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Midtown Sears to Become Houston's Innovation District

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Drive by this every day, and since it stopped raining their large construction crews have been at it every day, from when I leave for work to when I come back. It seemed like they have slowed down on knocking out the bricks on the windows, and stopped dragging stuff out from inside and onto the parking lot. A lot of new steel/metal being brought inside. The wonders of having an endowment with enough money to keep stuff on schedule...

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On 5/14/2019 at 10:41 AM, H-Town Man said:

I would not correct any other poster besides Houston 19514 on semi-colon usage.

 

I'm so relieved; I employ them, frequently.

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3 hours ago, Urbannizer said:

 

 

Nice to see demo has started, but the demo itself isn't really news. From what I remember posting the stuff submitted to the city it calls for a partial demo of the back end and some other areas. They are pretty much going to gut the entire interior and will have to take out the entire roof for the upper stores they want to install.

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Most of that stuff in the corner is just the incredible amount of shit they have dragged out from the inside. As Luminaire said, its a tiny demo that they are doing on the backside near the bay. In the mornings for the past week they've closed Wheeler down to one lane to accommodate whatever it is they are doing: moving the junk to the trash, demoing part of the back area walls, or loading stuff into the building through the demo'd walls. Seems like they are working on wiring or something cause there are men and women standing on ladders on the second floor looking into the (now) uncovered ceiling. 

 

Also, the comments in that reddit thread are gold. 

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What is that green?  The facade is starting to look good

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29 minutes ago, cspwal said:

What is that green?  The facade is starting to look good

 

My guess is it came from the metal cladding. Not sure either.

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On 6/17/2019 at 9:39 AM, cspwal said:

What is that green?  The facade is starting to look good

 

 

Looks like weathered Tyvek, at first glance.

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I hope that they re-open all the  “bricked-in retail display windows”.   I would be terrific to visually open the building to the sidewalk in that manner.  

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Posted (edited)

I am kinda disappointed that the new building looks like it's going to be strikingly different from the original, however I do like that rendering and I'm very happy that this was at least an upgrade rather than a complete tear down.

 

It has me wondering what the completely new buildings will look like. If the bottoms of all the buildings are similarly matched then this is going to be an excellent area for pedestrian activity. Bring on the blue line.

Edited by HoustonIsHome
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I agree with Luminare, you can be skeptical about this project.

 

But I think you would need to temper that skepticism with this thought: Rice and its endowment wouldn't pour 100 million down the drain. They are jumping at the chance to be the first ones to really take control of Houston's tech scene. If you go to their campus, and just walk around, you realize they sit right next to parts of TMC, which I know allowed my friends, who were rice students, direct access to these medical institutions/research facilities for opportunities like summer jobs/internships, and potentially employment/residency after they graduated from Rice. Rice is now seemingly doing the same thing with Houston's tech scene. They get to control the two blocks around the burgeoning tech scene at their ion? Imagine the opportunities for their students. Its a calculated risk.

 

At worst, it becomes a glorified WeWorks for Tech companies. Which is still waaaaay better than anything else Houston has right now.

 

The writer of that article, as Luminare points out, thinks this should be in Montrose or Uptown. She believes the "build it and they will come" mantra is invalid because that area of Midtown is not dense enough. The writer, and the people interviewed keep pointing out that the Ion is next to a jack in the box, in an attempt to say that there aren't viable dining options or a gym or bars around it. Yes, there is a jack in the box. But two blocks down there will be a Whole Foods (coming Q1 2020!). And one train stop down you have: 5 bars, a great sushi place with a conveyor belt (4+ stars on yelp!), an actually pretty traditional chinese restuarant, and a vietnamese restaurant. Then if you walk a block or two past that the vietnamese place you hit 24 hour fitness, and that whole block of places like Jinya Ramen, and Piola Pizza. The Ion has the things the writer believes should be around it, but she fails to give Midtown, and the Ion, a chance. I hope Pt. II of that article is the argument for it succeeding!

 

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Posted (edited)

I don't think the author was suggesting the Ion was inherently a bad project.  In reading the 2nd part of the series today, the point being made was that "one building isn't enough."  The 2nd part largely focused on the need to attract more venture capital into the Houston area, as well as development of those with the technology skills required for tech startups out of our universities.  In essence, the "chicken and egg" problem of becoming a hub for tech start-ups.

 

The points about density the author raised about the Ion are not invalid.  In fact, Rice's land acquisitions around the Ion suggest they too understand the value of having housing, coffee shops, etc. for a tech hub.  By way of example, Rice owns the land under the Jack-in-the-Box mentioned in the article, having acquired that land last year (aside: not sure if that restaurant has a ground lease or if Rice acquired it as well).  Future phases of development would help fill in the density required.

