$100M Woodlands Mall expansion with to break ground in 2025

A $100 million expansion of The Woodlands Mall will begin with a design process through 2024 with plans to have “shovels in the ground” by 2025.

The expansion includes two new hotels with 30,000 square feet of conferencing space, 80,000 square feet of retail space and a parking garage with up to 1,200 stalls.

After initially sparking controversy over a lack of transparency, the expansion earned support from the township’s board of directors after mall developers Brookfield Properties presented plans at a January board meeting.

Township President and General Manager Monique Sharp said the board first approved a preliminary plan and financial agreement with two 5-1 votes in a special board meeting Nov. 18 after six months of planning in executive session.

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Newly elected board members Kyle Watson and Brad Bailey urged the board to postpone the decision until Nov. 30, when the township’s four new directors would be seated.

Watson, who criticized the lack of public input prior to the November decision, said Brookfield’s public presentation eased some of his initial concerns.

“There were never questions about the merits of the project. We just had questions about the way it transpired,” Watson said. “These dominoes are slow to fall…but I know that we want to see this development be extremely successful for everyone in the community.”

The development will focus on the southwest portion of The Woodlands Mall and try to bridge some of the gap between the mall and Market Street. The expansion may be divided into two phases to prevent disruption of mall activity.

Brian Whaley, Brookfield’s manager of development and retail, said the bulk of the expansion will take place on an existing parking area, the Macy’s parking lot and the current Forever 21 site.

The current parking area will be demolished and will be replaced with a new public parking lot. One of the two new hotels will be constructed on the current Forever 21 site.

The larger of the two hotels will be 16 stories tall and will hold 275 rooms as well as 30,000 square feet of conferencing space. The second hotel will consist of 200 rooms spanning 14 stories. Both hotels will have easy access to the mall.

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Developers are looking for an upscale hotel product and will begin reaching out to brands early this year, Whaley said.

Brookfield owns five regional malls in the area, including Friendswood’s Baybrook Mall. Senior vice president of development James Varsamis said a recent expansion gave the shopping center a 15 percent to 20 percent productivity boost.

“There’s a halo effect,” Varsamis said. “We’re able to take a product that was built 25 or 30 years ago and give it a new set of legs and a fresh life.”

There will be a 1 percent economic development zone sales tax and a 1 percent hotel occupancy tax collected within the boundaries of the new project. Reimbursement for the parking garage is limited to $80 million or the exact cost, if lower, of the parking facility’s construction, Sharp said at the November meeting.

Sharp said the expansion is projected to generate an additional $276 million in additional local sales and hotel taxes, with $78 million awarded to the mall developer and $198 million going to the Township.

Township chairman Ann Snyder, who was the lone “nay” vote in the November decision, said Market Street representatives and the rest of the surrounding community are eager for the new development.

“The Woodlands is based on partnerships and working together. We have grown because we have done that,” Snyder said. “Everyone who surrounds that mall is excited for you to break ground tomorrow.”

Whaley said Brookfield has picked out an architect and will begin finalizing designs for the project.

Reporter Catherine Dominguez contributed to this story.

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