Proposed Ft. Bend center raises some concern


Work hasn't even begun on the development, but the area is getting ready. It is slated to be constructed on the Grand Parkway and West Bellfort Road. The concern is whether the roads can handle the anticipated traffic.

Despite the economic climate nationally, there is still growth in north Fort Bend County. Developers like this location because the average household income, they say, of folks living within five miles is well over $100,000 annually.

Among the 1,100 homes in Long Meadow Farms lives Troy Tindall.

"I'm actually pretty excited about it. We moved here about six years ago and it was pretty desolate," Tindall said.

There's already some businesses nearby and now developers are planning to build a massive commerical center on more than 80 acres near Highway 99 and West Belfort. It'll include retail and restaurants, but its star anchor is a 22-screen movie theatre -- The Santikos Palladium with oversized screens and seats that are hydraulically matched to the action in a movie.

"To get all that new stuff, it's gonna be a big change for people who did move out here, the kind of relaxing, not country, but kind of; we're out in the middle of nowhere," homeowner Jillian Stryk said.

County commissioners say they've been told the development as a whole will generate over $75 million a year in revenue, not to mention sales tax and jobs.

"That's gonna be a major boost to this particular part of Fort Bend County," Fort Bend County Commissioner Andy Meyers said.

With that will come additional traffic on a road already traveled by 26,000 cars a day.

Congestion seems to be the No. 1 concern out there. But just last week, Fort Bend County began construction on a massive expansion of the Grand Parkway. Ten overpasses will be built along a 16-mile stretch from near Highway 59 to the Westpark Tollway.

Meyers says developers also must add a frontage road adjacent to the commerical property and an additional road behind it.

"That's our biggest concern but we believe that with those additional roads it will take care of the traffic," he said.

Homeowners will be watching for that and the apartments which will also be built there. Those familiar with the project could not tell us how many units or how close they would be to existing homes.

"It is what it is. You take the good with the bad in anything," Tindall said.

Growing pains, they say, don't always have to be painful. You might wonder about construction of another movie theater given these economic times. Santikos CEO David Holmes say the business still offers a competitive value for families despite the economy. Construction is expected to be complete sometime in the next 12 to 18 months.

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