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lockmat

What is holding Downtown down?

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Per the bisnow report, we need more housing.

CBRE: We Need Downtown Housing

Is more residential product Downtown the key to everything? Experts at CBRE's quarterly press conference feel that increasing our core urban housing will improve Houston as a whole. SVP of office investment properties Bernard Branca (here with senior managing director Mark Taylor) says "new workers would rather drink battery acid than live and work in the suburbs" (don't try that at home... it tastes terrible, trust us) and our lack of live/work/play environment is the only thing keeping us from being a true gateway office market. He's marketing 919 Milam for sale, and investors from other cities keep asking where the people are; he thinks increasing our density will improve our investor appeal.

Senior managing director of retail Naveen Jaggi says every retailer he's visited recently pegs Houston in its top five markets to grow and get returns. But they want urban opportunities, so he's also pushing for a revitalization Downtown. He thinks we should start with housing and restaurants around Discovery Green, and the rest will follow. His eye is also on the River Oaks District, which he calls the future of Houston retail. Naveen says the key is parking: Retailers want to see that we're willing to park in a centralized location and wander. (Apparently drive-thru retail isn't an option.)

http://www.bisnow.com/commercial-real-estate/houston/breaking-news-avera-launches-spec/?utm_campaign=houre_042413.html&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua

Has anyone had the idea of asking our most active developers what the city could do to get them to build downtown? Apparently the incentives are not enough.

One idea to make it more attractive is for the city to purchase a lot downtown and put a fountain with a statue and make it a public place. Of course they would need lots of shade somehow. Maybe the Bagwell/rocket monument :P

Edited by lockmat

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Gravity, mostly.

If gravity is holding it down what is holding it back?

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Hmm...so two projects, comprising 716 residential units currently under construction is "holding downtown back". Perhaps you could point to a time in Houston's 177 year history when downtown had this many residential units under construction at the same time...ever.

 

I'll wait.

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That quote is a little selective. What's not included is the following article about how the submarkets with the highest occupancy are The Woodlands and the Energy Corridor.

I keep hearing comments about people not wanting to commute, yet out here in the 'burbs, the real estate market is hot and there are hundreds of houses under construction. Something isn't matching up because I can't believe that all of those people are working from home.

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Hmm...so two projects, comprising 716 residential units currently under construction is "holding downtown back". Perhaps you could point to a time in Houston's 177 year history when downtown had this many residential units under construction at the same time...ever.

I'll wait.

Comparing downtown to itself it's great. Do it to other areas like midtown, Neartown and the galleria it's not much.

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living downtown works great when you work downtown.

 

So too is living in the burbs and working in the burbs.

 

I can speak from experience that living damn close to downtown and working in the burbs is really nice, while I can't walk, or ride a bike to work, I only sit in my car for 15 minutes in the morning, or afternoon. As compared to people going the opposite direction often spending 45 minutes plus.

 

A bad combination, that apparently a lot of people do, live in the burbs and work in, or near downtown. ugh.

 

oh, and I think that it's more that it goes slow, I see changes in Downtown from a few years ago, there's a lot of changes that have made it better. Disco, Phoenecia, Market Square Park got renovated, yes, all the bars on Main fizzled at the turn of the century, but the ones that were able to succeed are doing VERY well, and the stuff that's new to the area are designed to be more than a flash in the pan like the dance clubs were.

Edited by samagon
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... investors from other cities keep asking where the people are...

 

I wondered that, too, the first time I was in downtown only to discover everyone was underground in the tunnels.

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living downtown works great when you work downtown.

 

So too is living in the burbs and working in the burbs.

 

I can speak from experience that living damn close to downtown and working in the burbs is really nice, while I can't walk, or ride a bike to work, I only sit in my car for 15 minutes in the morning, or afternoon. As compared to people going the opposite direction often spending 45 minutes plus.

 

A bad combination, that apparently a lot of people do, live in the burbs and work in, or near downtown. ugh.

 

oh, and I think that it's more that it goes slow, I see changes in Downtown from a few years ago, there's a lot of changes that have made it better. Disco, Phoenecia, Market Square Park got renovated, yes, all the bars on Main fizzled at the turn of the century, but the ones that were able to succeed are doing VERY well, and the stuff that's new to the area are designed to be more than a flash in the pan like the dance clubs were.

 

There's also a fair number of people who live in a burb on one side of the city and commute to a burb on the other.  I know several who commute from The Woodlands to the Energy Corridor.

