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East River - KBR Site Puchased by Midway

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I was just wondering, how far apart are these two developments and do you all thing these two sites could change the perception of Houston as a urban walkable city? Which development do you think has the greatest potential for development? Some say that the KBR site should become a park, but I believe that there could be a much better use for the site.

KBR Site

KBRland-600x383.jpg

Regent Square

regent-square.jpg

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They're about four miles apart, but one is a development and the other is vacant land offered for sale. There is no comparison between a proposal and a non-proposal.

Do you see that large expanse of vacant land just to the north (to the right) of the KBR site in the photo you posted? That was a former Superfund site that got cleaned up by Frank Liu some years ago. And then, on its western periphery, I think that Alan Atkison has been buying up land and cruddy old warehouses. There is so much land at play in that area that if nothing were built except for wrap apartments were built on it, it'd take about an entire decade of building absolutely no other apartment units anywhere in Houston's urban core to fill it all up. But if this location can command a capture rate of even 20% of market demand, I'd be very impressed. But that would mean that the time horizon for buildout would be 50 years, and I can assure you that the purchaser will be unable to tolerate those kinds of holding costs. And in the mean time, development potentials for office or retail space are very limited, and the land prices probably exclude industrial as anything but an interim use. This means that lower-density development primarily of a residential character is inevitable.

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Here is a article about how Peter Brown thinks the site should be developed.

http://www.chron.com...key-3797150.php

He seems to suggest that a streetcar suburb circa T-minus 100 years ago should mate with Paris. How contrived and predictable. It's just a fantastic thing that he lost the mayoral election to a lesbian in a relatively conservative Texas city, as the major cities go.

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Everybody seems to want this land to end up like CityCentre or the Sugar Land or Woodlands town centers, but the retail components of those places absolutely require the vast numbers of upper middle class residents in the many miles of neighborhoods around them to support them (the residents on-site are nowhere near enough support). Given that this site does not have those income levels surrounding it, I'm not sure what's feasible. It seems like there are a few options:

- go for very high density so the on-site residents can support the retail. There will definitely be a chicken-and-egg problem for quite a while as it is built out.

- focus mainly on residential and office space, and the residents will drive elsewhere for most retail

- try to do something more tailored to the area demographics, maybe like a town center version of Gulfgate? (which I believe has been quite successful)

What I think would be ideal would be to establish a new university campus. Houston is lagging peer cities in college campuses and numbers of students. Maybe a Texas A&M branch? Or Texas Tech? Or UT has an undergraduate branch in all the other Triangle cities but us. UH probably wouldn't be thrilled, but competition is good, and it would attract more students from across the state and region to Houston, as well as provide new a new higher ed option for locals, which would have to be good for the city.

We could do something similar to what NYC just did with Roosevelt Island, eventually awarding it to Cornell for a technology campus.

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It may as well be on Mars. It would have to be some kind of fantastic development to get me to go over there. If they had people handing out $100 bills I'd consider it.

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Everybody seems to want this land to end up like CityCentre or the Sugar Land or Woodlands town centers, but the retail components of those places absolutely require the vast numbers of upper middle class residents in the many miles of neighborhoods around them to support them (the residents on-site are nowhere near enough support). Given that this site does not have those income levels surrounding it, I'm not sure what's feasible. It seems like there are a few options:

- go for very high density so the on-site residents can support the retail. There will definitely be a chicken-and-egg problem for quite a while as it is built out.

- focus mainly on residential and office space, and the residents will drive elsewhere for most retail

- try to do something more tailored to the area demographics, maybe like a town center version of Gulfgate? (which I believe has been quite successful)

What I think would be ideal would be to establish a new university campus. Houston is lagging peer cities in college campuses and numbers of students. Maybe a Texas A&M branch? Or Texas Tech? Or UT has an undergraduate branch in all the other Triangle cities but us. UH probably wouldn't be thrilled, but competition is good, and it would attract more students from across the state and region to Houston, as well as provide new a new higher ed option for locals, which would have to be good for the city.

