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From today's Chronicle. More residential development in Midtown....getting closer to the Red Line. No word on retail.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/busine...ff/5546743.html

Midtown makeover

Apartment developer Camden Property Trust is planning to demolish a rundown Asian shopping center in Midtown to develop a $45 million multifamily complex in its place.

Construction on the four-story, 253-unit project, to be called Camden Travis, will start by the third quarter of the year, said Camden Chief Executive Richard Campo. The site is at the corner of Travis and Dennis, just behind the restaurant Reef.

The largest tenant in the shopping center, at 2830 Travis, was the Hoa Binh Supermarket.

Campo said rents will be competitive with existing units in the area, which are currently between $1.40 and $1.60 per square foot per month.

Although overall apartment occupancy began slipping toward the end of last year, developers have been raising rental rates and building new projects in anticipation of stronger demand from the single-family housing slowdown.

There are at least 18,000 units under construction in the Houston area, with even more proposed, Bruce McClenny of Apartment Data Services said recently at an industry event held by the Houston Apartment Association.

McClenny expects occupancy to remain in the mid-80-percent range this year.

Despite the construction boom, still-healthy job growth and continued turmoil in the subprime lending industry "give me a good feeling going into this market," McClenny said.

Camden's Midtown project is not to be confused with another deal the company has been talking about for years on the superblock, a multiblock parcel uninterrupted by cross streets between Main and Travis and south of McGowen.

Campo's still mum on the project.

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Isn't this a "superblock?"

The location of this project is almost dead center in midtown and will offer a good amount of services within walking distances as well as entertainment.

I'm just curious if there is going to be anything on the first floor (if there was a picture on the article, I wasn't able to see it) to offer retail of any sort.

I know there is a dry cleaners, several restaurants, a few clubs, at least 2 clinics, yogurt shops, a grocery store (this could be Randall's salvation).

This could also help spur them to FINALLY develop that superblock on the rail and put up some good first level retail on it if this one doesn't.

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Is Bellaire not urban enough for ya? More residential folks near downtown is a great thing, in my opinion. Midtown has the early makings of a nice residential area

Bellaire is suburban. Do you see the difference? I was wanting to see a redevelopment of these Asian centers, so maybe let Asian owned businesses be apart of the retail.

Edited by Trae
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Yeah I agree. These old strip centers are the ugliest parts of Midtown. There are several of them, so getting rid of one is some progress.

This old shopping center was actually developed in the 1920s, along with the one that currently houses Reef. I used to go in there all the time and it was really a precursor to modern malls with the interior arcades. They have some cool features if someone wanted to rehab them. The shape of the old sign along the street is classic. But why do that when you can just put in something blah like a new and improved strip center or some "luxury" apartments.

As for Midtown staying Vietnamese, those guys are long gone. Remember when they had the street signs in Vietnamese?

From what I hear, most of them that were fortunate enough to own that stuff made the American dream when they sold it, but most of it was actually owned by Arabs and Persians who leased it. At least this is what my friend whose folks owned a Pho place over there told me. I used to relish being able to go over and choose from a dozen places to eat Pho with a hangover, but nothing really lasts. Besides, how many Vietnamese immigrants still live anywhere close to that part of town? I do miss the Hoa Binh Market -- that place was always fun to browse on a Saturday or Sunday. Crap, I'm starting to sound like a crotchity old guy.

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I drove by this today on the way home from the theater. It's at Travis and Dennis, directly south of Reef, and the superblock west of the superblock on the Red Line.

There are a couple of small business in buildings on the block, but the main strip center on it looks like it is completely abandoned.

Also drove by The Mix @ Midtown, and even though we haven't seen official renderings, the renderings on the fence looks like it will definitely be mixed use. They tried to make Elgin @ Louisiana look like Times Square with the ridiculous amount of people walking around. It did say that something along the lines of "residential, retail, restauarant, bar". Hopefully this thing is as ambitious as the renderings on the fence makes it out to be.

