Imperial Char House

The historic Imperial Char House in Sugar Land.

After several years of speculation about the fate of one of Sugar Land's most distinctive buildings, things may finally be coming into focus.

In a Thursday press release, the City of Sugar Land announced that Houston-based PUMA Development proposed to preserve and begin development of the Imperial Char House, the largest feature of the Imperial Sugar Company, which gave the city its name.

PUMA, a Houston-based boutique development firm specializing in creating experience-driven, mixed-use communities, has requested support from the city of Sugar Land and the Sugar Land Development Corporation (SLDC) toward preservation of the Char House and eventual development of the remainder of the Imperial Historic District. Sugar Land City Council and SLDC will be considering financial support of the project as it progresses," the press release states.

Opportunities for public input will be available at two town halls co-hosted by PUMA and the City on December 8 and 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitor Center, 198 Kempner Street. Additional opportunities for public input will be available via community meetings, email updates and public hearings as the project progresses. Updates will also be posted at www.sugarlandtx.gov/ImperialHistoricDistrict

"PUMA's vision for the remainder of the Imperial Historic District, similar to the city's Land Use Plan, is to develop a walkable, mixed-use project comprised of experiential retail, dynamic entertainment, unique food and beverage, top-notch fitness, multi-family and single-family residential, commercial office space, outdoor parks and more." the press release state.

"The city partnering with PUMA Development is a unique opportunity for our city to continue its legacy of world-class public private partnerships," Sugar Land Mayor Joe Zimmerman in the press release. "The Imperial Char House involves the special history of Sugar Land, and I'm very excited to get behind this project and promote the continued growth and success of our city."

The city said the over the past several years, members of the public have called for denser development in the city which would provide a stronger tax base to maintain a high level of services while maintaining a very low tax rate. This type of development also has many other benefits, such as creating desirable workplaces for new, expanded and existing businesses, pathways to homeownership, public infrastructure improvements and quality of place amenities, the city said.

"The historic district is one of the top priorities of our City Council and extremely important to our residents and our history," City Manager Michael W. Goodrum said in the press release. "Projects like this are expensive and complex and will need financial support from the city and other available financial tools to be feasible. To ensure a desirable development that strengthens our economy, protects our neighborhoods and responds to the expectations of our community to preserve where we began, the city must consider investing in our future."

"We have been working for over a year to find the right partner for the Imperial project that will do justice to the history of Imperial and the City of Sugar Land and develop the site to its full potential," R.O. Hunton, founder of the Hunton Group, current owner of all of historic Imperial properties, said.

"Imperial exemplifies entrepreneurialism and innovation," Mark Toon, managing partner of Work America Capital and founder and chief executive officer of PUMA, said.. "Imperial created thousands of jobs, and it is hard to find a better example of how a company can create an economic boom for a town or region."

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