Sugar Land: Home Sweet Home

June 1, 2005 by  
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Houston is a sprawling, diverse city with suburbs on all sides. One of the most prominent is the city of Sugar Land.

Within arms reach
Today, the city of Sugar Land has refined itself into a beautiful suburb with a population of 70,758. Located roughly 20 miles southwest of downtown Houston off of U.S. 59 South, the residents of Sugar Land have created a feeling of family and community away from the big city. However, they remain close enough to Houston to enjoy the luxury of driving into it and coming back home whenever city life becomes overwhelming. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Houston recently established a Park & Ride system at the University of Houston Sugar Land campus with a Trek Express service to Greenway Plaza, thus making travel into the city even more accessible.

History 101
The area where Sugar Land stands today was established in the 1820s when Samuel M. Williams was issued a land grant from Stephen F. Austin. His two brothers, Nathaniel and Matthew Williams, initially purchased the land from him and began to cultivate the land with cotton, corn and sugar cane. They initially named the land Oakland Plantation, but were not able to keep the land long after the death of Samuel.

Following Samuel Williams’ death in 1853, the land was sold to Benjamin Terry and William Kyle after they had amassed a great fortune during the California gold rush. They were instrumental in first bringing the railroad to the area and laying concrete plans to run the railway through Sugar Land to increase commerce. As time progressed, the land exchanged hands several times and was eventually transformed from its oligarchic beginnings to a proper democracy with the election of its first mayor, T.E. Harmon, in 1959.

There is no equal
Sugar Land owes its name to Imperial Sugar Company. The company began its early roots with the start of the first sugar mill in 1843. It evolved through the late 1880s and into the early 1900s by changing owners and developing into its own large corporation in 1924. By 1997, the Imperial Company had acquired so many other refineries that it was the largest producer of sugar in the United States. In May 2003, the refinery was closed down, and all of its previous acquisitions were sold. The south Houston establishment continues to house its corporate headquarters on the old site of the factory, but the actual production of the sugar has been moved elsewhere. The people can still see the effects of the company by looking at the side posts along U.S. 59 South. Many are decorated with the Imperial Sugar crown surrounded by the ‘lone star’ of Texas.

Come one and all The newly opened Sugar Land Town Square has become the place to see and be seen. Not only has it given the residents of Sugar Land a place to call ‘downtown,’ but has also opened the area to more commerce and residential life. It is a family-friendly area comprised of commercial and retail venues like Starbucks and Ben and Jerry’s. Baker Street Pub has also opened, finally giving partygoers an actual bar rather than the restaurant varieties at Café Adobe or Chili’s. Big business has also taken notice of the booming growth in Sugar Land. Companies like the Fluor Corporation, Schlumberger, Aetna Healthcare, Unocal and Ondeo Nalco all make their home here.

Thousands of families have made Sugar Land their home over the years. One of the incentives is living in one of the master-planned communities Sugar Land has to offer. New Territory, Avalon, Sugar Creek and Greatwood are only a few of the many communities located in the city. People enjoy the strong sense of community they get from the safe streets, great school system and added benefits like parks, lakes and community centers. For couples with small children, Sugar Land has become the ideal place to raise their new family.

School days The city of Sugar Land is located in Fort Bend Independent School District. It is the ninth largest school district within the state of Texas, encompassing more than 62,000 students from all around the world. The district emphasizes its dedication to student “achievement and development,” which is evident in the 61 National Merit Finalists in 2004. Two of the middle schools in Fort Bend have also been recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools, meaning that the United States Department of Education has acknowledged these schools for demonstrating significant achievement in the education of its students through the No Child Left Behind policy. Fort Bend ISD also takes pride in stressing its diversity. There is a strong belief that emphasis in diversity brings people closer together here, rather than create divisions. Sugar Land students are from China, Turkey, Portugal and all around Africa, as well as Houston, Michigan and California. This diversity and room for growth also has encouraged the students to be better prepared for the “real world.”

Power to the people
Over the years, the government of Sugar Land has brought the city accolades from all around the United States. Something that may surprise outsiders is that Sugar Land is run by a council-manager plan of government. Unlike its neighbor Houston, Sugar Land has a city council that appoints a manager who acts as a chief executive officer for the government. Although the city still has a mayor, he is a member of the city council and holds equal power among the other members of the council. In this manner, they are all giving their own political leadership while still implementing strong managerial skills for the city through its manger. Sugar Land residents enjoy everything the city has to offer, without the hustle and bustle that goes with it. Everything a person could want is here – an award-winning education system, master-planned communities, an ever-expanding economy, limitless shopping and entertainment for all ages. H

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