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As Residential Growth Booms, Fulshear Scouts For More Development Opportunities

Houston’s westward expansion has spurred massive residential and commercial growth in the city of Katy and the greater Katy area. As those areas have densified, interest in the nearby city of Fulshear has inevitably grown.

Fulshear’s population has increased significantly over the past decade. Several factors have contributed to that growth, including cheap land, large master-planned communities with affordable pricing, good school districts and access to the Westpark Tollway.

In response to that rapid growth, city officials are seriously thinking about how to attract more businesses and transformative projects to Fulshear, to support the rising number of rooftops.

“Generally, Fulshear is a very young city. It's grown very exponentially, very fast,” City of Fulshear Economic Development Director Angela Fritz told Bisnow.

Fulshear in Fort Bend County is the fastest-growing U.S. city with a population greater than 10,000 people, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The city went from 1,135 residents in 2010 to an estimated 10,044 in 2017.

recent report by demographic firm Population and Survey Analysts estimated that as of October 2019, Fulshear had about 13,969 people within its city limits, and 17,892 in its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

City officials and developers say that residential growth in Fulshear has been facilitated by the biggest master-planned community in the area: Cross Creek Ranch, a 3,200-acre development that first opened to the public in 2008.

Cross Creek Ranch General Manager Rob Bamford has been involved with the development since its inception. He told Bisnow that when the community first opened in 2008, the Great Recession made it particularly difficult to sell new homes. Things began to improve around 2010, and in 2012, Johnson Development Corp. acquired the master-planned community.

“It's been a quick eight years, all of a sudden, and we are approaching the last 300 acres of raw land to develop as we speak, which is a little bittersweet ... the end being now just 300 acres away,” Bamford said.

Johnson Development will continue to develop the remaining raw land over the next 18 months. If all goes well and homebuilders are able to perform their planned activities, Cross Creek Ranch could reach build-out within the next three years.

Bamford noted that despite the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic this year, the combination of tight housing supply and low interest rates has spurred a flurry of homebuying activity in Cross Creek Ranch. The community sold 60 homes in August, the highest number sold during any month this year.

“Low supply has really been a boon for anyone that's in the housing market,” Bamford said.

City of Fulshear Director of Planning and Development Zach Goodlander told Bisnow that his department has been extremely busy over the past six months, issuing new home permits.

“To give a brief side-by-side comparison, in the month of June of 2019, we issued probably 65 new home permits. In June 2020, that was 250,” Goodlander said.

Much of that growth has occurred in Cross Creek Ranch, but also in some of the smaller master-planned communities in the area, including Century Communities’ Polo Ranch and D.R. Horton’s Tamarron. 

Fulshear has a total of eight master-planned communities, and some are still years away from achieving build-out. Those new homes will serve the growing population, which could reach as high as 32,000 within the next decade, according to PASA projections.

The entrance to the Cross Creek Ranch master-planned community in Fulshear.

Single-family homes dominate Fulshear and its extraterritorial jurisdiction, but interest in multifamily development is growing. Goodlander noted that just last week, the city of Fulshear received plans from Judwin Properties for a new Class-A, 340-unit apartment complex. Other plans have already been approved for a nearby senior housing complex, which will have 170 units.

Bamford said that Johnson Development sold Judwin the 15 acres for the new complex, which will be the developer’s second multifamily property in Cross Creek Ranch.

“We consider multifamily/apartments as great incubators for folks that will eventually gravitate towards owning a home,” Bamford said.

With so much residential growth in the works, Fulshear is thinking seriously about how to attract more businesses to the area. City officials completed Fulshear’s first economic development strategic plan in September 2019. In that five-year plan, officials acknowledged that the city of Fulshear had reached a “critical point in its growth trajectory,” when remaining tracts of undeveloped land needed to be marketed for uses outside of residential growth.

Fritz said that in particular, city officials are working on plans to attract transformative, high-impact projects to the area that go beyond typical market-driven retail. Three types of high-priority transformative projects are outlined in the economic development strategic plan: a vibrant downtown area, a lifestyle center and more parks and open space.

“We will be following up with specific kinds of best industries, opportunity areas geographically and working with landowners into the future on building relationships and coming up with plans to see those sorts of transformative projects develop,” Fritz said.

One major project that has been in the works for about five years is a proposed 125-acre mixed-use development adjacent to Fulshear’s historic downtown area. The developers are two holding companies, Grandes Ricos LLC and Positive Developments LLC. Jeffrey Duke is the president of both companies, and told Bisnow that the goal is to create “the second half of downtown Fulshear.”

“It's always been a project of, what do people want? We'll try to bring it. I think that's still the mentality. And so we're trying to work that out to conform with what the city wants because this is essentially the second half of their downtown,” Duke said.

In May, Fulshear City Council voted to approve a zoning change that converted the land tract from a rural residential zone to a downtown district zone. The hard details of the mixed-use project remain in flux, but the development will include high-density residential, retail and restaurant elements, as well as green space.

Duke said that originally, the project was intended to break ground during the summer. The pandemic has delayed that start, which may not happen until summer next year.

“I believe that the property's historic and special, and we'd like to see something historic and special built on it, to be honest with you. That's the goal we're working on,” Duke said.

An aerial view of the construction of the Texas Heritage Parkway.

Fulshear’s tale of growth is similar to other small cities on Houston’s periphery. As the regional population continues to grow, those cities are attracting a new generation of homebuyers.

The construction of the Texas Heritage Parkway, a 6.4-mile road that will connect Interstate 10 with FM 1093 and the Westpark Tollway, is also expected to improve local access and attract more people to Fulshear. The highway project broke ground in June and is expected to take between 13 and 16 months to complete.

Goodlander and Fritz said that it’s not just young families and millennials moving to Fulshear. Older people are moving to the area to be close to children and grandchildren, but also in pursuit of high-quality amenities, community programming and a small town, rural feel.

“I think generally, the goal of the city is to make sure that this is a sustainable community. It's not just another sprawl community, not just a place for people to find temporary housing where they move, but a stable community that lasts for a long time and people can age into, and through,” Goodlander said.