MaxConcrete

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  1. Amazon HQ2

    I think the chance Generation Park will be selected is zero. Generation Park's main objective is almost surely to get some publicity and drive some traffic to their web site. I barely knew anything about Generation Park, and now I know much more about it after going to their site. And if local real estate types become more familiar with Generation Park, then Generation Park has achieved its goal.
  2. Amazon HQ2

    Some comments on the points of discussion: Houston vs. DFW: DFW's big advantage is a much larger information technology and software development job base, which is one of Amazon's top priorities. I work as a software developer, and every time I compare DFW to Houston, I find the DFW has about four times as many job postings in software development. I just checked again and came up with about the same results. I don't know what technology stack Amazon uses, but anyone who knows can do the same exercise of Houston vs. DFW. Dice search for .Net Developer: Dallas 1403, Houston 381 (3.7 ratio). Dice search for MVC (a type of programming skill): Dallas 212, Houston 61 (ratio 3.5). Dice search for Java developer: Dallas 1509, Houston 398 (ratio 3.8) DFW has vastly more potential sites for Amazon, whereas Houston appears to have only the KBR/East River site and maybe 800 Bell. Of course, there could be other sites in Houston which have not been publicized. But DFW appears to have many viable options downtown, in the mid-burbs and outer suburbs. Neither DFW nor Houston is going to score high on the image or "coolness" factor as compared to some competitors. The DFW virtues of orderliness, high quality standards, uniformity and better planning appeal to many companies, especially companies with family-oriented workforces (e.g. Toyota, Liberty Mutual, State Farm). But DFW's virtues do result in a mostly sterile environment (as some have noted), which could be a negative for them in terms of Amazon. In terms of incentives, I'm expecting Houston to be lower than DFW, and there will be cities with much richer incentives than DFW, such as the well-publicized $7 billion for Newark. Assuming Amazon picks one winner (not multiple winners for different business units), every city except one is going to lose, which means that even cities with good proposals and rich incentives are going to lose. And I'm expecting Houston's proposal to be in the middle of the pack in terms of competitiveness and probably below average in incentives. About KBR site: Has everyone who promotes or defends this site actually given it a close inspection on the ground, and not just looked at Google maps views? I did a complete inspection including the roads in the interior of the site, and I was totally unimpressed. The east end of site is surrounded by warehouses and industrial properties. These are not quaint old red brick warehouses, but modern unattractive steel structures. The north side is mostly modern housing, not suitable for redevelopment. The neighborhood along Hirsch between the site and the East Freeway is an older, lower-income neighborhood. You get a good view of the bayou from the Hirsch and Jensen bridges, and the bayou waterside is unattractive in my opinion (it is nothing like the bayou west of downtown). Finally, the site is not convenient to the core of downtown, and also not convenient to EaDo since there are only two access points (the two bridges), and the bridges are fairly long. Even if the site were available for free to Amazon, I think it would be a nonstarter. But of course it is not free. About Amazon's priorities: Amazon's wish list is seeking a fantasy land which does not exist anywhere. So they'll need to make some choices about their priorities. I don't think anyone outside of Amazon's top executives (and maybe only Bezos) knows what is going to drive the decision. So all assumptions about what Amazon really wants is speculative, including widely held views that they want to be in a "cool" city, that they want a transit-oriented city, or that they have a fixed idea of a Seattle-like quality of life. The actual requirement emphasizes the site, incentives and workforce.
  3. 59 - 610 Interchange Partial Rebuild

    As JLWM8609 noted, the 59/69 SB to 610 NB ramp is staying as-is at one lane. All other ramps are being rebuilt, some with major realignments. I don't know the reason for leaving the 59/69 SB to 610 NB ramp as-is, but I think lane balance is a factor. The west Loop northbound cannot absorb another lane of traffic, so the ramp is maintained as 1 lane and traffic will continue to back up onto the Southwest Freeway.
  4. Amazon HQ2

