Sugar Land is a city in the U.S. state of Texas within the 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 is the national headquarters of CVR Energy, Inc.. CVR Energy, Inc. was listed as the city's only resident 2012 Fortune 500 company and was ranked No. 5 public company according to the Houston Chronicle. 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 Greatwood, 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 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'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 plantation soon after the Civil War, and developed the town around his sugar-refining plant around 1879.
In 1906, the Kempner family of Galveston, under the leadership of Isaac H. Kempner, and in partnership with William T. Eldridge, purchased the 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 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 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 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.
A decade of growth
An amendment on May 5, 1990, changed the composition of the city council to a mayor and two council members by at-large position.
Throughout much of the 1990s, Sugar Land was considered one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation; The majority of Sugar Landers are white-collar, and college-educated working in Houston's renowned energy industry. An abundance of commercial growth, with numerous low-rise office buildings, banks and high-class restaurants popping up, can be seen along both U.S. Highway 59 and State Highway 6.
Sugar Land tremendously increased its tax base with the opening of First Colony Mall in 1996. The over one-million-square-foot (100,000 m2) mall, the first in Fort Bend County, is located at the busiest intersection of the city: U.S. Highway 59 and State Highway 6. The mall was named after the master-planned community of First Colony.
On a late November night at 11:59 p.m. in 1997, Sugar Land annexed the remaining municipal utility districts (MUDs) of the First Colony master-planned community, bringing the city's population to almost 60,000. This was Sugar Land's largest annexation to date.
The new millennium
Sugar Land boasted the highest growth among Texas' largest cities per the U.S. Census 2000, with a population of 63,328. In 2003, Sugar Land became a "principal" city as the title changed to Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area. Sugar Land replaced Galveston as the second-most important city in the metropolitan area, after Houston, as the title used to be Houston–Galveston–Brazoria.
The new millennium also saw the need of higher education facility expansion located within the city. In 2002, the University of Houston System at Fort Bend moved to its new campus located off the University Blvd and U.S. Highway 59 intersection. The city helped fund the Albert and Mamie George Building, and as a result, the multi-institution teaching center was renamed to the University of Houston System at Sugar Land.
In 2003, the Imperial Sugar Company refinery plant and distribution center was put out of operation, but its effect on the local economy was minimal, since Sugar Land today has much more of a reputation as an affluent Houston suburb than the blue-collar, agriculture-dependent town it was a generation ago. However, the company maintains its headquarters in Sugar Land.
The Texas Department of Transportation sold of prison land in the western portion Sugar Land to Newland Communities, a developer, by bid in 2003. Thereafter, the developer announced to build a new master-planned community called Telfair in this prime location. In July 2004, Sugar Land annexed all of this land into the city limits to control the quality of development, extending the city limits westward. This was unusual, since Sugar Land only annexed built-out areas in the past, not prior to development.
On December 1, 2005 at 12:01 a.m., Sugar Land annexed the recently built-out, master-planned community of Avalon and four sections of Brazos Landing subdivision into the city limits, adding approximately 3,200 residents. The city is currently negotiating with the communities of Greatwood, New Territory, and River Park, along with the subdivisions of Tara Colony and Tara Plantation, to annex in the near future. This annexation will be the largest, surpassing the annexation of First Colony in 1992 and 1997, which will bring the city proper's population to approximately 120,000