For the past several years, the Grogan’s Mill Village Center has been languishing. Ever since Randall’s closed their doors a few years back, there has been no anchor store to bring traffic and energy to the center. We’ve watched business after business close their doors, with only a couple of brave souls trying to start something new in the Woodlands’ original shopping center.
A ray of brightness was the announcement by James Beard-nominated chef Alex Au-Yeung that he was bringing his award-winning Phat Eatery to the Grogan’s Mill Center. Alex’s team is transforming the (closed) Fuddrucker’s location into what promises to be the Woodlands’ destination Asian restaurant.
Alex’s faith in the Grogan’s Mill Center made me think. What are we actually missing in the Woodlands?
Even with the explosion of restaurants we’ve seen in the past few years, the Woodlands is still lacking great Asian restaurants. We’ve got plenty of me-too, Americanized strip-center Chinese restaurants. They serve a purpose, but they’re not the kinds of restaurants that bring people in from surrounding areas to dine and experience the melting pot that makes the Houston area so special.
Grogan’s Mill Village Center Should Become The Woodlands’ AsiaTown
We believe that a thriving Woodlands AsiaTown is a key missing piece to boost the quality of life and diversity of the Woodlands. Katy’s wildly successful AsianTown could serve as a template; it’s become a destination for customers from all across the Houston area.
Here’s an idea of what could be done:
- Sign a major Asian grocer, like H-Mart, to the Randall’s space. The Woodlands currently has no major Asian supermarket.
- Work to bring unique, family-run Asian restaurants as Katy’s AsiaTown has done
- Encourage successful Houston Asian restaurateurs, like Mike Tran, to consider the center as a prime target to expand their footprint beyond the Bellare/Beltway area and the west side of Houston.
- Encourage other Asian-run businesses to set up shop in the center.
- Build a permanent facility for the weekly farmer’s markets, that could also be used to hold periodic Woodlands Night Markets, with food, music, and a slate of new, unique vendors.
- Plan interesting international events in the area, with the cooperation of the Woodlands Resort, enabling overnight guests to stay on site.
We believe that the Grogan’s Mill Village Center, George Mitchell’s original village center, can be modernized and reimagined for the 21st Century. Instead of a moribund relic, it can become a vibrant, exciting destination that appeals to a broad demographic, including the young people that are often forgotten in the Woodlands.
What About Commissioner Noack’s Proposal?
Commissioner Noack proposed moving the South County Library and Senior Center from town center to Grogan’s Mill, in a land swap between Howard Hughes and the county. This helps the county by easing the parking situation during elections, and helps Howard Hughes by swapping hard-to-lease spaces in a languishing retail center for prime real estate in the thriving town center area.
As often happens in the Woodlands, the interests of the Howard Hughes Corporation would come before the interests of the residents.
But what does it it do for residents?
- It still leaves this oldest part of the Woodlands without the kind of thriving Village Center that’s found in all the newer areas.
- It permanently relegates the Grogan’s Mill Center to become the forgotten stepchild of Woodlands shopping areas.
- Libraries and Senior Centers aren’t the kinds of anchor businesses that bring in significant retail traffic. This will further hurt the already struggling businesses in the center.
We’d like to see the local government of the Woodlands put the interests of residents ahead of the interests of James Noack and the Howard Hughes Corporation. What do you think?