Undaunted by setbacks in the housing and energy markets, Coventry Development Corporation’s 1,800-acre master-planned community, Springwoods Village, continues to develop with new retail and office space planned alongside nearly completed residential areas.
A long-range project with an estimated build-out date of 2025, Springwoods Village can support up to 15,000 residents and 50,000 employees, but the process is unfolding in stages with a focus on sustainability, CDC Senior Vice President Warren Wilson said.
“We’re fortunate to be in a good place in Houston,” Wilson said. “We’re very pleased with where we are and looking down the road the next six to 12 months.”
Although the oil and gas downturn has slowed some projects, the development—located alongside the corporate campuses of ExxonMobil and Southwestern Energy—has seen several projects break ground or open in recent months.
Residents have begun to settle in the village’s first two housing developments and apartment complex, and the area’s first hotel is operational. The local fire and emergency medical service station opened in April, and a CHI St. Luke’s Health hospital began accepting patients earlier this year. The first major retailer also has been announced: a Kroger store in The Market at Springwoods Village shopping center.
Developers and leasers said the project is on pace considering other economic factors at play, such as the negative effects of falling oil prices on the energy industry.
Earlier this year, Southwestern Energy announced it would lay off 1,100 employees—300 at the Houston headquarters on Energy Drive—after a sharp downturn in oil prices last year.
“Any developer takes that into consideration, but it isn’t a problem for us,” Wilson said.
He cited Springwoods Village’s proximity to The Woodlands, Hardy Toll Road and the Grand Parkway as incentives for businesses to move to the area. Wilson said additional tenants have not yet been announced.
“I’m sure everybody wishes that the Houston economy was stronger, but it is not a factor for us,” Wilson said. “We’re uniquely positioned and fortunate to be rolling along.”
Myeshi Briley, president of the Spring-Klein Chamber of Commerce, said she believes the current economic slump because of the oil and gas industry will end.
“We’re building a lot of health care in the area,” Briley said. “I don’t think it’s just going to be all oil and gas in that area; there is a mixture of a couple of things. I can’t wait to see it come to life and flourish.”
Construction is wrapping up on a Courtyard by Marriott hotel slated for a summer opening on Holzwarth Road.
As of late April, The Market at Springwoods Village was 71 percent leased, with Kroger confirmed as the anchor, said Abe Pacetti, vice president of investments at Regency Centers, the shopping center’s developer. The 171,000-square-foot shopping center will include a mix of local, regional and national tenants, Pacetti said.
“We’ve had a tremendous reception from the retail community, particularly restaurants, which want to serve Springwoods Village and the surrounding trade area,” Pacetti said.
Marketing materials prepared by Regency include a site plan that identifies several potential tenants, including Torchy’s Tacos, Mod Pizza and Coldstone Creamery, but Pacetti said he could not comment on or confirm those prospective tenants.
A ground breaking for the shopping center was expected in April, but weather conditions after flooding in the area have delayed the development. Pacetti said the grand opening for the center is planned for the second quarter of 2017.
“The timeline is within our original expectation,” Pacetti said. “Exxon[Mobil], CHI St. Luke’s, Southwestern Energy and the Grand Parkway are open; those drivers, coupled with the existing residential on the ground, have given us comfort to move forward with a [second quarter]2017 opening.”
Springwoods Village’s first hotel, a Marriott Residence Inn, opened in November 2015 on Holzwarth Road while a Courtyard by Marriott hotel will open alongside it later this year. Both are developed by Woodbine Development Corporation.
“We’ve been very pleased [by the progress made in]2016. It’s ramping up accordingly ahead of schedule,” said King Scovell, Woodbine vice president of development
Phase 1 of CHI St. Luke’s Health Springwoods Village Hospital opened in January on East Mossy Oaks Road. The 23-acre medical complex will eventually serve up to 50,000 workers and residents in the area. The existing six-story building includes an emergency department, four operating rooms, primary and specialty care facilities, diagnostic-imaging and medical office space for independent physicians.
