Developers attracted to Lake Houston area amid plans for $4 billion facelift at George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Construction will begin on the $1.5 billion Mickey Leland International Terminal, which will replace Terminal D, in 2017.

Construction will begin on the $1.5 billion Mickey Leland International Terminal, which will replace Terminal D, in 2017.

Plans for a $4 billion renovation of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport over the next decade are driving economic development throughout the Lake Houston area.

The airport is overhauling four of its five terminals—including an international terminal—adding 120 restaurants and stores and more than
2,000 new parking spaces, said Jarrett Simmons, assistant director of aviation, capital projects and planning for the Houston Airport System.

The new restaurants will open within a year and include Greater Houston area eateries, such as The Breakfast Klub, Hubcap Grill and Mexican restaurant Hugo’s, Simmons said. Italian restaurant Tony’s opened within the airport in early August.

Meanwhile, five large-scale projects with industrial components are under development near the airport in Humble, according to the Lake Houston Economic Development Partnership.  

“[The airport is] a primary driver of jobs in the Lake Houston area,” said Charlie Dromgoole, senior vice president of economic development for the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce. “Not just the airport and jobs created by the airport but businesses that utilize the airport in their daily operations. So it’s critical to our economy.”  

IAH plans $4 billion faceliftIAH plans $4 billion faceliftRevamped terminals

In addition to retail and restaurant enhancement, the airport terminals will receive massive makeovers.

Construction on the $244 million renovation of domestic Terminal C is projected to be complete in March, Simmons said. The 265,000-square-foot terminal is 100,000 square feet larger than the previous Terminal C, according to United Airlines. The remodel is a joint project between the Houston Airport System, the city of Houston and United.

Construction on the $1.5 billion Mickey Leland International Terminal, which will replace Terminal D, is expected to begin before the end of 2017, Simmons said. An architect will be hired to design the project before the end of the fall, he said. The planned terminal will be 780,000 square feet.

Once terminals C and D are completed, the airport will shift its focus to terminals A and B, he said.

“We’re in the planning stages of a complete remodel of Terminal A, and also we’re working with United Airlines on two more concourses for Terminal B, which will replace the last boarding gates [at the airport that were constructed in] the 1960s,” Simmons said.

The projects are necessary to accommodate for rapid growth in visitor traffic at Bush Intercontinental, Simmons said. The international airport had 42 million travelers come through in 2015—a 2 million passenger increase from 2014.  

Industrial growth

As developers have built around the airport, coveting access to Beltway 8 and Hwy. 59, the Lake Houston area has become a hub for logistics, transportation and industrial development over the past half decade, Dromgroole said. At least three industrial parks and two mixed-use tracts of land near Bush Intercontinental are being developed.  

The airport’s expansion is beneficial for developers purchasing land in the area, said Christopher Gongolas, a partner for Edge Development Partners.

Edge is the developer of the 72-acre International Tech Park Houston, which will begin construction early in 2017.

While International Tech will not benefit directly from the airport vendors due to the expansion, Gongolas said it shows that demand is increasing as the Lake Houston area experiences rapid population growth. Edge, formerly known as Endres Commercial, owned the land that comprises Industrial Tech Park for nearly two decades before development commenced. 

“That area of town was not ready for development—now it is,” Gongolas said. “Northeast Houston is on fire. It took quite a while for the market to catch up to where it needs to be.”

The three business parks under development—IAH Humble Business Center, the 113-acre Gateway North Business Park and International Tech—plan to take advantage of proximity to an international airport and easy access to the Port of Houston through Beltway 8, said Steve Adkisson, owner of the Adkisson Group, which is developing IAH Humble Business Center.

The 16-acre IAH Humble Business Center is under construction at the southeast corner of Will Clayton Parkway and South Houston Avenue. Adkisson said demand for industrial space has remained strong.

“We’re in Phase 1, which is eight buildings, and we’re slated for another six buildings for Phase 2,” Adkisson said.

IAH plans $4 billion faceliftRetail, sales tax boon

The development of the airport and surrounding area has offered residual benefits for retail outlets in the Lake Houston area as travelers and employees become frequents shoppers at Deerbrook Mall and other big-box stores along FM 1960, Humble City Manager Darrell Boeske said.

Humble, which depends on sales tax revenue to balance its budget, receives thousands of out-of-town shoppers and several tenants who pay hotel occupancy taxes each month because of its proximity to the airport, Boeske said.

Sales tax revenue accounted for about $13 million of the city of Humble’s projected revenue of $28.3 million for
2016-17, according to the budget. Humble also projects to receive more than $500,000 in 2016-17 hotel taxes, which helps fund tourism activities, such as the Humble Civic Center, museums and marketing for big events, City Secretary Jason Stuebe said.

“[The Humble economy benefits from] all of the services that support an airport enterprise—everything from catering to cleaning services to freight forwarding companies and all the people that support the freight forwarding companies, signage, rental cars, fleets,” Boeske said. “Houston is a great destination and we’re right next door.”