There are seven apartment communities under construction or recently completed in the Lake Conroe area, accounting for about 1,900 new apartment units. Four developments have also announced plans for multifamily housing in the coming years, accounting for an additional 655 new units, according to a study by Community Development Strategies, a market research firm.
If filled to capacity, the additional housing could accommodate more than 6,550 new residents of the Lake Conroe area, according to the study—which was an economic development forecast conducted for the Lake Conroe Summit 2017 in April.
“You are starting to get apartment complexes in the Lake Conroe area that are more up to date in terms of quality,” CDS President Steve Spilette said. “They are similar to what you see closer in to Houston. We noticed that a lot of the new projects that have opened up in the Hwy. 105 area and the southwest section of Loop 336 are Class A quality projects.”
Developers have positioned incoming multifamily developments along major roadways, such as Loop 336 and Hwy. 105, that have easy access to major employment sectors, CDS Senior Market Analyst Michael Prats said.
According to the CDS study, there are three apartment developments—Anatole at the Pines, Capri at the Villas and Conroe 336 apartments—along Loop 336 east of I-45, and another long-term multifamily project is expected to break ground at Grand Central Park at that intersection in the coming years.
“Developers don’t like risk. The least risky place to develop at is where the jobs are, like around the Conroe Regional Medical Center,” Prats said. “I think that could be an area where more multifamily could occur in the short term.”
Additional multifamily housing projects can be found along Hwy. 105 near the Waterpoint Marina—a mixed-use development on Hwy. 105 that boasts numerous retail employment options in its vicinity. New apartments are also located along Hwy. 105 near rapid commercial development that will create employment opportunities in the Montgomery area near Lone Star Parkway, according to the CDS study.
As Montgomery continues to develop and create jobs, Spilette said having diverse housing options will help the community support the necessary workforce that is needed by local employers—such as retail employees, teachers and entry-level office workers.
“You have a lot of retail and health care and other kinds of service industry growth that serve the local population,” Spilette said. “Jobs in some of those industries may not pay as much in a lot of cases, but a lot of the people who work those jobs need rental housing. That is going to increase demand.”
Benefits for Conroe
Rapid employment growth in the Conroe area in recent years has primarily been fueled by growth in the medical industry as well as trade, transportation and utilities, professional services, leisure and hospitality, transportation and construction, according to Texas Workforce Solutions. Those industries have created more than 35,000 new jobs in Montgomery County since 2009.
The growth in job creation, particularly among white-collar positions, has led to an increase in the number of employees who commute into Conroe for work from other communities, Conroe City Administrator Paul Virgadamo said.
“Conroe is beginning to see more people driving into town to go to work; that used to be the other way around,” Virgadamo said. “There are a lot of employment opportunities here, the growth is here, and I believe that is attracting more people. We are growing.”
Nicole Trevino, office manager at Anatole at the Pines apartment complex, said the complex’s location near incoming retail developments, such as those at Grand Central Park, and the Conroe Regional Medical Center, is a draw for residents who want to live near retail or their workplaces. The apartment community opened in October on South Loop 336 and is leasing units.
“This is a gorgeous area,” she said. “We are also right off of I-45, so no matter where people have to travel to go to work, we are going to be very close. We definitely market out to those hospitals because who doesn’t want to live two minutes from their job?”
Having more affordable homes in the area helps economic development initiatives as local officials work to recruit additional companies and employers to the city, said Fred Welch, Greater Conroe Economic Development Council executive director.
“The question will come up if there are areas where their employees—whether they be at an entry level or a senior level—can find housing that will meet the needs of their family and help them grow,” Welch said. “In that respect, having high-quality housing that is affordable is one of those attributes that makes any community stand out when they are trying to attract or retain new business.”
The affordability of the additional housing could be a boon to the Lake Conroe region, where average homes cost about $250,000 per year or more, said Shannan Reid, Montgomery Economic Development Corporation director.
She said ensuring the incoming retail workforce can afford to live in Montgomery is necessary for those businesses to succeed—particularly in the retail sector that is experiencing rapid growth in Montgomery. New and incoming businesses in the community include a Kroger Marketplace, McCoy’s Building Supply and numerous other businesses along Hwy. 105, particularly near the intersection with Lone Star Parkway.
“I don’t know if multifamily is the only solution to our need, but we need a range,” Reid said. “For example, let’s say they need employees to open Kroger. Do we have people in the retail trade area of Montgomery living in a $250,000 home that are ready to go to work for entry-level positions at Kroger?”
Even though numerous apartment communities are being built in the Conroe area, Reid said traffic congestion, red lights and employment opportunities between the two cities makes it increasingly difficult to recruit employees to Montgomery from Conroe.
Because of this, Reid said the need for multifamily housing differs from that of more urban communities because Montgomery does not have a major urban center where walkability is essential. Instead, she said multifamily housing makes it possible for the necessary workforce that operates local businesses to afford to live in Montgomery.
“When we build multifamily housing out here, it is to serve a different purpose, walkability is not in it because we are not near an urban center,” Reid said. “So the goal of multifamily housing then becomes profitability for developers and to get that quantity of people for the workforce of people that we have.”