“It is our goal to not only serve the needs of this growing community, but to also provide residents in North Houston and South Montgomery [counties]with easier access to ambulatory services,” said David Argueta, president of CHI St. Luke’s Health-The Woodlands, Lakeside and Springwoods Village hospitals.
Spring Fire Station No. 70 and Cypress Creek EMS Station No. 513—housed in a 19,000-square-foot building on Springwoods Village Parkway—are also now operational, Wilson said. A grand opening for the complex was held in April.
The station, a joint partnership between the Spring Fire Department and CCEMS, is the first public safety facility in the community.
Construction on the street grid and infrastructure for CityPlace, a 60-acre mixed-use area at the heart of Springwoods Village, is underway, Wilson said. CDC has partnered with The Patrinely Group on the development.
The first project to open will be The Mark at CityPlace, a 268-unit apartment building on Springwoods Plaza Drive slated to open later this year.
Wilson said plans for office projects and a full-service hotel are advancing, but no specific announcements about plans for retail, office or hotel tenants had been made as of April.
The site plan for CityPlace includes a total of 4 million square feet of commercial office space and 400,000 square feet of retail space, including several office buildings. CityPlace 1, a five-story, 149,500-square-foot building, and CityPlace 2, a 10-story, 291,000-square-foot building, have been announced.
Patrinely Group President and CEO Robert Fields said the lull in energy markets has been a factor in the pace of development, but he said he remained optimistic about the project based on strong interest from tenants.
“While the energy markets have undoubtedly slowed demand, we are very upbeat about the activity and interest in CityPlace,” Fields said.
The road infrastructure and lake planned for CityPlace were nearing completion in April.
Fields said the company hoped to have an announcement about tenants soon.
“We have experienced an overwhelming response to the retail portions of the development, and we are actively discussing plans with several significant tenants,” Fields said. “On the office side, while the market is a little off at this time, we are still seeing good activity and interest from a variety of large and small tenants.”
Downturn effects on housing
Although CDC officials said in 2014 that about 1,200 residents would be living in the community by the end of 2015, about 500 people reside within the development’s existing residential projects as of April, CDC officials said.
The community’s first two planned housing developments are nearing completion: Taylor Morrison’s 53-home Audubon Grove and Sullivan Brothers’ 88-home Harper Woods.
Springwoods Village’s first apartment complex—the 342-unit The Belvedere—opened in 2014, while work is underway on The Mark at CityPlace apartments.
“We’re actually doing really well as far as leasing,” The Belvedere leasing manager Nathan Ward said.
The Belvedere was at 70 percent occupancy in April, with 79 percent of the apartments leased, Ward said.
“If you’re going [on projections]based on two years ago compared to now, of course it’s going to be slower—the industry was better in apartments and housing,” Ward said. “It is slower across the market in general, and that’s common knowledge right now.”
Sullivan Brothers has sold and closed on 23 homes in Harper Woods and has another nine for sale, Sales Manager Karen Travelstead said.
“I think we probably were a little more optimistic that we’d be a little further along at this stage, but moving into a new community that is not already established has proven to give us a little challenge in that regard,” Travelstead said.
The company expects Harper Woods to be completed in two or three years, she said.
“We’re still seeing a lot of people coming through the doors, but there’s a little reluctance for some people since we’re in a very energy-related community there,” Travelstead said.
Travelstead said the momentum for house sales has grown recently, and developers have offered special deals on inventory homes including a year of free electricity.
Buyers include executive-level professionals from the nearby energy campuses and from CHI St. Luke’s Health Springwoods Village Hospital, she said.
Jim Ellison, vice president of sales and marketing at Taylor Morrison—which is developing Audubon Grove—said all but 11 of 53 lots on-site have been sold, and construction will wrap up this summer.
“The Houston market has been very funny,” Ellison said. “It is within our expectations, but there have been highs and lows.”
Audubon Grove expanded its offerings to include smaller houses after gauging customer demand, Ellison said. Houses range in size from 3,200 to 5,400 square feet, he said.
“What we’ve seen in Houston is that if you have the right location, you’re doing very well, and if you don’t have the right location, your paces are probably off,” Ellison said. “Being adjacent to the [ExxonMobil campus] is the right area.”