Photo by Marie Leonard
West Houston Association president
The core of greater west Houston can be seen through the windows at the West Houston Association office as Roger Hord discusses the future of the area, which he says has grown up around the energy industry.
The same growth has also driven Hord’s work as president of the association, a role in which he works on various initiatives that range from transportation to flood control. The West Houston Association covers the area from northwest Harris County—which includes Cy-Fair—to northern Fort Bend County.
Although he is not a native Houstonian, Hord moved to the Meyerland area in the late ’50s and considers himself to have grown up with the city. He attended the University of Texas and studied finance, accounting and management, and then worked in the university’s personnel department.
Hord went on to dabble in economic development, infrastructure and public policy at the Greater Houston Partnership before he became president of the West Houston Association in 1999.
The association was formed in the late ’70s by David Wolff and Wolff Industries to assure the right infrastructure and public policies were provided to support the growth that is expected to continue in greater west Houston, Hord said. The biggest initiative Hord works on is transportation, which includes the major thoroughfares and the larger freeways that tie the current and anticipated growth together in west Houston.
Under Hord’s leadership, the association last year also created the West Houston Plan 2050, data that studies the growth west Houston is expected to see in the next several decades.
What areas of greater west Houston do you expect to be the fastest growing in the approaching decades?
The core of greater west Houston and the Cypress area sit right in the middle of where the growth is expected to occur. In 2010, that area from Hwy. 6 just beyond the Grand Parkway had a population of 743,000. That’s expected to double by 2050. The northwest quadrant, today, is 29 percent of the total population of greater west Houston, or about half a million. That area is projected to be three times that, or 1.2 million, by 2050. From our forecasts, it’s clear that Cypress is the epicenter of growth.
What are the factors that drive the continued growth in greater west Houston?
The energy industry is at the core of the growth that we have enjoyed since the early ’70s, when Shell and Conoco moved out here, and Exxon later on. We have seen the correlation between infrastructure and job growth on I-10, and I believe the same thing will happen on the Grand Parkway and Hwy. 290. There were very major decisions made by BP and Shell to keep their facilities on I-10 and expand them significantly. They did that because I-10 had been improved to such a degree that it would accommodate the expansion of their employment base.
Describe the organization’s 2050 plan.
One thing we know about growth is that it’s going to happen. You can’t say that in every city, but in Texas— and especially in Houston—we know it’s going to happen. We are using a projected forecasted population growth for 35 years out, which is an unusually long period of time. The question is why would you project out that far? We did that to demonstrate what that growth means for greater west Houston, with the belief that when you see a number like 1 million new residents, that’s not as impactful as when you look at a map and see the footprint of where that population may go. We have to be ready for the growth, and with the knowledge of the amount of people who may be coming and where they might go, the next step is to ask what kind of infrastructure might be needed and where that might be deployed to support growth.
Once improvements to Hwy. 290 are complete, what kind of impact will that have in the area?
Growth is going to happen there—regardless of what happens on 290—because you’ll still be able to get down that corridor on Beltway 8 and the Grand Parkway. You’re experiencing, year after year, a 40 to 50 percent increase in home sales in the northwest quadrant, and I think that’s a demonstration of the quality that exists in those communities and the related services such as the school system. That will support the continued growth, and it will accelerate when it becomes clear that 290 will be improved. We have that indication right now with this new arrangement between Harris County and TxDOT, and we expect that freeway to be significantly improved.
Where are the biggest transportation problem spots in greater west Houston?
We have the major corridors teed up. With I-10, what we’ll do on 290 and with the [Grand Parkway] coming in place, we have the major grid more than adequate. I can’t see another area around Houston that has such a significant major freeway backbone. I think the key is how we’re going to address the major thoroughfares, which get folks from their residential communities to these major corridors. All of these need not to just be rebuilt, but expanded, and they have to operate efficiently.