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Posts posted by ToryGattis

  1. On 4/22/2020 at 8:52 AM, Montrose1100 said:

    It's in a prime location for low income housing, don't know why the city/housing authority hasn't snagged it up yet.


    Because I'm pretty sure that's about the last thing the Downtown Management District wants it to become. But also experiences in Chicago and elsewhere have shown that low-income towers are hard to keep secure and can become crime hotspots. Lower-rise options work much better and lead to healthier low and mixed-income communities.


    It needs to become student housing for Rice, UH, UH Downtown, or even Baylor Medical School (probably private serving all of the above).  It's right on rail lines to all of those.



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  2. Houston Public Works withdraws Brazos Street bridge revamp plans


    Houston Public Works has pulled proposals to permanently close the Brazos Street bridge and implement new pedestrian features around a corridor threaded between the Montrose area and Midtown.


    “Please be advised that the Houston Public Works Department along with Mayor Turner has made the decision to resume the project with the original design,” reads a Public Works notice sent to stakeholders on April 2.



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  3. 6 minutes ago, Aksarben said:

    I attended a meeting last night regarding this project and these are questions that need to be answered:

    • The cost of replacing the Bagby Bridge was in hand and planned, but at some point someone or entity came in and proposed removing the bridge.....who was that entity?


    Jeff from the City said that Bill Fulton of the Kinder Institute at Rice reached out to get them to look at other options rather than just replace the bridge.

  4. 9 hours ago, HBC06 said:

    This meeting was all con - what I said about who I assumed was in favor was, admittedly, hearsay. It was nice of the community relations person from the city to endure the fury the whole time. But would have been nicer to have public forums instead of just meeting with one neighborhood group at a time.


    Just to clarify , when I say 'con' I mean against the "green space" proposals, and in favor of the original plan to finish the bridge. 


    At the business owners meeting, Jeff from the City said they were specifically trying to avoid one or two giant public meetings because it's hard to make those productive. Most people never get a chance to speak. They wanted to do a series of smaller neighborhood meetings instead where more people could give their perspective.  I suspect that also makes it easier to summarize and bring to the Mayor: he can just say which groups were pro or con.  I'm curious what the tenor will be at the Midtown Super Neighborhood meeting tomorrow.

  5. 9 minutes ago, HBC06 said:

    I just attended a neighborhood meeting with representatives from the city, local residents along Westheimer, and a lot of local business owners. There are a few currents in this discussion that I think might be based on assumptions about the issue on which I'd like to add my perspective.


    First, some posters seem to frame this as a conflict of interest between Midtown/Montrose and the broader interests of Houston's commuters. My neighbors and I are all against the removal of these traffic flows. The roads, entrances, and exits that they are talking about removing are all important options for those of us who live here. With more construction looming on Elgin, it will only become more important to keep as many paths open as possible. As the area grows more dense, as it is doing and ought to, removal of transportation works sounds like the wrong direction to us. We are on the same side as Houston's commuters. We still can't figure out where this idea came from, but it seems to be driven now by our neighbors on Courtland and other nearby residents who rightly think a park sounds nice but don't use these roads all the time.


    Second, the proposal is not a park. It's proponents don't even have the chutzpah to call it a park. It's two slivers of green space which might or might not be more appealing to walk past than the tuft of trees currently between Brazos and Bagby. The area can be beautified without shutting off access. 


    Third, there is nothing about the proposal that makes the area more "walkable". Green spaces are nice, but what gives a neighborhood its walkability is the range of amenities within walking distance. The restaurants and nightlife give character to the area and the availability of stores, pharmacies, laundries, etc. make it easy to live there. Anything that puts additional pressure on local businesses stifles the growth of more amenities to accommodate more residents, and could even threaten existing ones. The speed control measures in those proposals are not necessary on those streets that have plenty of traffic signals. 


    So how would you characterize the overall opinion of the crowd pro and con? Or the proportions of the split?

  6. 2 hours ago, Ponchorello said:

    Not sure why everyone ignores THE #1 data point for any retailer/restaurant....TRAFFIC COUNT.  You reduce traffic count i.e. visibility then you basically can reduce sales.  It has and always will be the most important factor.  


