A Good School District Is Still The Best Amenity
Walkability, green spaces, connectivity. All are important, but all still play second string behind a good school district. Katy, the booming suburb of Houston, proves that a good school district is the best way to drive development.
“Katy is known for Katy ISD first and foremost,” Rise Communities president Dan Naef told the crowd at Bisnow’s The Future of Katy event.
Established in 1898, Katy ISD has more than 70,000 students across 63 campuses, 15 of which have been awarded the National Blue Ribbon School title.
“What Katy and the west market has is the perfect cycle,” Parkside Capital CEO John Moody Sr. said. “You’ve got great housing, you’ve got great school districts. One begets the other. You get enough people and a big educated workforce, then you get the jobs moving to the people."
Over the past decade, the Katy area has been no stranger to growth, with an annual population growth rate between 4% and 6%. Population within the Katy area is expected to continue growing and reach well over 350,000 by the year 2020.
The area's growth, in large part due to a stellar school system, is attracting major corporations. Amazon, Igloo and Academy Sports, along with dozens of others, have chosen to make sizable investments in the community. Large commercial ventures like Typhoon Texas and Buc-ee’s are also setting up shop.
Funding a school system like Katy’s is no easy feat, especially after the district constructed a $72M football stadium. More than two years after Katy ISD voters approved a controversial $748M bond package, a district committee is developing a new bond referendum to fund new schools. The new bond does not have a price tag yet. At least 10,000 more students are expected to enroll in Katy ISD schools by 2021 — a figure that could grow to at least 17,000 by 2026, according to Population and Survey Analysts, the district's demographer. The district says new development has caused a surge of students, especially in its northwest and southwest corners.
Katy’s cycle of growth fueled by good homes and schools will not last forever. Low oil prices and slower migration to Houston have some worried about the area. Katy has a plan for that, too.
"Less residential growth gives development in other sectors more of a focus," Katy Area Economic Development Council vice president Frank Lombard said.
"We've anticipated it, with our annexation [of land] to the west. We've set ourselves up to be successful even if a population downturn occurs," Katy city administrator Byron Hebert said. "We've taken in commercial property into the City of Katy. We always want to have a balance between commercial and residential."