NewQuest Properties, will feature more than 370,000 square feet of retail space and 15 pad sites, including the community’s first Sam’s Club location. A NewQuest site plan created by the property management company features several proposed retailers, including Kroger, a Cracker Barrel, a Dick’s Sporting Goods and Starbucks.
Austin Alvis, an associate with NewQuest Properties, could not confirm any additional tenants aside from Sam’s Club. However, he said the property site was ideal for the center because of its accessibility from multiple communities.
“The site is a highly successful, highly visible location and great for retailers that want to hit a very large trade area,” Alvis said. “It’s a what we call a super-regional intersection because you’ve got the new Grand Parkway, which connects communities from south of Cypress all the way up to The Woodlands.”
Violette said a number of prospective companies are looking at land in Tomball for the same reasons.
“A good majority of the prospect meetings that I’ve had have been with companies that are interested particularly in that Grand Parkway and [Hwy.] 249 area,” Violette said. “I think we’re definitely going to see a lot of that get developed over the next 18-24 months.”
In May 2015, the city of Tomball approved a limited purpose annexation agreement for the 153-acre tract where the Grand Parkway Town Center will be located that will allow the city to collect 2 cents of sales and use tax revenue from future businesses in the area. Violette said the city has no projections yet on how much revenue the center could generate after opening.
“I know that negotiations with that limited purpose annexation [are] still ongoing, and it’s going to depend on what types of businesses actually go in there,” she said. “Sam’s Club is obviously a big generator, but I have not seen any projections that the city has disclosed.”
However, for some landowners, growth is not necessarily beneficial. Graceview Baptist Church, located at the southeast corner of Hwy. 249 and the Grand Parkway, gave up an area of land for the roadway and is essentially landlocked as a result, preventing any future expansion, Associate Pastor Donnie Philips said.
“[The church was] definitely directly impacted by the Grand Parkway because [the Grand Parkway developers] took 4 acres of our land as well as our education building,” Phillips said. “We know we’re landlocked [at] this location, but we also know that the positive of this is our prime real estate corner.”
Philips said the church is in negotiations with prospective buyers but could not say when a land sale would take place or how much the area is worth. However, he said the church would likely relocate to another location within Tomball.
“We’re looking to move west within four to five minutes from where we are now,” Phillips said.
In addition to new businesses, county officials and health care providers are also looking at the Hwy. 249 and Grand Parkway area as a way to reach more residents in northwest Houston.
In March, Harris County officials confirmed the purchase of more than 300 acres of land located just south of the Grand Parkway near Holderrieth Road that will serve as a county annex for a proposed constable’s office, a justice of the peace and an administration building.
Harris County Precinct 4 Communications Director Mark Seegers said construction on the new annex is likely years away, but it would allow the county to serve more residents as it grows. The land will also be home to the future Lone Star College-Tomball Oil & Gas Training Center as well as a proposed second location of the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts.
Near the border of Tomball and Spring, Memorial Hermann Health Systems is also expanding services by constructing a clinic near Boudreaux Road at the Grand Parkway.
The 30,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in early 2017 and will be the sixth convenient care center for Memorial Hermann. It will feature primary care physicians, an imaging center, a 24-hour emergency room and a sports medicine and rehabilitation department.
“We chose the location at the Grand Parkway and Boudreaux Road due to tremendous commercial and residential growth in the area,” said Justin Kendrick, vice president of operations of Memorial Hermann The Woodlands. “Our mission is to advance health by bringing health care services into the communities close to where people work and live. The convenient care center in Spring will do just that by providing high-quality care that is easily accessible and convenient and most important, close to home.”
Tomball ISD is also preparing to accommodate a higher student population as the area around the district grows. Two new schools—Oakcrest Intermediate and Wildwood Elementary—opened last August.
Both schools were constructed with a $34.5 million portion of the district’s 2001-09 bonds . The district is expected to grow to more than 20,000 students in the next decade, TISD Chief Administrative Officer Chris Trotter said.
Retail projects typically come after residential construction, Gornet said, and a number of new and expanding neighborhoods have already begun putting new houses on the market.
“A lot of bigger names in retail are looking for a certain number of rooftops before they open,” Gornet said. “There’s also a lot more work from a developer standpoint that needs to get done to move a retail project forward.”
Neighborhoods, such as Rosehill Reserve, Dellrose, Hayden Lakes and Willow Creek Ranch, are quickly expanding to keep up with an expected increase in residential demand. The neighborhoods will add close to 3,000 new homes to the area at build-out.
Lakes at Creekside, located north of the Grand Parkway near FM 2978, is under development by J. Alan Kent Development and opened model homes to prospective buyers earlier this year. The company is looking to attract residents hoping to live close to the area’s major corridors and surrounding amenities, said Vanessa Kent Stroberg, a manager with the development group.
“We saw the impact of Beltway 8 when it came in and the development that came around it,” she said. “We know that the impact of the Grand Parkway is going to be the same—you can see it happening now.”
Additional reporting by Shawn Arrajj