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Posts posted by ToryGattis

  1. Dallas has historically been better at marketing itself than Houston. Peter Marzio attributed Houston's lag behind other cities in this area to our economy being mostly wholesale companies, which do not sell directly to consumers - hence, not many marketing firms in the area. Whereas Dallas is full of retail companies and has the apparel economy, the trade marts, etc. The result is that there's much more marketing talent in Dallas than in Houston, and more of a marketing mindset overall.


    Most companies that relocate to Texas or within Texas that aren't oil related (and hence could conceivably locate anywhere) seem to pick Dallas. Boeing considered Dallas before opting for Chicago. AT&T moved from San Antonio to Dallas, although they did have large existing offices there. Now Toyota. Even Exxon when it moved to Texas somehow passed over Houston and picked Irving, although most of their workforce is in Houston. They've built a better image around the country than we have, and it pays dividends.


    It is true they have better marketing talent and branding up there, but there's another factor: no company outside of the energy industry wants to compete with energy companies to attract and hold talent.  The energy companies can always overpay to get the talent they want.  This was also part of why Toyota put their truck plant in San Antonio instead of Houston (although I'm sure the Eagle Ford shale boom is giving them fits now holding on to workers at affordable salaries).  It makes Dallas a safer bet for non-energy companies.  I tend to think of it as tech goes to Austin, energy goes to Houston, and everybody else goes to DFW.

  2. Welcome to Houston :-) Here are a few links to get you started.  Technically it's called Uptown, and it contains the Galleria, but most locals do just call it the Galleria area.  Good central part of town to be in with every kind of shopping and dining you can imagine, but the traffic can be quite bad, both on the freeways and the surface streets.  Check out Google Maps before you go places and turn on their traffic color-coding, which includes surface streets.  You'll quickly learn which ones to avoid at which hours.  Good luck!






  3. Mr. Gattis has a point, the frontage roads make commercial development more appealing, which adds "clutter", but when widening a freeway, there's less resistance than if you do residential.

    The biggest demolition controversies along Interstate 10 were the Villages houses, not the other things (the shopping center in Spring Valley Village was another, but that was because it was SVV's main source of tax money), which included the Igloo plant, strip malls, a few hotels, fast foods, gas stations, and other commercial stuff.


    Yep, and we've also had big fights over the 59 trench (residential area) and now that bottleneck on 45N in the Heights.  On the other hand, there's been almost no resistance to the 290 project, which is completely lined with commercial.

  4. Feeders are easier to navigate, the commercial strip along them provides an air pollution buffer zone from residential areas, and it makes it much easier to widen the freeway in the future.  It's when freeways go through residential areas with those walls that pushback happens against widening (it essentially becomes politically impossible), and you're exposing all those houses to air pollution (wall or no).  And it's certainly no more attractive to drive down a freeway with giant concrete walls on each side (see California).  I'd rather be able to see the dynamic vibrancy of what's going on in the commercial strip - new restaurants and stores or even signs with promotions for those stores.  It makes the "discovery" process for places so much easier.


    More in my blog post here: Sprawl and the benefits of frontage roads


    • Like 1
  5. To me, unless property ownership begins to materialize in Downtown (the lofts noted above are not enough) it will be hard to sustain its recovery. Housing trends come and go as do renters. Owners have a stake in the ground and that stake helps to create a neighborhood.

    Does the $15k per unit incentive from the city (paid over 15 years) have an influence here? Is it somehow better for the developer to build apartments and hold them instead of building condos and sell them? How does that $15k over 15 years work if a developer builds condos and sells them all in 2 years?


    That incentive applies to any residential, so it's the same for the developer whether it's a rental apt or owner condo.

  6. Maybe. But cities like NYC and Chicago sell highrise units with obstructed views all the time.... It is the nature of urban living. ......


    Fair point, but think of it this way: a condo tower developer downtown is going to have to pay much more for the land (because it could be used for a Class A office tower) and have obstructed views, and have to compete with towers popping up all over inside the loop with much cheaper land and no obstructed views.  Construction costs are essentially the same.  They will be at a pretty big cost and amenity disadvantage unless the person really wants to be able to walk out their door around downtown - and I'm guessing that's just not a large enough market of people right now.  Or, more accurately, there is a group of people that want that, but they're rootless mobile single 20-somethings that are more renters than owners.  


    But maybe the downtown amenities are close to a tipping point for older, more mature buyers?

    • Like 1
  7. An alternative to consider: midrise Rise Lofts at 2000 Bagby in Midtown, but on the very edge of downtown.  Condos for sale with unobstructed views in a very walkable part of Midtown.  


