Although not open to the public just yet, the Katy Boardwalk District’s 90-acre lake and trails embody the Katy Prairie with plants and animals.
“Yes, [the lake and trails are] going to be an amenity,” City Council Member Chris Harris said. “But it’s also going to be a wildlife area.”
When complete, the trails will also include rice paddies, which will attract birds, such as geese and ducks, he said.
“That’s a check mark to our history,” Harris said, adding the city will not allow fishing and other recreational activities, such as kayaking, on the lake.
The city owns the lake and trails, but no taxpayer money went toward developing them, according to Harris and Kayce Reina, the city's director of tourism, marketing and public relations. Instead, the Katy Development Authority created a tax increment reinvestment zone, which is a an economic development tool used to fund public infrastructure in a development using property taxes generated in the TIRZ boundaries.
Neither Harris nor Reina knew what the investment cost was to build out the lake and trails. An opening date for the trails has not been set, Reina added.
The 90-acre lake—formerly a detention pond—drains into Willow Fork, and a study by engineering firm Costello Inc. states no additional water will drain into the Willow Fork drainage systems, Harris and Reina said.
The idea for the lake and trails started about five years ago, Reina said, and after a feasibility study showed Katy was prime for a conference center, the city added that feature with a hotel.
The 43,000-square-foot conference center and six-story, 304-room hotel will be located alongside the lake and boardwalk. The architecture firm incorporated nature and wildlife in the designs of the center.
“What this facility does is it allows this incredible inside-out relationship between the property and its surrounding natural environment,” said Raffael Scasserra, the design director and principal at Gensler, which designed the conference center, at the Katy Economic Development Council’s April 16 meeting. “And what you’re seeing here is a lot of those meeting rooms … opening up to the lake edge and opening up to the exterior.”
Reina said Katy’s Convention and Tourism Bureau approved about $18 million of hotel occupancy funds over 20 years to go toward developing the conference center. Construction on the center and hotel is expected to start in late 2019 with a projected opening date for mid-2021.
When complete, the 169-acre, mixed-use development Katy Boardwalk District will also include about 60,000 square feet of Class A office space; 155,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment; and two multifamily projects, one of which broke ground in early March and expects to open in mid-2020. These aspects of the project are being developed by Sueba USA.