Jan 26

Willis expects financial boon from shopping center

Willis anticipates a boost of nearly $500,000 in monthly tax revenue spurred by a new grocery store opening in a shopping center that city officials have called “the largest development project.”

The 200,000 square foot shopping center off Interstate 45 also includes a MOD Pizza, Great Clips and McAlister’s Deli alongside dentists, eyewear and salons.

With the opening of the new H-E-B supermarket earlier this month, Willis City Manager Sheyi I. Ipaye said he anticipates the supermarket to add more than $100,000 in sales and use tax revenue.

“(The Market at Willis Shopping Center’s) estimated worth after completion is expected to be more than $100 million,” Ipaye said.

More than $300,000 was collected in sales and use tax for the month of October, according to a report on the Texas Comptroller’s website.

“What we bring in on average is about $250,000 to $275,000, Ipaye said by phone. “And with the establishment of H-E-B…it’s going to be running close to half a million a month.”

He said the San Antonio-based supermarket chain plans to hire locally and to support the local economy.

In an email statement, Mayor Leonard Reed said the new development brings “excitement to our Willis citizens to shop in nationally recognized stores within walking distance of their homes … and also stimulate more interest from other companies that want to invest in our city as the migration from Houston continue and more people relocate to Texas.”

The supermarket is one of several business developments in the works for the city of nearly 9,000 residents.

In October, Houston-based real estate agency Baker Katz announced the purchase of 1.89 acres along FM 1097 and Canyon Falls Boulevard, with the intent to add more restaurants, businesses and entertainment.

The demand for housing also has increased.

During the city’s Oct. 18 meeting, officials approved the spending of $1.7 million in federal funding on water infrastructure improvements to meet with the demand for housing.

“The demand and the number of (water and sewer) connections are close to doubling,” said Derek Wind, chief operations officer and engineer for Bleyl Engineering, in a previous report.

With potential new revenue streams coming from new development, Ipaye said it will allow city officials to do more in terms of infrastructure improvements, which includes water line extensions and a new water tank to serve new homeowners coming from The Woodlands Hills, a growing subdivision south of the city.

The grand opening of the 2,000-acre subdivision was in 2018 and is planned to mirror the south Monthgomery County Community of The Woodlands on a smaller scale.

The subdivision will include 4,500 home sites, 112 acres of open space, a 17-acre village center complete with events center, hike and bike trails and eventually include more than 20 neighborhood parks at build out.

Ipaye also cited Moran Ranch, a 500-acre former family ranch located south of the city, as the “most active and exciting new multi-million-dollar development for our city.”

More than 295 acres is to be annexed into the city and is being developed primarily as a residential community with single-family homes and recreational facilities along the creek that meanders through the property, he said.

Ipaye called the city historically quiet and traditional “that’s now situated int he middle path of northward expansion from Houston.”

“Our people are friendly, like so many other charming, small Texas communities,” Ipaye said. “In the post-COVID world, more and more people can work from home and do not need to work in Houston. Willis will be very attractive to them, with good schools, natural wooded topography, and nearby recreational amenities offered by Lake Conroe and the Sam Houston National Forest. Location is everything.”

Michael Garcia