By Michael Sudhalter
Shay Shafie is a busy guy these days.
Shafie, a long term residential development professional and former University of Texas offensive lineman, is the general manager for two Johnson Development projects in Fort Bend County – Imperial and Harvest Green.
Both projects are vastly different – some of the 1,200 homes in Imperial (high $300s-$1 million plus) – at Hwy. 6, just north of Hwy. 90A in the Sugar Land city limits – will have residents by the end of this year.
Harvest Green (high $200s to $600s), located in an unincorporated area of the county located next to Grand Parkway (Hwy. 99) across from Aliana, won’t have utilities put in until the end of this year.
Residents aren’t expected to move into some of the planned 2,600 homes there until the end of 2015, Shafie said.
While Imperial is being marketed toward empty nesters and local residents, Harvest Green is more of a traditional Johnson Development project for both local families and those relocating to the area for work.
Although Johnson Development is based in the Galleria area of Houston, a lot of it’s development is in Fort Bend County with projects such as Sienna Plantation, Cross Creek Ranch and Riverstone.
“It’s a function of the Fort Bend address,” Shafie said. “It’s a high location for residential development.”
According to Jennifer May, director of economic development for the City of Sugar Land, the city expects over $1 billion in investment in Imperial, which includes residential, retail, mixed use, and office/business space.
That’s expected to bring significant economic impact to the area, but there’s no exact figure to show how much at this point.
Shafie said some retail businesses are in contract to open in Imperial, but that information is confidential at present time.
Some possibilities in the area include a movie theater in the style of a Studio Movie Grill or an upscale bowling alley similar to Lucky Strike in downtown Houston.
He expects that more businesses to express interest once residents begin moving into the area at the end of the year.
Shafie said it was important to honor the history of the community by naming the development in honor of Imperial Sugar, which once owned much of the 720-acre project.
Because Johnson doesn’t specialize in vertical development, it may look for a partner to develop the currently vacant Imperial Tower, which was built in 1925. Possibilities include a boutique hotel or office space, according to Shafie.
The tower will be part of a redevelopment of the city’s historic district.
The plans for Imperial began around the same time that the city of Sugar Land planned Constellation Field.
“It was an incentive for us,” Shafie said. “We thought the ballpark would help make the site more marketable.”
Johnson developed a temporary bridge from the parking lot to the stadium as well as many of the roads around it. They also dug temporary lakes and built a linear hike/bike trail around Oyster Creek.
Local residents and those attending Constellation Field events have become more familiar with traffic patterns in the stadium’s third season.
That, combined with a formal traffic impact analysis study have shown that traffic between Imperial and Constellation Field shouldn’t be an issue with the possible exception of a sold-out event at the ballpark, said Shafie.
Immediately adjacent to the ballpark will be upscale apartments catering toward single and young professional people.
New schools, at least in the short term, won’t be necessary as Lakeview Elementary, Sugar Land Middle and Kempner High will be able to accommodate the students who reside in Imperial.
HARVEST GREEN GROWTH
The area near Grand Parkway is growing rapidly, and the 2,600 new homes in the 1,000 acre Harvest Green development will be part of that growth. About 600 of those homes will be multi-family units.
Although most of the area has a Richmond address, it is unincorporated area that’s mostly in the city of Houston’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.
That means only the city of Houston has the power to annex it, but Shafie said that’s unlikely. That could mean lower taxes for residents.
“New residents are looking for a place, and it’s adding to the boom in the housing market,” Shafie said.
Youth in Harvest Green will attend Bowie Middle and Travis High school, and Johnson will sell Fort Bend ISD some land for another elementary school site. Whether that would be one of the three elementary schools under the proposed 2014 bond is unclear at this point.