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land prices in Rice Military / West End area


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What I have done is talked to traffic engineers, read the City's design manual, talked to urban design/planning experts and generally educated myself about the issues, whether legal, economic or social. I have done more than that, but am not willing to share that on a message board inhabited largely by right wingers who believe that developer's poop doesn't smell. So, let's just say I have done plenty, and there is much more to come.

And don't give me the "why don't you buy the land" crap. We still live in a democracy. Land use affects everyone. Government has a legitimate interest in regulating the externalities of land use decisions. Houston doesn't have zoning, but traffic impact analysis, drainage requirments and parking lot ordinances are almost as powerful land use regulations.

On the other hand, you obviously don't have a clue when you throw out something like the quote above. Traffic volumes for different uses are well established in traffic engineer's manuals. Big box retail always has more car trips than office space because the office tenants come and go once a day, maybe twice if they go out for lunch. And unless you are talking about a high traffic medical office, office tenants have very little traffic in terms of vistors over the course of a day. And office traffic is largely done by 6 pm when the restaurant/bar traffic picks up. A big box has customers coming and going all day. Thus, their traffic counts are always significantly higher than similar mixed use developments. The main argument for mixed use instead of the Walmart development is lower traffic counts, and much higher tax value per sq ft because you are building up and building for the immediate area, not for a 3-4 mile radius of grocery and consumer goods shoppers.

Talk/Educated/not willing to share.....

Internet speak for you haven't done anything other than talk loud on message boards.

My quote from above is completely accurate, as Niche pointed out roads are built with max load in mind... I thought this was blatantly obvious but i forgot who I was addressing.

I also love your "we still live in a democracy" quote... obviously from the historic district issues you don't give a crap about democracy.

The fact that you single out right wingers is just laughable, you can't just throw out sensationalized terms when people oppose you. I actually have a mind of my own, so I don't adhere to any particular group's beliefs (I can't prove this, but I'm under the impression that there are a lot of people on here like me). Sometimes I agree with conservatives, sometimes with liberals, sometimes with neither, sometimes with both. If you honestly think that from the issues we discuss on this board you can generalize people's political beliefs, your even more out of touch with reality than I previously thought (which would be no small task)

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Office buildings generate a tremendous amount of traffic only twice per day. Retail generates a somewhat steady number of trips throughout the day (and night). A traffic engineer will tell you that new roadways are designed with peak loads in mind, so as to alleviate congestion and enhance safety during the times of day where the infrastructure is utilized beyond capacity.

Also: I would point out that induced trips are an indication of preference. If the Wal-Mart generates lots of trips, then obviously lots of people prefer it to the range of alternatives. That's good! On the other hand, if the Wal-Mart generates many fewer trips than expected, then that's a problem because the utility of the land was squandered. But you can't have your cake and eat it too; if you choose to argue that traffic will be a problem, then you can't argue that the Wal-Mart will be unsuccessful or unpopular.

Also: An increased traffic count is exactly what retail developers look for, and land prices will increase correspondingly to the point that dense development is the only financially justifiable option. Unless you're genuinely concerned that Washington Avenue will lose its appeal because its too busy, a contradiction in terms, then you might should rethink your position.

Also: I'm not convinced that large built-up mixed use projects generate less traffic when developed out-of-context of an already built-up neighborhood. The projects are not self-sustaining arcologies; they cannot be supported by low-density neighborhoods of single-family homes, a few pockets of townhomes, and a bunch of nearby industrial land uses.

Also: What do you think happens to land values when a municipality mandates a parcel's use that is other than its highest and best economic use? And remember. Land values persist, but improvements depreciate.

Also: I'm not rebutting you because I'm politically biased on this issue. I'm rebutting you because its entertaining to watch you dance around the issues, and you won't do that unless prompted by the likes of me.

Your new tactic is mischaracterizing my arguments to make strawmen that you can easily beat up. I never said the Walmart wouldn't be popular. I said it would not make money for Walmart and is only intended to dillute Target's market share. I have heard that Walmart is paying in excess of 30 mil for the land. That is easily ten times what they pay on the high end for land for a supercenter (and this supercenter is about 30-40k sq ft smaller than the typical suburban one and does not have a gas station or service center). Walmart will not make money with that kind of land acquisition cost. That is not me talking but comes from someone with a decades of big box development experience. And Walmart is also shooting itself in the foot by putting in two supercenters within a five mile radius of the Yale location. The Yale St. Walmart does not need to bring in extraordinary traffic to be a problem. It just needs to bring in the usual traffic for a 152k sq ft supercenter to be a problem. Yale and Heights cannot accomodate the new feeder road traffic. The last thing those roads need is a 152k. And if your response is to require me to produce a traffic impact analysis, I would ask to see yours first. In fact, to make it easy, why don't you show me an example of another Walmart supercenter in the city that has only a four lane road with 5 traffic signals within a half a mile as its main driveway access? The reason you cannot show an example is the same reason a Walmart will not work on Yale St.

