Feb 27

Northeast Houston’s lack of identity stymies development, experts say

When you hear “The Woodlands,” you might think the new Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) campus, which is technically in Springwoods Village, or high-end homes and retail. When you think Katy, you might think great schools and easy access to the Energy Corridor.

But when you think northeast Houston, many people draw a blank. And that’s hurting development in the area, several commercial real estate experts say.

The Urban Land Institute hosted a panel Feb. 26 that included Jason Baker, a retail broker at Houston-based Baker Katz; Ryan McCord of Houston-based McCord Development, which owns and manages Generation Park, the 4,000-acre business park off Beltway 8 in northeast Houston; and Scott Davis, the regional director of Metrostudy, which provides expertise in the local residential market.

“In Kingwood, there’s never been a real economic driver or center of economic activity,” Davis said, adding that Generation Park has the potential to be that for the northeast region.

“It’s basically remained unchanged for the last 25-30 years,” Baker said of the retail climate in the area. “People outside of Houston ask me about Katy, about The Woodlands all the time. It needs to develop an identity like that.”

McCord expanded on that idea.

“How do you tell people where you are? It takes a five- or 10-minute answer,” McCord said. “We need to create a regional brand.”

McCord suggested branding part of northeast Houston as “Westlake,” referring to the west side of Lake Houston.

Still, the panelists were bullish on the area due to the Grand Parkway expansion and the proximity to places like The Woodlands once that stretch of the parkway is complete.

“Northeast Houston is a real place now, and people are committed to moving there,” Baker said.