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Also drove by The Mix @ Midtown, and even though we haven't seen official renderings, the renderings on the fence looks like it will definitely be mixed use. They tried to make Elgin @ Louisiana look like Times Square with the ridiculous amount of people walking around. It did say that something along the lines of "residential, retail, restauarant, bar". Hopefully this thing is as ambitious as the renderings on the fence makes it out to be.

Not to take it too off topic, the rendering might actually be somewhat accurate. My initial cynicism was about the picture pretty much evaporated when I was driving by the Maple Leaf and "Late nite pie" (Elgin andSmith) on friday and saturday night. They were both packed solid with people.

I don't know if CT will be enough to add to more traffic there, but on the weeknights it has some serious potential.

Edited by ricco67
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Remember when they had the street signs in Vietnamese?

There are still some signs in vietnamese in Midtown. I remember seeing them near Mai's, at least, just off of Milam. And although its nothing compared to Toronto or San Francisco, there are still a bunch of Vietnamese restaurants around (Mai's, Van Loc, Pho Saigon, Nga Restaurant, Cali, Les Givrals, and at least 3 or 4 more I can't think of now), and I've been in some other random Vietnamese stores as well, and a bubble tea place, so it's not totally dead. I think the new residential might actually help the remaining Vietnamese businesses, as the people living at this new place could walk to just about all of the remaining Vietnamese businesses.

This shopping center has been abandoned ever since I moved to Houston, so I'm kind of glad to see it go (right now it is a gathering place for homeless people). It would be cool to see some more urban Asian developments as well, but it doesn't seem too likely. :( I am totally happy about a new residential development though. I understand that it's cheaper out in Bellaire, but I wonder why the same cost issues didn't drive the Asians out of San Francisco and Toronto and more into the suburbs (Actually Toronto has an asian suburb just like Bellaire, as well as a dense downtown Chinatown). The cost of real estate in both of those cities Chinatowns has to be crazy!

Here's a photo I took of the Hoa Binh Supermarket.

356969901_491f5baa0b_b.jpg

Edited by Jax
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FWIW from my Architecture guide...

Former Henke-Pillot South End Store (1923)

The original segment of this complex, facing Travis Street, was resurfaced with the rest of the building in 1948, and the result has been modified piecemeal over the years. What distinguishes this building is that it was the prototype of the 20th century American suburban shopping center: it introduced the concept of off-street parking, toward which the grocery store itself was oriented. Its present role as an Indo-chinese retail center demonstrates the durability of the concept. Vietnamese names appended to city street signs in 1998 recognize the distinct identity this section of the South End acquired in the 1980s as a center of Vietnamese commercial life in Houston.

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Not to the thousands that live in the apartment complexes on Bellaire, Ranchester, and Town Park. I see Asians walking and biking all the time all along Bellaire.

honestly, chinatowns are great in cities. it shows the diversity of the population and just a look into another's culture. however, i prefer going to a chinatown as oppose to a chinatown coming to me. my point is: i wouldn't utilize a chinatown shopping center on an everyday basis but i would use a shopping center with a wine bar, multiple restaurants and just random stuff. i purchased property here because i knew midtown is gonna be the next big thing, not little saigon.

i'm surprised people are disappointed about this project because it involves tearing down some outdated shopping center. you obviously have bad taste in neighborhoods and should consider moving to the east side of houston. midtown isn't the place for you.

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Argue all you want about what you consider "urban" and what you consider "suburban", but there's a huge difference in Houston's Bellaire Chinatown and the Chinatowns we were referring to (San Francisco, Toronto, etc.).

The fact that a few asians walk and/or ride bikes doesn't exactly make Bellaire urban, at least not according to the way most of us define urban vs. suburban. Let's not argue about semantics here. I've decided to post a few photos to illustrate the difference between what I consider suburban (Bellaire) and urban (San Francisco) and Midtown.

Bellaire

gallery_3613_62_28107.jpg

San Francisco

2053649263_eb22ae46a0_b.jpg

Midtown

gallery_3613_63_20989.jpg

Yeah, Midtown has strip centers, so maybe it's not as "urban" as San Fran, but you've got to admit, it's more uban than Bellaire.

