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Everything posted by largeTEXAS

  1. Better than I thought it would be, but far from great. If this truly is going to be "one of the most desirable places in Houston," the programming and architecture should be faaaaaar better. Arguably, the most prominent site in Midtown and there's not a sq inch of retail. Midtown Redevelopment Authority had to program retail all around them, Camden was so opposed to it. It's a shame that Ric Campo, also chairman of Houston First, refuses to do retail in any of their projects in their hometown. Shameful.
  2. Good news. Man, the grammar in the article is pretty poor, though. Sign that the Chron is contracting in all directions.
  3. Building is currently for sale: http://www.loopnet.com/lid/15073342 for about $12M. Just spoke with someone close to the current owner who said the building is about to sell to a "hotel or apt developer" who, he says, will rehab the building and seek historic designation.
  4. It is a very cool Mod building, indeed. Unfortunately, I've been there a few too many times with animals that weren't doing that great, though.
  5. Completely disagree. The chain retail you've listed (or chain retail in general) won't "attract tourism and future downtown residents." While people obviously patronize these places, none of these create any sort of community or benefit to a neighborhood in any real or substantial way. The last thing downtown needs is to feel more like an office park or the 'burbs. In my opinion, downtown needs many more smaller, independent retailers - coffee shops, restaurants, service retail - than another Dollar General or Taco Bell. Luckily, the Downtown District has incentives for these types of retailers. It's grant program has already helped places such as OKRA, Batanga, Oxheart, Little Dipper, el Big Bad, Goro and Gun, Pastry Wars, etc open. Their success will bring more and different kinds of retail and, I hope, eventually, downtown will have a thriving and diverse retail scene to complement all these new residents
  6. http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Fire-damages-Montrose-area-building-5428475.php
  7. Interesting take on a lot of the things discussed on this forum: Critics see plenty of pitfalls in expanded city incentives http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/real-estate/article/Downtown-subsidies-could-skew-market-experts-say-5422520.php#/8 By Nancy Sarnoff and Mike Morris April 22, 2014 | Updated: April 22, 2014 10:41pm Downtown and Midtown are separated by a freeway, but in some ways they are worlds apart. Midtown's population of about 9,000 is nearly double what it was in 2000. Much of the growth has come over the past decade, when the area became the urban neighborhood of choice for apartment and townhouse developers. Downtown's growth, meanwhile, has not been nearly as robust. In 2000, officials projected downtown's 3,000-person residential population would increase threefold by 2010. Today, however, only about 3,600 residents live in renovated lofts and condos in the shadows of the skyscrapers that host an urban workforce of 150,000. But developers again are challenging the notion that downtown can't be a place more people call home. Several are lining up to build thousands of luxury apartments through a newly expanded $15,000-per-unit city subsidy program meant to help defray the high costs of building in a crowded business district. As eager as the builders are to increase the supply of downtown housing, demand for the thousands of proposed units - pricey ones, at that - is not a sure thing. And even if the new buildings do fill up, the shops, restaurants and services may not be there to support them. "In all the cities that have significant retail, there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of people," said Ed Page, managing partner of UCR Houston, a commercial real estate firm specializing in retail." Midtown growing Another reason more shops haven't opened downtown is because there's so much of it in the surrounding neighborhoods, Page said. Midtown, for example, has a major grocer and drug stores, as well as an abundance of restaurants and bars. Just south of Interstate 45 from downtown, the formerly blighted area began redeveloping after the city in the mid-1990s created a tax increment reinvestment zone, which funneled tax dollars into improving public infrastructure. That TIRZ does not offer the same kind of residential incentive to developers that downtown is providing. For years, officials have tried to lure retailers to the urban core with financial incentives. While there have been some successes, the overall trend is sliding. In the past three decades, the amount of retail space downtown has fallen by 60 percent, according to a report released last fall by a task force Mayor Annise Parker appointed in the wake of Macy's decision to shutter its Main Street department store. The report outlined recommendations on how to attract more shops and reverse the longtime slide in retail activity. One of the proposals was to use tax dollars to develop a shopping district in the center of downtown. Andy Icken, the city's chief development officer, said part of the reason the Parker administration has not pushed new retail subsidies is that officials are hoping residents drawn in by the subsidized apartments will, in turn, lure retailers. The downtown population stands to more than double if all the proposed projects are built. Four are under construction and