ou’ve probably heard by now about all the companies relocating to Texas from various places around the country. What you may not know is that for many years, the Spring Branch Management District in northwest Houston has been a hotbed of corporate headquarters.
The roll call of firms based in this community of 120,000 people reads like a Who’s Who of Corporate America: Archer, Chair King, Crown Castle, David Weekly Homes, Exteran, Helix Energy Solutions, Karbach Brewery and Lasco Enterprises are the largest of them, but there are many other companies with addresses in this business-friendly district that’s hungry for more.
In fact, there are 3,921 businesses registered in Spring Branch, a 22-square-mile management district whose western boundary hugs the beltway around Houston. That’s one business for every 30 residents. These firms represent a wide variety of industries. The four biggest sectors to call Spring Branch home are energy, manufacturing, construction and retail.
It wasn’t always this way, but an enterprising businessman intervened two decades ago and changed the course of the district forever. His name is Frank Liu, and he is the founder of Lovett Commercial, Lovett Homes and InTown Homes. A Chinese American, Liu was raised in Vietnam before he came to the U.S. in 1971. After graduating from Rice University in Houston with a degree in civil engineering, he launched his family of companies in 1980.
The signature development came in 2003 when Liu founded InTown Homes and begin putting his classic, three-story, urban townhome community designs in and around Houston. Once his first development came to life in Spring Branch, it set in motion a chain of events that have kept the district humming with commercial and residential growth ever since.
“Spring Branch is an incredible location that is easily accessible and ideally located between I-10 and 290, 610 and the Beltway, and the Galleria and Energy Corridor. Over 20 years ago, I saw this as a unique opportunity to buy over 100 acres of land at an affordable price, allowing us to develop it the way we wanted to without the added financial pressure,” says Liu.
To say that Liu made his mark on Spring Branch and Texas would be a huge understatement. He has developed more than $3 billion in projects across the state, including several in Spring Branch, and they impact every sector of real estate: retail, office, industrial, adaptive reuse of historic buildings, and residential. Additionally, his projects have won multiple Urban Land Institute first place awards for design.
‘A Unique Place’ to Grow a Business
Many businesses were attracted to Spring Branch because of Liu’s distinctive new urbanist design. Among them were Harrell Architects and Taxa Outdoors. Perry Harrell, principal of Harrell Architects, LP, says that “Spring Branch is all about affordability and easy access to major Houston highways. It’s a unique place to grow our business.”
Divya Brown, president of Taxa Outdoors, a manufacturer of campers, says, “We liked what we saw. This area is going to have huge growth. It has all of the elements — great infrastructure, great roadways, and a lot of nearby neighborhoods. And it is near to the city. We did not want to go far out because of all the benefits of working and living in the city; but we also wanted to have enough space to grow.”
Harrell and Brown are not alone. They have plenty of company in a district brimming with optimism for the future. In a community known for its transportation connectivity and high-quality commercial properties, business leaders are not shy about why they came to Spring Branch and why they stay.
Gordon Jones, director of development for Braun Enterprises, is one of these outspoken leaders. Braun is a family-owned real estate development company that was started in the late 1980s by Gabriel Braun and is now run by his son Gary Braun.
“We do projects around Houston,” says Jones. “We’ve been doing work in Spring Branch for a number of years. We bought a site in 2019 and redeveloped a 60,000-sq.-ft. retail building. During the project, I connected with the folks at the management district. They’ve been very helpful in connecting our team to people in the area. This has become one of our more successful projects. Spring Branch is in an exciting place to be right now.”
Feges BBQ, just named one of the top 50 barbecue restaurants in Houston, recently opened in one of Braun’s centers. So did Shoot the Moon. “A winner of Top Chef opened a place here too,” says Jones. “She is about to start construction. Scoop Craft Creamery is about to open, and that building will be one of the most exciting restaurant destinations in all of Houston.”
Jones notes that SBMD has been encouraging development through incentives. Located west of Interloop Houston halfway between the Interloop/Galleria area and the Energy Corridor along I-10, the district is well-located on I-10 between those two areas.
“It seems to be a very exciting melting pot of families and different cultures that is all coming together in a very nice way,” says Jones. “It is first and foremost a neighborhood. And the people here are very friendly.”
What’s next for Braun? “We own an industrial property in the area, and we plan to develop a new 13,000-sq.-ft. retail center that we are working to lease,” says Jones.
Growing Firm Looks to Double its Workforce
George Joseph, CEO of Common Bond Bakery & Bistro, says his business has been around for eight years. “We opened in July 2014 in the Marquis Shopping District, and we are putting two locations in the Memorial City Mall area,” says Joseph. “We have one drive-through location that has been open here since Labor Day of 2021. We love the area. We love the district.”
He notes that “we try to cater to whatever the area needs. We are the place to go for a sandwich, pastry, frozen coffee or a breakfast croissant. We have full-service restaurants in The Heights. We are pleased with that location and the neighborhood support.”
Joseph adds that Common Bond is just getting started. “We get over 10,000 visitors a week at all of our Houston restaurants. We want to continue to grow west. We have 11 locations, and they are all company owned. We have 375 employees. Five years from now, I think we will be close to 20 locations, and our labor force could close to double in that time.”
Together, these executives tell a story that’s been decades in the making. Spring Branch is certainly no overnight sensation, and the path ahead for this district appears to be one full of business expansion.
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Spring Branch Management District. For more information, contact Economic Development Director Lance Dean at 512-658-4985 or by email at ldean@SBMD.org. On the web, go to www.SBMD.org.
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.