    I'm not an expert, but I suspect the lack of condos downtown is probably somewhat related to the lack of unobstructed views because of all the tall buildings around.  When people buy into a high-rise, the view is a big part of what they're buying.  People want to be downtown for the location - proximity to job - and jobs can change quickly, so the market is much deeper for renting than owning.  There's also the corporate rental market.  

  8. Yes, it does still exist.  I recently took the bayou Segway tour downtown, and when we were stopped on the hill next to the Jamail skatepark, we could see it in the distance.  I wanted to look at it up close but did not get over there.  I've been in Houston a very long time and along that part of the bayou multiple times and never noticed it before.  Maybe the new work along the bayou cleared out plants or earth that was blocking it from view?

  9. So as Houston's sustained economic boom leads to rapidly increasing traffic congestion, we're going to *discourage* people switching to the Park and Rides?!?!  How much sense does that make?!  This is an incentives problem.  Metro is getting too much demand on the Park and Rides and can't move fast enough to meet it, so they're going to discourage demand with parking fees and keep cars on the freeways at rush hour that would otherwise use transit.  Does anybody else think this is a really bad idea?  The Mayor and County Judge need to represent the interests of the city as a whole and put pressure on the METRO board to make Park and Rides as affordable as possible and ramp up to meet that demand.

    • Like 2
  10. I understand the argument to save money by hanging power lines from poles along roads, but don't believe for a minute that that decision was driven by reliability concerns.


    I didn't say reliability, I said safety.  Houston gets torrential downpours and street flooding in ways cities like London don't.  We also have very shifty clay soils and aggressive root systems (welcome to a subtropical climate).  I'm not saying it's impossible - I'm just saying it has to be done very, very carefully, and that's expensive.

  11. Obviously the big reason for not burying the power lines is cost, and I think a big driver of that is *safety* in a city that is *routinely under water* during heavy rains.  As you may remember boys and girls, water and electricity do not mix.  All you need is one tiny break in the insulation (say, from some oak tree roots getting in among the buried power lines), and then standing water on top, and you have a nice little electrified death trap to anyone splashing through that puddle.  Not good.  Keeping the power lines 20+ feet in the air seems like the better call - quite a bit harder for standing water to get up there.

  12. The intrepid might start pioneering the near northside where the new rail line opened.


    I expect that as the lower end apartment complexes in Montrose are torn down and replaced with more upscale units, the only affordable housing left in Montrose will be garage apartments.  Not sure what the stock of those is.

  13. Bad news since this sounds like Shell will be vacating their downtown offices...IF this is true and IF Exxon and Shell turn out to be proof of some kind of suburban campus pattern taking root, this is definitely going to be a huge threat to future downtown office vacancy rates and office tower construction. Let's hope Chevron isn't thinking of jumping ship too and doing a suburban campus instead, especially since their proposed downtown tower was recently put on hold. Meanwhile, the City of Houston better up the ante on enticing the major energy companies downtown from flying out to the suburbs or Montgomery County. Not to knock our neighbor to the North, but it would be awful for downtown to end up with empty buildings, high vacancy rates and very little office construction as downtown Dallas.


    I agree. I've been worried that the Exxon campus is the canary in the coal mine.  Rush hour traffic has gotten so bad they're looking at getting out of the core for suburban campuses.  I've always said Houston needs to step it up with a more comprehensive network of HOT lanes and express bus services to all of the core job centers, or we could end up like stagnant downtown Dallas.  Houston has been lucky to have thriving suburbs all around it with most of the jobs in the core.  If that switches to a thriving arc of jobs and residents from Sugar Land to the Energy Corridor to The Woodlands, the core and east of Houston will suffer, just like it has in Dallas vs. their northwestern suburbs.

  14. I applaud them for making adjustments to keep the lanes flowing, but am still opposed to HOV-only hours.  What that means is that in the span of one minute you can go from a ~$7 charge to a $150+ ticket.  Instead, they should just have very high tolls during those hours.  If they need to make the toll $20+ during the peak hour, so be it - so long as they at least still have the option to use it if they need it, or they won't get slammed if they miss the window by a couple of minutes.

  15. I can't predict what the gambling industry will do, but I think Vegas will always thrive as a retirement mecca for Californians.  They can cash out of their massively overpriced CA home, buy a much cheaper one in Vegas, and bank the spread for retirement - all while still remaining within a day's drive of their kids and grandkids (Phoenix has the same appeal).  Also no income tax in Nevada.

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