New communities to meet housing demand

Several new master-planned communities are under development in Sugar Land and Missouri City, as area builders are working to keep up with an increased demand for housing.

Fort Bend County is projected to be the fastest growing county in the Greater Houston area by 2025 with a more than 100 percent increase in population, employment levels and the number of households—which is expected to rise above 40,000 by 2025, according to a 2013 Houston-Galveston Area Council report.

"For the last 10 years, whether in a recession or otherwise, our population in Fort Bend County has grown by about 22,000 people annually," said Jeff Wiley, president and CEO of the Fort Bend County Economic Development Council. "When people come here, they look for amenity-rich environments, and Fort Bend County has a large amount of that. While we only represent a portion of the population, we represent 20 percent of growth in the region."

In 2012, there were about 84,500 people living in 24,900 houses in Sugar Land. Missouri City had about 68,800 people in 21,700 homes in 2011, according to city data. Those numbers are expected to continue increasing as a result of available housing, a low cost of living and quality schools, Wiley said.

Mixed-use communities

Master-planned communities are different from regular housing subdivisions in that they are built to accommodate the needs of a major influx of people. In addition to homes, these communities include schools, roads, parks, golf courses, lakes, walking trails and businesses as part of the original development plans.

"People make their biggest investment when they move into a house," Wiley said. "Master-planned communities act to protect property values over a long period of time with deed restrictions that help keep commercial retail acceptable, enforce residential upkeep and allow amenities for the community."

The master-planned community of Sienna Plantation in Missouri City is nearing build-out. A representative of the developer said the community will include about 7,200 homes on more than 10,000 acres of land and is anticipated to be complete by 2015. The community on Hwy. 6 and Sienna Parkway features many amenities, such as an on-site water park, athletic fields, an 18-hole golf course and several miles of walking trails along the Brazos River.

"It's a one–stop shop," said Lawren Eckhardt, marketing assistant for Sienna Plantation. "Everything will be right here at [the residents'] fingertips, so they don't have to travel outside the community, which is part of our goal. We look for communities where there is a need for new houses and amenities when we build."

Sienna South, which is being developed in Missouri City's extraterritorial jurisdiction by Hillwood Communities, will feature 7,000 single family units on 3,800 of land with 1,100 acres of open land. The new development will also include on-site schools planned for the community.

Situated at Hwy. 6 and Hwy. 90, the 716-acre Imperial Sugar Land development has broken ground and builders are expected to have homes for sale by the end of 2013. The development will feature an estimated 116 patio homes and 27 townhomes ranging from 1,800–3,000 square feet priced between $300,000–$700,000.

The project is designed to cater to young professionals and active empty nesters, president of Trendmaker Homes Will Holder said.

"The Imperial lifestyle with nearby shopping, dining and general conveniences is perfect for the townhome buyer," he said.

Four home builders have been selected to build out the first neighborhood of the master-planned community of Imperial Sugar Land. The selected builders—Sitterle Homes, Darling Homes, Partners in Building and Trendmaker Homes—are expected have model homes open by spring 2014.

Riverstone—another master-planned community under development—is located within both Sugar Land's and Missouri City's ETJ and will include between 6,000 homes upon build-out for up to 18,000 residents throughout the next four years. Residents will have access to several amenities as part of the community master plan such as 200 acres of lakes, 24 miles of trails and 400 acres of parks along with multiple recreation centers, eight tennis courts and resort style pools all on the 3,700-acre site.

Additionally, Riverstone will include a variety of mixed amenities. The site plan calls for a mix of patio and estate homes, townhomes and condos amidst commercial businesses, day care centers and Fort Bend ISD schools.

"One reason we built here was because [of] accessibility and existing growth at our borders," said Tom Wilcox, general manager of Riverstone. "Because of our growth, we've seen more in our entire area in Sugar Land and Missouri City. Sales are going at a record pace. We are ranked No. 7 in the nation for home sales and No. 3 in Houston among master-planned communities."

Transportation concerns

With increased population comes more road congestion and a demand for more access to retail centers. According to property maps, Sienna South's new phase of development south of Sienna Plantation will feature retail space that will connect residents in both communities.

A project to extend Sienna Parkway will allow increased mobility that will also help connect the communities.

Sienna Parkway is not the only road construction in the area. The Johnson Development Corporation announced a new bridge will connect Sienna Plantation to Riverstone, a neighboring master-planned community under development to the west in Sugar Land and Missouri City.

The bridge is currently under construction and will connect Sienna Springs Road in Sienna Plantation to LJ Parkway in Riverstone, creating an access point between the communities by the end of the year.

"All [construction] is part of the system plan for the community that was designed to accommodate full development in the area," Wilcox said. "We currently have about 2,800 families here and expect that growth to continue."

Wiley said having the right infrastructure in growing communities is key to future growth.

"You can never catch up with growth," Wiley said. "As we continue to experience population growth and master planned community growth, we have to constantly work on roads to relieve congestion and allow for continued growth in the future which is why these will be important issues in the upcoming county mobility bond later this year."