half a dozen more are proposed. That kind of growth will help tip the scales in attracting more shops and restaurants, said Icken and Bob Eury, executive director of the Downtown Houston Management District. Still, it's not likely to get the attention of a national retailer like Target, which recently launched a smaller-store concept for urban locations. The so-called CityTarget carries products suited for urban lifestyles and customers who travel by bike, foot or public transportation. The Minneapolis-based retailer has opened locations in Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. When asked if the company would consider a CityTarget in downtown Houston, spokeswoman Anne Christensen said no additional stores were opening right now, "but we're always exploring opportunities to serve our guests in whatever format store makes sense for the area." Elusive goal Revitalizing downtown has been a goal for Houston's city leaders for at least four decades, said Jim Gaines of the Texas A&M Real Estate Center. He said that aim never will be realized without more residents to convince retailers that they can thrive. There is demand for downtown housing, Gaines said, though the incentives could result in units being built faster than residents can rent them in the short term, particularly if the retail needed for running daily errands remains slow in coming. "There isn't enough of what I would call support retail. I'm not talking about the high-end women's clothing store. I'm talking about a drug store or a food market," Gaines said. "The belief always has been, if we could create the residential base, the market will figure out how to supply the necessary support services. Probably that will be true." Jessica Phifer gets the same reaction from most people when they learn she lives downtown. "The rote questions are: 'Where do you get groceries?' 'Where's your bodega?' " said Phifer, who moved into the city center from the Heights more than three years ago. "To the natives, it's still weirdly a foreign concept," she said of living downtown, an area that bustles with office workers during the day and then largely empties out at night. University of Houston economist Steven Craig is skeptical about the city's influence on private development. If demand for the new housing is weak, Craig said, the resulting renters - mostly well-off professionals - will be the ones to benefit from the up to $75 million in proposed incentives in the form of cheaper rents. Or, he said, downtown will boom and developers will pocket the subsidy in the form of thicker profit margins. Houston isn't Paris "There's a lot of people that wish that we were Paris," Craig said. "Paris is cool. It's a dense city, they take public transportation and they walk everywhere. Well, Paris isn't 90 degrees at 90 percent humidity very often. Walking is good, but there's other ways to accomplish all those objectives. We're just not being very thoughtful with how we use our resources." The incentive program has been available to developers building an apartment or condominium complex of at least 10 units, provided they meet design guidelines focused on how the project looks at street level. The City Council voted earlier this month to approve doubling the program's size to 5,000 units to capitalize on the momentum the program has created. "The whole idea of this program was to level the playing field," Eury said. "It recognizes the fact that developing on a downtown block, the land's more expensive, it's more difficult to develop. There's a delta in the development cost in doing it in the business district versus in another competitive market in the central city." If that cost gap goes away, he said, it would be hard to justify continuing the incentive. Ric Campo, CEO of Camden Property Trust, which is planning to take advantage of the subsidy, said some developers do not want the competition that would come with expanding the program. He said it is working to create a more vibrant downtown, however. "It will probably hurt me in short term, but will help me in long term," said Campo, who is also on the boards of multiple economic development and business organizations. "It's less rent on the front end to get a transformational effect in the longer term." Downtown vs. Midtown Population: Downtown grew from 3,000 in 2000 to 3,600 today; Midtown has nearly doubled to 9,000 in the same time. Development: While retail has fallen 60 percent in 30 years downtown, a city subsidy aims to boost housing; in Midtown, a mid-1990s tax increment reinvestment zone spurred development, and housing has boomed in the past decade.
  8. Personally, as long as the ground floor is well-designed and active (with retail, where appropriate), the amount of floors and even design of the building is somewhat secondary. That said, we need many more residents downtown, so the more floors in each development the better!
  9. A couple of other reasons Austin is building tall is that, overall, it has a much smaller downtown than Houston, is a much more centralized city than Houston, and has no (real) equivalent to the Galleria, Westchase, Med Center. Austin also has a very active community of residents that protests the heck out of any new development in most of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. Downtown is kind of the only place to develop densely, if you want to develop in the inner city.
  10. Probably so, the rendering's been circulating a while. Just hadn't seen anything yet on this board, but I probably missed it.
