The District At Sugar Creek:  An Upscale Urban Oasis For A Vibrant Modern City

COVER STORY | By Ryan Spencer –

Growth is the critical litmus test of a vibrant modern city. However, that growth doesn’t just happen. It takes critical planning by the city partners and input from residents to make certain the needs of today match with the goals of tomorrow. The absence of planning and input from residents can leave a community reeling.

Preparing for Sugar Land’s Future

To ensure that scenario does not come to pass and to adequately prepare our vibrant community for the future, in 2014 the Sugar Land Citizens Group – a collection of residents from across the City of Sugar Land in conjunction with the Sugar Land City Council – began a four-year analysis called the Land Use Study. The investigation looked at the city’s fiscal needs with the community’s goals to create a model guide.

Updating that plan is the task of the Land Use Area Committee (LUAC), chaired by Debra Coffman, and includes First Colony Board Members, Sugar Land Planning and Zoning committee members, and area community leaders. The members represent a variety of area viewpoints and demographics. From their location in the city, age and diversity, the goal was to find a microcosm of Sugar Land. The committee focused on three key areas: expanded housing options, mobility, and the fiscal impact of land use.

“Our goal is to determine the land use vision for the city for the next 20 to 25 years,” said Debra Coffman, Land Use Area Committee Chairperson.  “Working with our community, we strive not just to define what our residents do not want but also what they will need during the next stage of their life.”

The Sugar Land Triangle

Over three hundred city residents attended meetings and provided additional input during this process. Through their detailed analysis, the committee identified five targeted areas in Sugar Land that would benefit from a Regional Activity Center or RAC designation, which is in essence a walkable, central gathering space that combines opportunities to work, shop, play and live much like Sugar Land Town Square.  In 2019, the City of Sugar Land moved forward on identifying and planning for one of these destination areas:  The Sugar Land Triangle.

What is a Regional Activity Cetner?

Regional Activity Centers (RAC) are the next generation of suburban city living. They are uniquely designed to complement the work/life balance of young urban professionals that want to be able to work, shop, play and live all within their localized boundaries.

RAC areas mix office space with retail vertically to ensure an active community walkable with central gathering spaces. Hike and bike trails will link these areas to nearby neighborhoods so that everything stays connected. This is the evolution of the Town Center model that has proven so successful in developing Sugar Land into the cultural and business hub that it is today.

The District at Sugar Creek

Located on eight acres across the freeway from Sugar Creek within The Sugar Land Triangle, The District at Sugar Creek will be a five-story project with multi-family units above and first-floor retail and professional offices below with garage parking. The project will consist of approximately 400 units, including two-level live/work units that feature retail on the first floor with a living area on the second floor.

Kaplan Management Company, a proven builder in our region, has purchased the land and is the project’s developer. “More than just a place to lay your head at night, we seek to build an active, walkable community that can be a central gathering space for business and play,” said Mike Kaplan, Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Kaplan Management Company.

Kaplan has developed many high-quality Class A multifamily communities in major metropolitan areas, including The Districts at Memorial, Greenbriar and Washington in Houston, The District at Westborough in Katy and The District at SoCo in Austin – all active urban settings featuring central gathering spaces and upscale retail.

Attracting retail, specifically restaurants, is also in the plan for The District at Sugar Creek.  Kaplan is working with proven Sugar Land-based restauranteurs with community roots to build two to three locations as amenities for the destination-oriented project.

Impact on Area Schools

A large influx of unchecked multifamily buildings can attract new students, providing overcrowding concerns and the need to build additional schools. A group utilized by the Fort Bend Independent School district analyzed the Sugar Land Triangle plan to address the future impact.

The study concluded that the demographics of the people who would lease or rent these units fall into two categories: younger and older professionals, not families. They further concluded that less than thirty new students could be added to the district from the Sugar Land Triangle, and since some would likely attend private schools, the actual number will be even lower. The study found that The District at Sugar Creek project would have no significant impact on current school enrollment; however, the tax benefit to the district would be significant.

Walkable Gathering Spaces

Esthetics are an integral part of attracting professionals to a region. All of the identified future Regional Activity Centers will be formed through redevelopment or infill development within current commercial areas. The new and upgraded facilities will have facial advancements to provide visual continuity throughout, and each area will focus on pedestrian connectivity – walkability.

Those living and working in these areas will be surrounded by trees for shade, sidewalk seating, functional and appealing lighting, and landscaping to keep the spaces fresh and inviting. All of the buildings will vary in height to provide architectural interest.  

Evolving for Sugar Land’s Future

Sugar Creek was one of Sugar Land’s earliest development areas. One of the main goals of The Sugar Land Triangle project is to take some of the aging strip mall locations located there and revitalize these areas. By attracting much-needed upscale businesses and restaurants and incorporating them with upscale, modern living environments, the goal is to create a Galleria-like site.

There are no new locations for Sugar Land to annex to assist their growth efforts. Instead, the city must find critical areas to improve, expand, and revitalize with residents’ suggestions and support.  The District at Sugar Creek will revitalize and refresh this vital area of Sugar Land.

Keeping Sugar Land a vibrant, modern city takes effort. Forming the Sugar Land Citizens Group started the process to create a plan for the future – the Land Use Study. Identifying the areas of the city that need to evolve to the times and matching that evolution to the needs of the current residents and the future professionals that will call Sugar Land home is what will keep Sugar Land a vibrant, modern city for decades to come.

The Sugar Land of tomorrow will be more connected. Walkability through pedestrian thoroughfares and connectivity to hike and bike trails and parks will supply access throughout the region. Central gathering spaces built to enhance both home and work life will provide a new way to live, work, and play in harmony. An active urban setting in a friendly, caring community will provide a unique address in Sugar Land – a sweet destination to work, to play, to live.