Mobility Problems in The Woodlands?
Despite the imminent delivery of the Grand Parkway, experts at Bisnow’s Future of The Woodlands and Springwoods Village event last week expressed concern that mobility may become a problem in the area. Johnson Development general manager Virgil Yoakum (far left with MidSouth Bank’s Daniel Schroeder, Jet Lending’s Eddie Gant, fellow panelist Halberdier president Trey Halberdier and Jet Lending’s Johnny Hays) thinks it could strangle growth here, so he urges everyone to vote yes on the $250M bond coming up soon in Montgomery County. His team is launching significant portions of development in Grand Central Park (2,000 acres in Conroe) this month. He expects to open residential product there next year, and says major infrastructure work is already underway.
CDC Houston EVP Keith Simon (between PDR’s Peter Fisher and panelist Skanska director of development Ben Llana) is also a little worried about mobility. He says we won’t really know what impact the Grand Parkway will have until it opens (it could potentially open up areas of town that will compete with Springwoods Village), but the fact that people can see it preparing to open is increasing activity in Springwoods Village. Even better, the development within his project is more tangible (and massive employment engines have come to life), so Keith’s team is fielding more calls and gaining critical mass.
Patrinely Group president Robert Fields (pictured with colleague Matthew Behrmann) underscored the need for good mobility—when Patrinely has done site locations studies for companies, it’s found that most have employees residing all over the metro. Getting those people to the office from throughout Houston has been more important than locating near any one residential hub, so infrastructure and traffic need to be a top focus. Although our weakening economy has Patrinely shifting its development attention away from Houston, he thinks Springwoods Village is the most exciting place in the US right now with the best fundamentals. Patrinely’s three projects in CityPlace have gotten lots of soft commitments to pre-lease, Robert says, and he expects to have a permit in hand within 45 days.
The slowdown in the energy sector is impacting office leasing in The Woodlands, says Colliers co-chairman Bob Parsley. But Howard Hughes is balancing that out by starting new ventures, EVP Paul Layne tells us. The firm is creating a new self-storage division, which will break ground on its first property in the next three months. The team also just broke ground on an 84-unit high-rise condo property in Waterway Square. If it’s successful, Paul says, Howard Hughes could do more condo development. We snapped Paul with his son Kevin Layne, who just joined Signorelli Cos.
Stratton Development VP Beau Harris and Halberdier Real Estate president Trey Halberdier have spent a number of years aggressively acquiring land tracts and now are working through developing them. Beau has one site wrapping up its build-out (and sellout), and has seven spec industrial projects planned in the 10k to 20k SF range. Stratton plans to break ground in six to eight weeks on its next developments. Beau says phones haven’t stopped ringing from users, but the negotiations are harder. Trey purchased 10 sites throughout the last cycle and now is preparing to execute. His team has been pre-leasing Energy Crossing North, a spec project breaking ground this summer; he’s pictured here watching O’Donnell Snider’s Rob Householder hit a putt at his booth with Halberdier’s Eric Day, Matt Mitchell and Chris Boone.
DE Harvey Builders president Joe Cleary says his firm has had a job site underway in The Woodlands continually for 22 years. (It even built The Woodlands Waterway Marriott, which hosted our event.) He’s seeing construction costs starting to cool, and thinks we’ll see a noticeable drop around June, with prices eventually decreasing 7%. We snapped Joe second from the right with his colleague David Harvey and Cardno Haynes Whaley’s Larry Whaley and Andrea Goodwin.
Our sponsor PCG raffled off gift cards to Pappas—congrats to The Houston Group’s AD Azios Jr ($25), Gensler’s Samantha Jander ($50) and Halberdier’s Eric Day ($100). Above, PCG’s Vivian Peng, Jing Johnson and Valerie Delafosse showcased the renderings they produced for a few projects in The Woodlands and Springwoods Village (including Skanska’s Springwoods Place and a new science building for the John Copper School.)