 

Of course, Rice's acquisitions have spawned interest in areas nearby.  Consider the recently-platted "Transrise" along San Jacinto by Rosedale.  That project is certainly going to use Rice's presence north in their presentation to get financing for development (alas, we have few details on that as of yet).

 

Edited by houstontexasjack
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In relation to the article, I think she is looking at it in terms of the past and present and not what The project can do for the area in the future. Yes there is only a Jack in the Box note but what options would the district bring in the future? 

 

Yes there is loads of stuff right now in uptown but pound for pound how much effect would this have in uptown compared to the effect on this area? 

 

In Houston terms uptown is getting kinda overbuilt. This area is a prime location in no man's land. Uptown right now could probably supply all the food needs of the entire district without having to solicit new options. Building in this area would definitely attract new options.

 

The way I see it markets attract markets; jobs attract jobs; services attract services. 

 

Another thing, when I was at UH I participated in programs that were a collaboration with Rice and Baylor. This thing is close to all three. In fact it is close to all major colleges except Houston Baptist. Uptown isn't as well located in relation to the universities. 

 

In terms of location I think this is the best in the state. The only two locations that come close are Southeastern downtown and east downtown.

 

Midtown is on its way up while uptown is already up. I just down see opportunities in uptown with as much land in an area that convenient. There are sure to be more ROD type developments in Uptown, but shopping districts are self sustaining. This project will be deeply integrated with the schools, TMC and Downtown.

 

One final thought. Houston has never been one to cluster all dense developments in one area. Houston builds in an area and then the market reacts. We build in pockets and over time the pockets connect. Rice knows what they are doing. They do not need to overpay for amenities when the amenities are converging in that direction already. This project will only speed the merging treck of Downtown and TMC to each other. That's not even considering UH's new medical center development on Wheeler. 

 

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35 minutes ago, HoustonIsHome said:

One final thought. Houston has never been one to cluster all dense developments in one area. Houston builds in an area and then the market reacts. We build in pockets and over time the pockets connect. Rice knows what they are doing. They do not need to overpay for amenities when the amenities are converging in that direction already. This project will only speed the merging treck of Downtown and TMC to each other. That's not even considering UH's new medical center development on Wheeler. 

 

Or the proposed University Line BRT down Wheeler as well. 🙂 

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2 hours ago, X.R. said:

I agree with Luminare, you can be skeptical about this project.

 

But I think you would need to temper that skepticism with this thought: Rice and its endowment wouldn't pour 100 million down the drain. They are jumping at the chance to be the first ones to really take control of Houston's tech scene. If you go to their campus, and just walk around, you realize they sit right next to parts of TMC, which I know allowed my friends, who were rice students, direct access to these medical institutions/research facilities for opportunities like summer jobs/internships, and potentially employment/residency after they graduated from Rice. Rice is now seemingly doing the same thing with Houston's tech scene. They get to control the two blocks around the burgeoning tech scene at their ion? Imagine the opportunities for their students. Its a calculated risk.

 

At worst, it becomes a glorified WeWorks for Tech companies. Which is still waaaaay better than anything else Houston has right now.

 

The writer of that article, as Luminare points out, thinks this should be in Montrose or Uptown. She believes the "build it and they will come" mantra is invalid because that area of Midtown is not dense enough. The writer, and the people interviewed keep pointing out that the Ion is next to a jack in the box, in an attempt to say that there aren't viable dining options or a gym or bars around it. Yes, there is a jack in the box. But two blocks down there will be a Whole Foods (coming Q1 2020!). And one train stop down you have: 5 bars, a great sushi place with a conveyor belt (4+ stars on yelp!), an actually pretty traditional chinese restuarant, and a vietnamese restaurant. Then if you walk a block or two past that the vietnamese place you hit 24 hour fitness, and that whole block of places like Jinya Ramen, and Piola Pizza. The Ion has the things the writer believes should be around it, but she fails to give Midtown, and the Ion, a chance. I hope Pt. II of that article is the argument for it succeeding!

 

 

Don't forget that Montrose is only a short walk away. For example, the area near Ono Poke, the new Lotti Dotti bar (formerly known as Brooklyn Athletic Club), and the Timberline Fitness under construction on Jack St & Richmond are all only a short 5-10 minute walk from The Ion (AND they're in Montrose).

