State Highway 6: The Road More Traveled
The Road Reflects The Changing Face Of Fort Bend County
By Michelle Johnson
In Fort Bend County, State Highway 6 has become an important thoroughfare for the cities of Sugar Land and Missouri City. This stretch of highway has progressed from farms to beautifully landscaped views of master planned communities and retail establishments. The changes along State Highway 6 reflect the rapid development of the Sugar Land and Missouri City areas.
The Simple Life
In the early 1970s, Highway 6 was a two-lane farm road void of street lights, businesses and traffic. The only visible movement was from cows and horses grazing the wide open fields, along with the occasional tractor and ranch hand. This land was farmed by those raising cotton, sugar cane, corn and cattle.
One of the larger ranches that lined this open road was the Frost Ranch. Rancher Milo Frost purchased 4,500 acres from Sugar Land Industries in 1940, establishing headquarters for the Frost Brahman Ranch located at the intersection of Dulles Avenue and Highway 6. Frost headquarters moved to a location closer to FM 1092 (Murphy Road) in 1970. Today, this area is occupied by the master planned community of Riverstone.
Advancement in Community Development
The first master planned community along Highway 6 started in 1976, when Sugarland Properties purchased 10,000 acres of land for the purpose of developing the area known as First Colony. The master plan was established in 1981, with a projected 7,500 to 8,000 homes for the community.
In 1978 Johnson Development acquired the land for Sienna Plantation. In the mid- 1980s, a 10-mile-long levee system across 6,000 wooded acres was completed, providing flood protection to the area. The building phase for homes in this 10,000- acre, master-planned community did not begin until 1998.
Fluor Daniel purchased 300 acres of land from Sugarland Properties in 1981. Their facility opened in 1984, bringing new employment opportunities to the area.
The area’s rising population dictated the need for a community hospital. In 1983, Fort Bend Hospital opened its facility located at FM 1092 and Highway 6. Physician Deidre McMullen recalled, “In 1996, I served my residency at Fort Bend Hospital. After driving past First Colony, there was nothing but fields and cows. I wondered what I had gotten myself into.” The hospital was purchased by Memorial Hermann in 1993 and continued to operate until 2006, when the hospital moved to its current facility on the Grand Parkway at Highway 59. The Fort Bend Hospital building was destroyed in 2008 to make room for Lowes Home Improvement, which opened in June 2009.
The area continued to grow at an extreme pace, progressing from one hospital surrounded by open farm lands to a thriving retail and residential community. According to Milo Frost’s son, Ford, “We sold 65 acres to Walmart in 1996 and the final 309 acres to Riverstone in 1998.” Although the facade of the area was constantly changing, according to Ford Frost one thing did not change. “From the time I was very young until today, I can drive down Highway 6 in the early hours of the morning, and the look of the land with the dew rising off Oyster Creek remains. Even with all of the lights and buildings, the nature of the area looks just like it did when I was a kid.”
Sugarland Properties partnered with Hines Development in 1993 to design First Colony Mall. The 78-acre location was completed in 1995. Planned Community Developers, Ltd, (PCD) was formed in 1997 by executive officers of Sugarland Properties. PCD continued with the expansion of the area in 1999 with Town Center Lakeside, at Highway 6 and Highway 59.
Surprisingly, there were no supermarkets on Highway 6 for the residents in the Missouri City area. The only option Highway 6 offered was Randalls located in Sugar Land. In 1998, the expanding population of the Missouri City area brought a Kroger grocery store to the intersection of FM 1092 Murphy Road and Highway 6.
A contributing factor to the rapid growth of the area was Johnson Development’s new master-planned community, Riverstone. Building of the Riverstone area commenced in 2001, with a plan for 6,000 homes on 3,700 acres.
First Colony Expanded Development
PCD partnered with the City of Sugar Land to further develop the area by First Colony Mall with the addition of Sugar Land Town Square. The first phase of the project opened in 2003, with retail establishments and the Marriott Hotel. Late in 2004, Sugar Land City Hall was a welcome addition to the complex. Sugar Land Town Square, completed in 2010, has become a destination for residents to live, work, shop, dine and enjoy entertainment events. It is also the home of many corporate entities, including the headquarters for Minute Maid, CVR Energy and Cosentino North America. Not only have these additions created over 2,000 jobs, but they have contributed to the overall growth of the area.
In 2005, PCD began development of Lake Pointe Town Center at the northwest corner of Highway 59 and Highway 6. The site is occupied by retail, restaurants and a Whole Foods Market that opened in 2007. According to Les Newton of PCD, “We worked for a long time trying to get Whole Foods to open a location in Sugar Land. This was the first suburban location for them in the Houston area. They worried that a suburban site would not do as well as the larger city stores, but Sugar Land was a success.”
The year 2006 brought a major change on Highway 6. Since the early 1900s, the Dew Plantation occupied a historical spot on Highway 6. The Dew family donated the home to Missouri City, and it was moved to Kitty Hollow Park in February 2006. Restoration of the plantation home began, and the grand opening was held in January 2011.
Baseball Comes To Sugar Land
Constellation Field was built on 20 acres of land formally owned by Imperial Sugar at Highway 6 close to Highway 90. In 2011, construction of the complex commenced, and it now is the home for the Sugar Land Skeeters team, which belongs to the Atlantic League of professional baseball clubs. One year after construction began, the inaugural baseball season started. The complex offers year-round entertainment and family oriented activities.
Continuing Need for Expansion
In the mid-1990s, State Highway 6 expanded from the original two-lane concrete road to an upgraded asphalt surface. The roadway progressed to four lanes, eventually being replaced by six lanes that now serve as a major evacuation route from Galveston and the Gulf Coast Region.
With the addition of the Fort Bend Tollway in 2005, residents of the area have a more accessible route to all parts of the greater Houston area.
In August 2016, construction will begin on Phase 3 of the City of Sugar Land’s planned expansion of Highway 6 from three lanes to four, between Brooks Street and Lexington Boulevard, to relieve the constant congestion of this highly traveled area.
State Highway 6 has become a successful mix of medical, office retail, restaurant, entertainment and residential communities. It continues to attract business to the area, constantly upgrading services to accommodate the growing population.