In a process that is already under way, the southernmost section of Houston along U.S. 63 will see several changes over the next several months.

On the west side of the highway in the area of Miller’s Grill, work has begun on a project that will culminate in a new commercial development featuring several retail and service-oriented businesses and a group of storage units.

The project is being headed up by Tadd McCloud, of McCloud Construction LLC, who recently purchased the 4.5-acre tract with the intent of developing it.

The end result will be at least three 4,500-square foot buildings that each house three businesses, along with up to 20 storage units. Even though dirt began moving just last week, McCloud is shooting for a September opening for the first commercial building.

“It’s going to go up quick,” he said. “It’s been hard because it’s so hot and dry, but we’ll get the concrete done soon and then the rest will happen in a hurry.”

The Missouri Department of Transportation approved a permit to have several feet of dirt moved from the front of the property to the back in order to create a level “pad.” McCloud said his goal is to put up a fourth building if the other three fill up in a timely manner.

Two spots in the first building are already taken, one by State Farm Insurance’s Houston office (which will move from its present location on South Sam Houston Blvd. near Texas County Memorial Hospital), and the other by CC Pets, a full line pet store with a location in West Plains. McCloud said he’s had several bites on the third spot.

“I had two people stop and ask about it yesterday,” he said, “and there are several others who I’ve talked to. It’s just one of those things where they can’t visualize it. I think once it’s here, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, wow.’”

McCloud said each metal exterior building will be about 25-feet tall and feature a full-length covered porch and cultured stone on the front face.

“You won’t miss them,” he said. “They’ll have good sight lines to the highway and they’ll look really nice. And I plan to maintain them and keep the landscaping looking good. I think that makes a big difference to both the businesses and their customers.”

CC Pets owner Mary Marcak said her store already serves customers from the Houston area and others from as far away as Rolla, Springfield and even Jonesboro, Ark.

Marcak said one of the main reasons for their willingness to travel is CC Pets’ large selection of saltwater fish and aquarium supplies. But the three-year-old store also carries everything from alligators to rabbits.

“You name it, we have it,” Marcak said. “At this time, we will not be carrying the saltwater fish in Houston, but we will carry saltwater supplies.

“But I think there’s a need there for what we have. We enjoy pets and we want people to enjoy their pets, and we want to be able to provide good service to people in that area.”

In addition to animals and supplies, Marcak said CC Pets will offer grooming and tank maintenance.

State Farm agent Justin Shelby said he’s looking forward to moving to the new location, which will include a conference room that will be made available to the public.

“It’s going to better for our customers,” Shelby said. “Among other things, they’ll have much easier access because the parking lot will be easier to get in and out of.”

Another aspect of the South 63 makeover is the addition of streetlights. Houston City Administrator Larry Sutton said work has already begun to install lights from the city limit (near Steve’s Tire) on into town where similar units already line the highway.

“We’ve already bought the poles and we’ve run power to the highway and poured the concrete base for a few of them,” Sutton said. “It will be done in sections –– we’ll probably put in four lights at time, and we’ll probably start on the south end and work back toward town.”

Sutton said the cost of the lighting project is being covered by the city’s electric budget.

A third change in the area is a planned MoDOT project for paving U.S. 63 from Indian Creek Road to Brushy Creek Road. Sutton said the hope is that the resurfacing would be completed sometime next year.

“It’s like the perfect storm down here on 63,” McCloud said. “I figured this was a good time to get this going.”

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