Pearland 20/20 vision to shape, guide community

Pearland organizations, community members and leaders have come together to improve all aspects of living in the city through Pearland 20/20—a long-term improvement plan for the city.
From mobility to education, strategies on all fronts within Pearland 20/20 are moving forward this year. Crafted by the Pearland Economic Development Corporation and approved by Pearland City Council and the Pearland Chamber of Commerce in spring 2014, the plan emphasizes nine strategies to be implemented in the next five years.

“The Pearland 20/20 strategic plan is a blueprint to address specific challenges and work on opportunities for economic growth,” Pearland Mayor Tom Reid said. “As we go through this process, our hope is that by focusing on the strategic priorities in the plan, we will be able to increase high-value development in the city and boost our tax base.”

Joining forces

Although the PEDC designed the plan, it is not spearheading all of the plan’s projects. The PEDC, City Council and chamber have partnered with 30 other community organizations, including Harris County and the United Way of Brazoria County, to implement the plan’s strategies.

PEDC President Matt Buchanan said most of the projects detailed in the plan would likely be implemented regardless of the plan’s creation. However, Pearland 20/20 helps keep growth on the right track.

About $1.4 million is being funded through a mix of public, private, institutional and philanthropic sources for the plan, with about $274,500 being spent each year. The money will be spent mostly on studies, marketing and educational initiatives for the public. However, many of the large-scale projects have their own budgets through the organizations working on those projects.

For example, road projects will require funding from the state, and Alvin ISD will fund the construction of its own schools.

“This plan really tries to focus on [the] product of the community,” Buchanan said. “It’s about how we improve as a product so we can compete in the region for jobs and quality of life.”

Alan Mueller, member of the the plan’s implementation committee and vice president of the Houston-based company Gromax Construction, said the goals set in the plan are just targets and will continue to be re-evaluated.

“We are setting these targets and are going to work toward them, but they will be re-evaluated and we will set new targets down the road—that’s the most important part of any plan,” Mueller said. “The community is not static, and the plan cannot be static either.”

Mobility and corridors

The mobility strategy includes the continuation of planning and constructing priority road and highway projects, advocating for a park-and-ride facility for Hwy. 288 and toll lanes on Hwy. 288 between Hwy. 59 and Hwy. 6. The plan also encourages working with the Houston-Galveston Area Council on other mobility solutions.

“We continue to aggressively seek federal and state funding for roadway projects within the community, [having received] over $80 million in funding for various road expansion projects,” Buchanan said.

A strategy for the city’s major corridors focuses on priming their development potential. Tactics include creating an FM 518 master plan, a redevelopment plan for Hwy. 35 and a management district for Hwy. 288. A management district could collect property tax from businesses within its boundaries to fund improvements in the area, such as increasing the frequency of trash removal near roadways, Buchanan said.

The city of Pearland has already received $22.1 million from H-GAC for the Bailey Road expansion, Buchanan said, which will stretch east of FM 1128 to Veterans Road. Pearland Assistant City Manager Trent Epperson said the road will be widened to a four-lane thoroughfare, and construction should begin in three to six months.

H-GAC granted the city another $32.9 million for the extension of McHard Road from Cullen Parkway to Mykawa Road, Epperson said. The project is in the early stages of the design and environmental impact process, which he said could take nine to 12 months to complete. Construction could begin on the project in late 2017.

If all goes according to plan, by the end of the year, the master plan for FM 518 will be created along with the management district for Hwy. 288, according to Pearland 20/20. By the end of 2016, the goal is to create a redevelopment plan for Hwy. 35 and open a park-and-ride facility for Hwy. 288.

Pearland 20/20 also outlines plans to create a tax increment reinvestment zone in 2017 for the Old Townsite, Hwy. 35 and Broadway Street corridors. A TIRZ is a development funding tool that helps attract and finance redevelopment within a particular zone.

Education and workforce

Strategies in this portion of the plan build on existing education initiatives designed to focus on preparing high school students for work immediately after graduation or for a path toward higher education.

“The school districts and community colleges have made some changes over the past few years to actually be able to produce graduates that are ready to go to work,” said Charles Gooden, chairman of the Pearland 20/20 implementation committee and member of the Pearland ISD board of trustees. “For a long time, technical training was taken out of high school. It’s back now and we have students who are ready to join the workforce, which is key when talking about moving business to Pearland and expanding business activity.”

Education and workforce strategies go hand in hand, Gooden said, because when new companies move to the area they require trained employees, which the city’s schools can now provide.

He said the industries that require the most trained students include life sciences, which involves medical device manufacturers such as Cardiovascular Systems, Inc., a company that has taken root in Pearland’s lower Kirby district.

“We’ve seen a lot of success with the medical industry, and as an offshoot of that we have seen energy companies relocate here as well,” he said.
Plan initiatives include encouraging partnerships between Pearland-area schools and nearby companies to encourage technical learning as well as new programs to connect classrooms with local businesses for networking opportunities.

“When you go through [kindergarten] through 12[th grade] in Pearland, the idea is the community is going to support you, and once you graduate, if you choose to go to work, there should be a job waiting for you, and you should be prepared for it,” Gooden said.

Beautification and recreation

In an effort to improve the city’s overall aesthetic, Pearland 20/20 calls for a community task force to coordinate beautification projects as well as to request more funding for maintaining landscaped roads and corridors, develop gateways into the city and expand citywide cleanup efforts.

Sharpening the city’s image has been on the PEDC’s mind for several years, Gooden said, as the PEDC pays close attention to how visitors perceive the community by its looks.

“My big thing has always been the look and feel of community,” he said. “We are talking about simple things. Like along [Hwy.] 288 near Beltway 8, you just see old piles of construction materials and just junk everywhere. When you go to the Galleria or Sugar Land, you don’t see that.”

The plan also suggests investing in trails, parks and the creation of sport complexes. Construction on the Hickory Slough and Shadow Creek sport complexes is underway, and progress continues on expanding the community’s pedestrian trail network.

The trail connecting Centennial to Independence parks is in the design phase and should go to bid for construction in the next couple of months, said Pearland Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Graham. The concrete hike and bike trail will total 2 miles with the new sections connecting to existing sidewalks.

Trails along Clear Creek, which will be constructed near the Shadow Creek and Green Tee Terrace subdivisions, are in the early stages of land evaluation.
Graham said the city has about $5 million to $6 million budgeted for these projects, including money from a Texas Parks and Wildlife grant and a transportation grant from H-GAC.

“Off-road trail connections for pedestrian use will link parks and community facilities together,” Mueller said. “In the work I do, when people look at places to a buy a house, the school district is very important, but amenities are also very important. Right now trails are the No. 1 amenity people are looking for.”

Source: Community Impact News