Real Estate 2012
A Happenin' Community

Sugar Land's big transformation is only beginning: Imperial Sugar Land developers reveal more

Sugar Land's big transformation is only beginning: Imperial Sugar Land developers reveal more

Imperial Sugar Land_sugar silos
Some builders have considered turning the Imperial Sugar silos — which are iconic, though not historic — into condos. Photo by Whitney Radley
Imperial Sugar Land_char house
The first floor of the historic char house would make a perfect lobby for a boutique hotel. Photo by Whitney Radley
Imperial Sugar Land_Three bay warehouse
The facade of the three-bay warehouse looks out onto a large plaza. Photo by Whitney Radley
Imperial Sugar Land_sugar silos
Imperial Sugar Land_char house
Imperial Sugar Land_Three bay warehouse

The ongoing suburban drama and controversy over the Imperial Sugar Land development has mostly focused on the luxury apartments — all 625 of them — that will eventually be built adjacent to the new minor league baseball Constellation Field, on the industrial site that once housed the Imperial Sugar refinery and headquarters. 

But those apartments make up only a small portion of the 700-acre development. What else can Sugar Land residents eventually expect to find there?

CultureMap sat down with Shay Shafie, general manager for the Johnson Development Corp., to discuss a project that faces pockets of strong community opposition (as reported on CultureMap back on May 21).

 At the site of the old Imperial Sugar refinery, Johnson Development says it is doing everything it can to repurpose the existing buildings. 

"The ballpark was really the catalyst for this project," said Shafie, who has been involved since practically day one. Once the city approved the Imperial Sugar Land site as a preferred location for Constellation Stadium in June 2010, the construction of the development — and the remediation needed to make it habitable — became more feasible.

And now that a final land plan has been approved, Johnson Development is finally taking steps to get started.

Development plans for two single-family residential neighborhood areas (comprised of 27 townhomes and 117 garden homes) will be submitted to the city within the next month. These high-end products will start at $275,000 (for a townhome) and will serve as a buffer between new developments and the Mayfield Park neighborhood. The developer is heavily marketing a cluster of business parks that will line Highway 6.

Meanwhile, at the site of the old Imperial Sugar refinery, Johnson Development says it is doing everything it can to repurpose the existing buildings. A Redevelopment Agreement only required that the char house, the water tower and a three-bay warehouse be preserved for historical purposes, but the developer has also save an enormous distribution warehouse, a pitch-roofed sugar warehouse, the iconic silos, an engineering building and a power house across Main Street from the water tower.

 The idea of reinventing the sugar silos as condominiums has been explored. 

Redstone Companies is looking at the feasibility of a boutique hotel, associated conference center and top-floor restaurant in the eight-story char house. Shafie hopes that the Children's Museum of Houston will select one of the buildings for a future Fort Bend County outpost. The idea of reinventing the sugar silos as condominiums, replacing some of the concrete with glass windows, also has been explored.

The developer looks to arts- and community-oriented uses for the other buildings: Shafie envisions the power house as quaint brew pub, the lofty and spacious three-bay warehouse as the perfect spot for a music venue like the House of Blues and a small neighborhood grocery store somewhere in the mix. Offices and a museum for the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation also will fit into the historic property.

"I think that by the end of the year we'll have those uses tied down and identified," Shafie said. So expect something big by early 2014.