Intangible living

Intangible living                                                           Incorporeum vivum

Originally the Woodlands land was a lumber mill.   Begun in 1974, the Woodlands became an example of a master-planned community and a harbinger of environmental sensitivity.  Located just north of Houston, Texas, it set itself apart from other communities by implementing environmentally centered land planning concepts and designs led by Ian McHarg and his firm, WMRT.

Some environmentally focused planning initiatives were exercised in the Woodlands. These include subdividing the land into clustered developments with curvilinear streets respecting the natural creeks and streams, and utilizing (cost-effective) natural drainage systems to limit runoff.  The preservation of over 6,000 acres out of the 28,000 forested acres of the loblolly pine woodland is an amenity when complimented with a planned development of clustered commercial village centers, and connecting the housing to these villages through 200 miles of pathways & greenbelts, 125 parks (many with outdoor art sculptures), a 1,900 acre nature preserve, gardens, golf courses, and a 200 acre lake.  The surrounding greenery and forest cultivates a higher imperceptible value to the entire Woodlands development.

These attractive environmental amenities have been juxtaposed by businesses just as pervasive and wrought with conflict over environmental sensitivities.  Ironically enough, these businesses were also brought to the development by its original proprietor.

The man who established the Woodlands, George Mitchell, was an oil businessman who wanted to establish conference centers, logistic centers, office parks and malls, along with valued environmental amenities in a community development.   This indeed has been done as Chevron Phillips, Hewitt Assoc., Lexicon Pharmaceuticals, Maersk Sealand, Exxon Mobil, Anadarko Petroleum Corp, and other big (but-not-so-environmentally-friendly) corporations have founded their corporate offices in the Woodlands.  (In 2000, out of the 4.8 million SF under construction in the greater Houston area, one third of it was in the Woodlands.)  In the end, the Howard Hughes Corporation acquired the Woodlands from General Growth Properties of Chicago, due to its appealing assortment of upscale shopping and non-retail properties, with no mention of the environmental attributes that have originally given the Woodlands its’ higher value of living and reason d’etre.

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