Archive for the ‘Area Neighborhoods’ Category

whole-foods-bag_300The Howard Hughes Corporation® (NYSE: HHC) and its wholly-owned subsidiary The Woodlands Development Company (TWDC), recently announced that Whole Foods Market® will soon begin construction in Hughes Landing on Lake Woodlands, a 66-acre mixed-use development within The Woodlands. Hughes Landing is anticipated to be a dynamic environment featuring up to 11 office buildings; shopping, dining and entertainment; an upscale hotel; a fitness center and up to 800 multi-family residences.


“Local residents have long expressed strong interest in having a Whole Foods Market in The Woodlands,” said Paul Layne, Executive Vice President of Master Planned Communities for The Howard Hughes Corporation. “It will be an exceptional destination within Hughes Landing and across The Woodlands, adding to the many benefits of living, working and playing in this vibrant community.”


Founded in 1980 in Austin, TX, Whole Foods Market is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by “Health” magazine. The company’s motto, “Whole Food, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. With 73,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America by “FORTUNE” magazine for 16 consecutive years. The grocer currently has more than 350 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.


“The Woodlands is a great fit for us,” said Mark Dixon, President of Whole Foods Market’s Southwest Region. “We are excited about the Hughes Landing development and its central location that is easily accessible to residents of The Woodlands and surrounding areas.”


Whole Foods Market plans to open its new 40,000-square-foot store in Hughes Landing in 2015. The main entrance will be situated off Lake Front Circle, near the intersection of Lake Front and Lake Woodlands Drive. Ample surface parking will be located adjacent to the market.


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Each year new costume trends are added to the already huge selection of Halloween costumes. Here are a few of this year’s trending ideas appropriate for children and a some for adults as well.

1. Duck Dynasty – The whole family can participate in this one, from bearded sons and husbands, to nicely dressed wives and daughters, all with duck calls.

2. Avengers – The popularity of the Avengers is still high with recent movies such as “Iron Man 3” and the upcoming “Thor: The Dark World”. This idea is appropriate for girls and boys but also for grown adults who still linger in childhood Marvel memories.

3. Iron Man and Iron Patriot – Popular again this year, as every year, but with the addition of Iron Patriot from “Iron Man 3.” Best friends can team up and save the world together.

4. Zombies – Not fading soon and with a plethora of zombie movies that come out each year, you are likely to see more twists on zombie apparel this year.

5. Monster High – Similar to zombies, but for girls who love the show, this is another trend that probably will not let up soon. Given its Halloween appropriate look already, Monster High gives girls that cute and scary look.

6. Rapunzel – “Tangled” captured the imagination of many girls, and gave Rapunzel a whole new look. Look for those long golden locks to be popular this year.

7. Minions and Gru – “Despicable Me 2” was a box office smash and who does not love those little minions, “Bedo, bedo, bedo!” This trend is great for kids, or the whole family. Depending on the size of your family, you could encompass the whole movie.

8. Power Rangers – Surprisingly, it looks like the Power Rangers are back in the spotlight this year. Look for newly designed costumes for all members of the Power Rangers team.

Take a look at the stores, or make your own costume, but choose what you want to be, even if it is trending this year. Make it your own by adding special accessories, or dressing your whole family in the same theme. Whatever you choose to be this Halloween, remember to be safe, have fun, and stay in character.


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Hughes LandingThe first Hughes Landing tenants began moving in to their new offices in One Hughes Landing in early September, but the office building is only the first of many projects on the horizon. With residential, retail and dining projects planned in the near future, demand for space is strong for the 66-acre mixed-use development.

 Plans for Hughes Landing include 1.5 million to 2 million square feet of office space, 800–1,000 apartment units, 175,000–200,000 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet for a hotel and a fitness center to serve workers, said Alex Sutton, co-president of The Woodlands Development Company.

Within two years, much of Hughes Landing—located on the east side of Lake Woodlands between Grogan’s Mill Road and Lake Woodlands Drive—could be completed, including a grocery store, parking garage, restaurants and luxury apartments, he said. Sutton said the entirety of the development, including as many as 11 office buildings, could take five to 10 years to complete, depending on demand.