    I read a few of you say well its only a couple of blocks away...that couple of blocks is so huge in retail.  Have you ever wondered why so much is developed at busy intersections??  Yeah, its called traffic count.  Its the same for freeway development...why are so many businesses along the freeways??  Same data point.  Nothing has changed from 40 years ago people.  If you don't see it you dont think about it.  Its as simple as that.  


    Its also why any space for lease/sale along busy streets are much higher than those set inside or tucked away.   I have 2 retail front stores selling the same product service.  One off of Alabama and another tucked in Heights.  Which do you think does better?  West Alabama because its on the street with traffic even though Heights according to other data points such as income say I should be making more money in the Heights.


    I've seen that first-hand in my Midtown neighborhood. When Oakmont opened at Baldwin and Pierce, a block back from the main drags of Bagby and West Gray, I thought it would boom. Very cool multi-story bar and patio that had a lot of money sunk into it - like a smaller Axelrad. But it's been dead, and the only reason I can see is because it's not along any of the main drags through Midtown.  It's way cooler than Front Porch or Belle Station along West Gray, but those places are packed and it's dead, even though it's only a block away!

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  7. 40 minutes ago, Luminare said:


    You can't just jettison all those potential variables like they are nothing. There might be something to that. How do you know they are sophisticated? What info do you have? Please share. Like most things zeroing in on just one thing like the freeway closure is probably not the most logical conclusion in regards to why they aren't hitting their numbers. Maybe its multiple factors we don't know. I'm willing to concede that the freeway closure plays a big part, but again this was closed for awhile now. You even admit that they really haven't penetrated the neighborhood they are in yet, and probably haven't tried. They could have done more, and they didn't.


    As a former McKinsey management consultant, I know enough to know that these types of companies have very sophisticated models to determine where they build new locations and what the forecast sales will be.  It's way too big of an investment not to.  And I do think they have tried to get the word out. I live a fair distance away, but they mailed me very substantial coupons when they opened.  I suspect the local residential draw zone is small (Midtown + museum district + part of Neartown, third ward has small customer base, and go much further west and residents will go to the Waugh or Kirby locations), so they were counting on pass-through traffic stopping in, the same as Specs.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Specs was their inspiration for choosing that location.

  8. 25 minutes ago, BeerNut said:

    Whole Foods projections were probably ambitious. Whole Foods still haven't shook the "whole paycheck" moniker and the newness of the store has worn off.  In my house the newness has worn off and we're back to shopping at HEB even though it's a half a mile further away. 


    Well, they have opened hundreds of stores and have a pretty sophisticated dataset to predict sales based on neighborhood, access, and competition. I don't think their projections are the issue here. They weren't counting on the freeway exit directly into their parking garage being closed.

  9. 2 minutes ago, wilcal said:


    I definitely understand how tight the margins are in grocery (grandfather was an exec for HEB for decades and made store managers keep a roll of pennies on their desk to remind them that every penny matters) and that cut-through traffic could make the difference between making it or not, but having unsafe streets in this area is a much larger hindrance to development than having access to groceries. 


    Would Whole Foods not also receive a benefit from the Bagby entrance being closed to the spur and diverting all of the Bagby spur traffic onto Smith? 


    You can go to their Google Maps listing and see how busy the store is on average by time and day of the week, and the 6-7pm slot is their busiest of the day on weekdays, but that's also the time that locals would be shopping. The weekends are still easily their busiest day. Their mid-day numbers, when there is zero cut-through traffic is 75% as good as their peak traffic between 6 and 7. Their 1-2pm traffic is about the same as their 5-6pm traffic. 




    Might they get some people grabbing a juice or breakfast on the way in from Brazos? It's feasible but those people still have the option to do so and drive literally one extra minute to go there. 






    I just know that both the regional and store managers were at the meeting and they said it was performing very significantly below expectations.  


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  10. 11 minutes ago, wilcal said:

    I guess if you don't live here? Pretty sure everyone that lives in Midtown or Montrose has driven down Westheimer/Elgin and seen the giant green Whole Foods lettering/branding on the side of their building. The letters that are also visible from the Bagby entrance to the spur.


