Urban amenities reach Lake Houston area Generation Park will feature bars and restaurants at build-out.[/caption]

Trendy restaurants and entertainment options for young adults and families are on the way as the Lake Houston area progresses from a suburban area to more of an urban community.

The region will see the opening of a three-part entertainment and live music venue near Fall Creek, a Main Event in Humble, two movie theaters, a water park in New Caney and numerous new restaurants among three walkable developments in 2017.   

Coupled with commercial developments that are bringing more primary jobs to the Lake Houston area,  residents could soon have fewer reasons to travel inside Loop 610, said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership.

“Once you reach this critical mass you can have people who live in the suburbs that never have to drive into downtown Houston for any reason, unless they have jury duty or [want to attend] a major league baseball game,” Jankowski said.

Urban amenities reach Lake Houston area Whiskey Thumper will open in February.[/caption]

New options near home

Nightlife options in the area could pick up early in February, when an entertainment venue opens that will feature a Las Vegas-style club in a country music setting and a restaurant as well as a cigar lounge and a barbershop, managing owner Clint Smith said.

White Lightning, a nightclub at the venue, will feature three bars, including a 70-foot bar with more than 700 bottles of bourbon, whiskey and moonshine; a craft beer bar; and a daiquiri bar. Patrons will be able to walk directly to White Lightning from Whiskey Thumper, a restaurant and bar on-site that will serve Southern comfort food and wild-game hot dogs. The venue also includes a barbershop called Huckleberry’s, Smith said.

The Lake Houston area could grow into an entertainment hub, Smith said

“It is only the beginning of what the community is going to see for a better choice of venue,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, the developers of Generation Park—a 4,000-acre mixed-use development near Summerwood—are planning new nightlife and restaurant options just four miles east of Smith’s entertainment venue.

Generation Park’s lifestyle district, Redemption Square, will host at least four restaurants and some bars by its build-out in 2018, said Ryan McCord, president of McCord Development, the developer of Generation Park.

McCord prioritized bringing an urban feel to the development during the design process and while selecting tenants, McCord said.

“Part of our philosophy of development is that people like [walkable  developments] more than driving up to a storefront, chain-type restaurant that you can find anywhere in America,” McCord said.

Several family-oriented entertainment and dining options are planned in or around the area too.

The region’s first Main Event location is scheduled to open in Humble in May, Humble Mayor Merle Aaron said, while Big Rivers—a 40-acre water park inspired by Texas rivers—is projected to open this summer at the Grand Texas Theme Park in New Caney, Grand Texas CEO Monty Galland said.

In Kingwood, several locally owned restaurants, like Tularosa Southwestern Grill, opened in 2016,  while popular dining spots like Torchy’s Tacos are planned for spring 2017 in mixed-use development Main Street Kingwood. Main Street Kingwood, which is located at the intersection of Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway, will feature Pie Five Pizza and Tenzen Steak Sushi and Bar when its second phase opens this spring.

Urban amenities reach Lake Houston areaA changing community

The Lake Houston area, like many other suburbs in the Greater Houston area, is beginning to diversify in the developments it attracts as it matures, Jankowski said.

Once retail developers selected the area because of its rapid population growth, it was only a matter of time before restaurants and office buildings preceded additional entertainment options, he said. The Lake Houston area is projected to reach 288,599 residents by 2020, an increase in population of more than 60,000 in 10 years, according to the
2010 U.S. Census.

“[A live music venue is] a sign that the demographics are fully fleshed out, that demographically, the area can support an entertainment venue,” Jankowski said.

The Lake Houston area’s selection of restaurants was initially limited by the lack of a lucrative business lunch crowd, Houston City Council Member Dave Martin said. Martin’s district includes Kingwood and portions of Atascocita and Summerwood.

Now, corporations that offer primary jobs are moving to mixed-use developments, such as Generation Park and Valley Ranch, which is just north of Kingwood in New Caney, that offer Class A office space.

While FMC Technologies relocated to Generation Park in 2016, Apache Industrial Services will move its headquarters to the development in June.

With the expansion of the health care market and Insperity in Kingwood, the area has a better base to attract more sit-down restaurants, Martin said.

Urban amenities reach Lake Houston areaCompeting for millennials

More restaurants and entertainment options allow even older neighborhoods in the Lake Houston area like Kingwood to attract a growing number of millennial families, Martin said. 

Between 2010 and 2015, the number of adults between 20 and 34 years old in the Lake Houston area grew to 42,997, an increase of more than 3,000 people, according to census data.

“If you look at Kingwood, it was developed in the ’70s,” Martin said. “A lot of folks who originally moved into the neighborhood are now retired. We’re trying to attract millennials and young families. You need to provide entertainment options and good restaurants.”

Urban amenities reach Lake Houston areaHowever, some residents are worried additional nightclubs will bring more foot traffic from outside the community, which could increase crime, he said. Others, he said, hope the Lake Houston area retains its quality of life and natural foliage as development continues.

“We have to enforce the restrictive covenants of the neighborhoods,” Martin said. “We need to make sure when we work with developers—like when we worked with Main Street [Kingwood]—we provide input to them as far as what we want in those establishments and what we don’t want in those establishments.”

However, Martin said he believes the Lake Houston area needs to continue to attract millennials if it wants to remain competitive with surrounding suburbs. Demand from young families allows home values to continue to rise, he said.

“If the Lake Houston area does not have these options, we will lose young families to The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Katy and other areas surrounding us,” Martin said. “So we better get on board, and we better understand that the new generation of young adults with children are going to be important to regenerating our neighborhoods and important to what our home values are going to be.”