The downtown area will have three new developments complete by 2024: one broke ground in April, a second will break ground this year and a third will begin in 2023. One of the developments is a 30-room boutique hotel, named the 161 Project, which will be the first hotel within Friendswood city limits and will function as its own community with apartments, office space and retail space, said Brett Banfield, co-owner of Banfield Properties, which is developing the 161 Project.
“This was always the vision for downtown,” Friendswood City Manager Morad Kabiri said. “You can’t have a robust and vibrant downtown area without residential units within close proximity.”
Along with downtown developments, the city is also putting the finishing touches on revitalizing the downtown area and planning for the city’s future by updating its comprehensive plan. Developers are also in the process of building three new master-planned communities that will add to the city’s residential growth.
Breathing life into downtown
Development in Friendswood has not always been on the rise. According to Banfield, Friendswood’s downtown area was declining in the 1980s.
“By the late ’90s and early 2000s, downtown Friendswood looked so bad that investors and lenders started turning away from it,” Banfield said.
Development in downtown, which is anchored by South Friendswood Drive, started to take off around 2015, Banfield said. This is when Banfield, as head of the city’s Community and Economic Development Committee at the time, presented his findings about the downtown area to Friendswood City Council, highlighting the amount of underdeveloped land the city was sitting on.
According to the presentation, there were 25 vacant lots and buildings throughout the city, including 734,225 square feet of vacant commercial property within a 1-mile radius of Friendswood Drive. The city generated $21,403 in property tax revenue on these properties in 2014.Since the presentation, 10 of the 17 acres of land have been redeveloped and have added $23.6 million to the commercial property tax base, Banfield said via email.
City officials expect the three developments in the works to generate a large amount of sales tax, and they said they hope to decrease the amount of property taxes residents have to pay.
“In the last 20 years or so, we’ve been focused on trying to diversify that tax base beyond residential alone, so there’s been a strong push to get some commercial growth,” Kabiri said.The three incoming downtown developments are the Albritton, the 1715 Project and the 161 Project—the former two being developed by Tannos Development Group.
The Albritton, located at 408 S. Friendswood Drive, will be a $31 million mixed-use development featuring apartments and retail, and construction will start at the end of this year. The $20 million 1715 Project, located down the street at 1715 S. Friendswood Drive, is a medical office building that broke ground in April, Tannos Development Group President Louis Tannos said. The projects will be completed in 2023 and 2024, respectively.
Meanwhile, Banfield Properties’ 161 Project will include 30 hotel rooms, retail space, office space and 30 multifamily units. The estimated $20 million development will be at 161 W. Shadowbend Ave. The 161 Project is in design, and Banfield said he hopes to break ground in early 2023 and open it by the end of 2024.
One of the main reasons for building the hotel is for Friendswood residents to be able to put their families somewhere for graduations, weddings and reunions, Foreman said.
Several downtown revitalization projects are also happening. A $3 million Texas Department of Transportation-funded project is nearing completion that consists of upgrading sidewalks, ramps, crosswalks and traffic signals on S. Friendswood Drive between FM 2351 and Whispering Pines Avenue. The project, which began June 14, is expected to finish at the end of May, according to Aubrey Harbin, Friendswood director of community development.
The city is also in the process of securing uniform street lighting and wayfinding signage to help tie everything together but will not know more about cost and timeline until later this summer, officials have said.
“It’s amazing that when you make some improvements to your downtown that way, businesses also start to come in and add to the look and feel of the downtown, and it’s sort of a snowball effect,” Foreman said.
Looking to the future
Along with the three downtown developments, city officials are also looking toward developments outside of downtown.
The city updated its previous 2008 future land use map at the end of 2021.
“The future land use map is a guide that the commission and City Council should use to make future zone change decisions,” Harbin said.
The future land use map is one part of the comprehensive plan, last updated in 1998, which is considered a living document that tells the story of Friendswood, according to Harbin. The new plan will include updates on community facilities, drainage, and the parks and recreation master plan.
Additionally, the city has three master-planned communities in the works. The three master-planned communities are the Avalon at Friendswood; Friendswood Trails; and Georgetown, which is still in the planning phase. They are expected to bring a combined 995 lots to the city, but the city still has at least 25% of land mass to develop, Kabiri said.
“Even though these projects are monumental for Friendswood given our history, there’s still projects yet to be undertaken,” Kabiri said.