|By Nancy Sarnoff, Houston
ChronicleMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 22, 2011--A hotel and conference center are being proposed at the site of the large-scale Imperial Sugar redevelopment project in Sugar Land.
Redstone Cos., owner of the posh Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, has agreed to consult with Imperial's developer on the possibility of building the hotel, as well as renovating the historic "char house" -- where sugar processing once took place.
For now, Redstone says its involvement in the project is just as a consultant, but ultimately it could be involved in the development of the hotel and conference center.
"It could be a pretty special development for Fort Bend County," said Kim Phillips, a spokeswoman for Redstone, referring to the entire project, which is called Imperial.
Located near the intersection of U.S. 90A and Texas 6, the Imperial project spans 700 acres, including the former Imperial Sugar Co. refinery site. Several structures dating back to the early 1900s are being preserved and incorporated into the development.
One of those is the 65,000-square-foot char house, which is being considered as an office building conversion with ground-floor retail and a restaurant on the top floor.
A mix of shops, office space, restaurants, apartments and other residences are also planned, as well as a minor league baseball stadium, which already has broken ground.
The overall master plan also includes a significant amount of land across from the Sugar Land Regional Airport for a business and technology park.
Johnson Development, a Houston-based developer of such master-planned communities as Sienna Plantation and Riverstone is developing Imperial for owners Cherokee Sugar Land LP and the State of Texas General Land Office.
Johnson estimates the entire 700-acre project will generate $800 million in taxable value.
The proposed hotel and conference center would be located in Imperial's "Historical District" where the refinery once operated along U.S. 90A, said Shay Shafie, general manager of Imperial.
An independent study conducted last year suggested the area would best be served by a boutique hotel with 250 rooms and up to 40,000 square feet of conference space, Shafie said.
Known for hospitality
Redstone, a privately owned Houston company, is known for its hospitality portfolio.
In addition to the Houstonian, the company also has Lakeway Resort and Spa and Houstonian Lite Fitness Clubs. Its golf properties include Shadow Hawk Golf Club, The Houstonian Golf & Country Club, Redstone Golf Club, BlackHorse Golf Club and Vanderbilt Legends Club.
The hotel and conference center at Imperial likely wouldn't be completed until as late as 2015 because of infrastructure work still being done at the site.
After a recession-related slowdown hit the once-booming suburb of Sugar Land, developer interest has been increasing, according to real estate experts familiar with the area.
Sugar Land's growing population and $93,025 median household income -- nearly 90 percent higher than the state as a whole -- has driven much of the activity.
H-E-B is building a store at Texas 6 and U.S. 90A and a Hyatt Place hotel recently opened at Texas 6 and U.S. 59.
Telfair, a 2,000-acre upscale residential community that started in 2005, has been the source of some of the commercial growth.
Even though the city lost thousands of jobs during the recession, companies are again bringing or planning to bring employees to the area.
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