Apartments, retail slated for city of Magnolia’s first mixed-use project

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The city of Magnolia will see its first mixed-use development—and fourth apartment complex—break ground this fall, bringing 130 apartment units and 10 commercial tenants.

The five-story project, Magnolia Lights, is located on two acres between Goodson Road and Commerce, Gayle and LaRue streets in downtown Magnolia and will include four floors of luxury apartments atop 20,000 square feet of retail space, said Pauline Thude-Speckman, president of Meridian Investment Realty and developer of the project. Magnolia Lights will take 14-18 months to complete.

“Magnolia Lights is a game changer. This project will change the fundamental dynamic of Magnolia from a pass-through city to a destination location,” Thude-Speckman said.

Out of more than 3,100 counties, Montgomery County ranked the No. 18 fastest-growing county in the U.S. from 2010-18, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Thude-Speckman said she believes this influx of residents moving in and around Magnolia is one of the reasons this project is needed.

“There is a housing shortage across the country, and Magnolia is not an exception to that problem. Right now, there is hardly any affordable single-family homes or apartments in the Magnolia area,” she said. “There is not anything remotely comparable to [Magnolia Lights] until you get to The Woodlands.”

Tana Ross, economic development coordinator and planning technician for the city of Magnolia, said Magnolia Lights is just one of many multifamily and mixed-use developments planned for the city in addition to single-family homes.

Audubon Magnolia, a 3,300-acre master-planned community in Magnolia on FM 1488 is expected to bring about 5,000 homes and multifamily options at build-out, and break ground by year’s end, developer Sam Yager said previously. An unnamed mixed-use development by Stratus Properties Inc. at FM 149 and FM 1488 also proposes townhomes, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

“Magnolia has not embraced multifamily up until this point simply because the timing wasn’t right, but we do have plans for more in the future,” Ross said.

Population boom

As the Magnolia area and Montgomery County grow, the demand for housing grows too, Thude-Speckman said.
Latest census data shows 63,175 people lived in Magnolia ZIP codes 77354 and 77355 in 2017—a 10.12% increase since 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We will see more home development in Magnolia in the next few years, even more so than we’ve already seen,” said Lawrence Dean, the Houston regional director for Metrostudy. “That’s where the development has to go as the growth comes west of The Woodlands and north of Tomball, because what’s right there? It’s Magnolia.”

Sandy Barton, Greater Magnolia Parkway Chamber of Commerce president, said area population is expected to grow even more as other housing developments are completed.

“I think [Magnolia Lights] is the first that’s going to set the tone for the burgeoning of the city,” Barton said. “This project, along with [other developers]having homes in the lower end of the spectrum is fabulous for the working-class families of this city.”

Census data shows the median home values in 2017 for ZIP codes 77354 and 77355 were $237,900 and $207,700, respectively. About 37% and 49%, respectively, of owner-occupied housing units were valued at less than $200,000.

Ross said she believes transportation projects will also bring more residents and developments to Magnolia. A portion of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Hwy. 249 toll road extension from FM 149 in Pinehurst to Navasota crosses FM 1488 in Magnolia and is expected to open to drivers in 2021. Additionally, the widening of
FM 1774 between Pinehurst and the city of Magnolia was completed this spring by TxDOT.

“We’re in such a prosperous area. We have such great transportation routes, and those are getting better all the time,” Ross said. “Developers always have to wait on the infrastructure, because you can’t provide more homes or businesses without the additional transportation to get there.”

Housing, income disparity

Due to the shortage of affordable housing in the area, workforce housing—housing that is affordable for middle-class workers—is the target market for Magnolia Lights, Thude-Speckman said. Magnolia Lights is 65% preleased as of early June.

“It was with intent to build quality housing that is affordable. I am attracting what I believe is workforce housing because I think that’s what makes up Magnolia,” Thude-Speckman said.

The median home value for ZIP code 77354 grew 15.15% from 2013-17, census data shows, while the median home value for ZIP code 77355 grew 24.07% during that same time. However, the median household incomes in 77354 and 77355 grew 5.54% and 17.37%, respectively, during that same time.

The median household incomes for the two ZIP codes—77354 and 77355—were $79,440 and $83,713, respectively, in 2017, according to census data.

Middle-class workers employed in Magnolia, such as Magnolia ISD employees, police officers, future Lone Star College-Magnolia Center teachers and students, business owners, and retail and food service employees, will benefit from Magnolia Lights and its affordability, Barton said.

“I wish we could have more units because the demand for quality, affordable starter homes and apartments far outweighs the supply,” Thude-Speckman said.

There are three apartment complexes in city limits, all of which are income or age restricted, according to Apartment Data Services.

“One of the challenges we find, both inside the city [limits]and outside, is housing—affordability and availability—for our middle-class residents,” Barton said. “I’ve seen complexes start out at $1,400 a month, and it’s unreasonable to assume someone who works in retail would be able to afford something like that for their family.”

A closer look

Site plans for the high-density, $20 million development include 16 different apartment floor plans with one- and two-bedroom options, ranging from about 600-1,150 square feet, Thude-Speckman said. Rent prices will range from $975-$1,800 per month.

Amenities for Magnolia Lights residents will include a pool, conference room, coworking space, gym, and a wellness center and gathering space on the rooftop, she said. There are also plans for green space and walking and biking trails in the future for public use.

“We’ve had a lot of residents say, ‘I would just like it to go back to the way it used to be.’ I hate to use this phrase because it’s so cliche, but I think they’re going to be more than pleasantly surprised because of the connectivity and the walkability of this particular project,” Ross said.

Located in the heart of downtown Magnolia, Magnolia Lights will be within walking distance of Lone Pint Brewery, The Stroll—a paved, half-mile walking trail—and Magnolia Coffee House Bistro, Thude-Speckman said, as well as several local churches, such as Living Waters Assembly of God.

Thude-Speckman bought the Magnolia Lights property from Living Waters owners Mike and Joan Colston, Joan Colston said, freeing the church of its financial debt. The Colstons have lived in Magnolia for the last 42 years.

“We’ve seen Magnolia go from nothing to a budding city. I didn’t even think we’d ever get a Walgreens, let alone an apartment complex like this,” Joan said. “Magnolia Lights not only blessed us, but the apartments and retail are going to bless Magnolia tenfold.”

The development will also add at least two restaurants and 10 more retail spaces, Thude-Speckman said, but tenants have not been confirmed.

Thude-Speckman said having both apartment residents and businesses nearby makes parking the biggest challenge. However, plans include two multilevel parking garages—one on Goodson Road and another on LaRue Street—as well as surface parking for shoppers and retail employees.

“Years ago, someone asked me, ‘Why would I even go over to The Stroll?’ This development, along with the other amenities and businesses that are happening…there are going to be lots of reasons to go,” Ross said. “I’m excited about the lifestyle that can be offered in Magnolia with [Magnolia Lights] being our center city jewel.”

This appeared in print as one of our four Real Estate Trends. Read about the other real estate trends here.

View our other Real Estate Edition coverage.

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Kara McIntyre
Kara started with Community Impact Newspaper as the summer intern for the south Houston office in June 2018 after graduating with a bachelor's degree in mass communication from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She became the Tomball/Magnolia reporter in September 2018. Prior to CI, Kara served as the editor-in-chief of The Wichitan—Midwestern State University's student-run campus newspaper—and interned with both the Wichita Adult Literacy Council and VeepWorks.
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