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Everything posted by ToryGattis

  1. The Wall Street Journal today reports that Atlanta is extremely overbuilt and facing a commercial real estate Armageddon. They even include a cool interactive graphic satellite map of the Buckhead area. A 40-year supply of condos?! Ouch! And why would you buy one, knowing the new supply you'd be competing with whenever you try to sell?
  2. Sorry, I didn't see anything all that special in that video. Nothing that couldn't also be created in Houston with the right route from Uptown to Downtown to Midtown to Rice/TMC. I'd also match up our attractions with Atlanta any day. The Museum of Natural Science is the most visited museum in the country outside of DC or NYC. Throw in the rest of the museum district, the Menil, the Theater district, Discovery Green, NASA (a unique mega-attraction - certainly beats a soda-pop museum), Kemah, Moody Gardens, Schlitterbahn, and the rest of Galveston (don't underestimate the value of beach access), I think you'd at least have a draw.
  3. Yes, exactly. Where these kinds of rankings tend to go off the rails is not so much with the criteria, but the weightings, which are completely arbitrary, and even slight changes to them will radically re-sort the list (especially when there are many criteria, and most especially when they are subjective rather than objectively measurable and quantifiable). This is why magazine rankings like US News colleges always get so much attention every year. It's not that anything substantially changed with universities over the course of the year, but they always slightly tweak their weightings to shake up the list so it's "news". What they should have done, IMHO, is play with the weightings until the list at least looked roughly right to a majority of informed people - essentially matching the weightings with peoples' intuitive feel about different cities. When you look at this list and some of the cities above and below others, it doesn't pass this test, and therefore will be dismissed by most people.
  4. While I support the GP, I also like the idea of more Allen Parkway-type solutions closer in where RoW is available. The trick is paying for them. The GP will be self-funding with tolls. I wonder if we could build similarly self-funded AP-type roads with small EZ-tag toll fees on the underpasses? (if you don't want to pay, stay up top and go thru the light)
  5. You don't need to necessarily create your own demise. Just have the financial capability to buy the right companies and technologies when they show viability. Cisco hasn't always been at the leading edge of networking technologies, but they buy the right companies and technology when they need to do so to maintain their dominance.
  6. I'm all for diversification. It's just prudent to have a diverse economic base. But I would like to point out that the U.S. cities that got propelled to top tier, world class status, usually did it on the back of one or two major blockbuster industries: NYC and finance, Chicago and manufacturing/trade (HQ of the midwest), SF/SV and tech, LA and entertainment+defense. Purely diversified cities usually have trouble breaking through to the top. The reason is not too hard to discern: as cities get bigger, they get some big problems and costs to go with that growth. If companies and people don't have a compelling reason to stay in that city (or come to it in the first place), they will disperse to the next set of hot midsize cities with lower costs and fewer problems (the Charlotte's, Austin's, San Antonio's, Raleigh-Durham's, and Denver's of the world). You need some compelling pull that keeps the growth up even in the face of those growing negatives. If it's not climate (like CA and FL), it's usually a big, important industry where you "have" to be there if you want to be a player, both as a company and a professional. For Houston, that's energy, and we need to do everything possible to stay the capital of that industry, no matter how the technology shifts.
  7. Houston has energy, health care, NASA, the port, a top-tier private research university (and hopefully a Tier 1 public one soon), a stronger downtown, and far more international flights, culture, and business. Dallas has more diversified companies, more tech, more domestic flights and companies, and no hurricanes (but also a bit of a water supply problem). Atlanta has some good universities and the world's best geographical location for logistics and flights, including the world's busiest airport (and also no hurricanes but a water supply problem). I think we'll all do just fine in our different niches, just as DC, NYC, and Boston do in the east, and San Diego, LA, and SF do in the west. The oil companies have a responsibility to their shareholders not to die with any particular technology. They will aggressively get into whatever's next, and most already have, with the exception of Exxon. I've also had a remarkable number of young college graduates tell me lately that Houston is a hotter destination for young talent than Dallas right now, with our more diverse, international, eclectic vibe/culture, including the restaurant scene.
  8. Oh, I think it certainly more than covers its current operating expenses. But, I think, if you took the cash flow from it and discounted it back at a reasonable interest rate to the years it was built ('84 to '88), it would not be enough money to have constructed it in the first place. Or, put another way, if HCTRA had only built Hardy and nothing else, financed it with bonds, and had no other revenue sources than the tolls, it would have defaulted on the bonds long ago and gone bankrupt. Responding to some of the other debate here: when you look at other cities that have spoke freeways but few or no loop freeways, you will see the starfish shape I describe as the land between the spokes is less desirable than just moving further out the spoke freeway. For example, look at the development pattern once you get outside loop 285 around Atlanta. Try to imagine what Houston would look like if we had not built Beltway 8, or even loop 610.
  9. Yeah, our best bet for passing them would be if the Census decided to split their MSA in two, just like they did for San Francisco vs. San Jose. They're 49 miles apart vs. 33 miles for Dallas and FW. Possible, but not likely. On the other hand, setting aside MSAs, we're solidly the 4th largest city in the country, with little risk of being displaced.
