Live, work, play and learn is a concept heard everywhere these days, but this idea was unheard of before Texas oilman George P. Mitchell had a vision more than 40 years ago that made The Woodlands what it is today.
“In my judgment, and the judgment of many others, the single most important factor in the success of The Woodlands was its founding developer, George Mitchell,” said Roger Galatas. “His vision, tenacity, compassion, charitable nature, concern for the environment and willingness to take financial risk all combined to define the George Mitchell I knew and had the great opportunity to work with for some 20 years.”
Galatas is the president of George’s Coffee Club, a nonprofit organization that shares factual information about Mitchell and his contribution and leadership toward developing The Woodlands.
“Mitchell was a community builder, not just a developer of lots and commercial property. He understood the need for and demanded quality of design to establish a ‘community where people could live, work, play and learn,’” Galatas said.
Mitchell’s original acquisition of timberland to begin The Woodlands was approximately 17,450 acres, and later he added a 10,000-acre timberland purchase to expand the land holding to approximately 29,000 acres for his master-planned community approximately 30 miles north of Houston.
“He wanted to develop a ‘solution’ for the Houston region and saw the master-planned communities as an example for residents to enjoy and a model for others to utilize,” Galatas said.
Rather than building around the interstate, his vision was to connect charming villages through wooded streetscapes that would provide room for expansion and growth. This vision came to life on Oct. 19, 1974, when The Woodlands celebrated its grand opening.
“[The] total population of entire Montgomery County was 50,000,” Galatas said. “From that modest beginning, The Woodlands has grown to include a resident population of approximately 110,000 and a major economic center with more than 50,000 jobs.”
The Woodlands is made up of villages with parks, schools, health care facilities, grocery stores and places of worship for residents to have everything they need just minutes from home. The residential villages conveniently connect to The Woodlands Town Center and, combined with the Research Forest, have become a regional employment center featuring a range of jobs opportunities and options for higher education.
Present-day The Woodlands boasts nearly 8,000 acres of greenspace, the 200-acre Lake Woodlands, 130 neighborhood parks, four major hospitals and multiple clinics, close to 200 restaurants, more than 21 million square feet of work space, three school districts, multiple private schools, entertainment venues like The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, upscale shopping options and so much more that all started with Mitchell’s vision.
Mitchell passed away in 2013, but The Woodlands continues to honor his legacy at the annual Founder’s Day celebration, which features food, entertainment, corn hole and train rides.
Mitchell’s memory is also remembered through the George Mitchell Nature Preserve, part of the Montgomery County Spring Creek Greenway. The preserve features nearly 1,700 acres with biking trails, hiking loops and more thanks to a partnership between The Woodlands Township, The Woodlands Development Company, Montgomery County Precinct 3 and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.