Sugar Land

Sugar Land Sugar Land

Sugar Land is a city in the U.S. state of Texas within the Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area and Fort Bend County. Sugar Land is one of the most affluent and fastest-growing cities in Texas, having grown more than 158 percent in the last decade. In the time period of 2000–2007, Sugar Land also enjoyed a 46.24% job growth. As of the 2010 census, its population was 78,817. In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the city’s population was 84,511, with a median family income of $113,261 and a median home price of $369,600.

Founded as a sugar plantation in the early mid-20th century and incorporated in 1959, Sugar Land is the largest city and economic center of Fort Bend County. The city is the third-largest in population and second-largest in economic activities of the Houston area.

Sugar Land is home to the headquarters of Imperial Sugar and the company’s main sugar refinery and distribution center was once located in this city. Recognizing this heritage, the Imperial Sugar crown logo can be seen in the city seal and logo.

The city also acts as the national headquarters of CVR Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CVI). CVR Energy, Inc. was listed as the city’s only resident 2012 Fortune 500 company. Sugar Land also holds the headquarters for Western Airways and a major manufacturing facility for Nalco Chemical Company. In addition, Sugar Land has a large number of international energy, software, engineering, and product firms. Sugar Land has the most master-planned communities in Fort Bend County, which is home to the largest number of master-planned communities in the nation—including First Colony, Sugar Creek, Riverstone, New Territory, Telfair, and many others.

As of 2007, Sugar Land held the title of “Fittest City in Texas” for the population 50,000–100,000 range, a title it has held for four consecutive years.

In 2006 CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Sugar Land third on its list of the 100 Best Cities to Live in the United States.

In 2007, CQ Press has ranked Sugar Land fifth on its list of Safest Cities in the United States (14th annual “City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan American”), and in 2010 it was ranked the twelfth Safest City in the United States, making it the safest city in Texas.

In 2008, Forbes selected Sugar Land along with Bunker Hill Village and Hunters Creek Village as one of the three Houston-area “Top Suburbs To Live Well”, noting its affluence despite its large population.

Sugar Land recently became the home of the Sugar Land Skeeters minor-league baseball team and a new stadium called Constellation Field.

History

Sugar Land’s founding

Sugar Land’s heritage traces its roots back to the original Mexican land grant to Stephen F. Austin. One of the first settlers of the land, Samuel M. Williams, called this land “Oakland Plantation” because there were many different varieties of oaks on the land, such as willow oak, post oak, water oak, southern red oak, and live oak. Williams’ brother, Nathaniel, purchased the land in 1838. They operated the plantation by growing cotton, corn, and sugarcane. During these early years, the area that is now Sugar Land was the center of social life along the Brazos River. In 1853, Benjamin Terry and William J. Kyle purchased the Oakland Plantation from the S. M. Williams family. Terry is known for organizing Terry’s Texas Rangers during the Civil War and for naming the town. Upon the deaths of Terry and Kyle, Colonel E. H. Cunningham bought the 12,500 acres (51 km2) plantation soon after the Civil War, and developed the town around his sugar-refining plant around 1879.

Company town

In 1906, the Kempner family of Galveston, under the leadership of Isaac H. Kempner, and in partnership with William T. Eldridge, purchased the 5,300 acres (21 km2) Ellis Plantation, one of the few plantations in Fort Bend County to survive the Civil War. The Ellis Plantation had originally been part of the Jesse Cartwright league and in the years after the Civil War had been operated by a system of tenant farming under the management of Will Ellis. In 1908, the partnership acquired the adjoining 12,500 acres (51 km2) Cunningham Plantation, with its raw sugar mill and cane-sugar refinery. The partnership changed the name to Imperial Sugar Company; Kempner associated the name Imperial, which was also the name of a small raw-sugar mill on the Ellis Plantation, with the Imperial Hotel in New York City. Around the turn of the 20th century, most of the sugarcane crops were destroyed by a harsh winter. As part of the Kempner-Eldridge agreement, Eldridge moved to the site to serve as general manager and build the company-owned town of Sugar Land.

Trains have always been the sound of Sugar Land. These rails are on the route of the oldest railroad in Texas. It went right through the middle of town, by the sugar refinery, and west of town, through the heart of what used to be known as the Imperial State Prison Farm.

As a company town from the 1910s until 1959, Sugar Land was virtually self-contained. Imperial Sugar Company provided housing for the workers, encouraged construction of schools, built a hospital for the workers’ well-being, and provided businesses to meet the workers’ needs. Many of the original homes built by the Imperial Sugar Company remain today in The Hill area and Mayfield Park of Sugar Land, and have been passed down through generations of family members.