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Living in the burbs and working downtown isn't too bad either. I live in the Memorial Villages area and working downtown is great since you can ride public transit to work.

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Living in the burbs and working downtown isn't too bad either. I live in the Memorial Villages area and working downtown is great since you can ride public transit to work.

I guess it depends which burbs you live in and how you get there. I reverse commute down 45 north now and most the way people are going <40mph, morning and evening.

I live in Spring Branch and get on I-10 going towards 45 and it is strange to me that traffic moves so fast (65). I don't know how it is before wirt though.

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One idea to make it more attractive is for the city to purchase a lot downtown and put a fountain with a statue and make it a public place. Of course they would need lots of shade somehow. Maybe the Bagwell/rocket monument :P

Are you talking about the Biggio/Bagwell statues outside of Minute Maid on Crawford street? OR is there another monument that I am unaware of?

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There's also a fair number of people who live in a burb on one side of the city and commute to a burb on the other.  I know several who commute from The Woodlands to the Energy Corridor.

 

I chose to leave that out, it's a bad memory I wish to erase from my brain.

 

I lived in Alief and commuted to Compaq back in the late 90s. That 45 minute commute sucked enough on its own.

 

As if I wasn't punishing myself enough, for about 6 years I lived in Alief and commuted to Keemah every day. just under 90 miles a day and an hour and 15 minutes every morning and evening.

 

That sucked massively. Hugely massively.

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I chose to leave that out, it's a bad memory I wish to erase from my brain.

 

I lived in Alief and commuted to Compaq back in the late 90s. That 45 minute commute sucked enough on its own.

 

As if I wasn't punishing myself enough, for about 6 years I lived in Alief and commuted to Keemah every day. just under 90 miles a day and an hour and 15 minutes every morning and evening.

 

That sucked massively. Hugely massively.

 

I completely understand.  Sorry if that conjured up any nightmares.  When I first moved to Houston I commuted from Westchase to downtown.  It was 45 mins from my front door to my desk at 2 Houston Center.  We thought about buying a newer home in Cinco Ranch but I couldn't bring myself to make that commute every day, plus we wanted to be near the Bellaire Chinatown.  For that reason (proximity to Chinatown) and because of cost, we ended up just west of Westchase instead of inside the loop nearer to work.  In the original post there's mention made of new workers wanting to live downtown, but it's not quite that monolithic.  I suspect younger, single workers prefer to be downtown while older, married-with-children workers tend to prefer to be further out, either due to cost or other factors.  I do know some folks who love living on a couple of acres in the country and put up with hour plus commutes to have that.

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I think downtown will incrementally get better, as it has too much competition from nearby hot spots such as Midtown, 4th ward, Montrose, Upper Kirby, East end. Hopefully the current incentives will spur a few more residential projects pretty soon. We got several hotel renovations and a 1000 unit convention hotel in the works. We got some pretty good parks in downtown, along with the Buffalo Bayou greenbelt getting a major ~$50 million makeover that connects to downtown's west end. Lots of stuff to be excited and hopeful about for a more complete downtown. In the end, it will be adding a good mix of more residential and hotel over time, along with at least an office tower or two every five years that will make downtown a more live/work/play environment.

Edited by kdog08

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I think that it would really help the general appeal of downtown if there was an effort to better integrate the tunnel system into the flow of the area. I've had some personal experience with the underground city in Montreal. It's open 24/7 and connects to all of the major shopping areas and the Eaton Centre as well as connecting to the Metro. Entrances are well marked and maps are frequent. It really has become a seamless part of the city.

Houston's tunnel system is reasonably unique in the US and really could be a tourist attraction in itself if it was managed with that goal in mind.

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I think that it would really help the general appeal of downtown if there was an effort to better integrate the tunnel system into the flow of the area. I've had some personal experience with the underground city in Montreal. It's open 24/7 and connects to all of the major shopping areas and the Eaton Centre as well as connecting to the Metro. Entrances are well marked and maps are frequent. It really has become a seamless part of the city.

Houston's tunnel system is reasonably unique in the US and really could be a tourist attraction in itself if it was managed with that goal in mind.

 

This would be a very long way away, most people don't even know Houston has a tunnel system.

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This would be a very long way away, most people don't even know Houston has a tunnel system.