    Realistically, I don't see HQ2 coming to Houston. The competition will be great, other regions will offer huge incentives (including probably Chicago), we have the hurricane risk which has been poignantly publicized by Harvey, other regions will score better in the education category, other regions will score better in the mass transit category, other regions have more software developers in the workforce, and other regions will have politics more suitable for Amazon. And one more time: the hurricane and flooding risk! That being said, it appears that the Greater Houston Partnership will submit a proposal. I don't see any sites in Houston that ideally meet Amazon's wishful wish list, although I don't think any city will have a perfect site. Here is my analysis of the official request for proposals The site can be a greenfield suburban site up to 30 miles "proximity to population center", a collection downtown high-rises, or anything in between. For existing buildings, there must be space for expansion for the long term potential build-out. The document really does not give any preference to urban or suburban, but my interpretation is that they would like plenty of land to build exactly what they want. Greenfield sites must be approximately 100 acres and "pad ready, with utility infrastructure in place". Also on page 5: "sites with the requisite access, utility infrastructure, and zoning are critical". This seems to preclude an all-new site starting from scratch, and would probably preclude the KBR site (or is it already ready for development?). A greenfield site would have to be an existing corporate park with plenty of land available. The requirement is "Within approx 45" minutes from an international airport. It is unclear if this applies during rush hour. If so, for Bush airport that would seem to exclude anything south of downtown and Interstate 10. The transit requirement is vague, just stating "Direct access to rail, train, subway/metro, bus routes". I read this to mean that bus routes alone could satisfy this requirement, and transit seems to be a lesser requirement. Even so, that could knock out many suburban campus sites. Page 5 says "finding suitable buildings/sites is of paramount importance." The word "paramount" is the strongest adjective they use in the document, so that suggests to me that they want a signature office property. I'm thinking that a greenfield site to build an all-new campus in a close-in location may be most competitive. Page 5: "A highly educated labor pool is critical and a strong university system is required". While Rice and UH are solid, many competing cities will score better than Houston. The Cultural Community Fit section on page 5 once again emphasizes "excellent institutions of higher education". It also seems to emphasize a good pro-business climate rather than liberal government policies (e.g. Chicago, NYC). I view this as the most favorable requirement for cities like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta. Community/Quality of Life section on page 5: This is vague and seems to be not as important as press reports have suggested. Page 2: "The jobs will likely be broken down into the following categories: executive/management, engineering with a preference for software development engineers (SDE), legal, accounting, and administrative." If this campus will cater more to the executive, legal, accounting and administrative needs, then being in a tech hub becomes much less important and being in a regional business hub (Chicago, Atlanta, DFW) makes more sense. Observation: Nowhere in the document is there a mention of affordable housing, ability to construct new housing, or low-to-moderate cost of living. This of course is a quality of life issue, but does not seem worthy of specific mention. So that seems to work in favor of the high-cost locations (e.g. Boston, NYC) While I view Houston as highly unlikely, DFW and Austin may be contenders. Las Colinas in Irving or the Texas Stadium redevelopment site come to mind as strong potential sites for DFW. The Texas Stadium site has 452 acres of land, including 77 owned by Irving which could be offered for free. It is on a light rail line, 7 miles to DFW airport, 5 miles to Love Field, a major freeway hub with expansion in progress, 7 miles to Uptown Dallas (urban living), and 7 miles to Oak Lawn (rainbow community). But I don't know if the infrastructure is ready yet. Nearby Las Colinas has plenty of shovel-ready sites, although I don't know if it still has 100 acres available. A probable weakness for Texas will be lack of subsidies from the State of Texas due to Governor Abbott's distaste for corporate welfare. Of course, Governor Perry was just the opposite, throwing all kinds of money at incentives (and achieving many successes). I'm also thinking that Amazon may already have preferred sites in mind and is running this competition to maximize the subsidies and incentives to be offered. I'm thinking most communities will be wasting their time with a proposal. I'm also thinking we many have 2 or 3 winners, since it would make more sense to create centers of excellence in logical locations. For example the software hub in Boston or Austin (in addition to Seattle), logistics in DFW or Atlanta, and business operations in any number of cities, probably the one with the best incentives (potentially Chicago).
  5. AT&T Building (3303 Wesleyan) Renovations?