You are policitally biased on the issue. If you weren't, you would sling right wing Friedmanite slogans like "highest and best use". The highest and best economic use of the Walmart parcel is a mixed use development. It will generate as much as three times the property taxes as a single story sprawlmart strip mall (this was demonstrated by design professionals at a super neighborhood forum). If done well, it would also significantly raise the property values of the abutting neighborhood. Walmart has already triggered a mass sell off in the abutting neighborhood. But your definition of "highest and best use" is politically charged in that you are talking about the highest and best use for the land owner. For Ainbinder, that means doing a strip mall because it will generate the most profit with the least risk. A mixed use development would require far more capital and much greater risk. Thus, the development of an important tract of land is left to the "highest and best use" of a guy who lives in a multi-million dollar River Oaks mansion, who wouldn't be caught dead shopping in the Walmart he intends to build.

Two floors of office space on Washington do not generate a tremendous amount of traffic any time of day. There is a big difference between the actual volume and comparative volume. Sure, the Washington mixed use building generates a tremendous amount of traffic from 8-9 am and from 5-6 pm compared to 10-11 pm or 10-11 am. But that is just becase 12 car trips is a tremendous amount more than 0. The statement that the Washington mixed use building generates more traffic than the same sq footage for a big box retail is indefensible.

Retail developers are not robots. Traffic counts are only one consideration of many. And not all retail developers are created equal. The ones that look for high traffic and could care less about the character of the area and the traffic congestions are the strip mall-ers, not the people that do quality mixed use developments. A mixed use development will fail if no one wants to lease/buy space on a street that is impassible in the morning and afternoon. Strip mall-ers don't mind that kind of congenstion because they think people will be drawn to shop instead of sitting in traffic. The Richmond strip had plenty of traffic, but still died. Why? Because it was developed by strip mall-ers. Traffic was terrible, no one would walk to anything and it was too far from any housing. The Walmart development is sending Washington ave down the same path as the Richmond strip.

If you are not convinced that mixed use developments generate less traffic, it is only because you have never looked at the traffic engineer's manual that shows the traffic generated by different types of developments.

You haven't refuted anything. You have just shown that you are only capable of mechanically spitting out the conventional pro-developer "wisdom" that has only served developers in Houston well. People in communities are getting organized and speaking out against this "wisdom" and will make a difference in how Houston grows.

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The Richmond strip had plenty of traffic, but still died. Why? Because it was developed by strip mall-ers. Traffic was terrible, no one would walk to anything and it was too far from any housing. The Walmart development is sending Washington ave down the same path as the Richmond strip.

In NO Way am I trying to get into your argument...................

But I have a few quick questions based on something that you brought up in regards to the "Richmond Strip" and its relationship to "Washington Ave." I've heard people compare the future of Washington Ave. to that of the Richmond strip and I'm a little confused on 3 things:

1) It seems that a majority of people moved and purchased homes in the Rice Miltary/West End/Mem. Heights area prior to 2008-2009 (which is when the retail/food/bar, etc. develpoment really began to take off), so wouldn't that signify that the residents of the area will remain in that area w/n the next 10 yrs or so since the area is much more vibrant than it was in 2005 when it was a dark and dusty street? Does anyone on the board really believe that the this area will have a Richmond Strip "sudden Death" once the bar/club scene moves on ? IF so, why?

2) Another thing that's unclear to me is how a project that's located off of I-10, being much closer to "The Heights" (some of it actually part of the heights) than Wash. Ave and maintaining NO visibility to Washington Ave. and also having the railroad to serve as a barrier just as Target becomes part of Washington Ave.?

3) As far as the location of the Walmart, have any of you driven around that area and actually seen the site? I'm not a fan of w.mart, but seriously that site/area was a POS and literally GARBAGE. After driving around that area, I'm just having a hard time imagining how a mixed used project would've incorporated itself into the Washington ave area because the location itself is somewhat removed and has natural barriers between itself and Washington...Similar to that of the Target, but not as isolated.

