Imagine doing many of your errands on foot — from picking up dry cleaning to buying farm-fresh produce — while catching glances of migratory birds swooping over a community farm and lake as you walk a trail back to your house.
That’s the kind of lifestyle developers of a new “agrihood” envision for Fort Bend County, where a 235-acre residential community — with a 42-acre farm and "car-free zones" — is about to rise in the Richmond area.
Houston-based developer Meristem Communities is breaking ground this week on Indigo, a residential community expected to feature 750 homes, including 100 rental homes off Texas 99 and U.S. 90. The first residents are expected next February, with an additional two phases opening over the next two years at 1300 Harlem Road in Richmond. The neighborhood is 26 miles southwest of downtown Houston and 10 miles west of Sugar Land.
Meristem aims to disrupt the typical master-planned community concept by clustering most of the homes together on smaller lots, enabling the developer to dedicate more than half the community to open space and neighborhood trails. Plans call for a 25-acre lake for swimming, fishing and kayaking; miles of trails; and 42 acres of farm and pasture for visitors to meander or buy fresh produce and eggs.
Every other block within the neighborhood is designated as a “car free zone,” where homes face a green space instead of a street and small parks replace front lawns. Many of the houses will have garages in back, accessible through tree-lined alleys.
“We wanted it to be a safe place for children and families. We’re trying to accomplish a community that is different, is an actual community, where you know your neighbors and one of the ways to do that is to create green spaces,” said Clayton Garrett, partner at Meristem Communities.
Garrett and his business partner Scott Snodgrass are the same duo behind Agmenity, which builds and oversees farms in residential communities. Their past work includes adding farms at Millican Reserve in College Station as well Johnson Development’s Jordan Ranch in the Fulshear area and Harvest Green, 3 miles from where Indigo is planned. Harvest Green, which opened in 2015, was almost sold out by mid-2022, when Johnson Development announced a 630-acre expansion.
The communities are part of a growing trend of "agrihoods," neighborhoods that incorporate an agriculture element for residents to reconnect with how their food is made.
“I think that Harvest Green has proven there is demand for it,” said Snodgrass, partner at Meristem Communities. “These farms are not profitable standing on their own, but they also provide a lot of amenities that a typical farm wouldn't.”
Snodgrass and Garrett operated a farm on the land where Indigo is planned, producing direct-to-consumer vegetable boxes for about 350 families across Houston every week. That work has been paused as they turn to developing their own agrihood.
But the embrace of greenspace and agriculture is only part of how Meristem aims to differentiate its community.
Rather than incorporating a standard strip-mall, the development puts most residents within walking distance of a 70,000-square-foot, mixed-use Indigo Commons. There Meristem aims to attract service-oriented retailers and food and beverage purveyors alongside artisans and crafts-makers selling wares in small shops and kiosks. Meristem wants to sell some of the commercial space directly to small businesses to give them more autonomy.
Homebuilders Weekley Homes, Highland Homes and Empire Communities will offer an eclectic mix of cottages, town homes and single-family homes. Located within the Fort Bend Independent School District, houses will range from about 800 square feet to 2,100 square feet with prices from under about $300,000 to mid $500,000s.
“We're trying to create a place that people will be happy and healthy, get to know each other and have an actual sense of community," Snodgrass said.