Feb 26

Developers stir ‘sleeping giant’ in northeast Houston

Houston’s housing market over the last few decades has expanded largely to the north, west and even south. Now the northeast, long considered a “sleeping giant,” may be ready for a growth spurt of its own.

Real estate experts on an Urban Land Institute panel Thursday cited jobs created by petrochemical industry, new housing developments and long-awaited infrastructure in the area east of U.S. 59 North, between Interstate 10 East and Beltway 8.

“It’s become a place we know about,” said Scott Davis, Houston’s regional director of Metrostudy, a research firm for the housing industry.

The area accounts for 42 percent of the U.S. base of petrochemical manufacturing, with 400-plus chemical plants employing 33,000 workers. Billions of dollars in projects are on the books.

In places such as Lake Houston, Porter, New Caney and Aldine there are thousands of housing starts. Homes in some areas sell for as little as $80 per square foot, while in other pockets they fetch as much as $140.

Homes in master-planned communities there are selling at price points on par with the fanciest developments in the western and northern regions. As the segment of the Grand Parkway in the area nears completion, retail and single-family homes may begin to spread farther, the experts said.

“There is a lot of development in varying degrees along where the Grand Parkway goes through,” Davis said. “The presence of the Grand Parkway changed the market.”

No clear identity

Yet they also noted the area’s lack of a clear identity and said it continues to lag in terms of retail and home sales behind Sugar Land, Katy and the Energy Corridor to the west and The Woodlands to the north.

Still, Davis said master-planned communities there such as The Groves by Crescent Communities, Lakewood Pine Estates by KB Homes and Bridges on Lake Houston by DR Horton are offering homes prices higher than the $105 per square foot average for the Houston region.

Davis said years ago the northeast region accounted for as little as 6 percent of the total market share of homes in Houston. It now represents about 10 to 12 percent in the single-family market, he said.

He said this growth will continue as infrastructure improves and the petrochemical industry continues to create jobs there.

“Energy is not just something that happens in office buildings along the Katy Freeway,” Davis said. “… We have opportunity on the northeast side of town.”

Generation Park

The commercial real estate park known as Generation Park – at 4,000 acres in northeast Houston – recently attracted FMC Technologies for its state-of-the-art headquarters campus.

The company, which makes subsea equipment for the oil and gas industry, broke ground last year on the project, which will consolidate 10 Houston locations to the new business park. The first employees are to move there in early 2016.

Retail follows homes

Developer Ryan McCord of McCord Development said the area has relatively little retail per capita.

That could make it harder to entice workers in search of shorter commutes to move to the area.

McCord also cited the challenge in defining the area or even describing where it is.

But Jason Baker of re-tail brokerage firm Baker Katz said that will change as retail activity accelerates.

He said the connection to the Grand Parkway will help connect people from, say, Kingwood, to The Woodlands and vice versa.

“Retail follows rooftops,” Baker said. “Northeast Houston is a real place now, and people are committed to spending money there.”