During the 1950s, Imperial Sugar wanted to expand the town by building more houses. This led to the creation of a new subdivision, Venetian Estates, which featured waterfront homesites on Oyster Creek and other man-made lakes.

A city emerges

As the company town expanded, so did the interest of establishing a municipal government. It resulted in Sugar Land becoming a general law city in 1959 by voters. T. E. Harman became the first mayor of Sugar Land.

In the early 1960s, a new subdivision development called Covington Woods introduced contemporary, affordable housing in Sugar Land for the first time. Later that year, the Imperial Cattle Ranch sold about 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) to a developer to create what became Sugar Creek in 1968. As a master-planned community, Sugar Creek introduced country club living, with two golf courses and country clubs, swimming pools, and security.

Encouraged by the success of Sugar Creek, First Colony, a new master-planned community encompassing 10,000 acres (40 km2) set out to create a new standard in development in Sugar Land. Development began in 1977 by Sugarland Properties Inc., and would continue the next 30 years. The master-planned community offered homebuyers formal landscaping, neighborhoods segmented by price range, extensive green belts, a golf course and country club, lakes and boulevards, neighborhood amenities and shopping.

Around the same time as First Colony, another master-planned community development started in northern portion of Sugar Land, called Sugar Mill, which offered traditional, lakefront, and estate lots.

Sugar Land began attracting the attention of major corporations throughout the 1980s, and many chose to make the city their home. Fluor Daniel, Schlumberger, Unocal (Unocal, however never headquartered in Sugar Land), and others offered their employees the opportunity to work within minutes of their home. This resulted in a 40/60 ratio of residential to commercial tax base within the city.

In 1981, a special city election was held for the purpose of establishing a home rule municipal government. Voters approved the adoption of a home rule charter. The type of municipal government provided by this charter was known as “mayor-council government”, and all powers of the city were invested in a council composed of a mayor and five councilmen.

A special city election was held Aug. 9, 1986, to submit the proposed changes to the electorate for consideration. By a majority of the voters, amendments to the Charter were approved which provided for a change in the city’s form of government from that of “mayor-council” (strong mayor) to that of a “council-manager” form of government which provides that the city manager be the chief administrative officer of the city. Approval of this amendment provided for the mayor to become a voting member of council, in addition to performing duties as presiding officer of the council.

Sugar Land annexed the master-planned Sugar Creek community in 1986, with the community being almost built-out. That same year, the city organized the largest celebration in its history—the Texas Sesquicentennial Celebration, celebrating 150 years of Texan independence from Mexican rule.

Geography and Climate

Geography

Sugar Land is located in northeast Fort Bend County, 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Houston. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.9 square miles (64 km2), of which, 24.1 square miles (62 km2) of it is land and 0.8 square miles (2.1 km2) of it (3.33%) is water.

The elevation of most of the city is between 70 and 90 feet (21 and 27 m). The elevation of Sugar Land Regional Airport is 82 feet (25 m).

Sugar Land is located at 29.599580°N 95.614089°W? (29.599580, -95.614089).

Sugar Land has two major water ways running through the city. The Brazos River runs through the southwestern and southern portion of the city and then into Brazoria County. Oyster Creek runs from the northwest to the eastern portion of the city limits and into Missouri City.

Sugar Land has many natural and man-made lakes connecting to Oyster Creek and one connecting to the Brazos River. The remainder of the lakes in Sugar Land are man-made through the development of many master-planned communities.

Geology

Underpinning the area’s land surface are unconsolidated clays, clay shales, and poorly-cemented sands extending to depths of several miles. The region’s geology developed from stream deposits from the erosion of the Rocky Mountains. These sediments consist of a series of sands and clays deposited on decaying organic matter that, over time, was transformed into oil and natural gas. Beneath these tiers is a water-deposited layer of halite, a rock salt. The porous layers were compressed over time and forced upward. As it pushed upward, the salt dragged surrounding sediments into dome shapes, often trapping oil and gas that seeped from the surrounding porous sands.

The region is earthquake-free. While the neighboring city of Houston contains 86 mapped and historically active surface faults with an aggregate length of 149 miles (240 km), the clay below the surface precludes the buildup of friction that produces ground shaking in earthquakes. These faults move only very gradually in what is termed “fault creep”.