“There’s a lot of buzz in the market that Hughes Landing has created,” Sutton said. “There’s a strong interest in it, and we’re very pleased at the pace that it’s going.”

Retail and residential

Development has always been planned for the tract of land—on the east side of Lake Woodlands between Grogan’s Mill Road and Lake Woodlands Drive—but the development company debated how much space should be allocated for residential and commercial development, Sutton said.

The development company finalized plans a little more than a year ago, Sutton said, and construction began on One Hughes Landing—the first office building—about 10 months ago. “You look at the [Hughes Landing] area and you see developments all around it,” Sutton said. “This is a place where the time has come.”

Although most of the early construction has focused on commercial development, other areas could break ground in 2013. Sutton said construction should break ground by the fourth quarter of this year for a 40,000–50,000-square-foot specialty grocer and a parking garage as the Development Company finalizes leasing for the space.

Paul Layne, executive vice president of master-planned communities for the Howard Hughes Company, said the development company is discussing a lease with Whole Foods. If constructed, it would be the first Whole Foods in The Woodlands.

Hughes Landing will also house what the development company is calling Restaurant Row, an area that will feature at least six restaurants. Escalante, a Mexican restaurant, has already signed a lease, while Eddie V’s, a seafood restaurant, and Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar are close to signing, Layne said. He said the development company is also seeking an Italian restaurant, and as many as 40 restaurants are vying for those few spots in Hughes Landing.

“It’s tremendously popular right now for high-end retail, and restaurants, particularly, are really interested right now,” said Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership.

Staley said the EDP was recently contacted by one major restaurant group from Orlando seeking data on Hughes Landing and The Woodlands, indicating how far the demand reaches.

Construction on Restaurant Row could begin once all restaurants are signed, Sutton said.

The first phase of residential development could begin this month, Sutton said. That includes an eight-story multi-family building with 391 luxury units and 20,000 square feet of retail on the first floor. Discussions are also underway for possible entertainment attractions, including a live music venue, a bowling alley and venues similar to Main Event or Dave & Buster’s.

“You develop a place with energy, and it becomes a place where people want to be,” Sutton said. “And that is why we’re being real careful in selecting our retail. We want to make sure there’s energy.”

Layne said discussions are also ongoing with two possible properties for the development’s hotel: Element by Starwood and Embassy Suites.

Office space

The first of as many as 11 possible office buildings within Hughes Landing, One Hughes Landing is complete and will begin housing tenants this month. Construction began on Two Hughes Landing in June, which should be nearly identical in size to One Hughes Landing, Sutton said.

The third office building could begin construction in spring 2014 once Two Hughes Landing nears completion. Future office buildings should follow suit, breaking ground shortly after the previous building’s completion date.

“The interest picks up considerably once construction picks up and the tenant can see there’s actually a building there,” Sutton said.

The third office facility could be as tall as 12 stories, while the fourth could be 14 or higher as the buildings get farther from the water, Sutton said. The development company has even considered an office building on the water.

Sutton said 87 percent of the leases for One Hughes Landing have been signed, although 95 percent of the leases will soon be finalized for the 197,000-square-foot, 8-story building. Tenants include Layne Christiansen, PetroQuest Energy and Post Oak Bank.

Frank LaRosa, senior vice president and chief administrative officer for Layne Christensen, said his company should add more than 100 jobs when it moves from Kansas City. LaRosa said the housing market and increased property taxes in The Woodlands, compared to his company’s previous location, are not ideal, but the area offers a good labor base for new employees and strong amenities.

“We determined it was in the best interest of the company to reconsolidate and bring our leadership team together in a new location,” he said. “We selected The Woodlands first and foremost because it’s close to our energy services market, which is a growing business for us, and because of the amenities in Houston.”

Although Sutton said no tenants have signed leases yet for Two Hughes Landing, he and Staley believe the demand is strong.

“[One Hughes Landing] filling up so quickly is a good indicator of how strong it is right now for office demand,” Staley said. “Two is taking off as well and three should be right behind.”

