The Vintage development races toward completion

Story by Community Impact News, by Matt Stephens, August 12, 2014

A decade after Mischer Investments and Kickerillo Companies joined forces as V&W Partners to purchase 630 acres from the Hewlett-Packard Company, The Vintage has become one of the most sought after mixed-use communities in northern Harris County with a hospital, hotel, thousands of multifamily and single-family residences and more than 500,000 square feet of retail and office space.

However, with less than 50 acres left for new development and dozens of new businesses buying claim to the available retail spaces in the last two years, the mixed-use community is quickly approaching completion.

“I’m not sure we would have anticipated the variety of uses we’ve seen out there,” said Mark Kilkenny, executive vice president for Mischer Investments. “But I think we saw going in that there was an opportunity to develop amenities and services in that area that hadn’t been provided and were skipped over.”

Shrinking retail availability

Although The Vintage saw retail interest from its onset, the remaining retail space available for lease has shrunk exponentially over the last two years with the rapid development of Vintage Park and Vintage Marketplace.

Since Vintage Park was sold from original developer Interfin to Dunhill Partners in March 2012, the 342,000-square-foot shopping center jumped from 35 percent occupancy to nearly 90 percent, Property Manager Sheri Kremling said.

One of the first tenants to sign once Dunhill took ownership of the property, the Alamo Drafthouse has helped attract more tenants, Kremling said. However, she also attributed some of the retail growth to development throughout the region.

“This area has grown significantly,” she said. “Since we’ve bought the property, the retirement communities have built up, the apartments have built up [and] they’ve added Whole Foods down the street. That whole strip center has been built.”

Just east of Vintage Park, the Vintage Marketplace has seen a similar explosion in the last year with Whole Foods Market opening in July and a multitude of restaurants and retailers staking ground in the shopping center, said Christie Amezquita, broker for shopping center owner Read King.

The 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods grocery store is part of Phase I of the 9-acre Vintage Marketplace, Amezquita said, which also includes 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurants. The shopping center could be fully leased by the end of the year, she said.

With Noble Energy’s headquarters expanding and Lone Star College–University Park’s enrollment on the rise across from Hwy. 249, the whole region is experiencing growth, Amezquita said.

“You’ve got good household incomes and a lot of rooftops in the area,” she said. “It’s a dense market. And you’re seeing a lot of companies move their headquarters out here.”

Residential, medical additions

Progress in The Vintage is not limited to retail as several residential developments are nearing completion as well.

Vintage Lakes, developed by Kickerillo and Toll Brothers, has only about a dozen homes remaining in the 150-home subdivision, Kilkenny said. The Mischer executive vice president said there are also five existing multifamily developments within The Vintage housing as many as 1,500-2,000 apartments that are completed or nearing completion.

Sueba USA developed and manages both the San Cierra and San Antigua properties and also developed the Vintage Park complex, now managed by Southhampton Management, Inc., according to Sueba USA officials. The three complexes—constructed from 2005–11—house a combined 963 units and were leased quickly.

Both San Cierra and San Antigua are nearly fully leased, Sueba USA officials said.

“Close proximity to shopping, dining, entertainment, medical facilities and education establishments have been helpful in marketing to make our property attractive to residents through convenience of location,” said a Sueba USA representative. 

The Vintage has also seen an influx of medical facilities in the last decade. In addition to the Kelsey Seybold Clinic, the CHI St. Luke’s Hospital in The Vintage has served the region since opening in December 2010.

The 212,000-square-foot hospital has seen significant growth in patient volumes since opening, according to CHI St. Luke’s officials.

Strict guidelines

When V&W Partners purchased the 630 acres from HP in 2004 and 2005, Kilkenny said the property already had some restricted covenants, but Mischer and Kickerillo wanted to go a step further.

The partners looked at master-planned communities like The Woodlands and First Colony to establish design guidelines for everything from building materials and design to parking, lighting and landscaping. An architectural review board was also established, composed of individuals from Mischer, Kickerillo and outside consultant McCauley Architectural Reviews.

“It provides a better value in the community but also a better value for those investing in the project and for those living there too,” Kilkenny said.

However, property managers said the guidelines have helped attract tenants rather than making development more of a challenge. Amezquita said the architectural review board encourages uniformity and quality among developments within The Vintage.

“We like [guidelines] because it gives us an opportunity to meet a standard,” she said. “Whole Foods liked that because we [had] to build a particular product.”

Harris County Precinct 4 Communications Director Mark Seegers said he believes the standards have helped retain the appeal of the community.

“[The Vintage is] absolutely not only the type of mixed-use development that people want to move to, but they offer the mix of the retail with pleasant surroundings and green space as a destination for people to go to, “ Seegers said.

Increased congestion

The continued development of The Vintage has brought more cars to the nearby roadways. Although Harris County has not performed traffic counts for Louetta Road for a few years, 2011 traffic counts from Read King showed that Louetta Road saw as many as 34,000 cars around Cutten Road in a 24-hour period.

“[Traffic] just comes with success, I guess,” Kilkenny said. “We’ve worked with TxDOT and Harris County on some of the traffic concerns.”

Kilkenny said the nearby Grand Parkway—which will see segments F1, F2 and G completed by the end of 2015—and the Hwy. 249 tollway expansion should alleviate some of the congestion on the Hwy. 249 main lanes.

Although Seegers said there are no plans for construction at Louetta Road near The Vintage, the Hwy. 249 expansion will give motorists more options when passing through while alleviating the backup along Hwy. 249 for nearby residents when the project is completed in a couple of years.

“The backup that naturally occurs there, especially in the afternoon, that’s going to be so much better,” Seegers said. “They should see an ease in congestion.”

Barbara Thomason, president of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce, said the reimagined bus service plan being considered by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County could help congestion in The Vintage as some of the proposed routes circle the development.

The plan could be implemented next June if approved by the METRO board this year.

Although Thomason said traffic has increased in the area with the rapid uptick of new projects, the majority of the community supports development in The Vintage.

“I think there are folks who will always bemoan the development and growth, because they liked it the way it was,” Thomason said. “But the preponderance of the community is that they’re pumped with what’s going on and all the [new] amenities in the area.”

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