We could do something similar to what NYC just did with Roosevelt Island, eventually awarding it to Cornell for a technology campus.

1. High-density takes a half-century. 2. There is no market for office space to speak of on Clinton Drive, and office space trades at severe discount in the East End. 3. The traffic count is poor at the intersection of York and Clinton. Very very poor. Abysmal. It is in between two neighborhoods that are both low-income but starkly different from one another, and also not within a neighborhood to speak of at all.

It will require an attraction that can serve as a destination unto itself in order to foster additional development.

I suspect that the only retailer capable of bringing together a divided and far-reaching community of people into a non-neighborhood is Wal-Mart. But...Wal-Mart will be getting its East End coverage from the Wayside location. The subject site would just cannibalize demand for the other store.

A university is an interesting idea, and it would anchor the East End on both sides as a community with a great deal of student housing. OTOH, I think that the timing is poor. I'd prefer to let UH mature into a respected 50,000+ student body before we introduce more competition. So...I oppose a new general studies type of a campus. However, what would probably do quite well in that location and fit well on that tract could be a specialized technical college emphasizing the STEM professions. Big energy companies are constantly whining through their mouthpiece, the Greater Houston Partnership, at how difficult it is to recruit qualified labor from the pool of new college graduates. If that's a problem, and I believe it is, then a college that focused specifically on recruiting and educating such students might be effective at soliciting for major donations from a variety of the big energy companies around town. UH probably still wouldn't be very happy with a new competitor, however such a competitor should be smaller, more nimble, and actively recruiting the best and brightest from a global pool of talent, then bringing that talent to Houston...kind of like what Rice does, but with less of a liberal arts bent. That actually seems viable. I like it. I encourage anyone that likes this idea, too, to write letters to the GHP and the philanthropy and human resources divisions of major energy companies. It'd be just one more arrow in the quiver to attract and retain employers.

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http://www.bizjourna...l-downtown.html

Chris Klein, principal at Colliers International’s Houston office:

“The KBR deal is very likely going to become some type of urban lifestyle, mostly high density,” he said. “Once you get the residential in there, it will drive the retail.”

Davis Adams, a broker in the Houston office for Pittsburgh-based Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP who leads the local brokerage team for the 136-acre KBR property, agrees.:

“I think the KBR site will be a very large mixed-use development specifically taking advantage of the bayou,” he said. “The east side is the next area to undergo change, following after the development of Midtown and the Washington areas.”

Edited by lockmat

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http://www.bizjourna...l-downtown.html

“The KBR deal is very likely going to become some type of urban lifestyle, mostly high density,” he said. “Once you get the residential in there, it will drive the retail.”

“I think the KBR site will be a very large mixed-use development specifically taking advantage of the bayou,” he said. “The east side is the next area to undergo change, following after the development of Midtown and the Washington areas.”

I can't get past the paywall. Who was being quoted?

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I can't get past the paywall. Who was being quoted?

fixed, sorry.

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So, a bunch of 'Victory' proposals for a parcel of land with a 'Victory' problem...a large industrial parcel repurposed to be a dense urban playground, that is close to everything, but not close enough, and with huge barriers to get to it.

So, why will it work this time, when it didn't work there?

Having said that, I see one possible way to make this thing work. If the KBR parcel is redeveloped concurrently and in concert with the parcel on the south side of the bayou, with both pedestrian and automobile bridges, and perhaps the trolley that the East Enders are dreaming of, it may have enough of a uniqueness to it to make it special. And by building bridges over the bayou, it orients the parcel southward toward the East End, as opposed to northward toward the 5th Ward. Maybe then it would have a fighting chance.

Edited by RedScare
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I don't see this as anything like Victory, Regent Square, West Ave, etc. in that the focus would be have to be on affordable housing, not "upscale" shopping or offices. Again, the best comparison I could think of would be the Mueller development in Austin, which to my knowledge is expected to take many years to build out, has no retail at all in its initial phase, and has some dedicated amount of affordable housing.

