01/29/13 3:00pm

“If you really wanna pass on the secrets, if you really wanna pass on truth, embed it in architecture,” says Glenn Beck in the January 10 episode of the Blaze. “That’s what I intend on doing.” The Dallas Observer‘s taking him at his word, speculating that Beck’s planning to build something like that radiant city in the screenshot above: it’d be a $2 billion master-planned community — with a theme park and an Alamo-inspired non-denominational church. It’d be called Independence, USA. And the Dallas Observer says it’d be in Texas.


01/22/13 12:30pm

Maybe the looks of this spa are too brutal a reminder of how the season went down the toilet? Houston Texans middle linebacker Brian Cushing injured his knee in October and was forced to watch from the sidelines as his team bowed out to the New England Patriots in the NFL playoffs. Now, his 7,007-sq.-ft. Missouri City home is for sale, starting at $1,299,900.


01/18/13 1:00pm

One more of each, thank you: Creekside Park Village Center, rendered above, will be the Woodlands’ 7th and will be anchored by its 4th H-E-B, the master-planned community says. The shopping center will serve Creekside Park, a 100-acre community planned to go in up there west of Lake Paloma. It appears that the center will herd its shoppers inward toward a 4,300-sq.-ft. glass-walled restaurant, which you can see in the rendering. And there’s gonna be a fire pit in that park-like median-thing. (And a water feature on the other end. You know. Just in case.) In all, 80,000 sq. ft. of retail and office space are proposed for the site on Kuykendahl.


12/19/11 11:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: YES, A RING ROAD EVEN FURTHER OUT THAN THE GRAND PARKWAY “I hate to be the one to break the news, but the next outer loop beyond Grand Parkway is already being planned. If you look at the land plan for Cross Creek Ranch, there’s a big right of way built into the western portion of the development. It is right close to the proposed terminus of the Westpark Toll Road and roughly aligns with FM 2855 to the north and Spur 10 to the south. Some of the economic development corporations and chambers of commerce out there have even begun tracing its route on their planning maps.” [TheNiche, commenting on The Swamplot Award for Special Achievement in Sprawl: The Official 2011 Ballot]

01/28/11 10:16am

The HBJ’s Jennifer Dawson picks up an interesting detail about Springwoods Village, the mysterious eco-themed community being planned by a mysterious company for 1,800 mostly forested acres just south of the Woodlands, at the intersection of I-45, the Hardy Toll Road, and (someday) the Grand Parkway. Coventry Development, still won’t talk about the project’s connection to the rumored but not-yet-announced corporate campus ExxonMobil appears to be building next door, which is expected to consolidate most employees currently based in Houston and Fairfax, Virginia. But it sure looks like Coventry is banking on something big close by: Development director Keith Simon tells Dawson that

Coventry will develop commercial parcels in Springwoods before the residential acreage. The company’s strategy is to build commercial first to create tax value that will funnel money through the tax district to fund infrastructure.

Building standalone office parks and strip centers in the middle of a forest is, of course, a time-honored Houston development tradition. More often these days though, the sprawling houses go in first. But if the major centralized campus of the second-largest publicly traded company in the world is going to bring in thousands of workers nearby pretty soon anyway, yeah — what’s the point?


10/08/10 7:02pm

The development director of the New York-and-Denver-based firm that just announced it would be creating a new eco-themed 1,800-acre community immediately south of The Woodlands — and directly adjacent to a 400-acre parcel Exxon Mobil has been eyeing for a giant new consolidated corporate campus — is sure being kinda vague about the identity of the property’s owner, Springwoods Realty. Keith Simon tells the HBJ‘s Jennifer Dawson that Coventry Development and Springwoods Realty share some officers (including him), but that the two companies are “not affiliated.”:

Coventry handles all of the real estate holdings for a privately held umbrella organization that Simon would not name. Springwoods Realty is under that umbrella.

Other entities under the umbrella own approximately 1,000 acres of undeveloped land by Baybrook Mall. Coventry has developed approximately 1 million square feet of retail property around the mall over the past 25 years.

“It’s really a confusing puzzle,” Simon admits.

Adding to the mystery surrounding this corporate . . . uh, “shell” game: Simon’s statement earlier in the week that Springwoods Realty had sold off approximately 400 acres of its holdings — not to Exxon Mobil, but to an entity named Palmetto Transoceanic.

Site map: Coventry Development

10/05/10 12:19pm

A New York land development firm called Coventry Development has just announced grand plans to establish a giant eco-friendly, mixed-use development modeled heavily on the ecological principles first demonstrated decades ago by The Woodlands — on an 1,800-acre site just south of that community. It’s now a pine forest near the intersections of I-45 North, the Hardy Toll Road, and the projected path of the Grand Parkway, about 30 miles north of Downtown Houston. Some portions of that forest will remain: Plans call for a 150-acre nature preserve along one section of the community’s northern reaches, which stretch to Spring Creek. South of that, and along the northern border of the Grand Parkway, the developers are planning a town center with the hallmarks of major mixed-use employment centers: office space and retail, a medical district, townhouses and apartments, and single-family homes. But they’ve gone ahead and given the place a formula-tested suburban-housing name: Springwoods Village.

Springwoods Realty Company has owned most of this land since the 1960s. Why develop it now? Because it’s now pretty clear that the Grand Parkway will actually be built right at the property’s southern border, the developers say. Plus, there’s development on all sides now.


