By Nicole Jones
With its most explosive population growth likely behind it, Pearland is now at an “inflection point,” suggests an economic development plan currently in the works.
Pearland City Council got its first look at the draft Economic Development Strategic Plan Tuesday at a special presentation. The plan has been in the works since the summer, when stakeholder and community feedback was gathered and combined to produce a draft plan.
Based on the responses and research, Pearland through much of its recent history has been defined by rapid growth and its efforts to keep up with that growth with its infrastructure and services.
“Stakeholders said they anticipate that Pearland’s most rapid population growth is in the past, and recent data supports the idea that the community’s growth is indeed slowing,” the draft plan reads. “The question of ‘What’s next?’ was a key theme during the public input process.”
The plan says several urgent issues are at hand, including economic diversification.
“Pearland’s economy is still largely comprised of local serving business sectors, and the community has not developed into a dynamic job center with a base of ‘primary employers’ that bring new wealth into a community,” the draft plan reads. “To raise levels of prosperity and ensure a broad, sustainable tax base, Pearland must take actions today that can grow and diversify its economy in the coming years.”
Other key issues laid out in the plan are quality of life amenities such as walkable, mixed use built environments and entertainment options.
Priority areas for development and redevelopment are the Lower Kirby District and two areas along the state Hwy. 35 known as North Main Business Park and South Main Business Park.
Issues related to traffic and mobility emerged as major challenges in the public process, a finding that is backed up by the latest data from the National Citizen Survey, which collected a representative sample of views held by Pearland residents in 2017.
“The vast majority of Pearland residents who are employed commute to work via car and for many of these individuals, commutes are long and getter longer,” the plan states. “Issues such as traffic congestion and long commute times can be difficult to address, particularly for a municipality that is part of a large metropolitan area.”
Recommendations include an initiative to advance options for expanding transit connectivity to major employment centers. Enhancing walking and biking would also help address issues, since residents would be able to make shorter trips without getting in a car at all.
A project of the Pearland Economic Development Corp., the planning process is guided by a steering committee made up of 24 volunteers from public, private and nonprofit sectors.
Monday’s update for city council was for discussion only, and no action was taken by the council.