  11. This is the way all strip centers should look in Houston! Glad to see this. Hope it actually gets built this way.
  12. Another bar by the funeral bars folks
  13. Always loved this building. Could be really cool with some tlc.
  14. Below are lists of the 2013 top daily ridership routes on Metro busses. It would make sense to me to look at these, or, at least, the top 3 if/when a subway or additional light rail is considered. Looks like we need to build a dang subway along Westheimer!! At least east of Sage or so. Fondren and Bellaire are probably wide enough to continue bus service, at least for the near future. One stat I found interesting is that the #18 Kirby (my favorite bus route) is amongst the "Highest Growth" for weekday ridership. Now that Buffalo Bayou Park is nearing completion, seems a light rail that ran along Allen Pkwy and Kirby that connected downtown to BB Park, Upper Kirby, Rice Village, West U, etc. would be pretty badass. And, most importantly, all dem River Oaks-ers could go slummin' it on their way to the opera! WEEKDAY RIDERSHIP Route Boardings 1. 163 FONDREN 7,964 2. 2 BELLAIRE 7,795 3. 82 WESTHEIMER 6,864 4. 65 BISSONNET 6,195 5. 52 SCOTT 6,001 6. 25 RICHMOND 5,783 7. 73 BELLFORT 5,402 8. 46 GESSNER 5,277 9. 33 POST OAK 4,941 10. 81 WESTHEIMER-SHARPSTOWN 4,926 SATURDAY RIDERSHIP Route Boardings 1. 82 WESTHEIMER 5,252 2. 2 BELLAIRE 5,046 3. 163 FONDREN 4,346 4. 56 AIRLINE 4,197 5. 46 GESSNER 3,417 6. 52 SCOTT 3,416 7. 65 BISSONNET 3,368 8. 81 WESTHEIMER-SHARPSTOWN 3,354 9. 73 BELLFORT 3,118 10. 25 RICHMOND 3,081 http://www.ridemetro.org/News/Documents/pdfs/Ridership%20Reports/2013/0313_Ridership_Report_FY13.pdf
  15. If I remember correctly, Gus Wortham is about 140-150 acres.
  16. I agree with HoustonIsHome, Howard Huge, and the last few posters about affordable housing being desperately needed. Welcome to likely the biggest issue facing Houston for at least the next generation. "Affordable housing" is a hot-button topic in just about every major city in the world. The denser and more attractive Houston's core becomes, the more expensive. People who aren't rich are forced to the fringes. Many cities have programs such as 80-20, where developers are forced to include 20% "affordable" units in their developments. Developers, of course, fight this tooth and nail. Section 8 is another program. For all the negatives of sprawl, Houston has long enjoyed cheap housing all over town because demand was fairly displaced and not everyone wanted to live inside the Loop. Things have changed, though. This is a new era for Houston, It's exciting that we're building like crazy, but market-driven cheap housing is a thing of the past. Maybe after the Downtown District gets its fill of all these "luxury" apartments, it'll start seeing just how desperately needed a mix of unit types is and work up an incentive program for affordable units! Wishful thinking I'm sure...
  17. "Subsidizing" rail seems to be thrown around quite a bit by rail opponents. I think it would be helpful to look at a slightly bigger picture of "subsidies" for transit vs the automobile. Subsidyscope published by the Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, tallies the amount of subsidies in each sector. At approx $51.3 Billion in grants, $3.9 Billion in tax expenditures, and $43.3 Billion in non-competed contracts, Transportation is third behind subsidies given to healthcare and education. The Cato Institute, an American Libertarian think tank whose mission is "To increase the understanding of public policies based on the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and peace," publishes an account of how the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, the Bureau of Public Roads, Federal Highway Administration, and the Transportation Administration, uses its funding, apportionment, revenues, and earmarks. The statement many highway advocated claim that highway users pay for the highway system is far fro accurate. Taxes paid on gasoline come nowhere close to paying for the construction and reconstruction of the nation's highways. Furthermore, federal subsidies for parking are about six times as much as subsidies for transit, nationwide. This Bureau of Transportation Statistics by the US Department of Transportation also shows all the money spent on different forms of transportation. Historically, before the automobile in about 1900, the huge highway system of the United States, consisted of about 2 million miles of dirt roads (with a few exceptions) and was about 10 times the length of the railroad system. These roads were almost all 100% subsided by the general taxpayer. Except that major bridges charged tolls to cross rivers. Starting with the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Turnpike in 1794, there had been a large number of toll roads, but by 1860 they had mostly failed due in large part to competition from canals and railroads. The turnpike era from 1800 to 1830 saw the construction of many better quality unpaved toll roads known as "turnpikes". From 1845 to almost 1860 was the era of plank toll roads introduced from Russia. Vehicles rolled along on thick wood planks but the exposed wood soon deteriorated. Several thousand miles of toll roads were built. SeeTransportation Revolution and Transportation (by Bigham) But even