  10. That is my understanding, and certainly so with the federal money to pay for most of it. The big difference is that there is no real alternative route to the GP-E, but you can take free 290 instead of the Hempstead Tollway. There will really only be demand for the HT at rush hours, which is why I'd propose that it be all reversible one-way lanes in the rush-hour direction. Unlike the the new I-10 middle lanes and the Energy Corridor, there are no major job centers outbound on 290, so the flow is vastly inbound in the morning and outbound in the afternoon. Who would pay a toll to travel a route where the free lanes are moving at good speed? HCTRA discovered this problem with its first two projects: Hardy and BW8. The forecasts said Hardy would be big $ and BW8 might barely break even or even lose a bit, but it's been the complete opposite: BW8 makes big $ because it is the only good alternative for many trips at all times of the day, and Hardy has been an overall money loser because of nearby free alternatives 45 and 59.
  11. While I think Robin is right that stimulus money should be prioritized inside the city where the congestion problems are, there are very few "shovel ready" projects available there. But I also agree with the West Houston Association: the growth and sprawl will happen anyway, we should plan for it and get ahead of it with infrastructure. I also think the GP, like all loop freeways, helps keep the growth closer to the core, instead of extending ever farther out the spoke freeways - i.e. the GP will absorb growth that otherwise might go to Brookshire and Sealy. The right answer is to use the federal stimulus money to build GP SegE right now, because it's shovel-ready, but then take the toll revenue that will be generated from that segment to finance important congestion relief projects inside the city, like the Hempstead Tollway next to 290, which is not toll-viable on its own. More in my post here.
  12. That all depends on your definition of quality of life. For a lot of people, that includes maximum career, social, and educational opportunities while being affordable - as well as access to a wide variety of amenities (like restaurants, sports, arts, culture, shopping, nonstop flights, etc.) that are only available in a large, growing, wealthy, internationally diverse city.
  13. The traffic increase is a visible downside, but the invisible upside from various studies is that larger cities generate more wealth, productivity, and innovation per capita. Growth always seems painful at the time, but I don't think many people would want to go back to the Houston of 1975 or 1950...
  14. I just bought a new one and am looking to unload my old one, a Sony Viao with Windows XP. It does have MS Office 2000 (with Powerpoint) and free Anti-virus installed, and is fine for basic Office, email, IM, and surfing the web. The battery is essentially nonfunctional at this point, so it has to be plugged in. Price negotiable (probably well below $300), and I'm happy to look into the exact hardware specs if you want them (I can't remember). Just email me at tgattis (at) pdq.net I'm in the Meyerland area, as far as hand-offs and pick-ups go.
  15. I don't know. Part of a mayor's job is promoting economic development. On the one hand, if he doesn't do all he can to help this landmark development and it falls into bankruptcy with this economy, it will freeze downtown development for years. He's prudently watching out for the city's long-term interests. On the other, any time a mayor can say to a major developer, "no taxpayer subsidies or tax abatements, but I'll write you a nice letter" - that's a pretty big win in my book.
  16. Great numbers, lockmat. I'd love to see these posted annually on HAIF (every Jan?) to see how different cities are doing relative to each other over time.
  17. All La Madeleine restaurant locations are carrying them, I believe. http://www.lamadeleine.com/ Locations in Houston: http://www.lamadeleine.com/Location.aspx?CityID=6
  18. Meyerland is affordable, close-in, and feeds Bellaire High School, which has been a reliably good school for decades (one of the top public high schools in Houston, Texas, and the nation). I believe the feeder elementary schools are also good, but you'll have to do a little digging on intermediate schools - focusing, of course, on the honors programs.
  19. We had old tile floors in our house, and during renovations they were able to put wood laminate on top of it pretty easily - no removal needed! First they'll make sure it's absolutely level. If not, they'll smear some stuff (mortar?) on top to fill in the low areas. Then they snap together the wood laminate panels in only a day or two (depending on the size of the area, of course - ours was most of the first floor), and add trim around the edges. Consumer Reports did a great article on the pros and cons of different flooring options (should be available in their archives), and the laminate seemed like the best deal to us (cost vs. durability). It looks great and has held up really well for us, even with a big dog running his toenails across it all the time.
  20. I'll add another vote for Bellaire Broiler Burger - certainly best value. But if you want the absolute best cheeseburger in the city, I have to agree with the recent Ultimate Houston section editors at the Chronicle: Amazon on Kirby. Cordua's next venture needs to be a chain of burger stands...
  21. I'd be careful about going too cheap. Remember that this is a 10 year investment - 3650+ days. If one mattress gives you a great night of restful sleep and another doesn't, isn't that well worth an extra dime or two a day? As with almost everything, the places to avoid are the upper and lower end of the price curves. Best value is in the middle - probably $1K to $2K for a king-size on sale.
  22. I'm almost certain it's not: they turn it off much of the time, esp. during droughts.
  23. We just bought the best mattress I have ever slept on - Simmons Beautyrest with Felicity pillowtop (I discovered it at a resort in the Austin hill country) - from, of all places, Macy's. They're running a mega-sale (I think it's still going), and we got it about half-price. But not all Macy's have mattress depts. I think only First Colony mall Sugar Land and Memorial City. Delivery - and removal of the old one - went off without a hitch, and they'll call you the day before delivery to set a very tight time window for delivery (no hanging out at home all day). Some online research warned me away from the mattress-only stores that try to get you with extra fees, among other service issues. A lot of upset people writing reviews out there...
  24. Discovery Green on the weekend for people watching. Same for the Transco/Williams water wall or the Galleria ice rink. For a tasty, upscale meal in cool surroundings: Americas. If the weather's nice, a meal on the balcony at Artista, the restaurant at the new Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. It has a great view of a park and the downtown skyscraper skyline.
  25. Rotten Tomatoes has a countdown of all the 007 movies from worst to best reviewed, including short plot summaries and YouTube videos of their trailers: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/quantum_of..._bond_countdown
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