The contours of the villages in The Woodlands are not random occurrences, but deliberate choices made as part of the design of the community, developer Robert Heineman said. The process that led to the 1974 opening of the community considered elements such as topography and mobility to create villages with a blend of services and amenities in an aesthetically pleasing environment, he said.

The big picture

The design of The Woodlands began with George Mitchell, who began purchasing land in 1964 that had previously housed the Grogan Cochran Lumber Company. The first piece of The Woodlands was 2,800 acres, but a total of 17,455 acres were purchased by the time communities began to open in 1974.

Heineman, who retired as vice president of planning and design with The Woodlands’ developer Howard Hughes in 2021, worked alongside Mitchell and other community founders since the 1970s. He said the idea was to have a downtown area surrounded by villages.

“The basic concept of the village center was that you have a supermarket-anchored center that is supported by the surrounding residential population and that you augment the supermarket with other services,” Heineman said.

The details

While the size of the various villages varies, the main idea was to concentrate retail development in one area along with other high-density housing such as apartments. Lower-density uses as well as areas such as golf courses and parks are further out and closer to the flood plain, where fewer paved areas are more desirable, he said.

The Woodlands’ villages and the years they opened are:
  • 1974: Grogan’s Mill
  • 1977: Panther Creek
  • 1983: Cochran’s Crossing
  • 1983: Indian Springs
  • 1994: Alden Bridge
  • 1999: Sterling Ridge
  • 2000: Carlton Woods
  • 2001: College Park
  • 2007: Creekside Park
The east-west corridors running through The Woodlands—such as Research Forest Boulevard, Lake Woodlands Drive and Woodlands Parkway—occur at 2-mile intervals, which differs from an urban structure where major thoroughfares are spaced 1-mile apart, Heineman said. However, by placing the thoroughfares along topographical contours and concentrating retail development in higher-density areas, traffic is moved away from residential areas.

“The boundaries of the villages were set ultimately by the [natural] boundaries of The Woodlands, the nature of thoroughfare or the floodplain,” Heineman said. “Each village is a little different in size and population.”

One more thing

The most recent village opened in The Woodlands, Creekside Park—which is in Harris County—has one element Heineman said he would have planned for every village in hindsight.

“I would put in a village green in every village,” he said.

Creekside Park was structured in a different way than the other villages and required some innovation, he said: "The innovative idea back then was to take Kuykendahl road and to split it into a north and south road, which make access into the supermarket a little bit easier. ... To me that is probably the best [designed] village center because of bringing in that public space into the village; it just happened because things were a little different.”

The Woodlands celebrates its 50th anniversary Oct. 19, 2024, and The Woodlands Township announced themes starting this year to mark that anniversary.