The population of the area surrounding Conroe and The Woodlands has increased so much in recent years that it is now eligible for federal transportation funds, according to The Houston Chronicle:
Conroe native Jay Ross Martin says he never imagined his rural hometown in the piney woods developing bustling retail centers, a thriving housing market and a population that’s more than doubled in the past 20 years.
The change has catapulted Conroe, the county seat of Montgomery County, into a “new world,” says Martin, a former city councilman.
Increasingly, that new world is more like the city than the country.
This year the U.S. Census Bureau made it official by designating an area surrounding Conroe and The Woodlands as a “large urbanized transit area.” The designation, based on its population exceeding 200,000, makes the area eligible for federal transportation dollars.
Thirty-six new large urbanized areas were added to the Census Bureau list this year. Conroe-The Woodlands was the only new designation in the Houston region.
The population within the area, which extends north to Willis and south to Spring in unincorporated Montgomery County along the Interstate 45 corridor, increased to 240,000 in 2010, nearly triple the 1990 level.
“It’s an indication of large growth between The Woodlands and Conroe,” said Bruce Tough, president of The Woodlands Township, the governing body of The Woodlands. With the new Exxon Mobil campus planned just south of The Woodlands, he added, “we’re going to see a lot of energy and manufacturing companies coming to Montgomery County contributing to unprecedented growth. People better put on their seat belt.”
Already, the growth has changed the complexion of the area. It no longer consists of sleepy bedroom communities where everybody knows their neighbors and people leave their doors unlocked. Some roads are now clogged with traffic and burglaries are more common than 20 years ago.
But elected officials and residents say the encroaching urbanism has not diminished the quality of life.
The challenge will be to sustain and maintain it as the growth continues, they say.
Steve Murdock, a Rice University sociology professor and former state demographer, said growth north and west of Houston has been “phenomenal” because of extensive economic development bringing jobs to those areas. The rate of suburban growth usually slows as the area matures, but a new project like Exxon Mobil’s can reignite growth, Murdock said.
Conroe and The Woodlands saw a lull in housing and business activity in 2008 and 2009 because of the economic downturn.
In the last two years, however, developers have begun expanding or starting housing developments in Conroe, where more than 20 developments are under construction.
In addition, two new grocery stores are planned, including one near the downtown area, which hasn’t seen any new development for years. The city’s industrial park also is attracting new businesses, said city planner Luis Nunez,
Conroe, which grew from about 28,000 residents in 1990 to 58,000 in 2010, is taking steps to annex some adjacent areas. It recently improved its water and sewer system to accommodate growth.
Quality of life
Working close to home