Possibly, but it's not like the system is going away, because it serves a very real purpose. It's hot and humid and it rains a lot in Houston and that's not going to change. There will always be some resistance to walking distances outside as a result, so why not utilize the existing infrastructure to combat that?

I think that extended hours of access and well marked entrances close to applicable Metro stations would go a long way towards changing that.

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This would be a very long way away, most people don't even know Houston has a tunnel system.

 

I don't know about this.  I have been asked many times by tourists (can tell by accents, dress, or obvious look of being in new and unfamiliary territory) where the tunnel system is and what kind of activities it has to offer.  All were very disappointed to hear that it is very limited in use and purpose

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Interesting article from earlier this year on the challenges that downtown Dallas has had attracting retail.  What really jumped out at me was this quote:

 

“If you look at other cities, like Los Angeles, they had to get about 15,000 people before downtown retail takes off,” he said. “To get soft goods retail, you need over 20,000.”

 

I'm not positive, but I think that even the current apartment won't push the downtown population up to the 15,000 people number quoted.

 

http://www.dallasnews.com/business/columnists/steve-brown/20130314-downtown-dallas-retail-space-still-lagging-as-residential-and-office-population-grows.ece

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East of 59 development and a rail line will help though. You think there's not much retail downtown, but there is literally nothing east of downtown and a lot of residential development going on

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Interesting article from earlier this year on the challenges that downtown Dallas has had attracting retail.  What really jumped out at me was this quote:

 

“If you look at other cities, like Los Angeles, they had to get about 15,000 people before downtown retail takes off,” he said. “To get soft goods retail, you need over 20,000.”

 

I'm not positive, but I think that even the current apartment won't push the downtown population up to the 15,000 people number quoted.

 

http://www.dallasnews.com/business/columnists/steve-brown/20130314-downtown-dallas-retail-space-still-lagging-as-residential-and-office-population-grows.ece

 

I wonder just how concentrated those 15-20,000 people need to be.  Would those numbers spread over the CBD, midtown and Eado do the job?  If so, we are very close, if not already above 20,000.

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I wonder just how concentrated those 10,000 people need to be.  Would those numbers spread over the CBD, midtown and Eado do the job?  If so, we are very close, if not already above 20,000.

 

I doubt it.  I would think that those are different neighborhoods and that people will primarily shop in their neighborhoods. 

 

I'm sure that there are some destination stores that people will travel to, but for the most part, people go to the market/store that is closest to them.  

 

There might be some exceptions to that now because retail is relatively limited, but I doubt that anyone would open a (non-destination) store downtown assuming that they would pull from those areas. 

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I doubt it.  I would think that those are different neighborhoods and that people will primarily shop in their neighborhoods. 

 

I'm sure that there are some destination stores that people will travel to, but for the most part, people go to the market/store that is closest to them.  

 

There might be some exceptions to that now because retail is relatively limited, but I doubt that anyone would open a (non-destination) store downtown assuming that they would pull from those areas. 

 

agree and disagree. I agree that people will go to the grocercy stores that are closes to them. But I do belive that with the growth of midtown, eado, washington ave/ Heights .. downtown Houston is in the perfect position it has not been in since foleys open downtown to become a retail mecca.. but like you said they have to be big signture stores...People will go why would anyone go to Dt when places like city centre, and uptown.. its like you said earlier what is close to them is where people will go.. for people in wash/heights, midtown, eado those places are not close they are a hassle which require  you to get into your car drive , find a parking spot, and hope the store has something you want. These the Dt area which will be served by rail. and its not even 2 miles outside of those area.. The problem is convincing the big name markets that there is  untapped revune in those areas..People try to site macys as proof that their is no market in DT houston, leaving out that macys did ot close for lack of buiness they where basicly booted out but the owners who decided they wanted to build  anew tower, macys even stated they wanted to stay downtown just with a smaller foot print. Second other places seem to be doing fine  but they are limited and target a nich market think forever 21. 

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I'm sure that there are some destination stores that people will travel to, but for the most part, people go to the market/store that is closest to them.  

 

When I lived in Midtown, I did a ton of shopping/spending money Downtown. We had tons of awesome restaurants, but that didn't stop me from eating Downtown as well. My wife even shopped at the Houston Pavilions. Yeah, for groceries I'd stay in Midtown. But Midtown/EaDo have tons of residential, restaurants, and bars. Little else as far as "shopping". Heck, I had to drive all the way over to Sawyer Target for the rest of my shopping needs and I hated that. I would have loved to have had an option Downtown instead.

