Three business parks and a new college campus are filling in development in Missouri City’s last underdeveloped areas. But officials said the city needs to ensure its infrastructure can handle the influx of workers and traffic.
Major thoroughfares and new housing are playing a part in the city’s economic growth, but industrial projects are the city’s fastest-growing sector, officials said. Industrial business parks abound in the Hwy. 90 and Beltway 8 corridor, and city officials said they are hoping a relocated Houston Community College campus can breathe new life into Texas Parkway.
“I don’t know that we can do much more on Hwy. 6,” Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen said. “But I think the major corridors now [for development] would be the Fort Bend Toll Road, [the Hwy.] 90 corridor [and] Texas Parkway.”
Grady Prestage, Fort Bend County Precinct 2 commissioner, said Missouri City’s economic growth is comparable to that of the rest of Fort Bend County. However, the city is also mimicking the county’s trend of rapidly diminishing available land.
He said infill development, or the development of vacant land within an urban area, is on the rise, which could explain why large-scale projects are taking off in Missouri City’s historically underused pockets.
When Dallas-based real estate developer Trammell Crow Co. looked for a location for industrial parks near Houston about a decade ago, the company could not find land north or northwest of the city, principal Jeremy Garner said. However, Missouri City had the space available along Beltway 8 from Hwy. 90 to Fondren Road.
Trammell Crow’s first industrial park in the area, Lakeview, opened in 2008. Eleven of the park’s buildings totalling 1.3 million square feet are already 100 percent occupied, although 9.6 acres among six tracks of land were still available for sale as of February.
Garner estimated the nine businesses already occupying Lakeview brought in about 1,000 jobs to Missouri City.
The developer’s second business park, Park 8Ninety, will open Phase 1 this summer with three buildings and a combined 332,957 square feet. The buildings are projected to be constructed by May or June, and Garner said he expects leases to be signed by the summer.
“The tract upon which we’re building Park 8Ninety is a very complicated tract, which probably historically kept other developers from building on it,” Garner said.
The two sites were annexed into Fort Bend Water Control and Improvement
District No. 2 to provide the industrial parks with water and sanitary sewer services. Trammell Crow also put in public roads to serve the parks, Garner said.
“I see absolutely no downside from the development of high-end business parks,” said Jeff Wiley, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council. “They represent employment centers for the community and a new source of commercial tax base for taxing entities.”
Gateway Southwest Industrial Park is also in development near Hwy. 90 and Beltway 8. Conor Commercial Real Estate began developing the 36-acre tract in December 2014 with three buildings. Phase 1 ended late last year with two finished buildings, and Phase 2 includes one building that can be built to suit.
No tenants have signed on to the site. Conor Commercial declined to comment on the project.
“[The Hwy. 90 and Beltway 8 corridor] is one area in the oldest part of the city that continues to see a lot of growth,” said Joe Esch, Missouri City economic development director. “Juxtapose that with the newest part of the city by Fort Bend Toll Road and Hwy. 6, [which] has more retail growth.”
Texas Parkway’s predicament
Despite its development potential, Owen said Texas Parkway has been an economic challenge for the city over the years. He said businesses come and go in the shopping centers along the road, and space for new projects is limited.
“These are old shopping centers, and these owners who don’t live here, they don’t have to see [the storefronts] every day. We do,” he said. “All we can do is work with them to attract better tenants.”
Owen said he recommended the shopping centers along Texas Parkway spruce up their storefronts to compete with newer, more heavily trafficked businesses on Hwy. 6.
“[The city] created a tax increment reinvestment zone in that area. We’ve improved lighting on Texas Parkway, new sidewalks,” Owen said. “We’ve done our share.”
Wiley said capital investment in primary corridors, such as Hwy. 59 and the Grand Parkway, may be making investment along secondary corridors, like Texas Parkway, seem less attractive to developers, particularly in areas where redevelopment is necessary.
“The development of Hwy. 6 has had three specific advantages over Texas Parkway,” he said. “It has been largely greenfield [and] new development; it is close in proximity to both Hwy. 59 and the Fort Bend Toll Road; and it has two of the fastest-growing master-planned communities in the country in Sienna Plantation and Riverstone.”
One major new development along Texas Parkway—the largest in decades, Esch said—is the relocated HCC campus across from Missouri City City Hall opening in 2017.
The new $21.5 million campus will total about 70,000 square feet, housing classrooms, lab space, exhibition space, a student lounge, administration and faculty offices, conference rooms, a server room, multipurpose rooms, security and facilities maintenance areas, and parking.
The campus will replace HCC’s Sienna Plantation campus while serving as the college system’s new Center for Entrepreneurship, Technology and Health. HCC system teachers will lead approximately 75 to 100 class sections per semester on the new campus, according to Madeline Burillo, interim president for HCC-Southwest.
“[The campus is] going to be a huge boost, I think, for that corridor and trying to get some different types of development, maybe a town center, along there,” Owen said.
Future growth areas
With the $30.3 million Fort Bend Toll Road overpass due to be completed by the end of this year and the roadway’s extension south and west of Sienna Parkway moving forward, city officials predict more commercial development will crop up around the highway.
Going forward, Owen said, the city’s primary development concern will be to create an infrastructure that supports growth. As Missouri City turns 60 years old this year, roads and sidewalks will need attention in some areas, he said.
“I’m talking about Quail Valley and Hunters Glenn, and Hunters Green and Fondren Park,” he said. “We have a choice: We either continue to let them dilapidate and it affects home values, or we can face it head-on.”
The city also pays for street repairs through bond issuances and tax increases, but Owen said the latter is highly unpopular. Nevertheless, he said he believes people would support an increase if they knew how the money would be used.
“When we [replace] a street, it’s millions of dollars. It’s not thousands of dollars anymore,” Owen said. “We may need to have a tax increase at some point in time.”