Climate

Sugar Land’s climate is classified as being humid subtropical. The city is located in the gulf coastal plains biome, and the vegetation is classified as a temperate grassland. The average yearly precipitation is 48 inches. Prevailing winds are from the south and southeast during most of the year, bringing heat and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

In the summer time, daily high temperatures are in the 95°F (35°C) range throughout much of July and August. The air tends to feel still and the abundant humidity, with dewpoints typically in the low to mid 70s, creates a heat index around 100 each day. Summer thunderstorms are common with 1/3 to 1/2 of the days hearing thunder. The highest temperature recorded in the area was 109°F in September 2000.

Winters in the Houston area are cool and temperate. The average winter high/low is 62°F/45°F (16°C/7°C). The coldest period is usually in January, when north winds bring winter rains. Snow is almost unheard of and typically does not accumulate when it is seen. One such rare snowstorm hit Houston on Christmas Eve 2004. A few inches accumulated, but was all gone by the next afternoon.

Economy

Sugar Land hosts its economy through diversification, corporate vitality, and quality of life and was ranked as one of the “Top Cities in Texas” for business relocation and expansion by both Outlook Magazine and Texas Business. Industries calling Sugar Land home are as diverse as its resident population.

Like the rest of the Greater Houston area, there is a large energy industry presence, specifically petroleum exploration and refining. Sugar Land holds the headquarters to Fortune 500 company CVR Energy, Inc. (NYSE: CVI), Western Airways, and Nalco’s Energy Services division. Engineering firms and other related industries have managed to take the place as an economic engine.

Sugar Land is home to the headquarters of the Imperial Sugar Company. It also served as the home of the company’s main (and sole) refinery and distribution center. The refinery and distribution center have been put out of operation since 2003.

Schlumberger moved its Houston-area offices from 5000 Gulf Freeway in Houston to a campus in Sugar Land in 1995. Minute Maid opened its headquarters in Sugar Land Town Square in First Colony on February 16, 2009; previously it was headquartered in 2000 St. James Place in Houston.

In 1989 BMC Software had plans to lease 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) in One Sugar Creek Place in Sugar Land.

In 1991 BMC leased leased about 120,000 square feet (11,000 m2) at the Sugar Creek National Bank Building and about 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2) in the Fluor Daniel Building, both in Sugar Land. BMC planned to vacate both Sugar Land facilities when its current headquarters, located in Westchase, opened; BMC’s headquarters were scheduled to open in 1993.

Government and Infrastructure

Local government

Sugar Land operates under the Council-Manager form of government. Under this system, Council appoints the city manager, who acts as the chief executive officer of the government. The city manager carries out policy and administers city programs. All department heads, including the city attorney, police chief and fire chief, are ultimately responsible to the city manager. Sugar Land’s composition of the City Council consists of a Mayor, four councilmembers to be elected by single-member districts and two councilmembers by at-large position. All city council positions are officially nonpartisan.

The current city hall is a part of the Sugar Land Town Square development in First Colony. Prior to the opening of the current city hall, city hall was located at 10405 Corporate Drive, which currently houses the Sugar Land Fire Department offices.

Politics

Politically, Sugar Land is widely seen as one of the most heavily Republican areas in Greater Houston. Sugar Land’s city council is officially non-partisan; all of its current elected officeholders are endorsed Republicans.

In the United States House of Representatives, Sugar Land is located in District 22 which is currently represented by Republican Pete Olson. The district is a notable one, as it was previously held by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay from 1985 until his 2006 resignation which eventually forced Republicans to run a write-in campaign, and by current congressman (in the adjacent 14th District) and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul in 1976 and from 1979 until 1985.

In the Texas Legislature, most of Sugar Land is represented in District 17 of the Texas Senate, which is represented by Republican Joan Huffman. Some western segments of the city and its extraterritorial jurisdiction, including the master-planned communities of New Territory, Greatwood, River Park and Telfair, are situated in District 18, represented by Republican Glenn Hegar. In the Texas House of Representatives, Sugar Land is located in District 26 which is represented by Republican Charlie Howard.

State government

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) operates the Jester State Prison Farm complex (Jester I, Vance, Jester III, and Jester IV) in an unincorporated area near Sugar Land.

The TDCJ operated the Central Unit in Sugar Land. The Central Unit was the only state prison within the city limits of Sugar Land. The Sugar Land Distribution Center, a TDCJ men’s correctional supply warehouse, was inside the Central Unit compound. In 2011 the TDCJ announced that the prison was closing and would be vacant by the end of August of that year. With the prison’s closing, Sugar Land became the first Texas city to have its state prison close without a replacement facility.

Sugar Land Post Office

The United States Postal Service operates the Sugar Land Post Office at 225 Matladge Way and the First Colony Post Office at 3130 Grants Lake Boulevard.

