Battle of the ‘Burbs

January 1, 2005 by  
Filed under Edit

While nonlocals might dismiss Houston as a sprawling, unregulated city, area residents appreciate the excessive square mileage of the greater H-Town area for the remarkable diversity it encompasses. Even with an increasingly thriving downtown and affordable living options within minutes, some of Space City’s true gems are its suburban communities.

Located about 45 minutes north on I-45, The Woodlands
is one of America’s most recognized master-planned communities. In 2003, architects from around the country visited The Woodlands to study its model for success.

Education
The Woodlands is serviced by Conroe ISD, which received an academically acceptable rating from Texas Education Agency (TEA). However, 14 of the 17 schools within The Woodlands received an exemplary (highest) campus rating from TEA; among those 14 are two National Blue Ribbon schools. Four private schools are also within the area.

Health and Wellness
In addition to numerous small medical practices within the area, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands is a 168-bed acute care hospital and is part of the local Memorial Hermann string of hospitals. St. Luke’s Community Medical Center-The Woodlands, an 84-bed hospital, is a partner of the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center.

The Woodlands is patrolled regularly by Montgomery County Sheriff’s officers, and Woodlands Town Center features Alpha and Omega mounted patrol, a presence to support pre-existing security and serve as goodwill ambassadors.

Outdoor Activities
The Woodlands is stunningly beautiful and contains more than 1,800 acres of open space, including 124 miles of hike-and-bike trails and 12 public swimming pools. Lake Conroe and several smaller lakes are within the area and become especially popular during the summer season.

The Woodlands is also known for golf. It is home to four championship golf courses, one being the PGA-approved Tournament Players Course, which hosted the Shell Houston Open for 17 years.

Shopping and Entertainment
The outdoor Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is commonly a stop of big-name touring musicians, especially during the summer. The Woodlands Mall features an extremely diverse array of shops and is adjacent to The Woodlands Waterway, a 1.25-mile stretch from Lake Woodlands to Lake Robbins that winds through the center of town. Planners are currently developing a Main Street-themed shopping center called “Market Street” to run adjacent to the Waterway.

Katy, situated along I-10 at the intersection
of U.S. 90, is roughly a 55-minute trip into Houston. Originally called Cane Island, Katy has long been known for its excellence in producing high-school football talent. It has also blossomed into a tremendous suburb to raise a family, across all aspects.

Education
Katy ISD is one of only three large (more than 25,000 students) school districts in Texas to be named recognized for four years running. The district features an Outdoor Learning Center and an Outdoor Education Program, both unique within the area, and several KISD schools have won exemplary performance awards.

Health and Wellness
Memorial Hermann Katy is the main hospital in the region; two other large centers also service the population.

Outdoor Activities
As would befit a community featuring an Outdoor Learning Center, Katy has six community parks, as well as Katy Prairie Conservancy, where residents enjoy hunting, bird watching and nature study.

Shopping and Entertainment
Katy Mills Mall is one of the largest and most recognized in the area. The Forbidden Gardens, which recreates the Forbidden City and the tomb of the first emperor of China, is another local attraction.

Sugar Land, the original home of Imperial Sugar,
is a 35-40 minute jaunt down U.S. 59 South. As the fastest-growing of Texas’ 45 largest cities, Sugar Land was recently named one of Money magazine’s Hot Towns to Live In, and was profiled by CNN/Money as one of the Best Places to Live.

Education
Sugar Land is a large school district often noted for its excellence. In addition to its two consecutive recognized ratings, it was named one of the top 100 school districts in the nation in which to obtain a fine arts education.

Health and Wellness
Four major hospitals, including Memorial Hermann Fort Bend, operate within the Sugar Land area. Several small practices exist within the Westchase area as well.

Outdoor Activities
As Sugar Land continues to grow, its current spread of eight local parks is bound to expand. The Chamber of Commerce website features numerous links to a Citizen Satisfaction Survey, where several locals have commented on a need for an increase in recreational areas.

Shopping and Entertainment
CNN/Money selected Sugar Land as a Best Place to Live due to its increasing role as a cultural and culinary suburban staple for America’s fourth-largest city. More than 2,300 restaurants are within a 30-mile radius of Sugar Land as well as nearly 80 theatrical troupes and 50 libraries. For those more inclined toward other pursuits, 221 bars are within that area as well, 20 above the national average for a suburb.

Clear Lake, a 35-45 minute commute down I-45 South,
is the entrance to the Kemah Boardwalk and Galveston areas. More notably, this community has been building a reputation for itself.

Education
Clear Lake is covered by the Clear Creek ISD, which has been deemed recognized for six consecutive years by the TEA; for a district with more than 25,000 students, this is the highest rating afforded by TEA in history.

Health and Wellness
Clear Lake Regional Medical Center and Christus St. John Hospital service the area. Other hospitals are a short drive away in Galveston and Kemah.

Outdoor Activities
Especially in the spring and summer months, Clear Lake is an outdoor lover’s delight. With close proximity to Kemah and Galveston Bay, as well as 10 local parks, there is no shortage of things to do.

Shopping and Entertainment
Kemah Boardwalk features an interesting array of shopping opportunities, as well as various cuisines, ranging from a Saltgrass Steakhouse to the romantic Flying Dutchman. Space Center Houston is in the vicinity, and Baybrook Mall joins the Factory Stores of America outlet mall as affordable shopping options in Clear Lake.

Kingwood is another master-planned community
located just east of U.S. 59 and north of Humble – “nestled among the pines” is the prose of locals. The commute into Houston averages 40-50 minutes.

Education
Kingwood students attend schools in Humble and New Caney school districts, both of which are TEA-recognized. All schools in the Kingwood area are denoted as either recognized or exemplary by TEA.

Health and Wellness
The two major hospitals serving the Kingwood area are Columbia Kingwood Medical Center and Northeast Medical Center hospital. Four smaller emergency clinics and health-care centers exist in the area alongside a variety of smaller private practices.

Outdoor Activities
Kingwood was masterminded by Friendswood master-planned communities. A signature feature of all Friendswood developments is greenbelts, providing not only places to participate in leisure activities, but a scenic, wooded way for residents to travel throughout the community and keep off busy streets. “Livable Forest” residents rave about the greenbelts.

Shopping and Entertainment
Town Center and Kingwood Commons are the primary entertainment areas in town. In recent years, notable national retailers have opened stores in Kingwood, signifying its growing population and Houston-area appeal.

Pearland is a growing suburb, experiencing changes
seemingly every day. Dubbed by residents as “where town and country meet,” Pearland is adjacent to State Hwy. 288 on the south side of Beltway 8. Since much of the land in this area is undeveloped, the commute to downtown Houston and the Medical Center becomes somewhat shorter than an average suburb; Pearland residents average about 15-20 minutes on the road.

Education
Pearland ISD features 12 schools. In 2004, six were noted as recognized and six as exemplary, the two highest ratings afforded by TEA.

Health and Wellness
In addition to the 15-minute drive to Texas Medical Center, 10 hospitals and numerous private practices are within a 20-minute drive in all directions of Pearland. Memorial Hermann Southeast covers the area primarily.

Outdoor Activities
There are seven local parks in Pearland. However, since much of the surrounding land is currently undeveloped, residents are pursuing plans to convert some of it into space for leisure activities. As Pearland grows, the amount of recreational activity available in the area will probably grow as well.

Shopping and Entertainment
Pearland residents do most of their shopping within Houston proper, but the Chamber of Commerce website maintains an active list of weekend events and garage sales for bargain hunting. H

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