09/27/10 12:16pm

Speaking of Katy schools: The power lines in the photo on the left, a couple miles southwest of Katy Mills mall, flag the dividing line between Jefferson Development’s Firethorne subdivision, zoned to Katy ISD, and the just-announced Firethorne West addition in Fulshear the company just announced — which will be served by the Lamar Consolidated ISD. The new Katy ISD elementary school site waiting for November’s bond vote and proudly featured in the center of Firethorne’s master plan will not be serving the 1,400 planned homes in Firethorne West, even though they’ll be only 2 blocks away. The kids in Firethorne West will likely be attending Huggins Elementary, which is more than five miles to the southwest. And until new roads are built they’d actually get to drive past that “Future Katy ISD” elementary school every school day to get there:


09/24/10 3:51pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: CINCO RANCH SPRAWLS WEST “This is really, REALLY good news. It brings us one step closer to the ultimate goal of expanding this wonderful neighborhood all the way to Fulshear. Although they may have to change the name to something like Catorce Ranch, since there are likely several more cattle farms in this community’s God-given territory.” [Gucci Mane, commenting on School-District Manifest Destiny]

09/24/10 12:37pm

SCHOOL-DISTRICT MANIFEST DESTINY Cinco Ranch — recently named the fastest-growing residential community in the country by a real-estate consulting firm — will keep expanding west. Newland Communities just purchased 492 acres west of neighboring Pine Mill Ranch, way out near Firethorne between FM 1463 and Katy-Flewellen Road; the company plans to have new Cinco Ranch-branded homesites available there within a couple of years. Further west, there’s even more land available for cheap: the 742-acre Tamarron Lakes subdivision was foreclosed on in April. Kirk Laguarta of Land Advisors Organization, who’s marketing that property for $19K an acre, tells the Houston Business Journal that the property that Newland just bought is considered more valuable that that, in part because it’s zoned to Katy ISD. But Newland may not be interested in expanding Cinco Ranch into Tamarron Lakes — that development belongs to the Lamar Consolidated ISD. [Houston Business Journal]

07/14/09 7:36pm

Working from a remote and undisclosed location, the now-expatriate Houston engineer known as Keep Houston Houston puts together a rough diagram identifying the city’s “traditional” walkable neighborhoods, and comments:

Houston has no shortage of gridded, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. Thing is, they’re all kind of squished together. And with a couple of exceptions, they were all platted out before 1935. What’s there is there. We’re not adding to it.


Developer conservatism plays a role, but is ethereal, subject to evaporate as soon as *someone* steps up and proves that suburban [Traditional Neighborhood Development] is sufficiently profitable. But several city standards and rules are standing in the way.

Are Houston’s development rules really the obstacle?

Keep Houston Houston scans through the city’s development ordinance, then throws together a quick design for a residential neighborhood following the basic requirements. What does that end up looking like?


06/17/09 4:42pm

NO DEAL FOR BRIDGELAND Bankrupt General Growth Properties won’t be selling its Grand Parkway-lining sprawlchild to the Caldwell Cos. after all. The $95 million deal to sell Bridgeland’s 11,400 acres is off: Jim Graham, General Growth’s director of public affairs, released a statement on Wednesday saying all discussions have been terminated with parties interested in purchasing or investing in Bridgeland, but would not disclose any further details concerning the negotiations. Graham says the decision was made ‘very recently.’” [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot]

06/05/09 3:41pm

Houston, the Toll Brothers have been looking for just the right home for you:

“We have been studying the Houston market for a long time and have been looking for the right opportunity to enter it,” Robert Toll, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “In 2008, Houston was the second-largest home building market in the nation.”

Actually, the “nation’s leading builder of luxury homes” is headed to The Woodlands. The Pennsylvania-based company, which already operates in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio, promises its first houses in the Village of Creekside Park will be complete early next year. Sales will begin this August.

Toll Brothers at Creekside Park will offer homes on 80′ wide home sites and will showcase five floorplans with multiple exterior designs.

A Swamplot reader comments on the photo accompanying the announcement that appeared in the Houston Business Journal:

The story includes a photo of one of the exterior choices: A French provincial pastiche. What in the name of pete does anything like this have to do with the climate and traditional architectural style of the Gulf Coast? Do the Toll Brothers even pay attention?

Well, that may not have been the company’s intent. On its own website, Toll Brothers illustrates its press release with this separately tuned sample:


05/22/09 11:46am

BUYING A BRIDGELAND The Caldwell Cos., possibly financed by Japan’s Sumitomo Corp., is in the process of buying all 11,400 acres of Bridgeland from bankrupt General Growth Properties for $90 to $95 million. “Caldwell notes the master-planned community will have the fourth-largest lake in Houston upon completion. The firm has spent three years moving more than 2 million [cubic] yards of dirt to create the body of water that’s large enough for boating and skiing, he says. The first part of the lake opened two weeks ago. . . . The master-planned community stretches between Katy-Hockley Road and Fry Road, south of U.S. Highway 290. The Grand Parkway will run right through the property. Construction on the roadway will begin in March 2010 with $180 million of federal stimulus money, according to The Grand Parkway Association.” [Houston Business Journal; previously in Swamplot]

03/02/09 12:13pm

HEY, HEY, STAY OUTTA OUR CHICK-FIL-A A brief excerpt from that satirical article in the Cinco Ranch High School newspaper that sparked protests from students of neighboring schools at the LaCenterra Shopping Center last Friday: “You can’t help but be a little bit angry when you’re stuck in the Whataburger drive-thru behind an unimaginably large caravan of Katy cars, each sporting at least 12 stickers reminding you of their accomplishments. If they’re so great why can’t they go to their own Whataburger? There’s this feeling in our little corner of the world that just says: This is Cinco. Some believe there is a sense of ownership to the neighboring businesses and restaurants… Cinco’s Mission Burrito. Cinco’s Target. Cinco’s Taco Bell, Whataburger, Sonic. Seeing anything but maroon clad students and parents roaming the aisles seems odd to some. Don’t they have their own places to go? ” [Fort Bend Now]