I can understand arguments as to what's to come for the Orr development,but please explain to me what I'm not seeing or can't visualize in regards to the site?

Once again, I'm opening this up to everyone, hopefully this will defuse the current debate..lol

Edited by sowanome
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I never said the Walmart wouldn't be popular. I said it would not make money for Walmart and is only intended to dillute Target's market share.

If the Wal-Mart is not unpopular, and we live in a democratic society, then why do you propose that it should be disallowed? Is it the City's concern that Wal-Mart and Target are locked in a strategic battle for market share? No. So let it be.

In fact, to make it easy, why don't you show me an example of another Walmart supercenter in the city that has only a four lane road with 5 traffic signals within a half a mile as its main driveway access? The reason you cannot show an example is the same reason a Walmart will not work on Yale St.

How about I show you an example of a larger Target-anchored shopping center and 300+ apartment units fronting a four-lane road and without another parallel four-lane road only a block distant?

You are policitally biased on the issue. If you weren't, you would sling right wing Friedmanite slogans like "highest and best use".

The term "highest and best use" is an appraisal concept, whereby the valuation of a property is based upon its maximally-productive use provided that that use is legally permissible, physically possible, and financially feasible.

I thought that you had edumacated yourself? You said so yourself. :wacko:

The highest and best economic use of the Walmart parcel is a mixed use development. It will generate as much as three times the property taxes as a single story sprawlmart strip mall (this was demonstrated by design professionals at a super neighborhood forum). If done well, it would also significantly raise the property values of the abutting neighborhood. Walmart has already triggered a mass sell off in the abutting neighborhood. But your definition of "highest and best use" is politically charged in that you are talking about the highest and best use for the land owner. For Ainbinder, that means doing a strip mall because it will generate the most profit with the least risk. A mixed use development would require far more capital and much greater risk. Thus, the development of an important tract of land is left to the "highest and best use" of a guy who lives in a multi-million dollar River Oaks mansion, who wouldn't be caught dead shopping in the Walmart he intends to build.

Design professionals are not to be relied upon for financial analytics. By the logic that they espouse (such as you understand it), the City should disallow any and all new development that isn't the world's tallest building on account of that larger projects and greater density equates to more taxable value. Never you mind that nobody in their right mind would finance such an endeavor, regardless of the price of land.

Walmart has already triggered a mass sell off in the abutting neighborhood.

It's interesting that you say that, because I just did an MLS search of Key Map grids 492H and 493E. There are 33 single-family listings and there have been 31 sold properties during 2010 (as compared to 25 sold properties in 2009). Out of those properties that are active listings, 13 have been on the market for more than six months (predating news of the proposed Wal-Mart, much less consummation of the deal) and another 6 are new construction.

For townhomes, there are 38 listings and there have been 93 properties sold in 2010 (compared to 85 sales in 2009). Of the active listings, 12 have been active for more than six months and 11 are new construction.

So we're looking at a total of 14 single-family and 15 townhome listings that are active, are owned by end-users, and that were brought to market during the relevant time period. This, in the context of a combined total of 656 single-family and townhome sales over the past five years.

I'm having a difficult time getting freaked out by this. There may be a handful of people selling because of the Wal-Mart, but they're certainly not deluging the market with unsalable product.

But your definition of "highest and best use" is politically charged in that you are talking about the highest and best use for the land owner. For Ainbinder, that means doing a strip mall because it will generate the most profit with the least risk. A mixed use development would require far more capital and much greater risk. Thus, the development of an important tract of land is left to the "highest and best use" of a guy who lives in a multi-million dollar River Oaks mansion, who wouldn't be caught dead shopping in the Walmart he intends to build.

Two floors of office space on Washington do not generate a tremendous amount of traffic any time of day. There is a big difference between the actual volume and comparative volume. Sure, the Washington mixed use building generates a tremendous amount of traffic from 8-9 am and from 5-6 pm compared to 10-11 pm or 10-11 am. But that is just becase 12 car trips is a tremendous amount more than 0. The statement that the Washington mixed use building generates more traffic than the same sq footage for a big box retail is indefensible.

