Kingwood is a 14,000 acre (57 km²) master-planned community located in northeast Houston, Texas, United States. The majority of the community is located in Harris County with a small portion in Montgomery County. Known as the “Livable Forest,” it is the largest master-planned community in Harris County and second-largest within the 10-county Houston–Sugar Land–Baytown metropolitan area.
Kingwood was created in 1971 as a joint venture between the Friendswood Development Company and King Ranch. Its name was derived as part of that partnership.
The Foster Lumber Company originally owned a portion of the tract of land that was later developed into the community of Kingwood. The Foster Family had owned the land since around 1892. On December 28, 1967, the land was sold to the joint venture between King Ranch and the Friendswood Development Company, an Exxon subsidiary. Exxon’s Friendswood Development Company hired John Bruton Jr. to serve as the Operations Manager in which he was responsible for the planning, development, engineering, and construction of Kingwood. Plans for the community included greenbelts, shopping centers, schools, churches, recreational facilities, riding and hiking trails, and a boat ramp with access to Lake Houston.
Kingwood was founded in 1970, and the first village opened in 1971. Since the opening, the community had the slogan “The Livable Forest.” In 1976 Kingwood had a few thousand residents. Between 1980 and 1990 the community’s population increased by an amount between 40 percent and 70 percent. In 1990 the community had 19,443 residents and 204 businesses. The population increased to 37,397 in 1992. In 2005 the population was roughly 65,000, and had almost 200,000 people living within a ten mile (16 km) radius.
Around 1994, the City of Houston began to annex Kingwood. According to Texas state law, a city may annex an unincorporated area if the area is within the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction without the consent of the residents of the area. Bob Lanier, then the Mayor of Houston, believed that the annexation of Kingwood would result in a $4 million annual gain for the City of Houston as well as himself. Lanier argued that inner Houston was losing its tax base due to mismanagement and overspending, and that the city needed to bring in Kingwood to add more to its tax base. On Wednesday August 21, 1996, the Houston City Council asked the Planning and Development Department to create service plans for Kingwood and Jacintoport, another area being annexed by Houston. The annexation of Kingwood and Jacintoport was to add 33 square miles (85 km2) and about 43,000 people to the city limits. Renée C. Lee of the Houston Chronicle said that Kingwood residents “fought an uphill battle for two years.” Kingwood residents offered to pay $4 million to the city in exchange for not being annexed. The residents also filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Houston, claiming that the city was taxing residents without representation. At the time, many residents believed that the City of Houston would not follow through on the state law requirement asking annexing cities to provide equal services to the annexed areas as they do to their original territory. Some residents did not like the idea of the city annexing their community without the community’s consent.
Houston annexed Kingwood in 1996, adding about 15,000 acres (6,100 ha) to the city limits. During that year, Thomas Phillips, a retired longshoreman and Bordersville resident, joined with representatives of Kingwood and sued the City of Houston in a federal court, arguing that the city could not legally annex areas if it did not provide certain services to some of its existing areas, including Bordersville which never had city water. Imad F. Abdullah, the President of Landmark Architects Inc., criticized the residents who fought annexation in his 1996 editorial in the Houston Business Journal, arguing that a “not in my backyard” mentality in particular communities overall negatively affects the entire metropolitan area.
Kingwood lobbied the Texas Legislature, asking for modifications to the state’s annexation laws. In 1999 the legislature successfully passed amendments requiring annexing municipalities to develop plans for services provided to communities being annexed, and municipalities are required to provide a three year planning period prior to official annexation to allow for public comment. The modified law allows for communities to use arbitration if the annexing cities fail to follow through with their service plans. The amendments do not affect prior annexations, including Kingwood’s annexation. Some Kingwood residents expressed satisfaction that other suburban unincorporated areas including The Woodlands would not undergo the annexation that occurred in Kingwood.
In 2006, Kingwood had over 65,000 residents. During that year, ten years after the annexation, Lee said that “anger and resentment that colored the early days of annexation” never dissipated and that most Kingwood residents “have settled in as Houstonians, but who still opposed annexation.” Lee said that while residents sometimes complain about high rates for sewer and water services and obvious inadequacies in the fire and EMS services, those residents believe that Kingwood “has greatly suffered from being a part of the city.” Lee says that most residents “will never come to terms with Houston’s hostile takeover.” Lee said that “Services have deteriorated, and the community has lost its identity as a suburban haven as most people had feared” and “Many residents believe the community has not maintained its identity as the Livable Forest.”
Kingwood has two community newspapers, The Tribune Newspaper (web site) and The Kingwood Observer.
