Photo by Andrea Bolt
Former WAC site, iconic facilities see upgrades
As The Woodlands nears its 40th anniversary in 2014, much of the community has undergone a facelift, particularly in the Village of Grogan’s Mill, the first village to open in 1974. With some of the homes, buildings, infrastructure and amenities that give the community its distinctive appeal showing signs of wear, a trend toward redevelopment and renovation is emerging in The Woodlands’ oldest village.
Many of the community’s most iconic amenities located in Grogan’s Mill, such as The Woodlands Athletic Center, The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center, and lodges along the Panther Trail Golf Course have either been renovated or torn down to make way for new and improved buildings. In addition, homebuyers in some cases are taking advantage of a strong market in the village to build new homes on sites where older homes have been torn down.
“We are trying to maintain the quality of life and the property value in our village,” said Dana Denton, board member of the Grogan’s Mill Village Association. “People just like that we are in an older, established neighborhood, but have the amenities and the newer parks. And the trees — we have all the trees.”
Former WAC site
The area receiving the most attention for redevelopment efforts is the site of the former Woodlands Athletic Center that was located along South Millbend Drive and torn down in early 2009. Earlier this year, The Woodlands Lodge, a high-end multi-family apartment complex, opened on a portion of the site formerly occupied by the WAC.
Then, in late July, Gracepoint Homes announced plans for Lakeside Cove. The luxury villas will also be constructed on the same land that was once home to the WAC. Lakeside Cove will include 57 homes, ranging from 3,500 up to 4,200 square feet with features such as optional elevators, a gated entry and wine grottos. There are eight proposed home plans for the development and Tom Cox Jr., president of Gracepoint Homes, said construction will begin on model homes this fall.
“We were targeting [the former WAC site] in particular,” Cox said. “If you talk to real estate agents, they will tell you any property in Grogan’s Mill is considered a premium location.”
Alex Sutton, co-president of The Woodlands Development Company, said upgrades are continuing at places like The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center, which saw the condominiums located along the first hole of the Panther Trails Golf Course torn down to be replaced by the Lakeside Lodges.
In some instances, older homes in Grogan’s Mill have been targeted for tear down so that homeowners may build a new home on a desirable plot.
“Somebody may find a house in disrepair or in foreclosure and may like the location or find the house doesn’t suit their needs, tear the house down, submit plans, then build a new home,” said Hennie Van Rensburg, director of covenant administration for The Woodlands Township.
He said there have been new homes built on older sites along golf courses or near parks. However, Van Rensburg said he has yet to see large-scale efforts by developers to redevelop home sites.
“I don’t see that any one entity has offered to buy up eight or 10 homes,” he said.
Grogan’s Mill saw the build out of new homes in the mid-1990s, when its population leveled off at around 13,000 residents. Since that time, the majority of home sales and resident growth have been in newer villages, such as Sterling Ridge and Alden Bridge.
However, with its proximity to Town Center and I-45, Grogan’s Mill is being hailed as a desirable living location and an area of growth, Cox said.
“It’s already out of control,” he said. “I’ve got friends in real estate that tell me so many houses aren’t even getting to market because there is such a demand. People are getting four, five bids on their home and they are all over value.”
According to Houston International Realty, the average home value in Grogan’s Mill is $767,500.
In addition to homeowners and developers, the township is also playing a key role in redevelopment efforts.
The township has about $220 million worth of assets among its more than 100 parks and pathways, tennis facilities, park playground equipment, sports fields and 13 pools. Monique Sharp, director of finance for the township, said money is allocated for the capital replacement reserve in order to replace and renovate aging infrastructure and amenities owned by the township.
One of those projects was Sawmill Park, The Woodlands’ second oldest park that opened in 1979. Earlier this year, the township funded a $905,000 renovation to the park, including the installation of a splash pad, a new tennis court, a tennis gazebo, an expanded playground, an expanded baby pool and several other amenities.
“The renovation of Sawmill Park was big,” Denton said. “There are so many families out there now. All the kids really enjoy the splash pad, and it’s just great for the community.”
Another project the township is funding is a refurbishment of the pedestrian bridge across Grogan’s Mill Road. The township has budgeted about $50,000 for that project, which will begin this fall.