The area north of I-10 along the Grand Parkway is poised for widespread residential developments in coming years spearheaded by some prominent home builders, according to industry experts.
"That whole area is very soon to be transformed into everything that you can imagine, schools to churches, everything residential," said Will Holder, president of Trendmaker Homes and past president of the Greater Houston Builders Association.
Much of the land, which stretches from the easternmost border of the city of Katy to the edge of Cy-Fair, is under contract by builders and developers, he said.
"I think that access is key but I think that the timing is also important, at a time when the southern area is pretty darn full," Holder said.
With the concrete poured for the Grand Parkway, and a December 2013 opening slated, properties throughout the area are under contract or are in negotiation, Katy AEDC President Lance LaCour said.
"The quality residential developments that are planned to be constructed along the Grand Parkway will continue to place the Katy area as the top community for growth in the Houston region and one of the top communities for growth in the U.S.," he said.
Among the most notable of the new developments, Newland Communities—the group responsible for developing Cinco Ranch—has about 4,000 acres under contract in the vicinity of Hwy. 529 and Peek Road, said David Jarvis, regional director with Metrostudy—a group that tracks property transactions for the home building industry. DR Horton has about 500 acres in the area and Lennar Homes has about 100 acres in the area, he said.
Much of the previous growth in the region has taken place south of I-10 in areas that ultimately became Cinco Ranch, CrossCreek Ranch and Firethorne.
"We see this as an extension of the Katy south market," Jarvis said.
KB Home has 60 acres at Morton Ranch and Porter roads where it is building the Katy Oaks Preserve and Katy Oaks Estates communities. Both will consist of one- and two-story single-family homes that range in size from 1,800 to 3,200 square feet, KB Homes spokeswoman Cara Kane said.
Pricing in Katy Oaks starts from the high $100s, and the builder has sold 24 homes since August, she said.
Kane said the Katy market is a very desirable area, including the properties north of I-10, primarily due to some of the amenities that residents will have the opportunity to use. In addition to convenient Grand Parkway and I-10 access, Katy Oaks residents will be near the 76-acre Mason Creek Hike and Bike Trail and less than a mile from Katy Park, she said.
Heather Gustafson, a spokeswoman for Newland Communities, said the company is still finalizing plans for its new west Houston/Katy development and could not yet release specific information.
Steve Sellers, president of Tangley Development Company, said the group is planning a residential development in the area, but there are a few outstanding development issues that make him unable to give specific information.
Near KB Home's development, Long Lake Ltd., parent company of Postwood Homes, owns land along the east side of Grand Parkway, the majority of which is north of Morton Ranch Road, said Bob Brown, a sales counselor for Long Lake. He said there are plans for a master-planned community of between 2,000 and 2,500 homes.
Katy ISD purchased land at Stockdick School and Peek roads several years before the Grand Parkway extension was approved, said Steve Stanford, a spokesman for the district. The land will be used to build a high school, middle school and elementary school.
The site is contiguous with Ventana Lakes, a 480-acre development at Clay and Peek roads, which was originally a Mischer Investments property but is now owned by DR Horton.
"The district is looking forward to seeing the proposed developments come to fruition," Stanford said.
The district will watch closely as students move into the area, and count on the proposed schools to provide needed relief for both Morton Ranch and Katy high schools, he said.
One factor that is slowing development, however, is that the location of many of the proposed communities just north of Hwy. 529 is inside 100- or 500-year floodplains, according to data from Harris County Flood Control District.
Builders and developers address such issues fairly frequently, said Holder.
"There are standard practices that allow you to dig lakes in the floodplain area and raise the area on the borders," he said.
The result, which is documented in a letter of map amendment, is that certain areas are dug out and the areas around them, where houses would be, are built up above the floodplain. One notable example is the Royal Oaks community, where lakes and reservoir space have been carved out and incorporated into a golf course, leaving the homes above the floodplain, he said.
There are also preparations for several commercial and light industrial developments in the vicinity, according to area real estate brokers.
Hart Schleicher, broker at Capital Real Estate Commercial, Inc. said his company represents a 70-acre single tenant industrial park at Peek and Clay roads, as well as an 18-acre property on Stockdick Road just south of 529.
The group is entertaining proposals for possible tenants, but nothing has been finalized yet, he said.
"I think the Grand Parkway is the biggest key to it," he said.
There is some spec warehouse distribution property but not single tenant manufacturing space, he said.