Economic Development

An update on where Sugar Land is with the Imperial Historic District

Redevelopment in Sugar Land is City Council’s top priority. With only 4% of vacant land left to develop in Sugar Land, it is vital to put redevelopment and reinvestment at the forefront of plans for the City’s future.   

“We have to do the best we can with the land we have remaining,” Sugar Land Deputy Director for Economic Development Devon Rodriguez said. “We have to make that land the most valuable, highest and best use possible to provide a strong tax base which will aid in funding the City’s high-quality services and amenities with the goal of keeping property taxes low.” 

As Sugar Landers, we understand the importance of evolving. Imperial created jobs, and then homes and grew this economic engine. To ensure we remain financially sustainable, we have some choices to make to continue the evolution of our city. These bold decisions are vital to ensuring Sugar Land blazes the trail for reinvestment and redevelopment in our city, granting us a life better than we imagined.  

The best way to optimize our land for highest taxable value is to have mixed-use development.  The City’s 2018 Land Use Plan identifies five areas in the city, called Regional Activity Centers (RACs), to create walkable areas that have a mix of several land uses, including office space, entertainment, retail, hotels, civic areas, and residential.  These are places where people can work, shop, eat and live all in one place.  The key is having all of these elements together – the commercial, residential and retail – because they have a cause-and-effect relationship, one creating demand for the other.  The Imperial area, including the Historic District, is one Regional Activity Center.   

Where were we?

Back in December 2022, The City announced its partnership with PUMA Development, a Houston-based boutique development firm specializing in creating experience-driven, mixed-use communities, to propose the redevelopment of the Imperial Char House, the City’s most iconic building. The City hosted two town halls to gain public input on the proposed preservation and redevelopment of the property with Mark Toon, the CEO of PUMA.  

“We are at step zero,” Rodriguez said. “We are taking a proactive approach to this project where we are outward and transparent with the community earlier on than we usually would be in this process.” 

Preservation of buildings like the Char House is a costly endeavor. To help make it happen, City Council approved a $5 million reimbursement agreement on January 3rd to assist with pre-development and construction costs associated with the reuse of the Char House. 

“All aspects of a mixed-use development feed off of one another,” Toon said. “To create a vibrant, successful project, substantial retail, office, and residential will all be required. Multi-family units also help provide sufficient density to help attract and support great retail tenants, which in turn will drive the financial returns for the entire development.” 

Where are we now?

A joint City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission workshop was held on January 24 to discuss: 

  • A draft amendment to the Land Use Plan (The Land Use Plan is a component of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, serving as a guide to how the City should develop and redevelop and evolves over time to reflect changing conditions. It is not regulatory.) 
  • A draft General Development Plan rezoning for the Imperial Historic District (which is the regulatory tool).   

The draft amendment and rezoning, if approved, would:    

  1. Revise the Land Use Plan to be consistent with the proposed zoning changes with up to 1,200 units of multi-family housing envisioned within the overall 201-acre Imperial Regional Activity Center. These 1,200 units include existing multi-family housing as well as proposed and future housing throughout the entirety of the RAC.  
  1. The proposed Imperial Historic District GDP (General Development Plan) zoning ordinance includes up to 660 additional multi-family units in the 40-acre PUMA Development project area in and around the Char House. These units are in addition to the 254 existing Imperial Lofts and the previously approved 274 units within the Sueba-owned property. All of these are part of the overall 1,200 units in the revised Land Use Plan for the Imperial RAC.  

Toon said that all multi-family units built on the site will be nicer and higher-end than anything currently existing in Sugar Land and include structured parking, amenities and high-quality finishes. The target market for the multi-family units includes single-income households with no kids, double-income households with no kids, and empty nesters.  

Toon also said extensive traffic studies are being performed by traffic engineers with expected traffic-related modifications in the area to existing roads in an effort to mitigate traffic issues. These modifications will be phased with other projects on the site. 

Where are we going?

To preserve the Char House, the following will need to occur:  

  • Additional public financing, including a lease (Lease approved 2/7/2022)
  • Zoning Approvals 
  • Land acquisition (PUMA Development currently doesn’t own the Imperial land, so they would need to buy it in order for the project to move forward.) 
  • Secure private financing and other funding sources like historic tax credits, TIRZ reimbursements, etc. 

On February 7, a lease agreement between the City and PUMA Development will go before City Council for consideration.  The lease agreement will assist PUMA Development in securing other private financing for the project. 

On February 14, Sugar Land’s Planning and Zoning Commission, a commission tasked with making recommendations to City Council concerning the use of land and other planning functions according to state law, will provide their recommendation to City Council on the proposed Land Use Plan amendment and rezoning (General Development Plan).  

On February 21, the City Council will receive the report from the Planning & Zoning Commission and hold their public hearing and first reading of the ordinance for the rezoning (General Development Plan) and the Land Use Plan amendment. 

“We have been clear with the City regarding PUMA’s requirements to be able to complete this project,” Toon said.  “Without the approval of all these items, PUMA will not close on the land and develop the site.” 

Here’s how you can get involved

Let us know what you think! Please submit your thoughts on this project, which will be shared at the upcoming Planning and Zoning and City Council meetings on February 14 and February 21. Share your public comment here:

To learn more about the project, sign up to receive project updates  or to provide questions or comments, please visit the Imperial Char House Preservation project page:    

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