Renowned as the “Livable Forest,” Kingwood is a master-planned community spanning 14,000 acres (57 km²), located northeast of Downtown Houston, Texas. The majority of its part lies in Harris County, while the remaining smaller portion is in Montgomery County. Five decades after it was founded, the longtime residents say that the area still enlivens its sobriquet and still possesses the same small-town ambiance it had in its earliest years.
Kingwood’s tract of land was formerly owned by Forest Lumber Company, having it under their name since 1892. In 1967, the land was then sold to a joint venture between the Exxon subsidiary Friendswood Development Company and King Ranch. FDC hired John Bruton Jr. to spearhead the planning and development of the community. Kingwood was founded in 1970 and opened its first village a year after.
By 1976, Kingwood’s population had already reached about a few thousand. It then saw a 40 to 70 percent growth from 1980 to 1990. By the 1990s, the community continued to bloom, having over 19,000 residents and 200 businesses. In 1992, it was around 37,000 and nearly doubling to 65,000 in 2005.
The City of Houston started to undertake Kingwood’s annexation in 1994. Mayor Bob Lanier deemed that incorporating Kingwood can bring about multimillion dollars gain for the city when added to its tax base.
During that time, a Texas state law permitted Houston to annex any unincorporated area, even without the resident’s consent, given that it is within the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city. In 1996, the Planning and Development Department was tasked by the City Council to devise services for Kingwood. That also included schemes for another area up for Houston’s annexation, Jacintoport. Houston brought about a 43,000 increase in the city’s population.
The process was not as seamless as Kingwood’s residents opposed the annexation, especially that it would be done without their formal concurrence. They proposed to pay $4 million to Houston, the amount estimated to be gained by the city. Others filed federal lawsuits, deeming that the city would not be able to have them provide the same service they provide to the original parts of Houston’s territory.
Meanwhile, Landmark Architects’ Inc. President Imad F. Abdullah pointed in his Houston Business Journal column that the mindset of Kingwood residents and other communities who reject annexations brings negative impacts to the whole metropolitan area. Despite varying opinions, Kingwood was incorporated into Houston on December 31, 1996.
The incident influenced the Legislature in 1999 to amend Texas annexation laws, adding various stringent requirements for municipalities and cities before any annexation, such as having a three-year planning period for hearing and considering public opinion. It also includes the utilization of arbitration, in any case, should the local government fail to adhere to and provide the set service schemes. Though it doesn’t affect Kingswood’s annexation as it was done before the amendment of Texas rulings, it was indeed a triumph for succeeding generations.
Kingwood lies amidst the piney forests of southeastern Texas. It boasts a vast area consisting of the community, surrounded by parks, like East End Park, Rusting Elms Park, and River Grove Park, plus stunning trails, and beautiful nature reserves. Divided into distinct neighborhoods or villages, each one has access to a pool, playground, and school, though services may vary from one village to another.
One of Kingwoods’ oldest villages is Trailwood, with its homes part of the first few erected in 1971. Other villages include Bear Branch, Elm Grove, Kings Point, Mills Branch, and Sherwood Trails, among many more others. Though Kingwood’s totality is nearly constructed, new villages are still rising, such as the Royal Shores, Woodridge Forest, and Barrington, proving that Kingwood’s appeal is never fading, being Houston‘s Livable Forest.