Archive for the ‘Woodlands’ Category

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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For_sale_by_owner_signs_1_4533110Selling your home independently and taking the “For Sale By Owner” route is a well-intentioned concept. The most common reason people do it is to save money on commission — the sales fee that is split between real estate agents and brokers.

That’s certainly something we can all understand. After all, who doesn’t want to save money? But the reality of realty is that a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) seller often ends up losing money — and going through a great deal of hassle and stress along the way.

A home is the biggest financial investment that most people experience in their lifetime. Selling a home is a multifaceted process — a lot more than putting a “For Sale” sign in your yard and listing it online. Even if you or your trusted advisers have personal experience in real estate, you’ll probably be selling yourself short in the sale of your home without the use of a licensed, experienced agent. Let’s examine some of the ways how.

Exposure. It’s a seller’s market. Houston is a thriving city, and it’s not uncommon for realtors to get multiple offers on a properly priced home shortly after it goes on the market. But that demand is created through exposure — exposure that leads to more potential buyers becoming aware of the availability of your home for sale. FSBO severely limits that exposure. A realtor has the ability to market your home on avenues such as MLS (multiple listing services) and third party affiliations like Christie’s that only licensed real estate agents are permitted to use.

Pricing. A real estate agent knows how to price the market using reliable, real-time data. Some FSBO homes are underpriced because the seller doesn’t realize the true market value. Most FSBO homes are overpriced — sellers might get greedy or unrealistic because they love their home for sentimental reasons or they have read too much in the press. A real estate agent takes emotion out of the equation and strives to get you the best price for your home based on current data and market conditions.

Negotiations. First, there’s the complicated issue of agreeing on a sale price or of handling multiple offers. And would you believe that’s actually the easy part? Navigating and troubleshooting the many steps that result in a successful closing is where a realtor’s expertise is vital. The most difficult part of a real estate transaction is from the contract to the close — a place where deals can become very contentious, sometimes litigious, and easily fall apart. Once you agree on price, the next negotiation is repairs. A qualified real estate agent has a wealth of experience of inspections and negotiations under his or her belt. The average seller may have only been through this process once or twice.

Time. Think about the hours a real estate agent spends showing a property, doing research for pricing, marketing, negotiating and communicating with buyers and buyers’ agents. Time is money, isn’t it?

Expertise. There’s a saying in the court of law: “The person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” To put it another way, if you had a cavity, would you try to fill your own tooth? Of course not.

An experienced professional realtor will guide the seller through the home selling process and avoid the countless pitfalls and liabilities that can catch a homeowner by surprise. These problems could include legal, logistical and even ethical issues that homeowners can fall victim to. Real estate agents have been educated, trained and certified to handle all of these issues.

If these factors don’t daunt you, then perhaps For Sale By Owner is the route for you. If they do, then I’d say you just might want to consider hiring a licensed real estate agent.

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spaceportIn an effort to keep the Houston spaceport ball rolling, the Houston Airport System publicly revealed the first renderings of its proposed spaceport at Ellington Airport.

HAS displayed the renderings, as well as a promotional video, to a full auditorium at the Johnson Space Center the evening of Sept. 4.

“This is not a science fiction-type conversation where we have to imagine how this industry might operate if it did in fact exist,” Mario Diaz, HAS’ aviation director, told the crowd. “This industry exists today, these launches have already taken place.”

HAS started aggressively moving forward with its spaceport plans in July, when it secured approval from Houston City Council for a $718,000 contract for a consulting firm to study how Ellington Airport can obtain a spaceport launch site operator’s license. However, HAS has been looking into developing a spaceport in Houston since early 2011. The ideal Ellington spaceport would allow for space tourism, astronaut training and commercial space experiments, HAS said.

In addition to unveiling the spaceport renderings on Sept. 4, HAS hosted a panel of members of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. The panel, which was composed of former astronauts who are now working at companies that are in the process of creating commercial spaceflight vehicles, such as SpaceX and Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA), spoke about their progress. Most of the panelists noted how their work is directly tied with Houston — all of them were trained as astronauts in Houston and many work with the Johnson Space Center on developing their technologies used in spaceflight.

It is this connection with Houston that has HAS optimistic about the potential for the Ellington spaceport.

Diaz emphasized that if Houston wants to remain as “Space City” in the 21st century, it needs to get on the commercial spaceflight bandwagon, and he believes the city can eventually lead the way in commercial spaceflight.

“In short, if you were to sit down and attempt to create the perfect location for a commercial spaceport, you would wind up drawing something very close to Ellington and its surrounding area,” Diaz said. “That’s why we are so excited about the future of the Houston Airport System because the possibilities and the available resources are coming together in such a way that not even the sky is the limit anymore.”

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