The decadeslong development of The Woodlands master plan begun in 1974 has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic with progress on local projects completed alongside changes at the community’s developer, the Howard Hughes Corp., in the past year.
In March, the company, which steers both commercial and residential construction in The Woodlands, consolidated its regional offices within The Woodlands from 2 Hughes Landing to the company-owned The Woodlands Towers at The Waterway at 9950 Woodloch Forest Drive, where its corporate headquarters also relocated last year.
“We are excited to relocate our regional office ... in the premier environment of The Woodlands Towers at The Waterway,” said Jim Carman, the company’s Houston region president, in a March statement. “We are fortunate to office in The Woodlands where many of our team call their hometown.”
Gil Staley, the president of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, said the builder’s established presence in the community is also likely to bolster its reputation as a corporate destination.
“To say now that Howard Hughes Corp. is headquartered [in The Woodlands] and perhaps their top business destination for master-planned communities, means so much to what we represent in economic development,” Staley said. “We pride ourselves as a community of headquarters when we promote our community to those companies around the world for relocation opportunities.”
Alongside its move, the company shifted its focus to master-planned community development and shed jobs as a result. Information in the company’s 2020 annual report showed its overall estimated headcount dropped by around 60% since 2019 from 1,500 employees to 600.
The company partially attributed that drop to outsourcing the workforce at hospitality properties in The Woodlands and New York and cutting around 80 other employees through its corporate transformation plan.
The past year also saw the company’s development of hundreds of new housing units.
Multifamily projects The Lane at Waterway, a 163-unit apartment and townhome complex in Town Center, and Creekside Park The Grove, a 360-unit multifamily complex in Creekside Park, both entered leasing or preleasing phases early this year.
The company’s newest commercial development, Creekside Park West, also welcomed several new tenants in early 2021 on the west side of The Woodlands such as Press Waffle Co., Baja Sur Fresh-Mex and Tequila Bar, and Scooter’s Coffee.
Key figures retire
Alongside the physical corporate moves since last year, Howard Hughes also saw the departure of key planners responsible for overseeing decades of development in The Woodlands. The retirement of Alex Sutton, The Woodlands Development Co.’s former co-president, was announced in December, and the retirement of Robert Heineman, one of the original architects of the community’s design, was announced in March.
The two local departures were announced following changes in leadership at the top of the company as well. Previous CEO Paul Layne retired in September, and news of his departure was followed by the announcement of interim CEO David O’Reilly’s appointment to the top role.