Charlie Walker has operated Missouri City Insurance on Texas Parkway for three decades and can recall the economic development ups and downs that have taken place along this main thoroughfare in Missouri City.
He watched retail giants Walmart, Kroger and Randalls leave Texas Parkway for Hwy. 6 in search of more space and more foot traffic. He then saw the influx of small business owners like himself move into vacant retail spaces to either thrive or later close.
“Texas Parkway is a grand parkway, and the main hub of the community, but when you look at Walmart and Kroger’s reasons for leaving, it makes sense,” he said. “Everything available along this road is too small for what they wanted to do.”
Though being on Texas Parkway is good for his business, Walker thinks most drivers do not notice the variety of businesses along the road because they use it more as a means of passing through on their way to work or home, rather than as a shopping destination.
Traffic is one criteria national retailers consider when determining site location. In 2017, 32,137 vehicles traveled each day on Texas Parkway, compared to 44,712 vehicles on Hwy. 6 within the Missouri City limits, according to Texas Department of Transportation data.
Though Walker does not advocate for more traffic on Texas Parkway, he does think the city and property owners should work together to call attention to the businesses along the road.
Attracting the right tenants
The city of Missouri City has maintained Texas Parkway in terms of solving previous flooding issues during heavy rains and keeping the road clean, Walker said. In turn, that has helped his business, which mainly attracts clients by word of mouth.
Twenty retail spaces were available for lease along Texas Parkway—totaling 52,626 square feet—as of early January, according to CoStar, a commercial real estate information company. Missouri City had 98 spaces—312,000 square feet—of retail vacancy available.
Property owners say it was challenging to lease space here a decade ago. However, the city’s more positive perception of the area has changed that.
Danny Nguyen of DN Commercial Real Estate purchased land at 1655 Texas Parkway 10 years ago. He held onto it, waiting for the right time to put it in front of a national retailer who wanted into the area and for the city’s economic development priorities to change, he said. Nguyen brought in Discount Tire in 2017.
In addition to the Discount Tire land, he also purchased the 50,000-square-foot shopping center next door, which includes Citi Trends and Dairy Queen. He expects to spend nearly $1 million to renovate it, which he said will provide a quality product that meets the expectation of possible tenants.
“Everything is changing,” Nguyen said. “After my renovation, there will be a domino effect along Texas Parkway. Looking into the future, it is going to be great.”
Meanwhile, Hunington leasing expert Rafael Melara said small businesses catering to families find Missouri City’s sense of community attractive. That has helped him lease much of the available retail space in the Parkway Court shopping center at 2435 Texas Parkway.
Economic development investments by the city of Missouri City are being made in several phases along Texas Parkway, while also giving it some of the same appeal residents experience on Hwy. 6.
Houston Community College Missouri City campus enrollment hit a new record last year—over 1,300 students—and the city is preparing for future campus expansions and synergies, City Manager Anthony Snipes said.
Future plans at City Hall include creating outdoor spaces for residents such as a boardwalk, amphitheater, dog park, pavilion, food court and an educational wetlands area for children, Snipes said.
However, he notes for redevelopment to happen properly, the private sector also needs to be a willing participant.
“We can’t direct property owners to lease their space,” he said. “However, what we have done is met with them to talk about following safety and code standards.”
Property owners may find leasing on Texas Parkway challenging because retail desires change frequently, and it takes time for the right mix to come to the area, Missouri City Economic Development Director Joe Esch said.
“Businesses are looking for opportunities, but in order to have things like a sit-down restaurant, we need to create a time-of-day population along Texas Parkway because restaurants are driven by table turns,” he said.
Ten recommendations emerged from the TIP Strategies economic development plan performed in 2018. Esch presented those to City Council, which prioritized five of them. Esch and Snipes plan to engage again with council in the first or second quarter of 2019 to focus on a plan to move forward.
“There is over 2 million feet of development planned near Hwy. 90A, and it increases our war chest for the city to offer services,” Esch said. “We are in a tremendous location—Lakeview Business Park is almost full, and there are new housing developments nearby which will bring in more traffic, so things are going well.”
Bringing new life to an old street
Snipes said the city cannot revamp Texas Parkway alone and needs to see buy-in from property owners.
One of the property owners getting involved is Thomas Plaza II developer Brian Nguyen. In January, he was finishing the rebuild of the retail center at Texas Parkway and Cartwright Road, an area that previously included a strip center and Sonic Drive-In.
Nguyen tore down the properties and built a brand-new shopping center. Former tenants plan to move back in once completed, he said.
“I saw the vision of what the city is doing and wanted to do a redevelopment,” he said at a Dec. 17 Missouri City City Council meeting. “I don’t want all of the people to move out because they see Texas Parkway as an old location.”
Though Nguyen was able tear down older properties and rebuild, one property owner said his investor group is not in the position right now to do that.
“We want to work hand-in-hand with the city, and the investment group is going to put in the money, but not to tear it down,” said Omid Sharifian, managing partner for Lila Construction and Investment Co.
Sharifian’s company owns and leases Omid Shopping Center, where Walker’s insurance office is located. Lila Co. purchased the building in 1990.
The 71,000-square-foot shopping center, built in 1983, previously housed a Premiere Cinema 6 movie theater, which vacated the space in 2001 after its parent company filed for bankruptcy, he said.
Since that time, Lila has not been able to lease the 21,000-square-foot vacancy left by the movie theater for several reasons: There is not private sector demand for the space, and the building is hidden behind other parts of the shopping center, Sharifian said.
Aside from the movie theater space, the shopping center was fully occupied until the tornado that hit Missouri City during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 tore off part of the center’s roof.
The property’s ownership group fixed the roof and the facade but lost two tenants in the process, Sharifian said. There are plans for additional repairs, such as redoing the parking lot, but the owners are waiting on an insurance settlement.
“We’ve been stagnated by Harvey, and it set us back 14 months,” Sharifian said. “We want to create an importance for this shopping center and on Texas Parkway because amazing things will happen.”
Meanwhile, Walker feels a sense of pride when he looks out his window onto Texas Parkway. However, he recommends there be a variety in future retail and landlords stay involved in providing good retail spaces.
“We need businesses that enable us to go down Texas Parkway and do this, this, this and this, not just get a hamburger,” he said. “Our landlords also need to maintain their properties so when people do drive down Texas Parkway, they don’t give up on us before they even stop.”