New leisure developments opening soon in Sugar Land

Sugar Landu2019s newest performaing arts venue, the Smart Financial Centre, will open to the public in December and hold its official grand opening Jan. 14.

Sugar Landu2019s newest performaing arts venue, the Smart Financial Centre, will open to the public in December and hold its official grand opening Jan. 14.

Major entertainment and recreation developments are scheduled to open around Sugar Land starting this fall. From the Festival Site near Brazos River Park to a performing arts venue and Imperial Market, city residents can anticipate a variety of new leisure options.


Randy Bloom, general manager of the new Smart Financial Centre, said it will be exhilarating watching the project come online in December after five years of planning.


“Seeing the interest from the community has been pretty overwhelming, especially this week being able to finally announce our opening performances,” he said in July.


The Imperial Market mixed-use development off Hwy. 90 will break ground this fall. Multiple dining tenants are already confirmed.


“The feedback has been phenomenal and incredible in volume,” developer Geoffrey Jones said. “We’re getting a very significant amount of phone calls from the retail brokerage community who [are] exploring the possibility of joining that market.”


Jennifer May, director of economic development for Sugar Land, said the city is well-positioned for a boom in activity resulting from new developments.


“I think we’re definitely ready for it,” she said.



Festival Site


Construction is wrapping up on the 52-acre festival site adjacent to Brazos River Park off Hwy. 59. The turf and irrigation package is nearly finished, while paving is underway, May said.


“The construction on everything should be substantially complete later this fall,” she said.


The site is designed for maximum flexibility in order to host city or cultural events. May said Sugar Land will not construct its own stage or amphitheater, but rather will work with site users to accommodate different celebrations.


The project was approved as part of the city’s 2013 bond program for $6.54 million. It was approved with Brazos River Park Phase 2 construction—also expected be completed this fall—for a combined  $21.3 million


“We’re still studying exactly how to utilize it in terms of commercial utilization,” May said. “But we do anticipate it will have a positive economic impact.”


She said it was undetermined how much revenue or jobs the festival site will generate once completed. But she did anticipate the festival site, along with the Smart Financial Centre and existing Constellation Field, would improve the city’s quality of life and to attract and retain Sugar Land’s workforce.


“I think definitely … these types of cultural arts and entertainment venues make Sugar Land attractive not just for residents,” she said.



Smart Financial Centre


Five years after the city of Sugar Land signed a memorandum of understanding with ACE Theatrical Group, anticipation is building for the 200,000-square-foot Smart Financial Centre’s grand opening. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld will headline the event Jan. 14 and former Eagles drummer Don Henley will perform Jan. 15, the venue announced July 11.


“[The] grand opening—it really is just a welcome to the building,” Bloom said.


Bloom said “open house style” events for local high schools or other groups will take place before the grand opening as well as a tour for city officials.


The $84 million, 6,400 seat venue was slated to open this fall but has been pushed back to December due to construction delays. It will also have 14 luxury suites, corporate hospitality areas, 2,500 guest parking spaces and movable walls to accommodate a variety of events, according to the center.


“I think that the venue is going to have a state-of-the-art sound system and acoustical design [that’s] going to be comparable to anything that’s out there in the market place,” Bloom said. “It just is the kind of space that’s going to be able to be tailored to the event itself.”


Bloom said he could not calculate the construction progress but said the work was progressing.


“What needs to happen now is a whole lot of the finer details,” he said. “The rooms, all the dressing rooms are built out, but they need to be carpeted, furnished [and] painted.”



Imperial Market


Sugar Land’s Imperial Market mixed-use complex will break ground in September with construction expected to last 16 months. The 855,000-square-foot retail, dining, commercial and residential project will make use of the former Imperial Sugar refinery’s history to draw city visitors and residents alike, Jones said.New leisure developments opening soon in Sugar Land


“We’ll break ground in September, and a great deal of architectural work has already been undertaken,” he said. “We will be building eight new buildings and rehabbing the rest.”


Dine-in cinema Alamo Drafthouse, Schilleci’s New Orleans Kitchen, Frost a Gelato Shoppe and Mia Bella Trattoria are already signed on for the project. The Farmers Market at Imperial—run by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce every Saturday—will be relocated east of the planned promenade between the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center and a three-bay warehouse from the old refinery.


Jones and business partner James Murnane do not own the Discovery Center’s land.


“We have a number of other restaurant, fashion and soft goods tenants that we’re in current negotiations with,” Jones said.


Jones and Murnane’s company, Imperial Market Development LLC, purchased 26 acres for Imperial Market from Johnson Development on June 20. Johnson Development is building the surrounding Imperial master-planned residential development.


The 720-acre master-planned community of Imperial is accessible via Stadium Drive and abuts Constellation Field. Imperial homes can measure more than 4,000 square feet and cost from $400,000 to $700,000.


Imperial homes are already under construction.


Imperial Market will open all at once rather than in phases. Murnane said the development’s construction budget is $205 million which includes the budget for the Char House hotel, whose occupant was not released yet.


Given the city’s history as a company town, Murnane said the site’s grand opening will pay tribute to those who worked at the refinery over its 107-year history. He is reaching out to former refinery employees and inviting them to the ceremony.


“It will be very special and important to have them as part of the opening,” Murnane said. “We really want to make this special and have them really be honored at the grand opening.”



Handling the crowds


With the performance space and festival site opening close to each other, both geographically and in terms of their construction dates, Precinct 4 Commissioner James Patterson said the county is exploring public transportation options for each facility.  [totalpoll id="168045"]


Road improvements around Imperial Market will be facilitated in part by contribution from Sugar Land’s tax increment reinvestment zone 3, of which the market is a part. The TIRZ allows Fort Bend County to put a portion of taxes collected from the development back into infrastructure around the property.


“We don’t lose any money,” Patterson said. “We just don’t take as much out of that as we can.”


In the long term, Sugar Land and the county will benefit from the Smart Financial Centre, Imperial Market and Festival Site, said Vernon Hegwood, chairman of the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce’s infrastructure division and a partner at Costello Inc. But he predicted the county will need to consider how infrastructure can benefit from new projects, such as spurring water, transportation and drainage improvements.


“If we can capture that value and help, either through a county agreement or something else to transition that into funding for infrastructure, that’s really where my goal is on that,” he said. “Those items are good for the community and good for economic development.”



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