Demographics

As of the 2010 census Sugar Land had a population of 78,817. The ethnic and racial makeup of the population was 44.4% non-Hispanic white, 7.3% non-Hispanic black, 0.2% non-Hispanic Native American, 35.1% non-Hispanic Asian, 0.2% non-Hispanic from some other race, 2.2% non-Hispanic from two or more races and 10.6% Hispanic or Latino.

As of a census estimate in 2006, there were 63,328 people, 20,515 households, and 17,519 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,629.1 people per square mile (1,015.0/km2). There were 21,090 housing units at an average density of 875.6 per square mile (338.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 56.00% White, 5.20% African American, 0.24% Native American, 33.80% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.32% from other races, and 2.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.98% of the population.

There were 20,515 households out of which 51.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 74.5% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 14.6% were non-families. Of the 20,525 households, 527 are unmarried partner households: 400 heterosexual, 71 same-sex male, and 56 same-sex female. 12.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 2.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.06 and the average family size was 3.36.

In the city the age distribution of the population shows 31.2% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 27.2% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 95.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.5 males.

According to the 2008 American Community Survey, the median income for a household in the city was $107,187, and the median income for a family was $117,720. Males had a median income of $78,183 versus $47,209 for females. The per capita income for the city was $41,316. About 3.2% of families and 3.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.3% of those under age 18 and 8.9% of those age 65 or over.

People and culture

Sugar Land has a largely white-collar, university-educated workforce employed in Houston’s energy industry.

In 2004, the city was named one of the top 100 places to live according to HomeRoute, a national real estate marketing company which identifies top American cities each year through its Relocate-America program. Cities are selected based on educational opportunities, crime rates, employment and housing data. The magazine started with statistics on 271 U.S. cities provided by OnBoard LLC, a real estate information company. These cities had the highest median household incomes in the nation and above average population growth.

Sugar Land was awarded the title of “Fittest City in Texas” for the population range 50,000–100,000 in 2004, 2005 (in a tie with Round Rock) and 2006. The “Fittest City in Texas” program is a part of the Texas Roundup program, a statewide fitness initiative.

Considering Sugar Land’s connection to health and sports, local sports are hugely popular both at the recreational and competitive levels. Consider that Sugar Land had its first community swim team, the Sugar Land Sharks, formed in 1967 and is still competing today. Official links: www.sugarlandsharks.org & www.slsharksphotos.com

Sugar Land has the highest concentration of Asians in Texas. Altogether, 34% of the city’s population is Asian; 10% is Asian Indian, 9% is Chinese, and 6% is Filipino.

Transportation

Sugar Land currently does not have a mass transit system. However, this could change as it has been a possible candidate for expansion of Houston’s METRORail system by means of a planned commuter rail along U.S. Highway 90A. Since many of Sugar Land’s residents work in Houston, thus creating routine rush hour traffic along two of the city’s main thoroughfares, U.S. Highways 59 and 90A, there has been large support in the area for such a project. It should be noted, however, that the city is not a participant in the Houston area’s METRO transit authority; Sugar Land’s merchants do not collect the one-cent sales tax that helps support that agency.

Major thoroughfares

U.S. Highway 59, the major freeway running diagonally through the city, has undergone a major widening project in recent years to accommodate Sugar Land’s daily commuters. The finished portion of the freeway east of State Highway 6 currently has eight main lanes with two diamond lanes and six continuous frontage road lanes, while just west of University BLVD to State Highway 6 has eight main lanes. Currently, widening of U.S. Highway 59 is just west of University BLVD out to just west of State Highway 99. It’s also is expected to become Interstate 69, sometime in the near future.

U.S. Highway 90A is a major highway running through Sugar Land from west to east and traverses through a historic area of the city, known as “Old Sugar Land”. U.S. Highway 90A is currently widened to an eight-lane highway with a 30-foot (9.1 m) median between State Highway 6 and U.S. Highway 59.

State Highway 6 is a major highway running from north to southeast Sugar Land and traverses through the 10,000 acres (40 km2) master-planned community of First Colony. There is a freeway section that just recently opened in 2008 from just west of Brooks Street/First Colony BLVD all the way to 3/4 miles north of U.S. Highway 90A.

State Highway 99 is a new highway opened in 1994. It currently traverses through the New Territory and River Park master-planned communities. Construction will soon to start south of the U.S. Highway 59 at its current terminus.

Texas F.M. 1876, widely known as Eldridge Road, is a north-south state highway in north Sugar Land. It traverses through many established areas and acts as the western border of the Sugar Land Business Park.

