Sugar Land, Texas – The city of Sugar Land recently awarded a contract for the renovation of an historic building that will serve as a museum and visitor center. The city is partnering with the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation on the collaborative project.
Work will soon begin on the build-out of the space and the creation of exhibits intended to document Sugar Land’s history and highlight the city’s expanding tourism attractions. The Sugar Land Heritage Museum and Visitor Center is expected to open by the end of 2017.
Located on the second floor of a container warehouse that was once part of Imperial Sugar’s refinery operation, the facility will be centrally located within the planned Imperial Market, an entertainment-centric destination center that is expected to include upscale retail and restaurant space, class A office space, a luxury residential complex and a high-end boutique hotel.
The Sugar Land Heritage Museum and the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center, already operating at the site, are projected to attract more than 120,000 visitors each year.
“The construction that will soon begin at the container warehouse marks an important milestone of a lengthy journey to open the doors of a museum and welcome our community to explore the history of our great city,” said City Manager Allen Bogard. “There was a great deal of uncertainty when Imperial Sugar shut down its refinery operation in Sugar Land many years ago. A large part of our community worried about what would become of the most iconic structures in our city. As long as anyone can remember, the char house, the water tower and many of the structures on this site – including the container warehouse – have been important landmarks that have represented the special history of our city.
“It has been our goal to not only ensure the preservation of these important structures, but also create a museum documenting the diversity of Sugar Land’s history.”
On March 15, 2005, City Council approved a resolution outlining the City’s intent for the redevelopment of the Imperial Sugar property and the development of adjacent property owned by the Permanent School Fund. The resolution set forth a policy statement that defined the City’s objectives, which included historic preservation, aesthetic and architectural quality, community development and economic development.
In June 2007, City Council approved the creation of the Imperial--Tract 3 Redevelopment Agreement that granted development rights in exchange for assurances of a quality project through the development process. The agreement included a requirement to preserve key historic structures identified by the city and included a museum to showcase Sugar Land’s history.
An important milestone was the creation of the Sugar Land Heritage Foundation. The foundation was created as a community-based organization in March 2008 as an outcome of coordination between the city of Sugar Land, Imperial Sugar Company, Cherokee Investments and the Fort Bend Museum Association. The foundation was created to preserve and celebrate Sugar Land’s history.
On June 16, 2009, City Council approved a funding contract with the Heritage Foundation to assist in meeting the operating needs to accomplish the objectives of its strategic plan. The funds for this contract were budgeted from hotel occupancy and tourism tax revenues, which are restricted for tourism initiatives such as historic preservation programs. Others such as the Kempner Foundation, George Foundation, Ecolab Foundation, Cherokee Investments, Johnson Development, Imperial Sugar, the Fort Bend Museum Association and community representatives have also contributed generous funding toward the success of the Heritage Foundation.
Sugar Land’s investment in the museum is an important part of an effort to establish a cultural arts district in Sugar Land, one that builds on successful efforts such as the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land, the Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land, the expansion of public art and more.
“We have received generous support from many in the community, including a recent donation of $150,000 from Larry Johnson, of Johnson Development,” said Sugar Land Heritage Foundation Board of Directors President Martin Nicholas.
Photo Caption: Pictured (L-R) at a celebratory event are Councilmember Bridget Yeung; Nicholas; Councilmembers Amy Mitchell, Harish Jajoo and Steve R. Porter; Mayor Joe R. Zimmerman; First Assistant City Manager Steve Griffith; Councilmember and Sugar Land Heritage Foundation Board of Directors Treasurer Mary Joyce; Tourism and Destination Services Administrator Teresa Preza; and Assistant City Manager Jennifer May.