    Actually I do live in Midtown, but like most Midtown folks, I avoid Elgin/Westheimer whenever possible.  And I'm pretty sure to see it going down Bagby you'd have to haul your head 90+ degrees to the left and look carefully. It doesn't help that it has an apartment stack on top of it, so people just glancing assume its just an apartment building (not what they're used to seeing for a grocery store). I'm just saying I regularly run into folks that aren't aware of it. I only knew about it and sought it out from reading CultureMap stories online.

  11. 1 minute ago, wilcal said:


    Only solution I could think of is to have it "programmed" by Midtown MD like Midtown Park and Bagby Park. 


    It's unclear if the land would be in MMD's territory






    Programming not only costs money, it's based on having some sort of event space and/or stage. This will be a thin linear park with a bike trail. I just don't know how you would program that.

  12. 6 minutes ago, wilcal said:

    People not stopping at Whole Foods because of Brazos being closed is borderline laughable imho. Only reverse commuters would be shopping while driving from the spur and the current "detour" might be 1 minute? It's not like there are a lot of grocery stores in Midtown. I've actually been walking over once or twice a week for light shopping, but still do my main grocery shopping at HEB in Montrose because of the price difference. 


    I think its the lack of visibility more than the convenience. People just aren't aware it's there since the Brazos exit has been closed for so long. If you use Bagby southbound and Louisiana northbound you'd never see it.  It would probably have done better if it had been open a long while before Brazos closed so the customer base had built up. Then people would make the adjustment.  But I still don't see any realistic way the park doesn't become a homeless camp.  The city is stretched thin with limited tools as it is, and the police would prefer to ignore it.

    2 minutes ago, wilcal said:


    I refuse to believe that the businesses on Bagby are relying on cut-through 45-59 traffic for approx 4-6pm Mon-Fri. Whole Foods business model in Midtown is not based upon those people.


    What business is currently benefiting from cut-through traffic? 


    1) CVS. Fine. 

    2) The Midtown Food Store?

    3) Capital One Bank?

    4) Subway?


    Spec's is not visible from Bagby. 




    Also Brazos northbound.  Specs owner said business is off 20+% since Brazos closed.

  13. 57 minutes ago, Montrose1100 said:

    Is there a list of businesses complaining about this? Who would grocery shop at Whole Foods and truck it all the way to the burbs? My ice cream melts shopping at the HEB on W Alabama and driving 15 mins to the east end.


    Seems strange since Louisiana and Travis still provide amble access. I just can't comprehend how bars and restaurants (and a grocery store), could be losing business over 2 blocks of additional travel to and from the spur. Are people so fickle that driving 4 blocks over to Milam to get on the Spur makes them stop purchasing from places? Sincerely someone help me out here.

    I was a little surprised at first too, but it makes sense if you think about it.  Google Maps and Waze route many thousands of people daily up and down Brazos and Bagby between the spur and 45. Those people see Whole Foods/CVS/Specs/etc. and think "yeah, I need to stop to pick something up". If they don't see it, they don't stop, and they don't see it if they are on Louisiana or Milam.  Location and visibility are everything for most retail.


  14. Just came from the meeting at the Midtown Authority inside Houston Exponential.  About 50 hopping mad business owners who have made major investments between Bagby and Brazos and are seeing their business drop dramatically, including Specs.  Managers from the new Whole Foods were there as well and were not happy. Their customer traffic is way below expectations (no Brazos feed right now), and they think it will completely collapse if they get a homeless camp across the street.  Jeff Weatherford from the City admitted the homeless risk but said a mitigation plan would be put in place - the room was not convinced.  Some of the business/property owners have already collected 800+ petition letter signatures calling for the bridge to be reopened, and they expect to collect more.


    Jeff committed to keeping comments open until March 26, with a decision by the Mayor expected by the end of March.


    They will summarize all comments submitted to BuildForward@houstontx.gov or www.buildhoustonforward.org , Reference Brazos Bridge WBS No. N-320445-0006-4


    I'll re-link to my own thoughts on my blog here.

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