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Possibly, but it's not like the system is going away, because it serves a very real purpose. It's hot and humid and it rains a lot in Houston and that's not going to change. There will always be some resistance to walking distances outside as a result, so why not utilize the existing infrastructure to combat that?

I think that extended hours of access and well marked entrances close to applicable Metro stations would go a long way towards changing that.

 

I think a problem that doesn't get enough attention is the building design. All the buildings should offer more shade to pedestrians that walk on sidewalks. With shade then the heat is not nearly as stifling.

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When I lived in Midtown, I did a ton of shopping/spending money Downtown. We had tons of awesome restaurants, but that didn't storom eating Downtown as well. My wife even shopped at the Houston Pavilions. Yeah, for groceries I'd stay in Midtown. But Midtown/EaDo have tons of residential, restaurants, and bars. Little else as far as "shopping". Heck, I had to drive all the way over to Sawyer Target for the rest of my shopping needs and I hated that. I would have loved to have had an option Downtown instead.

Understood and I believe that I addressed that in my earlier post. There's a lack of retail in Midtown and the East End right now, so yes, those people would travel to downtown to shop, but the minute comparable options exist in those areas, you're going to lose that business.

If you open a commodity type of retail business in downtown, you can't assume that you're going to draw customers from Midtown. If you do, the minute a more convenient location opens, you lose those customers.

Keep in mind, I'm not talking about a speciality store, I'm talking about the type of business that is likely to go in as GFR in a downtown area.

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I think a problem that doesn't get enough attention is the building design. All the buildings should offer more shade to pedestrians that walk on sidewalks. With shade then the heat is not nearly as stifling.

It was 99 yesterday with a feels like of 105. Building design ain't going to help that.

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It was 99 yesterday with a feels like of 105. Building design ain't going to help that.

 

It will. I was in Bermuda a couple of weeks ago and it was 98 with 100% humidity. However when you walk in the shade it is quite tolerable. Also many of the buildings there left windows open, probably due to the high cost of electricity. I think society here is so hooked on A/C they don't think of the small nuances.

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It was 99 yesterday with a feels like of 105. Building design ain't going to help that.

 

Hate to slap you down, but shade and sun are WAY different.

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Hate to slap you down, but shade and sun are WAY different.

 

I understand that they're different, I just don't think that shade is a significant differentiator in terms of encouraging downtown retail.  It is hot and humid during the Houston summer and it impacts people's willingness to shop outside during that time of year.  Even if you have shade, you're not going to find a lot of people that are willing to window shop at 99 degrees.

 

I fully expect to now get a lot of people saying "I shop outside when it's 99 degrees, that's fine, just recognize that you're an outlier and there are very few businesses that can survive on outliers.

 

The funny thing about this whole conversation is that there are a lot of complaints about why there isn't more retail in downtown.  I provided a link to an article stating that a population of 15,000-20,000 is needed to support downtown retail.  The current downtown population isn't that big, hence the reluctance to open retail.

 

The rest of the posts seem to be about, well - the midtown population should count, the east end population should count, shade should make it better.  The answer really seems to be, as the downtown population continues to increase and gets closer to that 15-20k number, retailers will start to get interested in downtown.

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It will. I was in Bermuda a couple of weeks ago and it was 98 with 100% humidity.

 

That would give a heat index of 181. No way it was that hot with that humidity. Another baseless claim.

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It will. I was in Bermuda a couple of weeks ago and it was 98 with 100% humidity. However when you walk in the shade it is quite tolerable. Also many of the buildings there left windows open, probably due to the high cost of electricity. I think society here is so hooked on A/C they don't think of the small nuances.

 

Fair enough, let me ask a slightly different series of questions.  When the temp is 98 with 100% humidity, I think that it is safe to say that pretty much anyone will perspire significantly whether they are in the shade or not.  Let's put this in the context of a clothing store.

 

When perspiring in the heat, do you?

- Feel like trying on clothes?

- Want to try on clothes that were tried on by someone else that was perspiring significantly?

- As a business owner, want a lot of people that are perspiring significantly to be trying on your clothes?

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I would of agreed with this article about 10 years ago, but the fact is downtown Houston HAS been changing for the better, and is working towards improving a lot of the things they pointed out

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Fair enough, let me ask a slightly different series of questions.  When the temp is 98 with 100% humidity, I think that it is safe to say that pretty much anyone will perspire significantly whether they are in the shade or not.  Let's put this in the context of a clothing store.