Retail developers are not robots. Traffic counts are only one consideration of many. And not all retail developers are created equal. The ones that look for high traffic and could care less about the character of the area and the traffic congestions are the strip mall-ers, not the people that do quality mixed use developments. A mixed use development will fail if no one wants to lease/buy space on a street that is impassible in the morning and afternoon. Strip mall-ers don't mind that kind of congenstion because they think people will be drawn to shop instead of sitting in traffic. The Richmond strip had plenty of traffic, but still died. Why? Because it was developed by strip mall-ers. Traffic was terrible, no one would walk to anything and it was too far from any housing. The Walmart development is sending Washington ave down the same path as the Richmond strip.

If you are not convinced that mixed use developments generate less traffic, it is only because you have never looked at the traffic engineer's manual that shows the traffic generated by different types of developments.

You haven't refuted anything. You have just shown that you are only capable of mechanically spitting out the conventional pro-developer "wisdom" that has only served developers in Houston well. People in communities are getting organized and speaking out against this "wisdom" and will make a difference in how Houston grows.

First of all, "highest and best use" has nothing at all to do with any persons, companies, or entities. Since land can be inexpensively arbitraged between different parties, and these parties are all profit-seeking, it is a concept divorced from personal affairs.

You seem to acknowledge that a large mixed-use project on this site would entail more risk. Do you not also acknowledge that compensating for the additional risk will require a financial compromise elsewhere...namely from land value? There's no such thing as a free lunch, after all, and if a deal on this site looks worse than another deal on another site...guess where investors will take their money. Elsewhere.

Two floors of office space on Washington do not generate a tremendous amount of traffic any time of day. There is a big difference between the actual volume and comparative volume. Sure, the Washington mixed use building generates a tremendous amount of traffic from 8-9 am and from 5-6 pm compared to 10-11 pm or 10-11 am. But that is just becase 12 car trips is a tremendous amount more than 0. The statement that the Washington mixed use building generates more traffic than the same sq footage for a big box retail is indefensible.

And you accuse me of straw men... Tisk, tisk.

Retail developers are not robots. Traffic counts are only one consideration of many. And not all retail developers are created equal. The ones that look for high traffic and could care less about the character of the area and the traffic congestions are the strip mall-ers, not the people that do quality mixed use developments.

Retail developers are interested in profit. Look at Ed Wulfe as the perfect example. He's a champion of urban development and was heavily involved in early efforts to get light rail going. He positioned his brokerage so as to be an expert in urban retail. However, you'll notice that his development company does projects that are site-sensitive. He did not try to develop a BLVD Place at Gulfgate or Northline...or even at Meyerland (which is about as distant from Uptown as is the Wal-Mart, and has superior demographics, accessibility, and visibility).

What do you think would've happened if someone as experienced and respected as Ed Wulfe had tried to outbid Wal-Mart to develop a big mixed-use project? He's had enough trouble with BLVD Place, a prime and truly irreplaceable site. Do you honestly think that anybody would give them money to develop a risky concept at I-10 and Yale? (And if so, why!? Just to be chummy with local taxing entities???) The neighborhood isn't there yet. It won't be for decades. The good news: when the neighborhood catches up to your ambitions, the highest and best use can and will change.

A mixed use development will fail if no one wants to lease/buy space on a street that is impassible in the morning and afternoon. Strip mall-ers don't mind that kind of congenstion because they think people will be drawn to shop instead of sitting in traffic. The Richmond strip had plenty of traffic, but still died. Why? Because it was developed by strip mall-ers. Traffic was terrible, no one would walk to anything and it was too far from any housing. The Walmart development is sending Washington ave down the same path as the Richmond strip.

I don't even know how to begin to address all the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies with this paragraph in context to everything else you've said. So I'm not going to bother. Any reasonable person will figure it out.

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The Richmond strip had plenty of traffic, but still died. Why? Because it was developed by strip mall-ers. Traffic was terrible, no one would walk to anything and it was too far from any housing. The Walmart development is sending Washington ave down the same path as the Richmond strip.

I have to comment on this, since it is so hilarious. The "Richmond Strip" was a section of Richmond Avenue with a high concentration of niteclubs. It has indeed "died", but only after a run of approximately 25 years! And it did not die because of strip malls or developers. Quite the opposite. You are clearly too young to have ever gotten drunk or laid on the Richmond Strip, so I'll explain it to you. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the big successful niteclubs began growing in size. Many of the biggest were housed in stand alone buildins...not strip malls. These clubs sold prodigious amounts of alcohol, which quickly paid back the massive investment in lighting and sound systems that these behemoths sported. It was not uncommon to see the biggest clubs selling close to $1 million a month in alcohol.

