By Betsy Dolan
Coming off a year that saw construction begin on a new $30 million dollar baseball stadium, a new $69 million dollar surface water treatment plant, a significant reduction in crime and the adoption of the city’s first long range comprehensive mobility plan, officials say the city of Sugar Land is poised to undergo even more growth and development in 2012.
Eight hundred of the city’s business and community leaders gathered at the Sugar Land Marriott Hotel and Conference Center on January 27 for Sugar Land’s fourth annual State of the City address. The event, in conjunction with the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce served to call attention to the city’s 2011 accomplishments and reveal what is ahead in 2012.
2011 in Review
Sugar Land successfully avoided the economic calamities that befell other cities across the nation in 2011. Calling Sugar Land “blessed in many ways” City Manager, Alan Bogard cited several economic milestones including a $2.2 million dollar budget surplus, the creation of 140 new jobs, more than $10 million in new capital investment and the city’s second AAA bond rating by Standard and Poor’s. In addition, nearly $145 million dollars was spent on various capital improvement projects such as the new baseball stadium, and the Surface Water Treatment Plant, which will transform surface water into drinking water. Bogard also says Sugar Land is “seeing a 12% increase in sales taxes which is outpacing January of last year by 20 percent.”
2011 saw a major push in economic development by the city of Sugar Land. The Central Prison unit, located near the airport, was closed paving the way for a future business park to be built on the site. The University of Houston, Sugar Land campus announced that they would double the number of degrees they currently offer. James Thompson, Sugar Land’s mayor even teased the crowd about a major announcement expected in the next two weeks “involving a Fortune 100 company, 230 jobs and 50,000 feet of office space”.
Sugar Land also saw a 25 percent reduction in serious crimes, a 35 percent reduction in violent crimes as well as major equipment upgrades, including digital license plate camera technology, to the city’s police department. Sugar Land also opened it’s seventh fire station in Telfair.
Two major road improvement projects got underway in 2011 including improvements to Dulles Avenue and extending University Boulevard south both of which are slated for completion this fall. The city upgraded drainage systems in Sugar Mill, Oyster Creek and Sugar Creek which “held up when we had five inches of rain in an hour a couple of weeks ago”, Bogard said.
One of the Sugar Land’s most celebrated accomplishments was the grand opening of the 17,000 foot Imperial Park Recreation Center. First Colony Park saw a million dollars spent upgrading baseball fields and building a new concession and restroom pavilion.
What’s ahead in 2012
City leaders say 2012 will be an exciting year as Sugar Land strives to define itself as a destination city. High on the wish list is an indoor performing arts venue which is already moving forward with design concepts planned for later in the year. An outdoor festival site along the Brazos River is also under consideration and would include an amphitheater and hiking/biking trails.
Ongoing projects like the Imperial Development takes a major leap forward on April 26 when Constellation Field and the Sugar Land Skeeters have their first Opening Day. The Surface Water Conversion project will progress in order to meet the mandated 30 percent reduction of groundwater use by 2013. The city will increase its efforts to encourage residents to conserve water and plant native plants and shrubs.
An expanded Senior Adult Center/Community Center is slated to open this year and will provide seniors with an addition 5,500 square feet of space. The city also plans to add improved technology to the fire stations and move forward with connecting the city’s pedestrian and biking trails.