Venues and attractions in Sugar Land promote tourism, keep tax rates low

Image description
Sugar Land tourism keeps tax rates low
Image description
Sugar Land tourism keeps tax rates low
Image description
Sugar Land tourism keeps tax rates low
To help keep Sugar Land’s property tax rate low as the city’s population continues to grow, city officials and developers continue adding local amenities that are useful to residents and tourists alike.

Although Sugar Land residents saw a slight increase in property tax rates from fiscal year 2016-17 to FY 2017-18, the rate of $0.31762 per $100 valuation remains lower than the property tax rates set by Fort Bend County and neighboring city Missouri City.

“Our focus has been on the development of tourism and economic development in order to lessen the burden of property taxes on our homeowners,” said Teresa Preza, Sugar Land’s tourism and destination services administrator. “With that, the city of Sugar Land has made some very bold and intentional decisions as to how it develops tourism, especially over the course of the past decade.”

Tourism over time


Originally founded as a company town for Imperial Sugar Refinery workers in the 1800s, Sugar Land maintains its historic roots while developing fixtures in the community, such as Town Square in 2003, the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land in 2009 and Constellation Field in 2012.

“Although there’s always been a plethora of shopping opportunities within Sugar Land, and we’ve been a growing and developing community overall, back in the mid-2000s, we finished the construction of Sugar Land Town Square,” Preza said. “That was one of our key focal points, and it became very much our downtown for Sugar Land.”

As Town Square grows and changes, city officials are working to ensure residents and business people are getting the most out of the amenity by revamping the plaza outside City Hall.

“We have a lot of events in Town Square ... but those are primarily on weekends and in the evening,” Director of Economic Development Phil Wagner said. “The goal is to really try to increase sales and get people out of the office buildings to come down when the weather is nice, have lunch in the plaza and make it an enjoyable experience.”

The $1.5 million face-lift to Town Square Plaza will include artificial turf, decks with tables and chairs, a canopy structure, and a pedestrian bridge next to the Stephen F. Austin statue, Planned Community Developers President Les Newton said.

Nearby venues, such as Constellation Field, bring residents and visitors to Town Square for dining and retail options, Sugar Land Skeeters President Jay Miller said.

“People come into town, and they’re looking for something to do,” Miller said. “Town [Square] has been a great source for us with the restaurants and bars down there as far as distributing our pocket schedules, and we’ve got some of them as sponsors. It’s kind of a two-way street—we send [visitors] their way and they send them our way.”

Victor Litwinenko, co-owner of several Town Square restaurants, said he notices a surge when popular events are held at the Smart Financial Centre and when sold out events happen during the week.

According to a 2009 feasibility study, a projected return of $169 million is slated to come from Constellation Field over 30 years, Preza said.

“It brings in individuals from outside of Sugar Land, but it also services the community, so it’s able to fulfill both of the demands,” Preza said.

Officials with the venue, where various events from rugby matches and baseball games to concerts and festivals are hosted, work with local hotels to promote events for visitors, Miller said. Additionally, officials are always seeking partnership opportunities that will positively affect the venue as well as residents.

“It’s not just a baseball field,” he said. “We have this beautiful venue, and we’re pretty much open to try and use it 365 days a year rather than just baseball season. I think that’s really catching on, and people are starting to see all the different uses that can happen at the venue and at the ballpark. That’s when your business starts to grow.”

Additional amenities


Destinations like the Smart Financial Centre, which opened in January 2017, and future sites like Imperial Market and Telfair-Tract 5 are also meant to serve both residents and visitors, Preza said.

“We’ve been progressively developing our tourism opportunities, not just for the benefit of our community but also for the benefit of our traveling audience,” she said.

In its first year, the Smart Financial Centre was slated to see about 260,000 total attendees. However, this goal was surpassed and the venue hosted more than 350,000 attendees, Preza said.

The venue hosted 131 performances in its inaugural year, said Gary Becker, ACE Sugar Land LLC President. ACE, which holds a partnership with the city, is a company formed by entertainment industry veterans that specializes in the design, construction and operation of live-performance theaters across North America.

“The success for us in Sugar Land is 21.32 percent of tickets are sold outside of the [Greater] Houston area, so there’s quite a few people coming into Sugar Land,” Becker said.

Future destinations like Imperial Market at the sugar refinery site and Telfair-Tract 5 near the Smart Financial Centre will serve as hubs where residents can live and be close to amenities, and visitors can also take advantage of the offerings.

Imperial Market, which is set to break ground in March, will be a 26-acre mixed-use lifestyle center with business space, retail stores, destination services and restaurants. The Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitors Center is already operational in the space along with the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center, Preza said.

