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ToryGattis

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Posts posted by ToryGattis

  1. Actually, I believe the translucent roof will let in real light. The question is whether they will clear the roof panels or not. I think they will have to if they want the plants to grow. The panels originally allowed for natural grass for the baseball field, but the sun blinded outfielders, so they darkened the panels. That killed the grass, and Astroturf was invented...

  2. Atlanta certainly set a bad precedent. But my understanding is that they want the Summer Olympics actually in the *summer*, which is mighty unpleasant here, both for the competitors and the spectators (even Sydney, in the southern hemisphere with reversed seasons, only got a delay until late Sept - their early spring). If we could defer to say, October, it could be very nice - but not June thru Sept.

  3. W is about young hip and cool, with a trendy nightclub. Austin has high-tech people, musicians, and celebrities. Houston has lots and lots of middle-aged oilmen and engineers who do not fall into the "hip and cool" category. Whatever small demographic we do have looking for hip and cool are pretty well served by the Hotel Derek uptown, Icon downtown, and ZaZa at the med center. A W would face real competition from independents here.

  4. I agree that the economics are not there in unregulated Houston to support a building like this. This is also the kind of building that pretty much has to be fed by massive amounts of commuter rail transit, because you simply can't park enough cars to fill it with people. That means Chicago. So I'm guessing that this guy knows Chicago is insecure about being a first tier world city, and unhappy since the Sears tower fell off its #1 perch. So he throws out LA and Houston as reasonable competitors (as Boeing did with Denver and Dallas) to win the maximum possible concession from Chicago. And of course Chicago is salivating at the possibility of opening this thing in time for the 2016 Olympics they're going after. The tacit, unofficial concession with high profile projects like these is that the Chicago powers-that-be (like all-powerful Mayor Daley) will agree to suppress new competitive buildings downtown - probably for a decade or more - until this building fills up. Nobody wants a white elephant joke - it reflects badly on the developer and the city.

    Even with all that, I give this thing very long odds of ever being built, much less economically viable.

  5. Bottom line is Metro has to set the toll high enough to keep free flow. It'll be what it'll be to clear the market. Could be $0.50+ per mile. There's really not that much spare capacity in the lane, so, in this particular case, I have a feeling it will get mostly used by relatively highly paid executives, lawyers, etc. - plus maybe some service providers (plumbers, electricians, etc. that can fit in an extra well-paid service call) as well as a few parents running late to daycare pickup with late fees (that's the experience in other cities). So, yes, I agree with Red - the people who pay will, for the most part, not be switching from the buses, but will be switching from the main lanes, which is a good thing because it opens up at least a little more capacity in those lanes.

  6. This is a complete misreading of the two perspectives. Joel Kotkin wants to continue letting the free market reign in Houston - both urban and suburban. This free market is building quite a bit of urban density that is attracting tons of the creative class (have you seen the townhome boom?), including allowing Duany's three projects without having to work through a zoning board.

    Duany, given dictatorial control over the metro, would create a very restrictive form-based 'smart code' over the whole city and stop as much suburban development as he could. Housing costs would skyrocket, and we might as well put up a big sign saying "Middle class not welcome here" over the city (he even said as much, saying affordable housing was not his concern). He would also be running off any of the creative class that doesn't want to live in one of his types of high-density developments, which I would argue is the majority, especially families.

  7. Is New Urbanist the new "Cookie Cutter" {concept} for the new millenia?

    Also, can anyone find the editioral from yesterday's Chron? It was somewhat related to the current debate and worth a read.

    I can't seem to find it today.

    Five good reasons why quality of life is the issue here

    Houston Chronicle - United States

    So, whether you support new urbanism, opportunity urbanism, traditional urbanism or simply seek urban livability, quality of life enhancements are an ...

    Houston can offer a choice: affordable suburbs and high commuting ...

    Houston Chronicle - United States

    Kotkin writes that Houston exemplifies what he terms "opportunity urbanism" and has prospered because the market, rather than government codes and planning, ...

  8. No, Houston is clearly booming. One of the fastest growing cities in America, in population, jobs, and employers. Energy industry, hypergrowing port, world's largest medical center (and growing, plus biotech). Second most Fortune 500 HQs after NYC.

    Latest economic details:

    http://www.houston.org/economyataglance/Glance0707.pdf

    Aviation: Continental Airlines headquarters and largest hub, plus a lot of NASA work and their subcontractors (esp. Lockheed Martin) around Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake

    The story about a HQ leaving Houston: Halliburton announced that their CEO will be splitting his time with a "dual-HQ" in Dubai, but essentially all other employees will stay in Houston - and they will keep hiring here. Pure PR-play so Halliburton can get more work in the Middle East from the sheiks.

    Being a young professional in Houston: amazing. Very nice, new, large, affordable townhomes all over the urban core - so you can actually be a homeowner (try that in Boston!). If you don't want to buy, there are also lots of nice new apts and condos in the core, including high-rises. Best restaurant town in the country, in terms of variety and affordability (Zagat says we eat out more on average - at a lower average price - than any other city in the country). Lowest cost of living of any major metro in America means you have lots of discretionary income left over to spend on whatever you like. Also one of the youngest cities in the country (average age), so plenty of singles and nightlife.

