Growth in NW Harris County sparking business frenzy

May 29, 2013 5:39:28 PM PDT
Big changes are happening just northwest of Houston. New developments, new homes and businesses are popping up everywhere you turn.

Real estate developers tell us land value in the area has gone up 20 to 30 percent in the last year, and a lot of retailers are getting in sooner rather than later. But has that saturated the market?

The landscape of Highway 290 is changing.

"It's growing too fast! Because the first year we came here, it was so empty," said Kim Lam, owner of Taste of Pho.

Lam and her husband opened their pho noodle shop along the old farm-to-market road two years ago. Now they are hardly lonely.

"This area's really taken off over the last 12 to 18 months," said developer Keith Edwards with Caldwell Companies.

Edwards says there is fierce competition for tracts of land in this part of northwest Harris County. New shopping centers are sprouting up fast. Many are already 100 percent full before construction is finished.

"I think the key factor is the lack of financing in the last three years, four years," Edwards said. "A developer who bought a tract of land, let's say in '07 or '08, couldn't get financing to develop the site or to develop the retail center until the lenders loosened up, which just happened about 12 months ago."

But with so much rapid growth -- seemingly, a sign of a healthy market -- why are there still many empty storefronts?

"Real good location, right next to 45. I have a hard time believing they're sitting empty," X-ray technician James Cohn said.

Edwards says the older spaces are suddenly less attractive.

"The bigger boxes, the bigger retailers want the new space. The second generation are going to take a little more time to fill in," he said.

But Edwards and other business owners like Lam and her husband are confident they will fill up, given all the changes around them.

"Traffic is crazy, but it's good," Lam said.

There are no incentives to fill up these spaces. Prices are reasonable and average but are expected to climb again in the next 8 to 12 months.

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