For several years, the intersection of FM 1488 and FM 2978 in Magnolia was little more than vacant land with roads leading to Conroe and The Woodlands.
In the past decade, several businesses and housing developments, such as the Westwood Village Shopping Center, Pinewood Plaza and The Estates Woodland, have quickly filled in previously empty
tracts of land. By the end of the year two additional major developments are slated to open along FM 1488—a new H-E-B grocery store and the Triumph Center, a muti-tenant retail space.
“I remember a few years ago looking at Lake Wincrest, the only thing that was out here was an A&W [restaurant],” said Deborah Rose Miller, J Properties Realtor and Magnolia resident. “There was just a gas station down at the corner of [FM] 2978 and [FM] 1488, and that was it.”
H-E-B is poised to complete construction by the end of the year on its first Magnolia location at FM 1488 and Tamina Road, joining other major retailers, such as Target, Kroger, Home Depot and Walgreens, in what is now one of the major corridors of Montgomery County.
Nearby, construction is also wrapping up on the 2-acre Triumph Center, which will include retail space as well as the new location of Triumph Pharmacy.
Much of the development was only possible after FM 1488 was widened in 2010 from outside the city limits to Mostyn Manor, Miller said.
“It was totally undeveloped, but ever since [Montgomery County] widened the road on [FM] 1488, that was the beginning,” she said. “It used to be that people weren’t coming through here, and [now] you can’t ignore it.”
Several new housing developments are also planned along the western portion of FM 1488, including an expected 240 homes in Reynolds Reserve and 1,100 townhomes in Magnolia Commons.
With the influx of new homes and developers looking to buy land in the area, Miller said the city should attract more commercial companies to add major employers to the area. [polldaddy poll=9376463]
“[There are no] plans currently being made for any kind of industrial or commercial development that keeps our jobs, keeps our youth and keeps our parents working in Magnolia other than retail,” she said. “If you look at The Woodlands, Tomball and Conroe, what they have that we don’t have is that next level which creates jobs. Magnolia is a commuter community where people drive [out of the city] to their jobs and come home to live.”
Much of the development surrounding the FM 1488 and FM 2978 intersection lies within the Westwood Magnolia Parkway Improvement District, which was created in 2003 as an offshoot of the Southern Montgomery County Improvement District.
The district is run by a board of property owners, and taxes are collected from businesses within the district in exchange for providing utilities and road improvements, according to WMPID board member Tom Grayson.
“We exist strictly to enhance the business area for those that are members of the district,” Grayson said. “We’re being sensitive to the residential property owners in that they wouldn’t fall under the potential of the district being able to [collect] ad valorem taxes against them.”
In late 2007, a Target store opened along FM 1488. It is one of the WMPID’s first major developments and served as the anchor store for the Westwood Village Shopping Center. The center has since grown to include several major retail stores, fast-food restaurants and a Montgomery County sheriff’s office substation.
One cent of sales tax revenue from businesses within the district is collected and used for various improvement projects within the district, including the extension of Research Forest Drive in 2013 and the widening of Honea-Egypt Road that was completed earlier this year. Most of the funding for both projects came from the WMPID, Grayson said.
Grayson said although growth has caused rapid development in the area, he believes making infrastructure a top priority will allow new businesses to be supported with adequate roads and utilities.
“I believe that [development] has been done in a responsible manner,” Grayson said. “I don’t think that it’s another [FM] 1960. As you get a higher density of people you’re going to need more services.”
To support the expected population growth coming to the area, Magnolia officials are working to expand infrastructure and roads leading to the city limits. During a Magnolia Parkway Chamber of Commerce luncheon Feb. 23, City Administrator Paul Mendes said several road projects are already underway that will help relieve existing and future congestion.
In addition to the upcoming flyover at FM 149 and the planned future widening of FM 1488, the city has also partnered on a flyover at FM 1774 and FM 1488 to clear congestion downtown. The city is also working with the Montgomery County Toll Road Authority as the expansion of Hwy. 249 moves northwest toward Grimes County, Mendes said.
“When [the Texas Department of Transportation] approved the funding for [Hwy.] 249, I had more people call me about actually building or doing something in Magnolia than I had in the previous four years,” he said.
Filling in the gaps
Miller said growth on FM 1488 is likely to continue westward as city and county officials work to expand roadways and infrastructure.
“[If you look at FM] 2978 and [FM] 1488, that’s what [FM] 1488 and [FM] 149 is going to look like if you fast-forward the next five years,” Miller said. “That’s why we worked so hard to get the area in the city limits. We knew that was the last big place that the city of Magnolia could seize the opportunity.”
In addition to its purchased land at FM 1488 and Tamina Road, H-E-B is expected to open a second store as a tenant of the future Magnolia Commons mixed-use center, a 142-acre complex near FM 1488 and FM 149 once the flyover is complete.
Greg Holcombe, owner of Holcombe Real Estate, said properties along the FM 1488 corridor are selling quickly as major retailers begin to buy up land. Development is expected to continue as transportation projects are completed.
“It’s going to fill up within the next two years,” Holcombe said. “All of the other parcels are being bought up. It just keeps moving farther and farther toward Magnolia.”