East of I-45, developers in unincorporated areas around the Grand Parkway are building master-planned communities and apartments to offer new choices to residents seeking homes in a growing section of Montgomery County.

The growth follows the 2016 completion of the Grand Parkway Segment G connecting I-45 and Hwy. 59, providing additional east-west thoroughfare options in Harris and Montgomery County in previously undeveloped areas.

Developers including Imperial Oaks developer Holcomb Properties Company and Woodson’s Reserve developer Toll Brothers are joined by Sueba USA, which began work on a 269-unit luxury apartment complex this year. The area is also a focus for Conroe ISD, with Hines Elementary School opening in August to serve the Woodson’s Reserve area.

Because growth is coming from simultaneous but unconnected developments, developers said the unincorporated area is finding its sense of community through centers such as the expanding Holcomb Family YMCA facility, public recreation areas and new retail outlets.

Jim Holcomb, president and CEO of Holcomb Properties, said he believes Montgomery County is a desirable location for homebuyers, and the development of new travel routes has opened up possibilities for builders there.

“Before the Grand Parkway opened, all of this was very limited access, but now it’s ... all opened,” Holcomb said. “Now you’re going to get all the people coming, and they like to be in Montgomery County.”

Woodson’s Reserve expansion

The 1,639-acre Woodson’s Reserve community along the Grand Parkway is preparing for a 1,750-home expansion with new model homes from Toll Brothers and Tri Pointe Homes available this spring. A grand opening for potential homebuyers will be held in October, according to Toll Brothers.

Haley Garcia, CEO of the Garcia Real Estate Group, which works with properties both east and west of I-45, said the neighborhood has proven attractive for families.

“[Woodson’s Reserve] is very family friendly,” Garcia said. “I see a lot of the demographic of our buyers. They love the amenities, the schools; they’ve built so many restaurants and activity places. We see a big family profile.”

According to a demographic study conducted by Population and Survey Analysts for CISD in 2022, the district is preparing for Woodson’s Reserve to bring 1,145 additional single-family houses to market from 2022-27, and another 550 from 2027-32.

As of early July, information from Houston Association of Realtors showed homes on the market in Woodson’s Reserve priced from $480,000 to $1.1 million, a range Garcia said was comparable to prices of homes in The Woodlands.

“That’s an in-demand area,” she said. “It’s affected by the same trends [as The Woodlands] and equally in demand. We sell homes over there all the time, and because of the proximity over there to the Grand Parkway and all the infrastructure they have built, it’s like a city over there.”

According to Toll Brothers, the new homes from both builders in the community will include 50-, 60-, 70- and 80-foot-wide sites and prices starting in the $400,000 range. The median home sales price in the 77386 ZIP code from June 2022 to May 2023 was $342,320, according to The Brashear Group in The Woodlands.

In addition to the new section of homes in Woodson’s Reserve, the area continues to see businesses opening, including Summer Moon Coffee, which opened in May.

Beth Ferester, an agent with Corcoran Ferester Realty, said east of I-45 is the main area for new development in the region, and although some homes are priced at $1 million or more, the region does offer some options for those looking for homes in The Woodlands area under $500,000.

“New home developments are popping up like crazy,” she said, referring to areas east of I-45 as far as Porter. “[It’s] the only possible growth we can have.”

Building community

Imperial Oaks, which consists of the neighborhoods The Meadows at Imperial Oaks, Imperial Oaks Park and The Falls at Imperial Oaks, is nearly built out, with about 400 units remaining, according to developers, but the community is now also focusing on amenities, Holcomb said.

A centerpiece of the community is the Holcomb Family YMCA on Imperial Promenade Drive, which opened its first phase in December 2021 and began work on the second phase this May, which includes a $9.7 million aquatics center, according to YMCA Houston. Imperial Oaks also has access to the 100-acre Lake Holcomb.

“It’s a big amenity for those people, and we end up getting people who are not members of our subdivision because they don’t have anything like this,” Holcomb said.

Another aspect of community development in the Imperial Oaks area is the ongoing commercial and retail section. Holcomb said the existing Imperial Oaks Shopping Center on the western side of the development, anchored by a Kroger along Rayford Road, will see new additions, such as a locally owned restaurant, Nacho Padres, by the end of 2023. A Memorial Hermann Medical Group office will also move to a larger suite at the center.

The shopping center will be joined by the Grand Imperial Marketplace on Imperial Promenade Drive. Developer Fidelis projects the population in the 5-mile radius around the center will grow from 108,811 residents in 2023 to 123,276 residents in 2028. The center has not yet announced tenants.

In addition, CISD’s new Hines Elementary School will open in August, and private education facilities have also opened or are planned in the nearby communities.

Multifamily options

Multifamily dwellings are also on the way east of I-45.

One community planned by Sueba USA—Imperial Oaks Square—will offer luxury apartments priced at the higher end of market value, real estate development manager Nathan Smith said.

The three-story apartment complex will offer 269 units next to the lake with leasing to start next summer.

The property is the first the company is offering in The Woodlands area, he said. Based in Houston, Sueba USA has multifamily properties throughout the region.

Smith said the complex will feature two dog parks, two pools, a clubhouse and conference center.

Imperial Oaks Square will be the initial phase, with additional multifamily offerings to follow with another 308 units, he said. Together, the apartments will provide another 577 units. Smith said the apartments will be priced at market rates for higher-end apartments at the time they begin leasing, but pricing has not yet been determined.

“We build to the top of the market for lease and rental rates,” he said.

Adam Perdue, a research economist with the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University, said growth in Montgomery County outside of The Woodlands is inevitable as The Woodlands is essentially built out as far as single-family homes. However, he said he believes the community is attractive as an employment center.

“The way I categorize the growth of the Greater Houston area is an amoeba just spreading down the freeways, coming out east and west from The Woodlands,” Perdue said. “The Woodlands has a strong presence in Houston and in the global economy.”