By Wendy Leibowitz. The Rouse Co. announced in June that it has acquired 8,060 acres of land in an area 25 miles northwest of Houston for a new master planned community along the lines of its trademark communities in Columbia, Md., and Summerlin, Nev. Preliminary development plans envision the construction of approximately 17,000 single-family residential units with 900 acres set aside for multifamily and commercial use.

The Columbia, Md.-based developer reportedly paid $82.9 million for the property, located in Harris County off highway US290 and planned section of the Grand Parkway, Houston's newest beltway, expected to open in 2008. While land sales aren't likely to begin until early 2005, the company expects to begin discussing development plans with builders later this year, according to Nancy Tucker, a spokesperson for Rouse.

"This land is roughly 60 percent of the size of Columbia," said Anthony W. Deering, Rouse's chairman and CEO, referring to the suburban town it developed beginning in the 1960s as a way to avoid uncontrolled sprawl. It now consists of nine villages with 96,000 residents and 34,000 residential units, 27 public schools, and 3,500 businesses where residents have convenient access to a wide array of parks, recreational, and cultural facilities. Rouse worked with a variety of local and regional builders in developing Columbia, including The Ryland Group and Ryan Building Group.

Rouse's Summerlin community, located along the Las Vegas Valley's western rim on land that once belonged to Howard Hughes, has been ranked as the nation's best-selling master planned community for 10 out of the past 11 years. The community is home to more than 60,000 residents with a projected population of 160,000. It is also noted for its parks, landscaping, cultural facilities, a resort complex, and two Tournament Players Club golf courses.

"The Houston market perfectly fits our criteria" said Deering. It's the fourth largest city in the United States, having added approximately one million new residents in the 1990s and having averaged 60,000 new jobs per year since 1994. "We think this is an outstanding opportunity to develop a high quality community."

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Houston, TX, Columbus, GA.