These clubs ran the bigger is better train well into the 1990s, when they began to burn out. Smaller, more intimate clubs began to become fashionable. As the crowds moved to the smaller venues, the large clubs closed, with nothing to take their place. In the past, as one club closed, another would remodel the building and open under a new name, often with the same owner. Now, no one wanted these albatrosses. The Strip died as clubs moved to Shepherd Square, then downtown and elsewhere.

The Richmond Strip still thrives as a retail area. The stores and restaurants remain. Only the big clubs died. Richmond is alive and well. And once again, you are shown to be wrong...dreadfully, comically wrong.

By the way, Richmond was NEVER walkable. We didn't walk in the 80s and 90s. We drank, we smoked, we drove. We didn't walk.

Edited by RedScare
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but niche... the evil walmart chupacabra will destroy us all. The Heights/Upper West End/Rice Military/Washington/1960/Cinco Ranch Walmart devolpment demands it.

Mixed Use Development will not only add density, but decrease traffic???? Yay Fuzzy Math.

For someone who slams ring wingers S3mh... you sure do a lot of Fear Mongering...

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In NO Way am I trying to get into your argument...................

Once again, I'm opening this up to everyone, hopefully this will defuse the current debate..lol

heh, he's been on this kick for as long as the site was announced as being Walmart.

The three things you pointed out are extremely valid, but he won't really answer you.

This guy has been going on about all sorts of weird things, and all they do is really ruin perfectly good discussions about anything.

Another thing is that this guy is using traffic as a crux of his argument, but a mixed use development would introduce just as much, if not more to a parcel that size.

He's also asked for people to show him examples of Walmarts that have access by less roads than this place will, I personally linked him to multiple Walmart locations that fit the bill, but I think he has ignored me, cause he doesn't respond to me any longer. lol. I guess he got tired of me asking for him to cite references, and give proof of what he was saying.

My favorite was when he said that this Walmart location was going to introduce 20k more cars worth of traffic because he read the traffic manual, but that the manual said a supercenter would bring in 10k more cars, but the manual didn't have any reference to an urban walmart, so he said it would bring in 20k. I laughed good on that one.

Also, he had been using 10k as the number, then the stop heights walmart did a traffic study, found that the number of cars that were using the road was WOEFULLY low, so low, you could add 10k cars for walmart and still be well within the expected max use of the road, so after that he started saying this walmart would add 20k cars.

Anyway, I've found it's great fun to read when he tries to answer questions and such. Too bad it's ruined this topic though.

On the point of the topic, I think that without doing an analysis of land prices over the course of the past 4 or 5 years, it's really hard to pinpoint whether the drop in value from $40/sf to $30/sf started to decline after the housing market thing, or after the walmart was announced earlier this year, there's no way to accurately say why land value dropped. But since we've really only known about walmart for about 9 months now, I don't think that's the reason, but that's just my gut, no relevant data to back it up. I know some people who've had to move out of the area, but one was to get up to dallas to be with family, and the other was to move to denver for a better job. So my only experience is my first hand experience, nothing more.

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Actually, we've only known about the Walmart for about 6 months. The news leaked in late June. However, whenever it came out, a Walmart would not cause a drop in land prices, but an increase, at least as far as commercial property goes. Retail follows other retail. Development follows other development. As Niche pointed out, increased traffic counts draw retail and development. The reason is simple. As customers drive to one store, they may see another and decide to patronize it. Also, if a customer is driving to go shopping, but is unsure what exactly he or she is going to buy (for instance, for gifts), they tend to drive toward a cluster of retail, hoping that the variety of stores will allow them to succeed in finding the gift. This is why malls are successful. For that matter, this is why small shops cluster around 19th Street.

s3mh and his anti-Walmart buddies are clearly not developers. It stands to reason that what they oppose is exactly the opposite of what developers and shop owners support. In the real world, there is little difference between Walmart, Target, C&D Hardware or HEB. They ALL want customers and they all want to position themselves in highly visible areas in order to maximize customer counts. Because the Washington corridor has already developed a critical masses of commercial businesses, retailers will flock there. This will cause land prices to increase. If they have dropped recently, it is only due to the recession, and they will recover. Land around Yale will become even more valuable, as there will soon be 10,000 extra vehicles passing by. If it is 20,000, the value of that land will increase even more.

You should listen to those who would actually buy the land...developers...as opposed to those who will not...s3mh.

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