Transportation concerns

With 66 acres being developed less than a mile from Town Center, Sutton said Hughes Landing will increase traffic in the area. However, he said the development company has planned for infrastructure in that area, and much of the infrastructure in place is underused.

Sutton said such improvements could include expanding roads from four lanes to six lanes at certain intersections for left and right turns. The development company has also planned for overpasses at Grogan’s Mill Road and Research Forest Drive and at Grogan’s Mill and Lake Woodlands Drive.

Sutton said The Woodlands Township could also expand the trolley service to Hughes Landing.

“We are very hopeful that the trolley will come out to Hughes Landing and come back to the Town Center and those areas,” Sutton said

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To successfully purchase a home today, you will need a down payment of at least 3.5 percent of the purchase price. Gone are the days of no down payment alternatives, down payment assistance and seller-offered programs to come up with the money needed to buy a home. Instead, let’s look at the five ways you can come up with a down payment to seal the deal.

1. Gift Money: Gift money is simply that — a gift from family or documented close relationship. The giftor needs to provide a gift letter and paper trail for the monies they are gifting for the benefit of the buyer. In other words, they’ll have to provide a bank account showing that they had the ability to gift the money. In short, gift monies cannot be funds sitting at home in a safe.

2. 401(k)/Retirement Loan: Typically, borrowed funds for a down payment are a no-go, but the exception is a 401(k) or equivalent retirement account (or current home equity line). If you can borrow money from your 401(k) for your down payment, this is accepted for obtaining a purchase mortgage loan. Note: Depending on the terms of your loan, this could be counted as a liability and factored into your debt-to-income ratio.

3. Sale of a Good: Believe it or not, you can sell your recreational vehicle and use the net proceeds from the transaction as your down payment. Let’s say that you decide to sell your motorcycle for $10,000. You’ll need to provide the full bill of sale — as well as the bank statement depositing those funds, matching the bill of sale — to your mortgage lender. Same goes for any other recreational vehicle, or other item that “makes sense.” The key is as long as it’s plausible and passes the litmus test and you can paper trail the monies from start to finish, you should have no problem using those monies for the house purchase.

4. Trust Funds, Settlement Awards, etc.: If you come into a chunk of change via an inheritance, settlement, lottery winning, trust fund disbursement, family buyout, even a gambling victory, all of these monies can be used for the down payment as long as the sourcing of the monies is fully documented from A to Z with no stone left unturned. Matching of the amounts of monies used to the original deposits will be required when it comes time to secure the loan.

5. Line of Credit: Where a down payment lacks, enter strength in income. You can take out a line of credit or a personal loan, deposit the full funds into your bank account and after two months, the funds will be eligible for use in the transaction.

While a down payment is needed to purchase in the current real estate market, a prudent homebuyer should also have plans for having available funds for closing costs. The same out-of-the-box strategies listed above can also be used to procure funds for closing costs.

Closing costs run at about 3 percent of the purchase price, on average. So the total funds to close would be 3 percent of purchase price plus 3.5 percent down.

Do your homework. If you don’t have a down payment for a house, or your down payment is coming from more than one source, make sure that you talk to a lender upfront so they can help you navigate the best way to properly support and document your monies used. Doing this on the front end will save you from wasting time creating and gathering unnecessary paperwork.

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Tx_childrensTexas Children’s Hospital hopes to break ground on a new pediatric hospital in The Woodlands in January that could open sometime in 2017.

“We know that The Woodlands is growing like crazy with businesses moving there,” said Christy Brunton, Texas Children’s public relations director. “Texas Children’s Hospital’s mission is to be able to give children the best access to care in their community.”

Brunton said the hospital is still pending final approval from the hospital system’s board of directors on Nov. 14. If approved, the hospital would be dedicated strictly to pediatrics, similar to the West Campus location in the Katy area. The Katy branch—which houses 48 inpatient hospital beds—provides a variety of medical services, including cardiology, diabetes, oncology, hematology, neurology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, pulmonary medicine, surgical specialties, radiology and an emergency room, among other services.

“Any service you can get at the West Campus is going to be out there [at The Woodlands hospital],” she said.

Although the design of The Woodlands hospital has not been finalized, Brunton said the planned hospital would likely be larger than the 500,000-square-foot West Campus location.

