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Vision clears for Imperial Sugar Land

When several of the structures once part of the Imperial Sugar Factory were condemned and demolished in late 2010, residents and city officials alike began wondering what would become of the historical site.


As a result of partnerships between the city of Sugar Land, the Texas General Land Office, capital investment firm Cherokee and the Johnson Development Corporation, the iconic buildings are being preserved and repurposed to coincide with the ongoing development of Imperial Sugar Land—a more than 700-acre mixed-use development under construction.

In August, Johnson Development announced plans for its first residential subdivisions within the Imperial Sugar Land project. Construction on several model homes is expected to begin in early 2014.

“Redeveloping and repurposing the former refinery site and the adjacent undeveloped land is breathing new life and vibrancy into a previously underutilized area,” said Regina Morales, director of economic development in Sugar Land. “Constellation Field acted as a catalyst by bringing new infrastructure and drawing visitors to the project. This has created new jobs and revenues for the community as well as increased recognition of the project regionally.”

Residential development

Johnson Development selected Sitterle Homes, Partners in Building, Darling Homes and Trendmaker Homes for Imperial Sugar Land’s next phase of development—116 patio homes and 27 single- and two-story town homes. Imperial Sugar Land offered prospective buyers a glimpse at the new homes during a public event in late October. More than 400 residents and visitors attended the event.

“It’s difficult to find a new patio, garden-style [house] or town home in Sugar Land,” said Shay Shafie, general manager with Johnson Development. “Judging by this crowd, there’s a big market for these types of new homes.”

Imperial’s town homes, which are being built by Trendmaker Homes, will range from 1,800–2,600 square feet and are expected to offer custom features, detached garages and open floor plans. According to the development plans, the town homes will face Imperial Boulevard to offer an urban-style feel.

The Imperial development’s patio homes are being built by Sitterle Homes, Partners in Building and Darling Homes and will range from 1,800–4,000 square feet. The two neighborhoods—Quiet Cove and Silent Manor—will feature landscaped streets and several waterfront lots. Quiet Cove will have gated access. Homes within the development are expected to be available from the $300,000s–$700,000s.

The residential developments are designed to cater to young professionals and empty nesters and are expected to draw residents from throughout Fort Bend County and the surrounding areas, according to builders.

The Imperial Ballpark Lofts—a 257-unit multi-family development by Sueba USA—is expected to open next to Constellation Field in mid- to late 2014.

“Future new housing, hotels, museums, office and retail will continue to support our ever-expanding job base and economy, but more importantly, provide another important destination attraction for the city of Sugar Land,” Morales said.

Commercial development

Johnson Development is focusing on the former sugar refinery site—which will be part of Phase 2 of the project—to bring in a blend of retail and living options. A detached town home development is expected to break ground in early 2014 on the northern side of the refinery site, and Johnson is considering several options ranging from restaurants to small venues to bowling alleys for some of the existing buildings.

“We want to make this an entertainment destination and attraction for Sugar Land,” Shafie said.

The 12,000-square-foot former container warehouse, where much of Imperial Sugar’s packaging equipment was housed, is targeted for the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center—a project of the Children’s Museum of Houston—to open in mid-2015.

Phase 2 of the Imperial project is expected to progress in 2014 as Johnson Development continues its search for commercial interests, Shafie said.

“We are looking for the right partner for the vertical development of the project,” he said. “It is an integrated development, so it all has to work together. It is a good location and a good project. Momentum is starting to build, and we are hoping to find a good partner this year to move forward.”

Project history

In 2003, the Imperial Sugar Factory closed, and city officials began talks of what would become of the historical site.

Dennis Parmer, executive director of the Heritage Foundation, was elected to Sugar Land City Council as officials first began discussing redevelopment plans for Imperial Sugar Land.

“We started talking about ideas, and, in 2006, it was an official city project,” he said.

Cherokee bought the refinery site in July 2007 and worked with the city of Sugar Land on an agreement to redevelop the area. The approved plan called for a mixed-use and higher-density development that required the preservation of several iconic buildings, such as the three-bay warehouse, the eight-story Char House and several other structures, along with any artifacts found within the site.

The plan also stipulated an on-site museum space, which led to the opening of the Heritage Foundation’s museum currently housed in the former engineering and personnel building at 198 Kempner St.

Parmer said he is working with Johnson Development to find a suitable permanent space within the historic development for the Heritage museum, which has been amassing, deciphering and cataloging Imperial artifacts.

Johnson Development stepped into the project in summer 2009 and has been discussing the right way to develop the land to provide entertainment, retail, business and residential opportunities in line with the historical nature of the area, Shafie said.

“The Imperial refinery was the birth of Sugar Land, and we are very sensitive to that,” he said. “The project has had high visibility, [and] we have had a lot of feedback from the community. The original vision of the project has been maintained, and everything we have done has been in line with Imperial.”


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