In 1972, Robert Heineman created a simple sketch of a mixed-use downtown area west of I-45 with a transit corridor. He had recently graduated from Harvard University Graduate School of Design and had interned with Mitchell Energy & Development Co. the previous summer, launching a career as one of the original planners of The Woodlands.

On March 8, Heineman stood at the heart of that area he sketched in The Woodlands Waterway with colleagues and family as they wished him a good retirement and applauded the naming of a pedestrian bridge in his honor. Heineman is retiring as vice president of planning and design with The Howard Hughes Corp. after a 48-year career in the community

Jim Carman, president of the Houston Region of The Howard Hughes Corp., said Heineman’s vision was important to his own growth with the company that now acts as developer of The Woodlands.

“He engrained into me the understanding of master-planned community development versus project development. ... We don’t build projects here; we build communities,” Carman said.

Although he is retiring, Heineman will stay on as a consultant and will be involved with committees in the area such as the development standards committee, Carman said.

“It is truly a unique experience as a designer to have the opportunity to plan the community in which one lives and works,” Heineman said in a statement released previous to the ceremony. “Little did I know that responding to a newspaper article sent to me by my parents in the spring of 1971 about an unknown project called ‘The Woodlands’ would result in both a lifetime career and the career of a lifetime.”