Halfway between Houston and Galveston, the largest development under a single master plan along I-45 between Dallas and Galveston Bay is underway, and officials expect it will bring thousands of residents and billions of taxable dollars to Texas City and the Greater Houston area.
The project is Lago Mar, which includes plans for over 7,000 homes, commercial and retail development, possible expansions of the area’s petrochemical wand medical industries, and a 12-acre Crystal Lagoon officials expect will increase tourism.
The project is in full swing after a dip in the economy set back plans, but builders, residents and officials know the development’s potential positive effects, and they are all thrilled.
Lago Mar will attract Texas City residents looking for an upgrade, but it will also draw in residents who do not mind commuting up to Houston or down to Galveston. NASA, medical and petrochemical workers could live in Lago Mar, said Collin Campbell, senior community development manager for Land Tejas Companies, developer of the project.
“The Clear Lake area is quickly running out of land, and we’re hoping this is the next area homebuyers will look at for housing,” Campbell said. “We thought this would be a good area to be in between the hospital district downtown and Galveston.”
LAGO MAR DETAILS
Land Tejas bought a 3,300-acre tract of land in Texas City in 2006. It took two years to get the documentation to start building, and then the market crashed.
“We obtained all our entitlements in 2008 just in time for the market to disappear for single-family residences,” Campbell said.
In 2011, Land Tejas sold a 55-acre site to a developer that built and opened a Tanger Outlet Mall on the north side of the property. About a year or two later, Land Tejas sold other sites, one of which became a Buc-ee’s, and the other of which will become an Adventure Pointe theme park, Campbell said.
“If we can provide [residents]quality attractions on their way to Galveston or create destinations that bring more people to the county, the better served we are,” Galveston County Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Clark said.
In most developments, residences are built first to attract commercial development, but because of the housing market crash, the opposite happened at Lago Mar, Campbell said.
“Our commercial led the way. We always thought the residential was gonna start first, so now the residential is catching up,” he said.
Campbell hopes a grocery chain comes to the area, but the development first needs more rooftops, he said. Texas City’s population is about 46,000.
After commercial sales, the economy recovered, and Land Tejas started developing the southeast corner of the development. About 350 houses have gone up so far, and Land Tejas hopes another 200-300 are built annually until the project is complete in more than a decade, Campbell said.
Land Tejas will include gated and nongated sections, and houses will range from about $200,000 to about $450,000, Campbell said. Texas City officials are excited residents will have a chance to live in diversified housing and not have to commute from out of the city, said Nick Finan, Texas City’s executive director of management.
“We took [the Lago Mar development]as an opportunity to get a variety of lots,” he said. “The diversity was important to us.”
Land Tejas included a 2-acre Crystal Lagoon in its Balmoral development in northeast Houston, but Lago Mar’s lagoon will be six times as big, said Tim Johnson, Land Tejas’ director of sales and marketing.
The lagoon will include sand beaches and advanced technology to keep the water clean and a crystal-clear blue. Its depth will range up to 10-12 feet deep, and its bottom will be lined similar to a swimming pool. The lagoon will have private and public access, though the public will have to pay an undetermined amount to use the lagoon, Johnson said.
“It’s pretty unique,” Campbell said.
So far, city officials and residents alike are sold on the idea of the lagoon, which is set to be complete by December and swimmable by spring 2020. The private portion of the lagoon will be open before the public part, Campbell said.
“They’re excited about it and would like to see it open sooner more than later,” he said.
Sarah Jackson and her husband moved into Lago Mar from Dickinson in September. Jackson lives on one of the lakes and is happy with the development and the lagoon.
“To be able to have that year-round and utilize that with our families—we were very excited about that,” she said.
Lago Mar also has space for hotels, restaurants, apartments and more.
“We plan on having restaurants and a hotel adjacent to the lagoon on the east side of it. Those folks that will go to the restaurants or stay at the hotel will have access [to the lagoon],” Campbell said.
Other amenities include lakes, a 3,000-square-foot clubhouse, a resort-style pool, a fitness center, a playground and a soccer field, Johnson said.
Land Tejas tends to build its developments along major roads, and considering its proximity to Houston, Galveston and the Bay Area, Texas City made for a great location, Campbell said.
“We try to purchase property on major thoroughfares that provide our residents quick access to the various business districts and employment centers on those main arteries,” he said.
Jenny Senter, president of the Texas City-La Marque Chamber of Commerce, expects Texas City’s population will grow by 20,000 once Lago Mar is built.
“I think the Lago Mar development offers people the opportunity for easy access whether you work on the island or downtown Houston,” she said.
Texas City is known for its petrochemical industry. As that and other industries grow, their employees will have options to live in Texas City without necessarily having to move to other Greater Houston area communities, Finan said.
Finan and Campbell believe Lago Mar could one day attract the health care industry to Texas City. The Bay Area farther north is home to several hospitals, and they could spread toward Galveston as Houston and surrounding communities continue to grow and attract residents, Finan and Campbell said.
Once complete, Lago Mar will provide over $2 billion in taxable value to the area, Campbell said.
“That will increase the city and the county and the colleges and the taxing base by quite a bit,” he said.
The development will also give I-45 motorists an eye-catching view of Texas City, drawing in visitors, Senter said.
“That is the new horizon for us. We’ll have a much more visible presence from I-45,” she said. “It’s a huge bonus for us to have Lago Mar development there.”
“Lago Mar is really making Texas City a destination, which is bringing in outside dollars,” he said. “It’s always great when you bring in those outside dollars to improve your community.”
An economic impact study will be complete by summer to determine details of how Lago Mar might affect the economy, Senter said.
Campbell hopes the years of planning and decade of building pay off.
“It’s one of biggest—if not the biggest—project for Land Tejas so far, and we’re hoping it will be very successful,” he said. “It all depends on the market.”
Clark believes in Lago Mar’s potential.
“It will go a long way to helping people have choice in the way they live, work and play,” he said.