Magnolia began as a tiny sawmill town in the 1800’s, and its population had barely reached 25 by the time 1900 rolled around. A new railroad soon brought a steady stream of new residents and businesses into the town.
Today Magnolia is a progressive community that offers families small-town ambiance, peacefulness and friendliness. But, once again, improved transportation is expected to bring in more people and some residents are asking themselves, "How much longer will we be able to enjoy our quiet town?"
TxDOT is finalizing plans to complete several new roads around the Magnolia area that will move more vehicles easier and faster than ever before. Over the next three years, road improvements are expected to enhance traffic flow in and around the town. FM 1774 will be widened from The Lakes of Magnolia to 10th Street. This project has already started. As part of the widening of FM 1488 to the Waller County Line, two fly-overs at Spur 149 near Magnolia High School and over 1774 at 10th Street will ease congestion at already busy intersections.
In addition, the construction of the Grand Parkway south of Magnolia will offer an easy pathway from Katy to east of The Woodlands, which will bring visitors into the area. The planned SH 249 toll expressway will improve traffic flow not just between Tomball and Magnolia, but all the way up to Bryan/College Station.
Facing an easier commute, more families are sure to move into the area. With an increased population, Magnolia is expected to become a business and shopping destination.
Magnolia is less than 35 miles from the burgeoning metropolis of Houston, and the area's current population of 138,000 (as of 2011) seems small compared to a growth movement that has already started to engulf the entire northwest Houston area. But the Magnolia city government and chamber of commerce are working hard "to help this growth work for us rather than against us," as Economic Development Coordinator Deborah Rose Miller put it.
City leaders say they are planning ahead to ensure that the charm of Magnolia remains, even after the new roads are built and the people keep coming.
Paul Mendes, city administrator, says he has tried to make sure the infrastructure keeps up with the expected population growth.
"The developers already have purchased large tracts of land," said Mendes. "We are preparing now for the water and sewage capacity we will need. We hope to have zoning laws in place to protect Magnolia residents and to manage the growth."
Mendes helped Miller create a comprehensive plan to help Magnolia grow as effectively and painlessly as possible.
"The plan, to be completed in March, will be a starting point that will be continually modified as we go along. We believe improving the roads will improve our city's lifestyle in the end," he said.
Updates, such as "Magnolia on the Move," are being provided to the city council each month.
"The city of Magnolia is being proactive, and we've already started our planning and zoning commission," said Miller. "The comprehensive plan we have developed is pivotal to our city's future."
Barry Tate, Chairman of the Magnolia Chamber of Commerce, feels the anticipated population growth will help businesses that are already here to expand, and will bring new ones to the area.
"Business is good for the town," Tate said. "We will have a larger tax base, so that will enable us to provide more and better services. Any road improvements will ultimately make it easier to live out here. People will want to put their businesses in our community because their customers can get to them easily."
Tate feels the growth of the western side of Montgomery County will be compared to the growth of the eastern side of the county in a few years. He believes current businesses will welcome the road improvements, although there will likely be challenges during the construction phase. He hopes planning ahead can help businesses overcome difficulties during that time.
"The Chamber wants to keep our members as informed as possible. Our goal is to maintain Magnolia's small-town feel and still allow for growth," he said.
The new roads are coming. The growth of Magnolia, along with the growth of the entire eastern half of Montgomery County, is inevitable. But the small-town way of life may remain for future generations to enjoy, if the current city leadership has anything to do with it.