Imagine images of a parent and child fishing on the banks of a naturally landscaped lake, a kayaker paddling under a pedestrian bridge spanning the lake, and an adolescent biking on a woodsy off-road trail.
These photos are real. They depict a certain family-friendly neighborhood with recreational opportunities in a setting brimming with natural beauty, known as Bridgeland, an 11,400-acre master planned community in Cypress, Texas. The Houston-area project is the product of the Howard Hughes Corporation, which owns, manages, and develops commercial, residential, and mixed-use real estate nationwide.
Howard Hughes has produced large master planned communities in several states with designs that put a high priority on quality-of-life features such as recreation, wellness, and a sense of community. Bridgeland, with about 3,000 planned acres of open space, including 900 acres of lakes and meandering waterways, is a prime example.
Bridgeland’s designers took great care to create a highly walkable environment, says Heath Melton, executive vice president of Master Planned Community Residential Development. “We planned pedestrian connectivity first, then vehicular connectivity,” Melton explains, demonstrating a keen awareness of the inevitable dangers that can occur from drivers sharing the roads with walkers or bikers. “We want pedestrians to have the least amount of contact with vehicles as possible.” Pedestrian tunnels under major thoroughfares provide safe, convenient crossings for residents and visitors on foot or bicycles.
Numerous parks, retail centers, and waterways dot the landscape in strategic locations so that Bridgeland residents have easy access to amenities on foot from all living spaces. “We like to have a park or green space within a quarter mile of every home,” Melton says.
This vision is consistent with Howard Hughes’s corporate approach to master planned community developments—creating cities-within-cities that offer rich experiences for residents. Bridgeland will have about 65,000 residents when completed. Many will be drawn by the numerous recreational opportunities and the project’s scenic settings that are in harmony with nature.
For instance, waterside landscapes feature aquatic and meadow-like plantings that provide habitat for insects, including the monarch butterfly, and waterfowl. In fact, pelicans adopted the area as a migration stop after the community’s man-made lakes and waterways were constructed, Melton points out.
To allow residents to fully enjoy these bodies of water, the development includes a boathouse where residents can check out a canoe or kayak for a few hours, and a tower for bird watching. Fishing enthusiasts can take advantage of stocked catfish, brim, and spotted bass.
Other amenities such as state-of-the-art activity centers offer fitness, pools, splash pads, dog parks, tennis courts, basketball courts, playgrounds, and meeting spaces add to the recreational and social opportunities. The development’s four villages will each have retail village centers that will include medical and dental offices, dry cleaners, and other necessities. These amenities, along with some healthy food purveyors in retail hubs, are in keeping with a focus on wellness that is desired by multiple demographic groups, Melton says.
Two public elementary schools and a high school have already been built within the community’s borders, and at least one more, a middle school, will be constructed in the future. Bridgeland also offers two places of worship, with another in the planning stage, to nourish the spirit. The lengthy array of amenities has helped make the community highly desirable for new homebuyers. “Bridgeland is the number one-selling master planned community in the Houston area and number 11 in the country,” Melton says.
Homes vary in price ($220,000 to over $1 million), design, and lot size, creating a diversity of architecture and housing options. The superior engineering design of the community proved beneficial, as not a single home was impacted in the recent Houston area’s floods during major storms. Hurricane Harvey, for instance, did not cause damage to homes from rising flood waters in Bridgeland when it struck the region in 2017. Lakes and waterways mark the low-lying terrain, providing stormwater retention and conveyance in a more attractive form than engineered structures like concrete culverts and channels.
Since the project’s first sales in 2006, Bridgeland has grown steadily, with new thoughtfully designed amenities and features keeping in step with population growth. Now accommodating about 11,000 residents, there is plenty of room for growth to reach the capacity of about 65,000 when fully built out.
As the neighborhood and its greenery expand, both human residents and the creatures of the local environment can look forward to the vibrancy the community has to offer.
“The Howard Hughes Corporation believes it is important for the company to engage in charitable giving and volunteerism to become part of the fabric of the community,” Heath Melton says. “To that end, the company grants all employees three days off per year to participate in volunteer activities.”
In recent years, Melton and other employees have assisted Operation Finally Home (OFH), an organization that provides a mortgage-free home to a deserving veteran and their family. “Being an Army veteran, this is very near and dear to my heart,” Melton says. “We donate the lot and partner with our homebuilders to get their participation.” Together, they help to secure in-kind donations from suppliers.
Melton’s charitable leadership extends to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night fundraising event in Montgomery County, Texas, serving as cochair and board member. Melton was a national top five fundraiser in 2018 and 2019. The work honors his mother, who lost the fight to cancer in 2015, Melton says.
Melton’s charitable third pillar of interest, after military and health, is education. He is a board member of the Cy-Fair Education Foundation that provides scholarships to deserving college bound students. In addition, Howard Hughes is planning to launch a new initiative to provide scholarships to two seniors at Bridgeland High School each year.
“The volunteer spirit is integral to the creation of a new community like Bridgeland,” Melton says. “We are creators of culture.”