Hwy. 288 driving another wave of economic expansion

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With substantial completion of the Hwy. 288 toll lanes project less than a year away, residents and business owners alike are eager to see fewer lane closures and construction cones. But in the wake of the project, even more development is expected to come to the already built-up corridor.

“It’s going to be a game-changer for Pearland and change the tapestry of the whole community,”  Pearland Chamber of Commerce President Carol Artz-Bucek said.

Once complete, the expressway project, which is adding four toll lanes down the median of Hwy. 288 from CR 60 to Hwy. 59 near downtown Houston, is expected to make commuting to and from Pearland and Brazoria County much more efficient, which will spur continued population and economic growth, local leaders say.

The project is also creating opportunities to the north and south of Pearland, the effects of which are yet to be fully understood.

“It’s going to open up much more commerce for Pearland but for other areas as well, being right off [Hwy.] 288,” Artz-Bucek said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

‘Worth the wait’

The toll lane project has been under construction for just over a year and promises to increase mobility throughout the county, but it has presented headaches in the short term.

“Showing anybody the corridor is a bit challenging. People who do investment and development get it—that this is what progress looks like,” said Matt Buchanan, president of the Pearland Economic Development Corporation. “They know it’s coming. The light is at the end of the tunnel.”

The toll lanes are on track to be finished by July, Brazoria County engineer Matt Hanks said, but that does not mean construction crews will be gone for good. Work will remain on the new frontage road between Broadway Street and Magnolia Parkway, as will the Broadway-Hwy. 288 intersection.

To avoid the holiday traffic, that intersection will be closed for two days starting Jan. 4, Hanks said.

“We do appreciate everyone’s patience. It’s going to be worth the wait,” Hanks said.

On top of those projects, the PEDC is sponsoring $15 million in corridor beautification and branding that will provide the finishing touches to the new roadway, including landscaping, irrigation, lighting, water fountains, sculptures and gateway signage, all of which will take about a year to fully construct after the tollway wraps up.

The corridor has already been a boon for Brazoria County, which is experiencing rapid economic and population growth, said Gary Basinger, president of the Economic Development Alliance for Brazoria County. The county’s sales tax revenue, an indicator of commercial activity, increased 65 percent from 2013 to 2018.

On the horizon

According to developers and real estate brokers, the completion of the toll lanes and side projects will be a welcome milestone, and several projects are set to pick up momentum.

“More density will come in. I think you’ll see more people coming to the area in general just because of the ease of access. More people, more users—it’ll continue to increase,” said Allen Crosswell, a partner with NewQuest Properties who brokers all of the commercial space around Shadow Creek Ranch. “The trophy piece for us is the Reserve at Shadow Creek Ranch.”

That property, one of five commercial reserves in Shadow Creek Ranch, is 200 acres on the Hwy. 288 frontage road at Discovery Bay Boulevard. It has about 33 acres remaining for development. The site already has an Encompass Health facility, and AMD Asset Holdings LLC has plans for a 110,000-square-foot, four-story office building catering to medical tenants. A retail strip anchored by Rooms To Go is also in NewQuest’s plans for the reserve.

On the other side of Discovery Bay, NewQuest expects a LaQuinta Inn hotel adjacent to the Sam’s Club and has a few smaller retail sites planned.

A new off-ramp from Hwy. 288 will allow cars to exit directly onto Discovery Bay, making both of these properties ideally situated, broker Brad Lybrand said.

Ashton Gray Development, a newcomer to the Pearland market, expects to bring two retail centers, one on Business Center Drive and another on Hwy. 288. But its biggest project will be a Tru by Hilton Hotels—a brand designed to appeal to millennials—just south of Pearland Town Center and set to break ground in 2019. The hotel would bring an additional 100 beds to the Town Center, which already has a Courtyard by Marriott.

“The area has seen a lot of growth and the location, right at the town center, made a lot of sense for us,” said Shaun Vembuddy, president of Ashton Gray and a partner on the hotel project. “We were also able to get possibly one of the last sites on the [Hwy.] 288 frontage for retail in front of Sam’s.”

Just inside the Harris County line, the Ivy District is expected see internal road work begin in the next two months, Buchanan said. On the other side of Hwy. 288, the brokerage firm Weitzman has just over 16 acres on the market.

Inside Beltway 8, the City Park development, which has 1,800 homesites—about 200 remain to be built—and about 800 multifamily units, is creating a new hub of activity, said Sam Yager III, the executive vice president for Sam Yager Inc.

“This is workforce housing. It’s priced to be a little lower than what you might see in Pearland, and it’s really filling a need and a big hole that we had in South Houston,” Yager said.

Developers with Read King have plans for a significant retail hub inside the community fronting Hwy. 288 with a large grocery anchor. City Park has also attracted some of its own retail and a hotel, but Yager said it is not intended to compete head-to-head with Pearland, about 3 miles to the south.

“You look at normal spacing between hubs, 3-5 miles, that’s where we’re at. … But this was a food desert, a retail desert, and [Houston] was losing potential sales tax because of that, so we’ll see the fruits of our labor as retail builds out here,” Yager said.

Emerging potential

South of Pearland, Manvel and Iowa Colony are poised to benefit from the increased capacity on Hwy. 288.

“It’ll lift the other properties to the south, definitely,” Crosswell said. “You’ll see more retail, more master plans.”

NewQuest is handling 10 acres of commercial reserves for Pomona along Mustang Bayou, Lybrand said.

Beyond the build-out of dense retail and residential development along the highway, the completion of the toll lanes sets up a new chapter for the county altogether, Basinger said.

“Having the toll lanes brings us one step closer to being able to have the Grand Parkway brought through there, and that’s really when we’ll see a big shift,” he said.

According to estimates by the Texas Department of Transportation, construction on portions of Segment B of the Grand Parkway, which will span from Fort Bend County to Brazoria County, could begin in 2022.

“One of the more interesting and compelling opportunities is for large new distribution centers, with access to the parkway or up into downtown Houston through Hwy. 288,” Basinger said. “We want to diversify the economy. Pearland is leading much of the county, and we have a multi-billion-dollar petrochemical boom on the southern end—not so much in the middle.”

Construction on Beltway 8 is also slated to be completed in 2019, which will be another benefit, Buchanan said.

“That does not get talked about as much, but there are going to be huge, huge benefits for this South Houston region,” he said.

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Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.
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