Steve Sams joined The Howard Hughes Corp., which develops The Woodlands, in April, replacing Heath Melton as senior vice president of residential development for master-planned communities.

Sams has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh and previously worked as general manager for Johnson Development Corp. in Fulshear. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell me a little about your background?

I’ve been in residential land development in Houston for a little over 20 years, first as a civil engineer and then in land development, most recently ... working as a general manager for the Johnson Development Corp. on their master-planned communities. What attracted me to Howard Hughes, ... I was really attracted to their reputation as a developer and impressed with the communities they already developed in The Woodlands and the more ... ongoing active communities in Bridgeland and Woodlands Hills in terms of residential development.

What is the developer’s continuing role in master-planned communities?

Unlike other developers, I think Howard Hughes remains an active and collaborative partner in the communities. We live and work here, which helps us to understand their needs.

What is your role?

[It focuses on being a] residential lot developer for the master-planned communities, and while those opportunities are limited in The Woodlands right now, there are some residential opportunities available. The latest project we have was Creekside Park in The Woodlands, and then also Aria Isle [at East Shore], which were ... in the 25 lots released over the past two months.

What is a challenge of developing The Woodlands?

In The Woodlands we attract office relocations from out of state with our business-friendly environment, ... open space, and quality of life. ... It’s also a regional medical hub that has world-class health care from six different health providers. As it’s nearing completion for residential, that could be one of the challenges, but we have growth opportunities for commercial and mixed use to meet market demand.

How is the company diversifying offerings?

Many people choose a lock-and-leave lifestyle by moving to multifamily properties.

There are [multifamily] locations in Hughes Landing, Town Center and Creekside Park Village Center; it’s another way you can still live in The Woodlands. There are also [single-family] homes available at Woodlands Reserve by Frankel Building Group in the Village of Indian Springs ... and Aria Isle at East Shore.

[Build-to-rent communities] have come up on the radar; we’re aware of the trend and looking into it in the future.

Why are people buying in master-planned communities in the Houston area?

Well, I think at Howard Hughes we create these communities to attract a diverse mix of residents and businesses, and one of the ways we do that is develop with the idea of an urban core—office, shopping, dining and entertainment. Also with some residential and a walkable environment, those open spaces are going to ... allow residents to connect with nature. ... These benefits are principles we use as blueprints for communities that promote creativity, collaboration and culture.

You can see that in The Woodlands, and then we are planning that type of community in Bridgeland as well.