 

When perspiring in the heat, do you?

- Feel like trying on clothes?

- Want to try on clothes that were tried on by someone else that was perspiring significantly?

- As a business owner, want a lot of people that are perspiring significantly to be trying on your clothes?

 

Yea I agree whenever the temperature is 98 and the humidity is 100% shade will not make much of a difference. Its like the whole city is an oven. 

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Yea I agree whenever the temperature is 98 and the humidity is 100% shade will not make much of a difference. Its like the whole city is an oven. 

 

It makes a huge difference. Not having the blaring sun on you makes it tolerable to walk around and not miserable.

Fair enough, let me ask a slightly different series of questions.  When the temp is 98 with 100% humidity, I think that it is safe to say that pretty much anyone will perspire significantly whether they are in the shade or not.  Let's put this in the context of a clothing store.

 

When perspiring in the heat, do you?

- Feel like trying on clothes?

- Want to try on clothes that were tried on by someone else that was perspiring significantly?

- As a business owner, want a lot of people that are perspiring significantly to be trying on your clothes?

 

Are the only types of stores clothing stores? And I do agree you will perspire significantly even in the shade.

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Fair enough, let me ask a slightly different series of questions.  When the temp is 98 with 100% humidity, I think that it is safe to say that pretty much anyone will perspire significantly whether they are in the shade or not.  Let's put this in the context of a clothing store.

 

When perspiring in the heat, do you?

- Feel like trying on clothes?

- Want to try on clothes that were tried on by someone else that was perspiring significantly?

- As a business owner, want a lot of people that are perspiring significantly to be trying on your clothes?

 

I agree. I start sweating as it is in any store in any mall, those freaking track lights are baking my innerds. When I worked at a store in the Woodlands Mall my senior year of High School, I secretly made paper towel diapers under my arms. Maybe I just run hotter than the average person, but it is really hot in some of those stores with lower ceilings. Couldn't imagine being outside as well. Get me a towel.

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It makes a huge difference. Not having the blaring sun on you makes it tolerable to walk around and not miserable.

 

Are the only types of stores clothing stores? And I do agree you will perspire significantly even in the shade.

 

 

I guess I kind of exaggerated a bit. It is hotter when your out in the sun in plain sight but the humidity does makes the environment feel hot and sticky either when the sun is out or not, its very unpleasant.  

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Yea I agree whenever the temperature is 98 and the humidity is 100% shade will not make much of a difference. Its like the whole city is an oven. 

 

The good news is, we never have that combination of temp and humidity, or anything very close to it.

 

(For example, right now, a typical August afternoon, the temp is 96 and the humidity is 42%.)

Edited by Houston19514

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The may not combine but they both do influence the heat when the numbers are high.

Edited by TowerSpotter

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Hmmm well wouldn't 100% humidity mean water?  So the city was underwater?  heh

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No man. Precipitation is water and it rains even when its below 100% humidity.

 

Thanks.  I was told when I was younger that 100% humidity meant rain. 

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Thanks.  I was told when I was younger that 100% humidity meant rain. 

 

I was told the same thing growing up but isn't entirely true. The atmosphere can be completely saturated and holding the maximum amount of water vapor without falling as rain.

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Guys, I wasn't trying to be smart, I apologize if I was getting annoying. I don't mean to irritate anybody on the forum.

Edited by TowerSpotter

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ahem.

 

now y'all know why most of downtown;s retail is underground in the tunnels.

 

Street level retail isn't going to come back to downtown Houston in any great numbers so get over it.

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Guys.. Haven't you ever seen the SunSetter® retractable awning commercials? The shade can be up to 20* cooler than being out in direct sunlight. We just need to line the main streets with a bunch of SunSetters.
In all serious, I do like those horizontal extendable roman shades. Maybe some of the more popular areas like around Main Street square/market square/central station could use them?

RomanShades2.jpg

The-Grand-Del-Mar-Horizontal-Roman-Shade

Edited by cloud713
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living downtown works great when you work downtown.

 

Would totally disagree. I live near downtown and I work in Sugarland. It's the best commute since the traffic is always going in the opposite direction.

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Would totally disagree. I live near downtown and I work in Sugarland. It's the best commute since the traffic is always going in the opposite direction.

You disagree that living downtown is good when you work downtown?? Why?

 

You quoted samagon and in that exact same post he praised the virtues of a reverse commute such as that.

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