A small farm east of Houston to become a 4,500-home master-planned community

The project should be completed in 10 to 15 years

McGrath Real Estate Partners' Michael McGrath and an aerial of the site (McGrath, Riceland)
McGrath Real Estate Partners' Michael McGrath and an aerial of the site (McGrath, Riceland)

A small town is going up on one of the largest residential developments on the east side of Houston.

The proposed 1,500-acre master-planned community will be a $400 million development by the name Riceland, according to the Houston Chronicle. The name is a nod to the farmland’s history which was used for agricultural purposes such as rice farming, cattle grazing, cotton, crawfish ponds, bees and hay production for centuries.

The development will be located northeast of Interstate 10 and the Grand Parkway in a small community known as Mont Belvieu. About 34 miles east of downtown Houston, the town has little to no large-scale residential developments, however its population has more than doubled in the last decade to more than 8,300, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Riceland, which is expected to take 10 to 15 years to complete, will purportedly provide 4,500 homes to the Mont Belvieu community.

Family-owned developer McGrath Real Estate Partners is heading the project with Trez Capital, a Vancouver-based REIT providing $25 million for the initial phase of the development. Riceland will be the largest project to date for McGrath, which has acquired, developed, managed, and leased more than $2.5 billion in real estate over the last 36 years.

The initial phase, planned on 150 acres on the northern portion of the tract, will deliver 417 lots to builders in the first or second quarter of 2023, according to Randy Hopper, vice president of acquisitions at McGrath Real Estate.

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The project aims to meet the high demand for housing in a supply-strained market, however builders in the Houston area have faced long-term delays in building projects due to skyrocketing diesel prices and material shortages.

“The fact that Mont Belvieu is only 35 minutes away from downtown Houston and is along the recently opened Grand Parkway eastern sections makes it easily accessible to the northern Houston metro area and a desirable place to live,” said John Sullivan, vice president of Trez Capital in Dallas.

On top of the 4,500 new homes, the development will include new commercial buildings with restaurants and retail to complement city hall and other municipal buildings currently undergoing upgrades and redevelopment.

“We’re trying to recreate the original center of town as you would define a small Texas town,” Hopper said, adding the ongoing land clearing for the project is focused on saving as many trees as possible.

[Houston Chronicle] — Maddy Sperling