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well the site has officially sold and knowing the buyer i'd be shocked if anything other than high density mixed-use was ultimately developed.

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Haha you're not going to get that info outta me... But I think it bodes well for the type of development that will ultimately happen.

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The Chronicle article states that the property is only under contract, not that it has sold, and that it would likely sell by the end of the year. But stwig is saying that it has "officially sold".

Which is it?

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The Chronicle article states that the property is only under contract, not that it has sold, and that it would likely sell by the end of the year. But stwig is saying that it has "officially sold".

Which is it?

i was told sold but they very well could have meant under contract. even if it is only under contract i have no doubt it will ultimately close and no doubt something high-density will get developed.

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i was told sold but they very well could have meant under contract. even if it is only under contract i have no doubt it will ultimately close and no doubt something high-density will get developed.

Is it Hines? Tell me if I'm wrong, otherwise don't bother.

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Either I'm ignorant, just stupid or both, but someone please tell me how this is actually going to be a significant mixed use site (or anything but townhomes) within the next 15-20 years.

The three things it has going for it is it is on the bayou, it's close to downtown and it's a big chunk of land. Regent Square has two of the three, yet it has been downsized and delayed. RS is also located in an area 10x better than KBR. And as strickn has pointed out, it's not well connected to downtown either.

I'm very pessimistic.

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I agree with lockmat, either this site is going to sit vacant for a long period of time or it will be developed into something really underwhelming. Look at the other large parcels of land around the loop that can't get developed many of them in much better locations.

Like lockmat mentioned Regeant Square which the developer says will take 10 years to develop is located between downtown and River Oaks and still can't get developed. Other sites include the six flags site which has sat vacant for years, the hardy yards site which I think is really comparable to this site as far as it being in a yet to be desired area close to downtown it even is next to the light rail and still hasn't been developed.

You can also look at the mix used developments Highstreet and River Oaks District both in highly desirable locations where large pieces of land are very scarce. Both of these projects where greatly downsized.

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At the same time, whether it is developed next year or next decade, won't it bring more investment to the east side of town in anticipation?

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And under contract and sold are very different things. Land buys aren't the slam dunk with lenders they used to be, plus you have to convince them that your development plan makes senseNow if someone was coming in with all cash to buy and develop, that's another story, but really that's not going to happen on this scale.

I agree that if the sale goes through, it's probably for a long-term purpose, maybe even just a land-hold strategy. Or maybe the city will throw money at it and accelerate development.

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At the same time, whether it is developed next year or next decade, won't it bring more investment to the east side of town in anticipation?

Look at Midtown. Lots of land being held...and has been held for a long time...all in anticipation. The problem with anticipation is there needs to be a critical mass of action to get the investors to start on their own projects. Otherwise it's like a game of chicken.

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At the same time, whether it is developed next year or next decade, won't it bring more investment to the east side of town in anticipation?

Anticipation of what, now?

(Welcome to the wonderful world of business ownership. Since I've made my exit from the East End and the realm of business ownership altogether, I can give in to my cynicism again.)

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At the same time, whether it is developed next year or next decade, won't it bring more investment to the east side of town in anticipation?

It will just cause land speculation. Land will be purchased and held on to for long periods of time. I doubt that we would see any development anytime soon. Land prices will just be driven up.

Like was mentioned look at midtown its perfect example. Lots of developments could have taken off in the area if not for land speculation driving up the prices of property and property owners holding on to land to attempt to make a higher profit.

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It will just cause land speculation. Land will be purchased and held on to for long periods of time. I doubt that we would see any development anytime soon. Land prices will just be driven up.

Like was mentioned look at midtown its perfect example. Lots of developments could have taken off in the area if not for land speculation driving up the prices of property and property owners holding on to land to attempt to make a higher profit.