“It’s going to be one of our most historical venues because of the Imperial Sugar Refinery,” she said. “It really ties it all back into who we are and how we even started.”

Attracting events


Several of Sugar Land’s attractions are permanent fixtures in the community. However, the city also hosts events to entice residents and tourists to explore the area.

Sugar Land celebrates its 15th annual weeklong Wine & Food Affair event in April featuring the Artisan Market and Bistro Brunch, event director Quinn Hoang said.

“A lot of these events are going to be taking place in very significant landmarks of Sugar Land,” Hoang said. “It really is meant to spotlight Sugar Land and Fort Bend [County].”

The annual event, which was started by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce, brings in chefs from all over the country, Hoang said.

“We’re hoping to reach a greater audience,” she said. “The community of Fort Bend is one of the fastest growing in the nation, so we want to make sure that we have a spotlight on what they have to offer.”

One event destination in Sugar Land is The Crown Festival Park, which has been operational for about a year, Preza said. The city’s annual Cultural Kite Festival and 4th of July celebration have taken place in the park, she said.

The space is designed for large-scale as well as private events, Preza said.

“The development of our new destination venues have been extremely beneficial to our economic makeup,” she said. “They help diversify our revenue sources, which brings in new sales tax funding, which helps offset the cost of our property taxes.”
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


MOST RECENT

The State Fair of Texas is expected to return in 2021. (Courtesy Kevin Brown/State Fair of Texas)
State Fair of Texas cancels 2020 season

This is the eighth time in the fair’s 134-year history that the event has been called off.

Missouri City will offer Odis Jones, the former city manager of the city of Hutto, Texas, the city manager position. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
BREAKING OVERNIGHT: Divided Missouri City City Council votes to hire Odis Jones as city manager

In a 4-2 vote just after midnight July 7, the Missouri City City Council decided to hire Odis Jones as the city's next city manager.

Here are the coronavirus data updates to know today in Fort Bend County. (Community Impact staff)
Fort Bend County reports 287 new coronavirus cases, one death over July 4th holiday weekend

A record 217 patients are being treated for the coronavirus in Fort Bend County general hospital beds as of July 6.

Pharmacist Emily Smith opens a cooler for a patient to place their self-swab coronavirus test at a Walmart drive-thru testing site in McKinney on June 29. (Shelby Tauber/The Texas Tribune)
Poll says Texans' hopes for quick return to pre-coronavirus life are fading

Texans remain focused on the coronavirus pandemic and are less optimistic about returning the state to normal quickly, according to polling by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller recently backed a movement calling for the reopening of winery and distillery tasting rooms and brewery and brewpub taprooms. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas agriculture commissioner joins voices calling for reopening of tasting rooms, taprooms

In a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said demand from distilleries and breweries provides an important revenue stream to the state's farmers.

State Fare Kitchen & Bar will open its second Houston-area location in Sugar Land on July 8. (Courtesy George Paez, State Fare)
State Fare Kitchen & Bar to open Sugar Land Town Square location July 8

State Fare Kitchen & Bar will serve lunch and dinner menus daily, plus weekday happy hour, weekend brunch and Friday and Saturday late-night options.

vote
Fort Bend County official: Early voters 'turning out in record numbers’ for July 14 primary runoff

2020 primary runoff voter turnout totaled 5.66% for the first week of early voting when including in-person and mail-in ballots.

Sugar Land 95 activist Reginald Moore dies at 60

Moore may be best known for his work to raise awareness about the Texas prison system's convict-leasing system, which provided prisoners to plantation owners who labored on farms and in other industries.

The First Street Foundation's dataset includes a forecast models that anticipate the effects of climate change and sea level rise. (Screenshot via First Street Foundation)
Analysis: FEMA may be undercounting national total flood risk by as much as 70%

The new dataset includes an interactive Flood Factor dashboard that anyone can use to assess the risk of flooding over a 30-year period for any address.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from Fort Bend County. (Community Impact staff)
With 131 new coronavirus cases reported July 2, Fort Bend County nears 4,000th case

Heading into the Fourth of July holiday weekend, Fort Bend County has seen a total of 3,999 coronavirus cases.

Houston fireworks display
Here’s how to celebrate Fourth of July across the Greater Houston area

Several Houston-area cities are still planning fireworks shows with drive-in or virtual components this Fourth of July.

Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre shared survey results and provided an update on the district's planning efforts for next school year during a virtual town hall July 1. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Fort Bend ISD shares survey results, latest plans for 2020-21 school year during July 1 town hall

Of the 18,000 parents who responded to a Fort Bend ISD survey, 43% said they were very comfortable or somewhat comfortable sending their children back to school for the 2020-21 school year.