Edited by Jax
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Isn't the goal to clean up that part of Midtown? If the current businesses, Asian or otherwise, aren't thriving and the properties that they occupy are eyesores, isn't it better to have something in its place that looks healthier and makes a positive to contribution to the area's asthetics (granted, asthetics are subjective in nature but you get my point).

And I have no real interest in seeing San Francisco-style urbanity in Houston. It's fine for San Francisco but I don't think it fits in Houston at all.

Anyhoo... I thought Camden was the main contender some time ago to develop the superblock as well? Does this project across the street suggest that the McGowen Green supporters won the battle over the development of the land?

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I agree that the photo I posted of midtown is a bit ugly, but I think it has potential to turn into something really cool. Bellaire is just too far away and will most likely always be the way it is (strip center land). There's nothing wrong with that, I guess - it's just not my favorite type of environment. It's definitely far enough away that I expect it to be the way it is (it takes me at least 30 minutes to drive there).

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Surface lots and drive-thrus are suburban to me.
There are hardly and drive-thrus on Bellaire (in the Asian area). Most Asian businesses don't have them. As for the parking lots, the Asian business owners are just dealing with what comes with their lease. Besides, without those parking lots, how did you plan on getting to those shops? Compared to Westheimer or any other commercial street in Houston and you'll find some of the most vibrant pedestrian traffic.

Besides just walking for the enlightenment, why would you want to walk up and down Chinatown anyway? It's probably 70% restaurants. It's not going to be like any other shopping district where you can shop from store to store. Most of the commercial goods you would think to find on Bellaire are actually on Harwin, in the warehouse district.

Argue all you want about what you consider "urban" and what you consider "suburban", but there's a huge difference in Houston's Bellaire Chinatown and the Chinatowns we were referring to (San Francisco, Toronto, etc.).
And there always will be. That's why the Asians left the downtown area - because there was no where to live. Asians are very unlikely to move back just for a few small strip centers that have slowly been transformed into hip overpriced eateries with bland recipes for non-Asian food eaters.

The Asians in those communities you mentioned built their neighborhoods out of necessity. Don't you think they would have done just as they have in Houston had the opportunity been there? I can't think of one business owner that would want a crapped, 100 year old dingy brick sublet with no parking or back alley space over a nice spacious lot like offered here in Houston - and for quadruple the value they pay half the price. There's a reason why the Vietnamese are leaving Westminster and coming to Alief. They're no dummies, they're all about the American Dream of making money too.

The fact that a few asians walk and/or ride bikes doesn't exactly make Bellaire urban, at least not according to the way most of us define urban vs. suburban.

Yeah, Midtown has strip centers, so maybe it's not as "urban" as San Fran, but you've got to admit, it's more uban than Bellaire.

Maybe in construction - but definitely not in foot traffic. Bellaire Chinatown serves a crowd who is still more pedestrian friendly. Sure most Asians have cars, but you will still see more Asians walking up and down the feeder streets from their apartments & houses to Bellaire. You still see more people at the Bellaire bus stops who have travelled only a few miles from the Beechnut/Bissonnet/Kirkwood/Dairy Ashford area to go shopping.

I don't see that in Midtown, and I'm in both areas at least 3 times a week. Bellaire is trying to be suburban and its mostly vehicle-less populace are naturally going against it. Midtown is doing the opposite - trying to be urban, but it's it's populace is still trying to figure out where to park their cars.

I have no real interest in seeing San Francisco-style urbanity in Houston. It's fine for San Francisco but I don't think it fits in Houston at all.
The closest thing to San Francisco's urban setting (or any other US city's pre-WW2 development) is our Montrose or Rice Village area. Other than that, we're not going to see a natural urban area develop ORGANICALLY for another 50 to 100 years.

Don't get me wrong, I would love more pedestrian friendly areas in Houston - but I at least want them to make sense. For as urban as Midtown is supposed to be. I still never see any foot-traffic - except the homeless.

