The city of Shenandoah welcomed its third and newest 420-unit multifamily project to the west side of I-45 following its City Council meeting Feb. 27.
While the project, developed by Life Time Fitness, was approved with a 3-1 vote, Council Member Michael McLeod expressed concerns over what kind of traffic the project will bring to the area, saying the project is one of three multifamily developments anticipated to be completed within the next five years.
According to U.S. Census data from the 2017 American Community Survey, Shenandoah has a population of 2,733 and a total of 1,380 housing units within the city, which includes single-family and multifamily units. Once all proposed residential projects are completed, the city will have an additional 1,095 multifamily apartments and 322 single-family homes. According to 2017 U.S. Census data, Shenandoah had a total of 1,323 occupied residences, 686 of which were owner-occupied and the remaining 637 were renter-occupied.
“We have a number of apartments already coming in, and we’re talking about adding another 420 units,” McLeod said. “That’s going to add a constant flow of traffic to that area. ... I think it’s going to be a burden on the city.”
With the addition of the Life Time project, the new apartments and single-family homes are expected to come in on both sides of I-45 over the course of three to five years. McLeod said the new units will be trying to draw in young working professionals with mid- to high-end apartments, which shows a shift from single-family options currently favored in the city.
“Historically, if someone wanted to live in Shenandoah, the only choice was to purchase or rent single-family housing,” McLeod said. “Over the years, we have added multiple single-family developments, an apartment complex, cottage/patio style homes and senior living. We are now adding mid- to high-end apartments in the city with different target audiences to appeal to young professionals through empty nesters.”
During Life Time’s presentation to City Council, Megan Eaton, Life Time real estate development manager, said the estimated living costs for the residential component of the mixed-use complex will be $2,200 for a one-bedroom unit and $3,500 for a three-bedroom unit. The cost will also include a membership to the Life Time Fitness Center and coworking space, both of which are included with the project.
On the east side of I-45, developer Sam Moon Group is anticipated to begin construction of a 325-unit component of the mixed-use development project Metropark Square called The Residences, which will offer one- to three-bedroom units and two-story townhomes. The Residences will include a fitness center, pool, indoor and outdoor community center, and retail.
“We did a comprehensive market study that showed a demand for upscale multifamily within a mixed-use development, which included restaurant, retail, entertainment and service all within walking distance and with easy access to I-45,” Sam Moon Vice President Daniel Moon said. “Shenandoah [is attractive because it] is at the heart of The Woodlands exits off of I-45.”
Multifamily residences have traditionally been built on the east side of Shenandoah, which McLeod said has more “urban charm with service businesses” and where retail is closer and more accessible for residents. Life Time will be among the first coming west of I-45, which indicates a shift for the city.
“As Shenandoah grows, we are embracing the mixed character on both sides of the interstate,” McLeod said.
Not all residents are happy with the announcement of Life Time coming to the west side of the interstate, however. Shenandoah resident Theresa Danz spoke during the Feb. 27 meeting to emphasize her disappointment with the council’s decision to approve a special-use permit, which allows the project to come to the area.
“I had never even heard of it before. ... Now you’re going to stick us with all these apartments,” Danz said. “I don’t like it. I’m really sorry you did this, and I’m very disappointed. I think you should have brought this to the citizens of Shenandoah before you made this kind of decision knowing we didn’t want any more apartments, especially on [the west side] of the highway.”
Traffic, wastewater concerns
With the three primary residential projects anticipated to open within the next three to five years, Shenandoah officials are putting plans into place to accommodate the increased number of residents and traffic expected to come to the city.
Transportation projects along I-45 and Research Forest Drive are already underway to extend turn lanes and add a dedicated U-turn lane. General intersection improvements are in the design stage on plans to extend David Memorial Drive to Hwy. 242, which are awaiting funding. City Administrator Kathie Reyer said the David Memorial project is anticipating completion within three to five years.
Other city projects include improving the intersections at I-45 and Research Forest Drive.
The city is also monitoring its wastewater treatment plant to be prepared for the influx of new residents. Public Works Director Joseph Peart estimated if two people live in each of the 1,000 new apartments, the city will see the daily usage of water increase by about 260,000 gallons and the amount of wastewater will increase by about 200,000 gallons. In 2018, the city used 3.73 million gallons of water and 2.27 million gallons of wastewater.
Shenandoah already has water-related projects nearing completion, such as a project to increase the size of a sanitary line along Shenandoah Park Drive, which Peart said will help with the increased flow caused by the addition of Metropark Square.
“With the completion of our water plant on David Memorial last August, the city is comfortably able to provide water to any of the new residential projects,” Peart said.
The water plant in question cost $2.4 million to complete and was built for the purpose of handling future growth for the city.
While the city is capable of providing and treating water to the anticipated influx of residents, City Council unanimously agreed to a $39,000 master expansion plan study from Bleyl Engineering to keep up with any additional needs.
“This plan is to say that knowing these things are either coming or very likely ... are we going to have to have add another clarifier, are we going to have to add another aeration basin ... and then looking at our existing site map and [determining] where we can put that so it’s not going to get in the way of some future project,” Peart said. “Any changes that are recommended at the end of this study are going to be based on growth of the city, and within five years, we have the potential to see an enormous amount of growth.”
While the study will be completed within three months, Peart said there is no timeline for projects that come out of the study.
Policing and culture changes
More than physical improvements are coming to Shenandoah as a result of new development. Police Chief Raymond Shaw said two new patrol officers will be added to the department as of April 1. Both will be swing positions, which will allow for smoother transitions for officers who work the evening shifts.
“This is one of the ways the department is attempting to maintain its current level of quality service, adjusting to greater demands placed upon us due to population increase,” Shaw said. “If data exists that could possibly justify additional officers, we will present our findings to the municipal council.”
McLeod said he has also heard concerns from area residents concerned about preserving the Shenandoah spirit.
“The worry expressed by some residents is that individuals who choose to live in apartments only want the benefits offered by Shenandoah and don’t want to pitch in and contribute,” McLeod said. “This can be addressed by reaching out to those residents and encouraging them to get involved in their new hometown.”