    Work is in progress on the distinctive structure on the top of the AT&T building on Weslayan at West Alabama. So far the top "layer" is almost totally dismantled. I always assumed the large structure was some kind of microwave transmitter and receiver. It's been there forever, and I was always intrigued by it as a kid in the 1970s. More recently I've wondered why a 1960s-era radio structure is still needed. Maybe it's just a shell, and the electronics have been kept up-to-date. So far it looks like the work may be a removal job. Maybe the new tower across the street had a negative impact on its operation. Anyways, we'll see what happens to the structure in the next few days.
  6. Gables Westcreek High-Rise - 15 floors

    I've worked at 2223 West Loop South for the last two years, and for the last two years during the day there was always a security vehicle and guard on the east side of the property. So yes, they spent a fortune on security guards. Since the teardown and cleanup will take around a week, the cost should be low. It does make me wonder why they waited to demolish the building.
  7. Gables Westcreek High-Rise - 15 floors

    The building is gone. The surrounding area smelled like a lumber yard today. The cleanup remains.
  8. Gables Westcreek High-Rise - 15 floors

    Demolition was proceeding at full speed today. Tear-down is in progress on the Westcreek (east) side and also on the southwest side.
  9. Future International Routes Out of IAH

    Air India is a mess and the Indian government is trying to sell it, but analysts say it will difficult to privatize due to all its troubles. So I would be cautious about being excited about the possibility for new service. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-11/air-india-s-salvador-dali-ashtrays-and-surreal-debt-cloud-sale
  10. I-10 West of the Brazos River

    Bids were opened last week for the expansion to 6 lanes from FM 359 (or wherever the current 6 lanes is reduced to 4) to the Brazos River. Williams Brothers was the low bidder, but for some reason the results are no longer on the TxDOT bid results site. I don't know if the absence of the results means anything. The next 10-mile section from the Brazos River westward is slated for bidding in August 2018, with an estimate of $233 million. http://www.dot.state.tx.us/insdtdot/orgchart/cmd/cserve/let/2018/austin.htm#027102055
  11. Parade Of Homes Addresses?

    About five years ago, someone in Sharpstown claimed that John Glenn once lived in the neighborhood. (not true). But having heard the stories about the astronauts and the 1962 Parade of Homes, I decided to find out what really happened and posted my findings on my web site. You can find out the full story here http://houstonfreeways.com/Home/Sharpstown_History
  12. New Mixed-Use Project - Texas Instrument Facility Site

    It looks like the interior of the main factory building is being gutted with numerous broken/removed exterior windows. It appears demolition is imminent. Some of the mature trees on the property have been chopped down, some are protected with fencing (presumably to be preserved), and some are intact without fencing. The warehouses on the eastern edge of the property are complete and appear to be occupied.
  13. The Pierce Elevated/I-59 Redesign Thread

    I admit that I'm somewhat biased because I lived on Roseland Street (near (Richmond @ Montrose) once upon a time, and I'm thinking in terms of people who live west and south of Midtown. The San Jacinto on-ramp and Fannin off-ramp are the access points for a large area to the south and west, and population is increasing due to the large apartment buildings being built. But yes, your point that there are plenty of alternate options for people in east and north Midtown is valid. In terms of people making the weave from the 45-northbound-to-69-southbound ramp to the Almeda exit, I'm speaking in terms of northbound traffic on Interstate 45. The 45 downtown Spur is not a reasonable option for those folks.
  14. The Pierce Elevated/I-59 Redesign Thread

    I just posted my updated analysis of the project using the May 2017 schematics. http://houstonfreeways.com/analysis I still have 12 concerns, varying from minor issues to larger concerns which could impact operations. While TxDOT made numerous improvements in the latest schematics, some of my concerns are unchanged since the last version, so prospects for fixing the issues may not be good.
  15. Randall Davis 99-unit Arabella, 33-floors (Westcreek)

    Taken Friday 5/5/2017. Construction appears to be around floor 29.