  9. Well, what his new office is telling him, and now me, is that it won't be Baytown, but the Port area... so thats a far cry better not having to cross to the other side of the bay.

    Pretty much rules out Kingwood or or the Fall creek area... and he's looking to lease, not buy.

    I wouldn't necessarily say that. BW8 on the east side goes right to the port area of Pasadena. And if he's going further in, he can take 59 in to the 610 east loop.

    All... how is the area between 45 and 59, north of downtown and south of the loop ?

    Can anyone recommend good Apt or townhome complexes in this area ?

    Not so good. The Heights west of 45 is a better bet. I imagine leasing options are plentiful there, because plenty of people are buying stuff there as an investment, and they need to lease it out.

  10. Fall Creek at 59 and BW8 in the northeast is nice, but that's assuming he wants to buy a suburban house (or, I suppose, rent a suburban apt). He'd have an easy commute around east BW8 to Pasadena and Baytown, as well as up the Hardy to the Woodlands. There are several other developments around the NE corner of BW8 too (maybe Summerwood is one?). If he's looking to rent an apartment and have access to amenities and a singles scene, living inside the loop makes much more sense.

  11. W would be nice, but what would be really sweet would be a Mandarin Oriental. Got married at one in Hawaii, and they are *amazing*. Right now in the US I think they are only in NY, DC, SF, and Miami. Their web site says they're adding Boston, Chicago, Vegas, and Dallas. If Dallas can support it, we definitely can too. Heck of a lot more international business here, and they have the international reputation.

  12. I'd be interested in how the "cost of living" measurement that you use is calculated.

    I'd also be interested in any demographic cross-tabulations indicating trends among college-educated 20- and 30-somethings regarding marriage and childbirth that you might have access to. I hear a lot about the trends that you were talking about, but coming up with hard numbers is not easy.

    The cost of living numbers come from ACCRA, which is the standard used by companies when moving their people around or recruiting. They create a "lifestyle standard" for a typical middle manager, then calculate what it costs to live that lifestyle in each city. Like all systems, they make some assumptions, but it's the best available estimate.

    I don't have the hard data on marriage, but I have seen articles over the years with the average age of marriage, and it always moves up.

  13. Tory here. Lockmat asked me to read the thread and answer some questions. And thanks everybody for the kind words on the op-ed.

    I'm really not sure of the exact questions asked, but after reading the thread, some comments came to mind.

    First, I want to clarify that neither Joel nor I are against parks or education. There was a little misinterpretation at the launch event. We are, of course, very strongly for improved education. Parks are important too, but not a "top priority to lure the creative class" - they just naturally get developed by a city as it gets wealthier. If your infrastructure, education or road systems are falling apart, great parks aren't going to do you any good. Houston has 16.5 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, which compares very nicely with the 10 per 1,000 rule of thumb by planners. More would certainly be nice, but it is clearly not in the handful of absolute top priorities for the city, like transportation, crime, air pollution, and education.

    The inner loop boom is not being driven by families because of the schools, which are simply not up to the standards required by many upper middle class professional and middle class families. The suburbs have better schools and newer, larger homes at lower prices. That said, in lightly regulated Houston, the townhome and condo builders have been able to build many, many units below the "sweet spot" price of $225K, which allows fresh college grads to buy them - either single engineer or business types that can be making up to $70K to start, or two-income couples in their 20s. Builders have told me that when they get above that price, demand falls off dramatically, because then you're looking for older empty nest professionals that want to move into the city, and there simply aren't that many of them. Most are quite comfortable in whatever house, suburb, neighborhood, and church they raised their kids in.

    There's a bigger picture reason for the new urban core renewals in many cities. The fundamental change is that people have gone from getting married and starting a family in their early 20s to now getting married in their late 20s or early to mid 30s. That means there's now a full decade where they're making a good income without kids, and they want to buy (rather than rent) in the city core where the other singles are. So they buy these townhomes and condos, then move to the suburbs once they're married and ready to have kids. Go back a decade or two, and 20-somethings were just fine with renting an apartment a few years before getting married and moving out to the burbs.

    As far as the "highest standard of living in the world" quote in the op-ed: I actually do believe it based on the stats I've seen, but I softened it because many people find it unbelievable. We only had good data for the major metros in America, and Houston came out on top. I believe that #1 position would carry to the rest of the world, but the hard data isn't there to back it up in terms of comparable cost of living stats. There are very few places in the world with higher average incomes than America, and as far as I can tell, all of them have a much higher cost of living to go with it: Luxembourg, Norway, Monaco, Switzerland, London, Tokyo, etc.

    Hope that's helpful. Let me know if there are additional questions. I will try to monitor this thread for a while, but if something else comes up and I don't respond, just contact me at my blog www.HoustonStrategies.com and I'll get back over here and check it out.

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