Baytown-West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation | 1300 Rollingbrook Dr., Suite 610 | Baytown, TX 77521 | 281.420.2961 |

Riceland to maintain Texas small town feel, developer says

January 6, 2023

If you have ever driven through a small town in Texas, you might conjure up memories of a time when you knew everyone’s name, could walk from shop to shop or sit on a park bench and watch the sunset. 

That is what McGrath Real Estate Partners have their sights set on for Riceland, a master-planned community being built in Mont Belvieu. 

The developers envision the 1,420-acre Riceland project will become the largest “amenitized” master-planned community in the area, with plans to add 3,800 to 4,000 new homes, recreation buildings, pools, a park system, and 30 miles of hike and bike trails, and a large green plaza in the city center that will be used universally to hold a variety of community events. Randy Hopper, McGrath’s vice president of acquisitions and development, spoke to members of the Kiwanis Club of Baytown recently about Riceland and what they are hoping to achieve. Hopper said West Chambers County and East Baytown have changed forever.

“But that comes with a lot of good things,” Hopper said. “But, it also comes with a lot of hurdles and problems that we have to solve as our community develops.”

Hopper said West Chambers County, particularly south of Interstate 10 near the Grand Parkway, was one of the fastest growing areas in the United States for distribution, port traffic, and light industrial.

Going through the history of how the development came about, Hopper showed that the development is around Eagle Drive and FM 565 North. 

“As you know, the traditional center of Mont Belvieu was here,” Hopper said. 

Hopper said the traditional center was moved in 1991 because the State of Texas, and FEMA, wanted public facilities, such as city hall buildings, moved from the existing salt domes. Hopper said around that time, the City of Mont Belvieu purchased three acres in that location from the estate of Theo Wilburn, his great-grandfather.

“I don’t know if that was providence, fate, or whatever, but they dropped the new city center from Mont Belvieu in the middle of my families’ (at the time) rice farm,” Hopper said. 

Hopper said going back to 1824, his original ancestors came to this part of Chambers County and received apply for a land grant from Mexican President General Santa Anna but did not receive the actual land grant until about 1831. A few years later, the Mexican Constitution was suspended by Santa Anna, who then declared himself Emperor of Mexico. 

“And we all know what that kicked off here in Texas,” Hopper said. Hopper said in 1840 when Texas was still an independent nation, another branch of his ancestors arrived and received a second land grant signed by President Mirabeau B. Lamar of the Republic of Texas. All in all, Hopper said Wilburn was able to amass about 5,000 acres of land. Over time, some of the property was sold for city parks and other uses. 

Hopper said there were questions on what to do with the remaining land with growth heading into the area, especially with the arrival of the Grand Parkway. 

“We wanted to solve all of these long-term problems with a template that will drive future growth,” he said. 

Hopper said they are seeking to maintain a suburban lifestyle that “still gives you a feel and a look that reaches back to farming and the farming community that was out here.”

“We will try to maintain that throughout our development,” he said. 

Hopper said they have a two-prong goal for the first part of the development. The first prong is in the north in what Hopper said they are calling the Master Plan Community Construction Project. 

“That’s the traditional neighborhood homes, parks, and green space. That 143 acres are under construction right now. And we have 417 lots,” Hopper said. 

Another piece they are building is the new town center. 

“This is not a new shopping area that’s going to replace another area in Mont Belvieu,” Hopper said. 

Hopper explained that since Mont Belvieu lost its traditional town center, the goal was to deliver something that was lost to history. “And that’s the city center for the City of Mont Belvieu,” Hopper said. “So, we’re under construction with that now. They’re completing their brand new city hall within 60 days. We’ll have some restaurants and a shopping area. And our goal, again, is hometown. So, when you walk down the streets and sit on the patio of the restaurant, you’re going to think you’re in a small town in Texas. Our goal is to absolutely be 180 degrees from what you see at City Center in Houston or the Sugarland Town Center. Those are highly urbanized areas. That is not our vision and our plan. So we’re really working towards trying to do that.”

One of the aesthetic additions to the development is the design of the homes, so the garage doors will sit back five feet from the architectural piece of the home. This is so the streetscapes will display the design of the homes more rather than just a row of garage doors.  

Kiwanis Club of Baytown President Traci Dillard asked if any of the amenities, such as the trails the developers plan to put in the area, would be free to use for the community or if membership would be required.  

“So, the city operates that some of our things and some of our amenities will be available just to the general public,” Hopper said. “And then some will have keycard access. So, if you own a home, it’s not an extra membership. If you own a home in the development, you’d have that, so I’m thinking, like the fitness center where the treadmills are, you’ll be able to access the fitness center or use the pool.”

Hopper added folks would be able to use the trails as well. Mont Belvieu City Manager Brian Winningham said Riceland is a historical development that “provides a strong footing for the future of Mont Belvieu.”

“Our city’s hometown feel and sense of community set the tone that will be interwoven with what Riceland wants to do within their master-planned community,” Cunningham said. “The early renderings Riceland has shared of what they’re adding to our town center, and the public amenities they have planned within their neighborhoods are very consistent with what already makes our city special. We see Mont Belvieu as the future ‘Best City in Texas,’ and our partnership with Riceland only adds to that vision.”

For the latest on the Riceland development, visit

By Matt Hollis, Baytown Sun