Kingwood represents the current city limit in far northeast Houston. It straddles US 59 north of the San Jacinto River. It is bounded by Lake Houston on the East and South, and Porter on the North and West. Most of Kingwood lies inside Harris County although some of it lies in Montgomery County. The 5,000 acre Lake Houston Park, acquired by the City from the State of Texas, borders Kingwood for 2.5 miles on the northeast.
Kingwood was originally part of the famous King Ranch. Many oil and gas assets are nearby. In the 1970s, Friendswood Development Company partnered with the Ranch to build this immense master-planned community. During the oil boom of that era, the community grew quickly. It offered a safe haven for people who preferred more central planning than most of Houston offered at the time. Deed restrictions are still strictly enforced here.
During the 1980s, Kingwood expanded eastward from US 59. The population expanded from about 20,000 to more than 60,000. Then in 1996, Kingwood was annexed by Houston after a bitter struggle at the end of the Bob Lanier administration. The community has since adapted to life as part of Houston. It has continued to grow although not as quickly.
Kingwood is known as “The Livable Forest.” People here are proud of the way the environment has been maintained as the City has grown. Nestled on the shores of Lake Houston, Kingwood offers natural amenities galore, including approximately 100 miles of greenbelts that connect various portions of the community with shopping districts, schools, and parks. Kingwood is a conservative, mostly residential community that takes pride in the exceptional environment it offers for raising families. The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well in Kingwood. The area offers five parks, privately funded by resident contributions and managed by the Kingwood Service Association, an all-volunteer organization.
Kingwood offers three main shopping districts: on North Park Drive, about 1.5 miles east of US 59; on Kingwood Drive about one-half mile east of US 59, and Town Center at Kingwood Drive and Lake Houston Parkway. The area contains numerous churches representing most religions. Although inside Houston City limits, Kingwood schools belong to the Humble ISD. Kingwood also has a large campus of the Lone Star College system which enrolls approximately 7,000 students. LSC/Kingwood offers associate degrees in many programs. Credits earned here readily transfer to 4-year colleges throughout Texas.
George Foreman, former world heavyweight champion, owns a home in Kingwood as does Congressman Ted Poe.
Key Planned Projects
- A new 30,000 sq. ft. library is under construction and will open at the end of 2009.
- North Park Drive is being widened to four lanes from Lake Houston Parkway to Mills Branch Road.
- The Kingwood Service Association just installed 5 miles of trails and boardwalks through out our East End Park, which won an environmental award from the Houston-Galveston Area Council. We’re also in the process of developing a master plan to renovate our three major sports parks (River Grove, North Park and Deer Ridge).
Since its creation in September 2000, the Kingwood Super Neighborhood Council advocated the following projects which have since become reality.
- Constructing a Skateboard Park in Kingwood
- Replacing a Harris County Library as a joint venture with The City of Houston to provide a new 30,000 square foot facility (estimated completion date: late 2009).
- Extending Kingwood Drive as a four-lane roadway with median from Willow Terrace to Mills Branch Drive
- Constructing access improvements on Kingwood Drive for vehicles entering and leaving Kingwood High School
- Extending North Park Drive as a four-lane roadway with median from West Lake Houston Parkway to Mills Branch Drive (project is now in construction design).
- Constructing numerous sidewalk projects
- Synchronizing all traffic signals on Kingwood Drive from Mills Branch Drive to Loop 494
- Repairing grade crossings on major Kingwood entrances (working with Union Pacific)
- Constructing a protected right hand turn lane on Hamblen Rd at Loop 494
- Constructing numerous left and right hand turn lanes to improve traffic flow throughout the community, including increased storage capacity for turning vehicles
- Repairing Kingwood streets as necessary with full-depth concrete
- Overlaying asphalt for streets in older sections of the community
- Constructing new drainage culverts to replace older ineffective ones
Civic Associations in the Area
- Kingwood Service Association manages parks and also has a public safety committee that works with HPD and HFD.
- Kingwood Chorale has performed at Carnegie Hall.
- Each of our 31 subdivisions is governed by an independent board of volunteer directors.
- Lake Houston Park Nature Club leads nature walks in East End Park every weekend during the birding season (see EastEndPark.com).
- Kingwood Garden Club beautifies areas throughout the community.
- We also have approximately a dozen trail associations that manage our greenbelt system.
Meeting Times and Locations
Meetings are normally scheduled for the third Monday of the month, with specific dates stated during the preceding meeting. Most meetings begin at 7:00 pm and occur in South Woodland Hills Community Room – 2030 Shadow Rock, Kingwood, TX 77339.
- Bob Rehak, President
- (281) 359-2524
Neighborhood Statistical Info
- Houston City Council District E
- Humble Independent School District (14 public schools – Humble ISD)
- New Caney Independent School District
- 19,232 acres (30.1 sq. miles)