The 22.3 acres for the proposed hospital is at the southwest corner of I-45 and Hwy. 242, just south of The Woodlands branch of St. Luke’s Hospital, Brunton said. Texas Children’s first purchased some land on the site in 2007 and finalized the purchase of the remainder of the land last week. If approved by the board, she said a groundbreaking for the hospital is planned for Jan. 31.

Construction on the project will take 36 months with an estimated completion date sometime in 2017, she said.

Texas Children’s Hospital already has a health center in The Woodlands. The hospital system also staffs the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital in The Woodlands with pediatric physicians and manages the hospitla’s neonatal intensive care room.

“We really want to make sure these kids [in The Woodlands area] have access in their own communities,” Brunton said.

For more information on Texas Children’s Hospital, go to www.texaschildrens.org.

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Houston Real Estate Milestones in July
  • Single-family home sales increased 23.3 percent year-over-year, accounting for the market’s 26th consecutive monthly increase and the largest one-month sales volume of all time;
  • Total property sales rose 26.3 percent compared to one year earlier, accounting for the second greatest one-month sales volume ever (the largest was in June 2006);
  • Total dollar volume skyrocketed 43.0 percent, increasing from $1.6 billion to $2.3 billion on a year-over-year basis;
  • At $187,760, the single-family home median price reached the highest level for a July in Houston;
  • At $260,968, the single-family home average price also reached a July high;
  • 3.4 months inventory of single-family homes is up from 3.3 months in June 2013, but down from 5.3 months in July 2012 and compares to the national average of 5.2 months;
  • Sales of townhouses/condominiums shot up 29.3 percent year-over-year.
  • Rentals of single-family homes and townhouse/condominium units rose 5.0 and 7.7 percent, respectively.

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While the construction of segments F1, F2 and G of Grand Parkway continues just south of Montgomery County, county officials and legislators are supporting the funding of a westbound to northbound connector from Grand Parkway to I-45. The direct connector was not planned for construction by the Texas Department of Transportation until 2037.

Montgomery County Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said planning was completed for all eight direct connectors between Grand Parkway and I-45, but funding was only provided for two direct connectors in this first phase of construction. Noack said a westbound to northbound connector was not approved because initial studies may have underestimated the traffic volume and suggested there would not be significant new development in the area.

“The study was done in 2008 and 2009, and obviously a lot has happened since then in terms of ExxonMobil and the explosion on the east side of I-45,” Noack said.

TxDOT public information officer Raquelle Lewis said the current construction contract with Zachry-Odebrecht only includes funding for the southbound to westbound and eastbound to northbound direct connectors at I-45. Lewis said TxDOT conducted a traffic and revenue study to determine whether the toll revenue created by the traffic volumes would be enough to pay for construction of a westbound to northbound direct connector.

“The findings indicate that the expected traffic volumes for these direct connectors would not generate the toll revenues [income] required to justify construction at this time,” Lewis said.

Noack said the project could cost $20 million and would need to be paid for by TxDOT. He said he is working with TxDOT Commissioner Jeff Moseley, Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, and Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, to resolve the issue and find funding during the first phase of construction.

“We have a desperate need for this connection in the South Montgomery County area to alleviate severe congestion currently being experienced on local roads, such as Rayford and Sawdust roads,” Toth said in a letter to Moseley. “This congestion is a direct result of the additional 11,000 residential lots, along with numerous commercial improvements in the immediate area east of the intersection.”

Sen. Tommie Williams, R-The Woodlands, said TxDOT is performing a traffic study on the region to determine whether the estimates from previous studies are accurate, and he will wait for the results of the study to decide whether he will support the project.

“If the [previous] estimates are accurate, they would not support building a direct connector,” Williams said. “All I want are all the facts on the table. And if they support a direct connector, I’ll support the project.”

Williams said he spearheaded legislation for the funding of the Grand Parkway in the last legislative session. However, he wants to ensure funding spent on traffic projects are spent in the right areas of the county.

“There’s other areas with congestion where we could use that $20 million,” Williams said. “I want to get the most bang for our buck.”

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