during the toll road era most of the roads were still free (100% subsidized) but in poor condition. The toll roads were 100% pay and usually in good condition. But remember that due to the typical poor condition of the roads and the slow speeds (usually a few miles per hour or less) and low population, there was little travel (from the perspective of today). The last two decades of the 1800's saw the start of the "good roads movement which was mostly due to support of farmers and bicyclists who wanted the government to pay for good roads. As a result, some states created highway departments with highway financial aid from the states. New Jersey was first in 1881 but it wasn't until 1917 that all state governments were aiding (subsidizing) highways. and Transportation (by Bigham) p.103. There is lots more information and history, but this is just an idea of how things got started. In conclusion, while transit is indeed subsidized, automobiles are also subsidized, and, as some would argue, to a far greater extent. Transportation has always been subsidized by this country. And, as reported by this NY Times article, with transit ridership rising significantly across the country, now at the "highest rate since 1956," isn't it fair to look at the way these subsidies are divided? Highways can still have their subsidies, but shouldn't transit users also benefit from a fair share? Or, just take away all subsidies and see what happens
  18. Not yet, but exciting things are about to happen to the Stowers building.
  19. Squares work best when they serve as easy, convenient access points between other activity centers (such as office, retail, residential, museums ...or, in the old days, churches). Most successful modern squares are above or next to major transit hubs (Union Sq and Times Sq in NY, Zócalo DF, Rynek Glowny in Krakow, Trafalfar Sq London). Only way one will work in Houston is that it's adjacent to major transit and between many activity centers. Montrose @ Westheimer is a candidate. Westheimer and Post Oak would also probably work. These obviously assume major reworking of some of the existing structures.
  20. Good to hear. I'm still bummed that Diller Scofidio + Renfro weren't chosen to design the project. I'm hoping HSPVA pushes Gensler to design a more interesting building than they likely would otherwise.
  21. I'll back almost any rail or dedicated mass transit option that links to the existing system, is relatively cost-effective, is somewhat decent-looking, isn't too loud, and actually runs in areas where they'd be most heavily used. I agree with you that the Westheimer corridor, along with Richmond, and, maybe, San Felipe needs to be seriously considered for future rail, etc. All the talk has been Richmond, but Westheimer would likely be a much more effective route. But, we need many east-west routes, not just one. Ideally, east-west lines should include the bus routes with the highest ridership. These, I believe, include Westheimer, Richmond, Holcombe/Bellaire, and Bissonnet. If I had my say, Westheimer would be a subway inside the loop, then become at grade or elevated west of the 610 loop/Galleria. Bissonnet would be at grade (possibly elevated outside the loop), Holcombe/Bellaire would be at grade or elevated.
  22. I'm sure the Downtown District has visions of grandeur not unlike most developers when envisioning what could be - Apple, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, etc. But, you're probably right that more basic retail is more likely right now. The Sakowitz building was built for large scale retail, even if it's currently a parking garage. To me, that's the one opportunity to get a big anchor retailer such as H&M, Target, or something of the sort. If the new building where Foley's was has ground floor retail (and it better!), that corner should be the center of the retail action, at least early on.
  23. Good point. Destination retail is always great, if you can get them downtown. But, to build a truly sustainable retail district, all kinds of retail is necessary.
  24. This is not about attracting "suburbanites" to shop downtown. While they might make up part of the mix of shoppers, this is about providing a district in the heart of the city for the growing number of people who live, work, and visit downtown. Ground floor retail and retail that is open on the weekends is sorely lacking downtown. As the new (and not even announced yet) residential towers and mid-rises get built, as the rail lines are completed, as the new hotels are completed, as the convention center expands and new and bigger conventions are added, as the East End and Midtown fill in, as Buffalo Bayou continues to be transformed and becomes even more of an attraction, etc, there will be more and more reasons for downtown to need retail. In its current state, downtown will not be able to meet that need. A little planning for current and future needs would go a long way. Just look at Market Square's revival. Most people seemed to write it off as dead forever just a few months ago. Then the little park that many said would always just be a homeless hangout was rebuilt. Things change, cities change; Houston is finally starting to change in ways that many of us probably hoped it would a long time ago.
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