PEDC lays blueprint for Hwy. 35 development

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In June, the Pearland Economic Development Corporation unveiled the Hwy. 35 Corridor Redevelopment Strategy, a plan that targets growth in an area of the city that Mayor Tom Reid said is 65 percent undeveloped property.

The strategy is a proposed amendment to the Pearland 20/20 Community Strategic Plan, which was approved in 2013. The PEDC also developed the 20/20 plan, which aimed to optimize the development potential of the city, including an emphasis on three principle corridors: Hwy. 35, Hwy. 288 and FM 518.

PEDC officials presented the final Hwy. 35 plan to City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission at a public hearing June 20.

“The purpose of the strategy is to distinguish the existing conditions of the corridor and its market area, identify challenges and opportunities for redevelopment, and propose a framework of goals for investment and implementation of its recommendations toward a vision for the overall corridor,” PEDC President Matt Buchanan said. “That vision is to create a high-quality and consistently designed employment and business environment with compatible land uses and supportive amenities.”

Reid, who has been a Pearland resident since 1965, said the proposed Hwy. 35 corridor improvements are long overdue. He said Texas Department of Transportation projects completed in 2014 to widen the thoroughfare jump-started the area’s potential.

“The improvements along Hwy. 35 have been marginal since about the 1960s,” Reid said. “The improvements TxDOT made improved the look of the area by about 50 percent. Now, we’re hoping to improve it by another 35 to 40 percent so that it looks more like Pearland Parkway and more upscale businesses will want to relocate there.”

Catalyst concepts

The Hwy. 35 strategy features five catalyst concepts. Among the ideas are northern entryways, streetscape improvements, a pair of business parks, restaurant and entertainment, and a new residential community.

“As the EDC, we’re always looking to recruit more businesses, build our business environment and grow our tax base,” Buchanan said. “This [plan]gives us a guide map—a very big picture—of different projects that can be carried out in the corridor. There’s really not one project that will transform a corridor, but countless projects that will be implemented over many years. When these plans are done, that will change the face of the corridor. This is the starting point.”

Buchanan said the first catalyst concept includes landscaping and the addition of new, larger entryway monuments to create a “high-quality setting” along the corridor. Reid said aesthetic improvements are important to attract upscale businesses since the area already has the high amount of traffic prospective businesses look for. The plan’s steering committee, which was made up of developers as well as property and business owners in the corridor, echoed the sentiment.

Brandon Dansby, PEDC board member and Pearland State Bank senior vice president, said the proposed entry monuments—which will resemble those on Pearland Parkway—are needed for other reasons as well.

“You can look at this and extrapolate this into any of our entrances, whether it’s Hwy. 35, FM 518 and Hwy. 288 or Cullen Road, there’s no way of knowing that you’ve crossed over into Pearland,” he said. “There’s nothing dynamic [marking city entrances].”

Attracting business

Pearland also intends to spur development with strategies to build business parks featuring office buildings.

“It’s really trying to build on the businesses and companies we have existing in the corridor and trying to better utilize the vacant ground that still exists in the corridor to attract other high-quality businesses,” Buchanan said.

The PEDC plans to encourage further investment along the corridor through continued partnerships.

“Leveraging public and private investment and providing or improving infrastructure to help ready the area for investment and supporting enhancements will improve the character and image of the corridor as being a desirable business and employment environment,” Buchanan said. “Such investments can stimulate continued interest through its area of influence and positively affect the image and sense of place, market appeal and overall taxable value of the area.”

Previous private-public efforts include the 1997 and 2015 corridor development by Kemlon Products and FloWorks, respectively.

Kemlon Products broke ground on its engineering and manufacturing facility after the city provided a seven-year tax abatement, extended water and sewer lines to the property and provided $70,000 to Kemlon for its 78,000-square-foot initial facility.

FloWorks broke ground on its 225,000-square-foot warehouse and operations facility in 2015 inside a reinvestment zone along the corridor, Buchanan said. The zone includes utility and infrastructure investments by the city and EDC that has been used to attract new development. FloWorks also received a tax abatement.

The Hwy. 35 strategy also plans to attract outdoor restaurants or food courts unique to the Greater Houston area. Food trucks could be part of the development, officials said.

In addition to attracting new development, the plan proposes redevelopment and repurposing of historic buildings and the removal of other outdated buildings for residential, commercial and community use.

Next steps

Ricker-Cunningham and Kimley-Horn presented the initial recommendations at an April 25 open house. About 60 people attended the meeting, officials said. The consulting firms completed interviews, focus groups and steering committee meetings in addition to market analysis to gather information for the strategy.

Reid said the proposed improvements are meant to provide for the needs of future population growth.

“The Hwy. 35 Redevelopment Strategy is intended to supplement existing zoning regulations that will foster economic development and urban revitalization by directing growth and development along the corridor,” Pearland Community Development Director Lata Krishnarao said.

Buchanan said community input has been favorable for the proposed amendment, and additional community participation is encouraged.

The EDC and P&Z have approved the proposed strategy, and City Council will adopt the plan July 25, officials said. The Hwy. 35 strategy will be implemented once approved. Funding sources for proposed projects are still being determined, officials said.

Buchanan said Pearland will need to continue to update its future development strategies as the population grows and the landscape shifts.

“As the community ages, it will always have to reinvent itself because the economy changes, business needs change, consumer preferences change and real estate will become obsolete over time,” he said. “A corridor like this—a commercial heart of your community—will always be undergoing change to stay relevant in the modern economy.”

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