Diverse demographics reveal need for multifamily choices
As both Tomball and Magnolia experience growth, city officials recognize the need for a wider variety of housing options to satisfy increasingly varied demographics of people moving to the area. The new Exxon Mobil campus just south of The Woodlands in Springwoods Village, new Baker Hughes training facility in Tomball and a potential Lone Star College campus in Magnolia have caused officials to consider what can be done moving forward to ensure the projected population growth can be accommodated.
"We want to be able to meet the needs of residents who are at different points in their life cycles," said Deborah Rose Miller, Magnolia's economic development coordinator. "We are a community of rooftops, but we don't have enough rental homes."
Construction has begun or will start soon on several new multifamily complexes within the Magnolia area, but outside of city limits. Landmark of Magnolia at 5402 FM 1488 is expected to open later this year.
At the same time, Tomball city council received a proposal from Trammell Crow Residential to build a multifamily development at the northeast corner of Hwy. 249 and Holderrieth Road. Although there are already around 15 apartment complexes in the greater Tomball area, the occupancy rate across those complexes is about 95 percent, said Sean Rae, vice president of development with Trammell Crow.
"A 90–92 percent rate is healthy, but 95 percent is exceptional," he said. "Market research shows that the demand is here. With Baker Hughes and Exxon Mobil coming to the area, it will only get stronger."
The city's long-term goals involve a greater transition from being a community of single-family detached homes to a diverse collection of rural, suburban and semi-urban neighborhoods. An entire chapter of Magnolia's comprehensive plan is dedicated to housing and neighborhood development, which examines how to adjust to changing demographics. With more young professionals and empty nesters looking to come to the area—as well as students, pending voter approval of the LSC bond—the Magnolia population's needs are becoming more diverse, Miller said.
"If a Lone Star College center opens here, that could bring as many as 3,500 students to the area," she said. "We want those students to be able to live here."
Long-term plans in Magnolia also involve developing a Magnolia Unity Plaza within city limits, which could include mixed-use residential space for rent, Miller said.
At an April 15 city council meeting, Trammell Crow presented its proposal for a new multifamily complex and council members were given the chance to ask questions, many of which were on behalf of residents.
"I think the most common question was 'Why do we need more apartments in Tomball?'" said Mayor Gretchen Fagan. "It looks like a quality project that will meet the demand for rental space that we are seeing."
Fagan and Tomball Chamber president Bruce Hillegeist spoke at an Exxon Mobil employee relocation fair in Fairfax, Va., in April. As many as 4,000 people are expected to relocate to The Woodlands area campus.
"In the Tomball/Magnolia area, we're seeing the greatest growth," said Oscar Gonzales with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene. "That area shows the most potential for economic and housing development. We're already seeing it."
The preliminary site plan for the complex includes 376 multifamily units within a 19-acre gated area. The site would feature a strip center and restaurants.
"I haven't been an advocate for apartments in our municipality, but I think this makes a lot of sense as long it stays high-end and doesn't put a bind on our schools and services," said councilman Derek Townsend.