Edited by Jeebus
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Maybe in construction - but definitely not in foot traffic. Bellaire Chinatown serves a crowd who is still more pedestrian friendly. Sure most Asians have cars, but you will still see more Asians walking up and down the feeder streets from their apartments & houses to Bellaire. You still see more people at the Bellaire bus stops who have travelled only a few miles from the Beechnut/Bissonnet/Kirkwood/Dairy Ashford area to go shopping.

I've never seen that. Maybe I don't go at the right time, or I don't go to the right part of Bellaire Chinatown though. I've seen people parking their cars and walking to the mall entrances, but I've never seen anyone walking on the sidewalks between shopping centers though.

The closest thing to San Francisco's urban setting (or any other US city's pre-WW2 development) is our Montrose or Rice Village area. Other than that, we're not going to see a natural urban area develop ORGANICALLY for another 50 to 100 years.

I would say Post Midtown Square is more similar to pre-WW2 development in other cities than Rice Village or even Montrose, although its incredibly small. And parts of Downtown (Main Street Square / Preston Station ares) as well.

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Argue all you want about what you consider "urban" and what you consider "suburban", but there's a huge difference in Houston's Bellaire Chinatown and the Chinatowns we were referring to (San Francisco, Toronto, etc.).

The fact that a few asians walk and/or ride bikes doesn't exactly make Bellaire urban, at least not according to the way most of us define urban vs. suburban. Let's not argue about semantics here. I've decided to post a few photos to illustrate the difference between what I consider suburban (Bellaire) and urban (San Francisco) and Midtown.

Yeah, Midtown has strip centers, so maybe it's not as "urban" as San Fran, but you've got to admit, it's more uban than Bellaire.

OMG this is Houston why do we even try?????? NYC=urban, Sugarland, Woodlands, blah=-suburban, Houston inner loop =large scale cluster____ with urban potential. Argument DONE.

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Isn't the goal to clean up that part of Midtown? If the current businesses, Asian or otherwise, aren't thriving and the properties that they occupy are eyesores, isn't it better to have something in its place that looks healthier and makes a positive to contribution to the area's asthetics (granted, asthetics are subjective in nature but you get my point).

And I have no real interest in seeing San Francisco-style urbanity in Houston. It's fine for San Francisco but I don't think it fits in Houston at all.

Anyhoo... I thought Camden was the main contender some time ago to develop the superblock as well? Does this project across the street suggest that the McGowen Green supporters won the battle over the development of the land?

The early twenty-first century is shaping up to be a time where Houston starts "filling in the gaps".... increased non=suburb residential, emphasis on public transport, better street life opportunities. It's not just the gay community that chooses an urban style in Houston anymore. Especially with the combined forces of environmental awareness and economic recession, the infill trend will be speeding up big time. With the sub-prime busts in our area, people will be forced to move closer to work to save gas, and get out of their insane mortgages.

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I've never seen that. Maybe I don't go at the right time, or I don't go to the right part of Bellaire Chinatown though. I've seen people parking their cars and walking to the mall entrances, but I've never seen anyone walking on the sidewalks between shopping centers though.
Try Ranchester at Bellaire. This is where I see the most foot traffic. I see a lot of Asian bus traffic in this area too.
I would say Post Midtown Square is more similar to pre-WW2 development in other cities than Rice Village or even Montrose, although its incredibly small. And parts of Downtown (Main Street Square / Preston Station ares) as well.
I can agree with that. The thing is that Rice Village and Montrose are the only two organic areas that have seemed to thrive and survive.

I would love to see Midtown create a synthetic urban environment that would do the same. I guess I'm just a doubting-Thomas.

Edited by Jeebus
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FWIW from my Architecture guide...

Former Henke-Pillot South End Store (1923)

It's a shame it was allowed to cross the (unscientifically calculated) "too rundown to re-use" threshold.

Argue all you want about what you consider "urban" and what you consider "suburban", but there's a huge difference in Houston's Bellaire Chinatown and the Chinatowns we were referring to (San Francisco, Toronto, etc.).

Yeah, Midtown has strip centers, so maybe it's not as "urban" as San Fran, but you've got to admit, it's more uban than Bellaire.

