Although its limits only span 4 square miles, the city of Montgomery has experienced its share of development in recent months—changing the landscape of the historically intimate bedroom community.
Much of the new commercial development is concentrated along Hwy. 105 between Buffalo Springs Drive and Stewart Creek Road, due in part to the city’s first Kroger Marketplace grocery store set to open this summer.
“I would say in the next handful of years, you won’t even recognize the intersection of [Hwy.] 105 and Lone Star Parkway,” Director of Economic Development Shannan Reid said. “It will be fully developed on all four corners, and two of them are already on the move. I suspect we will see a fully functioning Kroger center by this fall.”
While there were an estimated 750 people living within the city limits in 2015, there were as many as 44,533 residents living in the 77316 and 77356 zip codes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The figures represent an increase from the 2010 census, which showed a city population of 621, and 40,534 in the surrounding zip codes.
With a rising population comes the need for more local housing, retail and amenity options, which likewise attract the need for enhanced utilities, infrastructure and transportation, City Administrator Jack Yates said.
“The growth and development may add a little more traffic in the city, but every sales tax dollar goes to reducing our residents’ property taxes and increasing the city services we’re able to provide,” Yates said. “So yes, you may have to wait a little longer to get onto Hwy. 105, but you will have better streets to drive on and more protection for your house with additional police officers.”
A developing corridor
The catalyst for much of the ongoing development is the construction of Kroger Marketplace at the northwest corner of the Lone Star Parkway intersection with Hwy. 105, said Wade Nelson, a local commercial real estate broker working on the project. The 123,000-square-foot store is due to open in late summer, and shops in the adjoining shopping center will open soon after.
The property will also include pad sites for a Spirit of Texas Bank—which will build a gateway monument for the city—and a Burger King, Nelson said. In the future, developers will also build a second phase for the property that would include another big-box store.
“We have given the tenants the ability to open when Kroger opens,” he said. “Overall, there is a high level of interest. There is a lot of activity occurring that a lot of people aren’t aware of yet.”
The intersection will see additional development moving forward. H-E-B owns a tract of land on the southeast corner of the intersection, according to city officials. An additional 26-acre commercial development is also in the works for the southwest corner of the intersection, Nelson said, which will have a large anchor store as well.
To the east of the intersection, Nelson said he is working on property at the intersection of Stewart Creek Road and Hwy. 105. He said Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen and Sonic Drive-In are building new locations at the intersection, and Pizza Shack—which is located at 20873 Eva St., Montgomery—is already under construction there.
Construction of a McCoy’s Building Supply store is also underway at a 10-acre site at the Buffalo Springs Road and Hwy. 105 intersection. The store is expected to open in mid-2017, according to a company press release.
Nelson said incoming businesses as well as undisclosed projects under negotiation will bring needed entertainment and shopping options to the Montgomery area. However, Nelson was not able to reveal information about possible entertainment venues.
“Today, a majority of the population has to travel to Conroe or The Woodlands to go to any type of entertainment venues,” Nelson said. “Then, you are going to see additional restaurants that follow those users. There will be a couple of restaurants that come along with Kroger and H-E-B, but when you are talking about sit-down restaurants, those typically follow the entertainment.”
In addition to commercial development, the presence of medical facilities is increasing as well. Heritage Place, a property management company, is building a new development that will house offices for the Methodist Primary Care Group, Woodlands Dermatology Associates and new offices for Heritage Place itself, Heritage Place President Chris Cheatham said.
The $4 million project broke ground last summer and spans 20,000 square feet on the north side of the intersection of Houston Street and Hwy. 105. The property is due to be ready for tenants in midsummer, Cheatham said.
An expanding workforce
There are an estimated 16,040 workers who are 16 years of age and older in the Montgomery area, according to a demographic study conducted by Montgomery ISD in 2016. The largest employers are MISD and Brookshire Brothers.
However, the number of jobs is expected to grow as the new Kroger will add 115 jobs to the community in the coming months, and other businesses could account for as many as 200 estimated jobs combined, city officials said.
According to a study being conducted by Community Development Strategies, a Houston-based professional market and economic research and consulting services company, Montgomery’s population is approximately 1,000 residents with much more growth anticipated. Community Development Strategies President Steve Spillette is scheduled to deliver the findings of the study during the Lake Conroe Summit 2017 economic development conference on March 31.
“The future of the city, with new retail, single- and multifamily housing, looks to be bigger and more diverse from a population and demographic standpoint,” Spillette said. “The population growth will be able to support additional neighborhood and community-level retail and service establishments.”
Nelson said a growing population and additional employment options would also attract dining establishments to the area.
“As the city develops and more business gets located there, where people actually work, you will start seeing more of a reason for restaurant-type of use because it is kind of light right now for the lunch crowds,” Nelson said. “A lot of people are driving to The Woodlands or Conroe to go to their place of work. The dinner crowds are very strong.”
Although an estimated 75 percent of the city is undeveloped land, Yates said Montgomery City Council has heard resident concerns about the city losing its “elbow room” charm.
“Generally, the common concerns are about increased traffic and an increase in the speed of life here in Montgomery,” Yates said. “But it’s just economics and commercial development that is happening to the city. We cannot control it or stop it. So it is not a question of if we’re going to grow—we are growing.”
To address some of these concerns, Yates said the city and county are already working to mitigate foreseeable traffic congestion due to commercial development. To achieve this, the city partnered with Montgomery County precincts 1 and 2 to conduct a mobility improvement study. Officials said they expect to receive the results in early 2017. City officials believe the study will show the city is in need of more roads and increased parking in the downtown area.
The city is also working on adopting a land-use plan, which would identify parts of the city specifically designated for high- and low-density populations.
“It is not a planning and zoning map or the law, but it will be an indicator for prospective property buyers to give them an idea of what they could expect,” Yates said.
The city will also be concentrating efforts to improve the downtown area within the historic district in the near future, as it is the “heart and soul” of the city, Yates said.