Would you rather that townhomes were built at 18 units/ac. around the light rail stations on $30 PSF land, or that dense midrises at 80+ units/ac. and eventually highrises get built around the light rail stations at $80 PSF? Land speculation has a vital role in the long-term future of our city. Just gotta be patient, let market forces to their work.

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Another interesting aspect of this site is the big piece of land just to the north (to the right in photo below) of this site. Anyone know what's up with that piece of land?

KBRland-600x383.jpg

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Another interesting aspect of this site is the big piece of land just to the north (to the right in photo below) of this site. Anyone know what's up with that piece of land?

Yeah, it was a Superfund site that Frank Liu bought and cleaned up for residential development, but his timing was right before the real estate bust, and so that never happened. Not sure if he still owns it, but I think so. We probably would've heard about it transacting, otherwise.

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Yeah, it was a Superfund site that Frank Liu bought and cleaned up for residential development, but his timing was right before the real estate bust, and so that never happened. Not sure if he still owns it, but I think so. We probably would've heard about it transacting, otherwise.

Hopefully, if he does still own it, it will give a slight confidence boost for the KBR owners, knowing there is a very good possibility they'll have some "good" (wealthy) neighbors. I wonder if this would alter Liu's plans at all, or maybe he already knew of KBR's potential and that's why he bought his land in the first place.

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Hopefully, if he does still own it, it will give a slight confidence boost for the KBR owners, knowing there is a very good possibility they'll have some "good" (wealthy) neighbors. I wonder if this would alter Liu's plans at all, or maybe he already knew of KBR's potential and that's why he bought his land in the first place.

Whatever gets built on the KBR site will generate a lot of sales and rental traffic for the Clinton Dr. submarket that would not have existed otherwise. If Liu develops his land concurrent with his competitor, then he can leach off their marketing efforts and take a substantial cut of the market share. It'd be good strategy, that's for sure.

Edited by TheNiche

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If Lovett Homes Inc. is the only name he owns property under, I don't see an east side address for him per hcad - only a few on the west side, inner loop.

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If Lovett Homes Inc. is the only name he owns property under, I don't see an east side address for him per hcad - only a few on the west side, inner loop.

No, the entity name is Fenway Development Inc., which is linked to Frank Liu. He's already platted out all that land for townhome development just within the past year. You can look at the HCAD plat maps to see how it's configured.

EDIT: Here's a story about the cleanup process:

http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2012/06/18/urban-renewal-toxic-brownfields-tough-to-redevelop/

Edited by TheNiche
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Pretty much this entire plat image is that development, but not all of it; taken from 5457B. You'll see Clinton Dr. at the bottom. Just above the image would be I-10. Interesting. That would take a long time to complete.

485110_569288840040_404386952_n.jpg

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Would you rather that townhomes were built at 18 units/ac. around the light rail stations on $30 PSF land, or that dense midrises at 80+ units/ac. and eventually highrises get built around the light rail stations at $80 PSF? Land speculation has a vital role in the long-term future of our city. Just gotta be patient, let market forces to their work.

Well it will be great when market forces start working and some midrises and highrises start going up in midtown.

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I didn't realize that town home development had occurred in the mid 2000's just north of the KBR site. They're not as high end as the ones just east of downtown, but they're new and decent. I think seeing that will be a big comfort to potential home owners and business leaders since it won't seem as high risk. The area seems mostly deserted too, which I think will confidence to developers because, to me, it seems easier to develop.

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Big letdown

The buyer of the East End KBR tract that closed this week has still not come forward, but a source familiar with the situation said William Harrison of Houston-based Cathexis was under contract to purchase the site.

Cathexis Holdings is an investment firm formed by Harrison in 2010 and funded by “legacy assets” dating “back to the early 1900s,” according to the firm’s website. The company has investments in oil and gas, minerals and real estate.

http://blog.chron.com/primeproperty/2012/11/buyer-idd-in-east-end-kbr-sale/

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