Bellaire is great, but yeah, geographically speaking it is out there compared to midtown. Now we get another prosaic 253-unit Camden project. Whoop de doo.

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  • 3 months later...

I THINK this is the right thread for this, but the block has closed off the tuam street (or whatever it was) and is in the process of fencing off the entire property.

Parking for Escobar, Whiskey Creek, Bond, and other places is going to turn into a nightmare.

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I THINK this is the right thread for this, but the block has closed off the tuam street (or whatever it was) and is in the process of fencing off the entire property.

Parking for Escobar, Whiskey Creek, Bond, and other places is going to turn into a nightmare.

i can't wait til they demolish that building. i don't care if its the first strip center ever.

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So this and the McGowen superblock are fenced off now?

It's hard to believe that Camden will go forward with both of these at the same time. I'm guessing the superblock stays fenced off for a long while.

However, if Camden does in fact start construction on both of these soon that would put a huge dent in Midtown blight.

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This also seems like it would be a good time to gobble up one of those other abandoned blocks and put up a multi level parking garage with street level retail just for nightlife traffic.

Whoever throws up a garage first is going to make a mint. The thing is that it will have to be a substantial garage that will HAVE to have ground level retail. In fact, I wonder if HCC allows people to to use its garage.

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I'm talking about NW-W Midtown where the majority of restaurants and bars are.

While there are a number of bars and clubs over in that section (Tail gate, Front Porch, Komodo, BW3, that bar behind BW3), over at Central Midtown, you have Bond, Whiskey Creek, Escobar, and The Reef. If you go by there on saturday nights, you will see how PACKED it is.

Move a little to the west, and you have Open City, Doghouse Tavern, La Patio, Red door, BRB, and some new bar that opened recently that I don't know the name of.

Pub Fiction and Howl are kinda' isolated where they currently are, but the parking is still horrid and wrecker drivers are having a field day there. Driving in Midtown on the western side is a total nightmare on weekend nights.

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and HCC's is two blocks from the superblock.

My comment regards more the Camden Travis site that is currently used for parking at night than the superblock that just sits empty all day and night. With the influx of residents, I'm sure even more bars and clubs will follow into Midtown which will make parking even more of a nightmare.

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My comment regards more the Camden Travis site that is currently used for parking at night than the superblock that just sits empty all day and night. With the influx of residents, I'm sure even more bars and clubs will follow into Midtown which will make parking even more of a nightmare.

I don't think that's going to happen unless they can engineer segregated parking. The Residents would take priority and I'm sure they would be fairly miffed if they found their cars dented by some drunk coming from a bar.

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My comment regards more the Camden Travis site that is currently used for parking at night than the superblock that just sits empty all day and night. With the influx of residents, I'm sure even more bars and clubs will follow into Midtown which will make parking even more of a nightmare.
when they build a parking garage - you guys complain and when they don't you guys complain. nothing seems to satisfy you haifers.

Not sure who 'we haifers' are, because no two people seem to agree on development in Midtown.

The point that some people are trying to make is that we don't want more parking lots, or parking garages. Maybe people ought to live within walking, biking or public transit distance of their entertainment. Midtown is among the few places in Houston which holds that potential.

Fans of surface parking and parking garages already have plenty of options in Houston.

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FWIW from my Architecture guide...

Former Henke-Pillot South End Store (1923)

It's a shame it was allowed to cross the (unscientifically calculated) "too rundown to re-use" threshold.

You too, eh?

What a charming (and practical) space this could have been....

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Not sure who 'we haifers' are, because no two people seem to agree on development in Midtown.

The point that some people are trying to make is that we don't want more parking lots, or parking garages. Maybe people ought to live within walking, biking or public transit distance of their entertainment. Midtown is among the few places in Houston which holds that potential.

Fans of surface parking and parking garages already have plenty of options in Houston.

Provisions for parking by non-residents are of absolute necessity to create a vibrant urban environment.

At a certain point, a lack of parking basically causes investors and lenders in new development to fizzle away. It can be a crimson red flag for a deal. The Kirby Lofts are a well-known case in point, but its even more important for retail.

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