Airport

Sugar Land Regional Airport (formerly Hull Field; then, Sugar Land Municipal Airport) was purchased from a private interest in 1990 by the city of Sugar Land. Sugar Land Regional is the fourth largest airport within the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area. The airport handles approximately 250 aircraft operations per day.

The airport today serves the area’s general aviation (GA) aircraft serving corporate, governmental, and private clientele. A new 20,000 square foot (1,900 m2) Terminal and a 60 acre (243,000 m2) GA complex opened in 2006. Sugar Land Regional briefly handled commercial passenger service during the mid-1990s via a now-defunct Texas carrier known as Conquest Airlines. For scheduled commercial service, Sugar Landers rely on Houston’s two commercial airports, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), 45 miles (72 km) northeast, and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), 30 miles (48 km) east.

The city of Houston maintains a park that occupies 750 acres (3.0 km2) of land directly north of the Sugar Land Regional Airport and developers have built master-planned communities (Telfair, and the future development of TX DOT Tract 3 immediately east of the airport) around the airport, both factors that block airport expansion.

China Airlines operated private bus shuttle services from Wel-Farm Super Market/Metro Bank on State Highway 6 in Sugar Land to George Bush Intercontinental Airport to feed the flight from Bush Intercontinental to Taipei, Taiwan. The service ended when China Airlines pulled out of Houston on January 29, 2008.

Education

Colleges and universities

The Wharton County Junior College and the University of Houston Sugar Land are both located in Sugar Land.

The University of Houston Sugar Land (UHSL) is a multi-institution teaching center of the University of Houston and the University of Houston System. The courses and programs at UHSL are offered by the University of Houston (UH), the University of Houston–Clear Lake (UHCL), and the University of Houston–Victoria (UHV).

Wharton County Junior College (WCJC) is a comprehensive community college offering a wide range of postsecondary educational programs and services including associate degrees, certificates, and continuing-education courses. The college prepares students interested in transferring to baccalaureate-granting institutions.

Primary and secondary education

Public schools

All public school systems in Texas are administered by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). The Fort Bend Independent School District is the school district that serves almost all of the city of Sugar Land. The southwest portion of Sugar Land’s extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) and some very small areas within the Sugar Land city limits are in the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District. LCISD serves the master-planned communities of Greatwood and River Park. Other communities in the ETJ served by Lamar Consolidated include Canyon Gate at the Brazos and Tara Colony.

Clements High School, in Sugar Land and Stephen F. Austin High School in unincorporated Fort Bend County (and serving Sugar Land), both of Fort Bend ISD, have been recognized by Texas Monthly magazine in its list of the top 10 high schools in the state of Texas. In addition, Clements and Stephen F. Austin high schools and ranked 353th and 845th, respectively, among the top 1000 schools in the United States by Newsweek’s 2009 report.

In 2007, Texas won national Mathcounts championship. The Texas Mathcounts team had two members from First Colony Middle School in Sugar Land, Kevin Chen (who also took the individual national championship) and Bobby Shen (ranked 13th, the highest scoring sixth grader). The coach, Jeffrey Boyd, was also from Sugar Land. They repeated their victory in 2008, with Jeff Boyd as their coach again. Bobby Shen coming in 2nd at final Countdown, and won 1st in Written and Masters Rounds. In 2009, Bobby Shen came 3rd place in Written and won final Countdown and was crowned with 2009 MATHCOUNTS national champion,, and the Texas team with Lilly Shen and Coach Boyd, won for the third year in a row.

Private schools

There are many private schools in Sugar Land and the surrounding area of all types: non-sectarian, Catholic, and Protestant. The Texas Education Agency has no authority over private school operations; private schools may or may not be accredited, and achievement tests are not required for private school graduating seniors. Many private schools will obtain accreditation and perform achievement tests as a means of demonstrating that the school is genuinely interested in educational performance.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston operates the St. Laurence School, a K-8 private Catholic school, in Sugar Land. Pope John XXIII High School in unincorporated Harris County east of the neighboring suburb of Katy. The Fort Bend Christian Academy, formerly known as Fort Bend Baptist Academy, is also located in Sugar Land. The Darul Arqam Schools Southwest Campus is located in Houston, near Sugar Land.

Public libraries

Residents of Sugar Land are served by the Fort Bend County Libraries system, which has two libraries and seven branches. There are three branches within the city: Sugar Land Branch, First Colony Branch, and the Mamie George Branch. The main library is in Richmond.

The Mamie George Branch Library opened in November 1974. The First Colony Library opened in June 1993. The Sugar Land Branch Library opened in August 1999.