With several mixed-use developments on the horizon for Shenandoah east of I-45, city leaders and developers are working to prepare the area for anticipated population growth.
MetroPark Square, Centro and The Woodlofts are all mixed-use developments—offering both commercial and residential components—either under construction or on the brink of breaking ground east of I-45 in Shenandoah. Some of these developments’ first tenants are set to open as early as May.
Shenandoah Mayor Ritch Wheeler said he believes these projects bring urban conveniences close to home, while maintaining the benefits of suburban communities.
“Trends in housing and consumer preferences have changed, and there is an increasing desire for services and amenities that are within walking distance from home,” Wheeler said. “While mixed-use developments are often found in areas under redevelopment, we are seeing them newly constructed in many cities—ours included.”
As these developments will bring more than 1,300 new residential units to a city with less than 3,000 residents in the near future, city officials are preparing for increased traffic and potential crime through transportation projects and enhanced police protection.
The largest development slated for the city is MetroPark Square, a 69-acre project southeast of the I-45 and
Hwy. 242 intersection.
Sam Moon Group began construction on the three-phase project in November 2016, and construction will wrap up by 2022. The project includes 175,000 square feet of restaurant, retail and entertainment space, a 325-unit apartment complex, two select service hotels, 600 additional units of multifamily living space, a full-service hotel and an office building.
“Residents, employees and visitors are preferring mixed-use developments to live, work and play [in],” said Daniel Moon, vice president of Sam Moon Group. “By combining restaurants, entertainment, retail, hotels, residences and offices, mixed-use developments offer people convenience, comfort and services without the need to drive.”
Just southeast of MetroPark Square, Palmetto Homes and its sister company, Palmetto MDR, will break ground on Centro, a 13-acre, two-phase mixed-use development, in May. Construction on the project was initially planned to begin in spring 2017; however, Tim Crawford, Palmetto MDR president and owner, said the project was delayed due to a drainage agreement with the city. The agreement was not worked out until March of this year, he said.
The project will include 96 single-family homes, 18 townhomes and 46,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space. The project should also be completed by 2022.
In addition, Shenandoah City Council approved a special use permit Feb. 14 for The Woodlofts, a development by NorthGulf Zane Segal Projects.
Located northeast of the I-45 and David J. Vetter Blvd. intersection, the project will include a 350-unit apartment complex, 14,512 square feet of retail space and a parking garage, NorthGulf ZSP principal Zane Segal said.
“[The east side of Shenandoah] is becoming a pocket of urbanity, which is something that’s very good for the city, but doesn’t affect the lifestyle of the people who live on the west side of the city,” Segal said during the Feb. 14 meeting.
Construction on The Woodlofts was originally slated to begin in 2014 and to be completed by 2016. However, Segal said the project was put on hold until the economy recovered from the oil and gas downturn that began that same year. A construction timeline for the project has not been announced as of press time.
A changing city
Combined, the three developments could add approximately 1,389 residential units to Shenandoah, developers said. Those new housing options will be added to the city’s 1,675 existing residential units, which include 1,000 completed single-family homes, 32 single-family homes under construction, 149 vacant lots, 220 apartment units and 274 senior living units.
Although it is unknown how many new residents the developments will attract to Shenandoah, at capacity, The Woodlofts alone could add 450-500 new residents to the city, Segal said.
A general law city, Shenandoah has a population of 2,653 as of July 1, 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and would need to reach a population of 5,000 to become a home rule city. As a general law city, Shenandoah operates under Texas laws and guidelines; as a home rule city, Shenandoah would adopt a city charter outlining rules and regulations to follow.
Shenandoah City Council created a charter review committee in 2016, made up of citizens, to begin the process of creating a charter to recommend to the council. Upon approval, the charter would then be voted upon by residents.
The new developments could also create a shift in the city’s age demographics, developers said, as the residential components of MetroPark Square, Centro and The Woodlofts are geared for younger residents and empty nesters.
According to Census data, in Shenandoah in 2016 there were 407 individuals in the 25-34 age range, an increase from 333 in 2015. In both years, the 25-34 age range was the largest age group citywide, making up 15 percent and 13 percent of the population, respectively.
With The Park at Woodmoor Apartments being the only complex within city limits, these new developments will introduce multifamily housing options to a city dominated by single-family homes, making the community more appealing to a younger demographic, developers said.
With a growing population also comes the anticipated increase in traffic congestion and potential crime, Shenandoah officials said.
To address transportation east of I-45, Shenandoah and Montgomery County Precinct 4 have begun work on a $2.3 million David Memorial Drive extension.
Phase 1 of the project, which extended the existing road from where it ended at Shenandoah Park Drive north by roughly 834 feet, began in October 2016 and was completed in May 2017.
Phase 2 of the road project—which continues the extension to the Shenandoah city limit—has been under design for the past 10 months. Shenandoah officials said Sam Moon Group will extend the road north approximately 150 feet where it will tie into a new east-west road in MetroPark Square.
Upon completion, David Memorial Drive will serve as an alternate north-south corridor to I-45 in hopes of alleviating traffic, city officials said. The project will also be the major thoroughfare for MetroPark Square and Centro.
To address the potential increase in crime, city officials said they will expand the Shenandoah Police Department accordingly. SPD is comprised of 24 police officers as of March 2018, which Wheeler said is a number typically found in jurisdictions with a population of more than 500,000.
Wheeler said the city plans to add two officer positions in fiscal year 2018-19; however, a staffing plan beyond that time period is not yet in place.
“With the growing number of patrons, there is always a need for increased police presence,” he said. “During the busy hours at these developments, patrol will also be increased through leaseholders adding police as security.”
Wheeler said the new developments will be included in SPD’s responsibilities, which will allow businesses to become familiar with their designated officers, through routine check-ins.
To aid with flood mitigation, the Shenandoah Municipal Development District is also working to design a detention pond near the Sam Moon Shopping Center. City officials said the initial plan will alleviate drainage and standing water as development progresses.
With limited undeveloped land, Shenandoah officials said they must be selective in choosing how the city reaches commercial build-out.
Wheeler said Shenandoah has eight vacant commercial lots within city limits; once those are developed, new construction will stop, while redevelopment and residential build-out will continue.
“We look forward to having [a]variety of housing options, more high-end shopping, dining, lodging and entertainment venues, and a vibrant destination for our residents and visitors,” Wheeler said.