A Community Where Every Need Is Met Within The Community
By Laura Landsbaum
The hallmark of George Mitchell’s vision for The Woodlands, which will celebrate its landmark 50th anniversary in October, centered around the idea that residents could Live, Work, Play, Learn and Pray without ever leaving the community. With Howard Hughes at the helm, Mitchell’s initial vision is being reinforced and growing stronger.
“When developing a true master plan community, you hope to meet every need for residents, in all phases of their lives ,” notes Jim Carman, President of the Houston Region for Howard Hughes. “The goal was not to be a bedroom community to Houston. It was to be a self-sustaining community with 1.5 jobs per household to provide residents an opportunity to live and work here, allowing for short commutes and more time with family or finding balance in life.”
And from the very beginning with those first townhouses at Settler’s Corner in Grogan’s Mill, The Woodlands grew village by village.
“It started with the residential and at some point, that residential population reached enough critical mass that (residents) needed commercial amenities,” Carman says. “Retail centers and village centers with grocery stores and your day-to-day needs started to come alive.” The population of The Woodlands kept growing, along with amenities. By 1990, The Woodlands had 30,000 residents. By 2000, more than 55,000 people called The Woodlands home sweet home. Now, the community measures over 120,000 people strong.
“People kept moving here because it’s such an amazing place, and of course they wanted to work here too,” Carman says. “Office buildings started to emerge to meet that demand. Companies are now locating their offices where their employees want to live, want to work, want to play, want to learn and pray. The Woodlands has been the beneficiary of that.”
“Our office occupancies are much higher than you would find in the region, certainly much higher than you would find in any major city in the country. And it’s because more and more companies are now realizing that they need to locate in places like The Woodlands.”
“Employees and employers alike appreciate many of the amenities that The Woodlands provides– that quality of life, short commutes, access to the outdoors, walkability in an urban setting, but yet in a place that they feel safe, and they can get a great education for their children,” Carman details.
That great education system in The Woodlands comes from a variety of public and private schools at every level. The Woodlands boasts 37 preschools, three public school systems, private and charter schools, community colleges and even full university offerings.
As for the “play” in George Mitchell’s equation? That comes in many forms in The Woodlands. First, at a very local level, the development vision was to have every home within a 10-minute walk from a park. With 151 neighborhood parks, that vision has become a reality. The Woodlands also boasts a bounty of shopping, restaurant and entertainment mixed-use centers, including The Woodlands Mall, Waterway Square, Market Street and Hughes Landing.
“It’s amazing,” Carman says. “We have a robust, growing and diversifying restaurant scene. The combination of residential and healthy office population provides that opportunity. Those restaurants cannot thrive without both the residents and companies and employees in the office buildings providing critical daytime population and corporate accounts.”
Lastly, it was important to Mitchell to create opportunities for the community to gather and worship. Interfaith, established just prior to The Woodlands, has more than 41 member congregations from faiths around the world.
“George Mitchell and team recognized that they needed to meet the demands of the worship and spiritual side of a community,” Carman says. “Their forward thinking set The Woodlands apart from the very beginning.”
Mitchell’s vision for a self-sustaining community within a natural setting has remained intact over the past 50 years, growing residentially and commercially in mutually beneficial ways.
“I think it’s important to note that this community, more so than just about any community in the entire country, has the most tightly aligned, the most symbiotic relationship between commercial development and residents anywhere,” Carman says. “This is a community that should be replicated around the world.”
Good luck. It’s not that easy. Fifty years. It takes patient development. And it takes a vision that people are willing to stand by. Nothing happened here by chance. It’s all part of a plan. What makes it special is that there has been a long-term vision and it’s been executed faithfully for over 50 years.
Many thanks to The Woodlands 50th Anniversary Sponsors:
FOUNDING – Howard Hughes
LEGACY – Woodforest National Bank
HERITAGE – Waste Connections Inc.
GOLD – Entergy Texas, Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital
SILVER – SVN/JBeard Real Estate, The John Cooper School
PRODUCER – The Woodlands Township