Next phase of Sugar Land mixed-use development breaks ground with Sprouts as anchor

By  – Senior web editor, Houston Business Journal

University Commons, a mixed-use development in Sugar Land, is expanding by more than 100,000 square feet, which will include a Sprouts Farmers Market.

Houston-based developer Vista Equities Group has broken ground on phase II of University Commons, according to a Feb. 22 press release. The 108,000-square-foot expansion will be built on a 12.8-acre site directly across University Boulevard from the 155,000-square-foot first phase.

Dallas-based O’Brien Architects designed the second phase, which is being built by Houston-based general contractor Arch-Con Construction. Capital Retail Properties’ Brad Ryan and Geoff Bracken are overseeing leasing for both phases.

With a pedestrian-oriented focus, the second phase will feature a large covered walkway that will act as an entry focal point for the center and Telfair, the master-planned community where University Commons is located. The walkway will service restaurant patios and serve as a public gathering space. Other walkways throughout the development will include benches and bike racks, as well. The design also includes a facade that integrates wood, stone and color accents, which differs from the retail projects predominantly found in the area. The facade meets the city’s design standards, but special approval was needed for to depart from the area’s typical red brick construction.

Plans emerged in mid-2014 for the first phase, which is now 95 percent leased and 90 percent open. Phase II is expected to be ready for tenants to begin building out spaces in December.

Phoenix-based Sprouts (Nasdaq: SFM) will anchor the second phase of University Commons. The grocery store will occupy 30,000 square feet and feature an outdoor patio to showcase fresh food and produce. Leases are signed or in negotiations for another 20,000 square feet and include tenants categories such as nail and spa, deli, tutoring, smoothies, pet supplies and home furnishings.

“Given our success with an engaging food & beverage mix in the first phase and dynamic patio activation opportunities in phase II, we are actively seeking quality local and national restaurant operators,” Vista Equities Group’s Patty Bender said in the press release. “We also feel the demographics of the area make University Commons ideal for medical offices and other beauty services in addition to retailers.”

University Commons’ first phase is anchored by a 50,000-square-foot Burlington department store that opened last spring. Other businesses that have opened include CVS; The Tile Shop, an upscale home-remodel retailer; and several restaurants, such as Kula Revolving Sushi Bar, CoCo Crêpes, Waffles & Coffee, NOLA Poboys and 85°C Bakery Café. A 20,000-square-foot Michaels art supply store is expected to open before mid-year.

“We’ve been extremely encouraged by the leasing activity at University Commons,” Capital Retail Properties’ Brad Ryan said in the release. “The development not only offers tenants and guests a unique ambience, but also great synergy with nearby retailers like adjacent Costco, as well as business and leisure destinations spanning from the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land to Smart Financial Centre and University of Houston Sugar Land.”

University Commons is along the Southwest Freeway, across from the University of Houston’s Sugar Land campus, the new Smart Financial Centre, Texas Instrument’s Sugar Land office and more. The developers also expect to add a third phase in the future.