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3 hours ago, X.R. said:

I agree with Luminare, you can be skeptical about this project.

 

But I think you would need to temper that skepticism with this thought: Rice and its endowment wouldn't pour 100 million down the drain. They are jumping at the chance to be the first ones to really take control of Houston's tech scene. If you go to their campus, and just walk around, you realize they sit right next to parts of TMC, which I know allowed my friends, who were rice students, direct access to these medical institutions/research facilities for opportunities like summer jobs/internships, and potentially employment/residency after they graduated from Rice. Rice is now seemingly doing the same thing with Houston's tech scene. They get to control the two blocks around the burgeoning tech scene at their ion? Imagine the opportunities for their students. Its a calculated risk.

 

At worst, it becomes a glorified WeWorks for Tech companies. Which is still waaaaay better than anything else Houston has right now.

 

The writer of that article, as Luminare points out, thinks this should be in Montrose or Uptown. She believes the "build it and they will come" mantra is invalid because that area of Midtown is not dense enough. The writer, and the people interviewed keep pointing out that the Ion is next to a jack in the box, in an attempt to say that there aren't viable dining options or a gym or bars around it. Yes, there is a jack in the box. But two blocks down there will be a Whole Foods (coming Q1 2020!). And one train stop down you have: 5 bars, a great sushi place with a conveyor belt (4+ stars on yelp!), an actually pretty traditional chinese restuarant, and a vietnamese restaurant. Then if you walk a block or two past that the vietnamese place you hit 24 hour fitness, and that whole block of places like Jinya Ramen, and Piola Pizza. The Ion has the things the writer believes should be around it, but she fails to give Midtown, and the Ion, a chance. I hope Pt. II of that article is the argument for it succeeding!

 

 

1 hour ago, clutchcity94 said:

 

Don't forget that Montrose is only a short walk away. For example, the area near Ono Poke, the new Lotti Dotti bar (formerly known as Brooklyn Athletic Club), and the Timberline Fitness under construction on Jack St & Richmond are all only a short 5-10 minute walk from The Ion (AND they're in Montrose).

 

All this would require actual investigative journalism and going out into the field. Unfortunately, thats to much to ask for these days.

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19 minutes ago, Luminare said:

 

 

All this would require actual investigative journalism and going out into the field. Unfortunately, thats to much to ask for these days.

 

Some basic familiarity with the city would go a long way...

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3 hours ago, houstontexasjack said:

Or the proposed University Line BRT down Wheeler as well. 🙂 

I am still holding out hope for a light rail line. 

I take the bus on Bellaire a couple times a year and the quickline to me doesn't make that much of a difference and I only usually see one or two other people on there.

 

Granted I don't think I have ever gotten on during rush hour so I might be underestimating it.

 

Any idea where the stops will be? There used to be a Westheimer bus that got unto 59 and got off at Greenway and went down Richmond. That was a little bit quicker than the Richmond bus regularly but during rush hour there wasn't much of a difference. 

 

The volume of traffic on our east - west streets and on 59 warrants something more. 

 

I don't want to focus on public transportation in this thread, but this development just adds to the wealth of amenities and the number of people that will be traversing Richmond/wheeler so I'm hoping that light rail on this corridor is revisited

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I hope they consider the project for light rail on Richmond and through Uptown by the time the bicentennial rolls around. Maybe throw in a line in Washington corridor to connect to the high speed rail and have a fully interconnected inner city.

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4 hours ago, ZRFkris said:

I hope they consider the project for light rail on Richmond and through Uptown by the time the bicentennial rolls around. Maybe throw in a line in Washington corridor to connect to the high speed rail and have a fully interconnected inner city.

This is my dream

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4 hours ago, ZRFkris said:

I hope they consider the project for light rail on Richmond and through Uptown by the time the bicentennial rolls around. Maybe throw in a line in Washington corridor to connect to the high speed rail and have a fully interconnected inner city.

Well I do know that the idea of a line down Washington is being talked about. Aside from that we can expect BRT down Richmond for the meantime. 

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Posted (edited)

 

The next Neartown/Montrose Super Neighborhood meeting ( 6/25/19 at Cherryhurst Community center) might be of interest to you.  Neartown represents the 18 Neighborhood Associations that make up the greater Montrose area.  A short article from the Houston Business Journal on the ION Project: https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2019/01/30/midtown-sears-building-s-transformation-into.html

 

Greg Marshall of Rice University will speak on ION progress —7 pm.    Open meeting

 

 

Edited by trymahjong
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2 hours ago, trymahjong said:

 

The next Neartown/Montrose Super Neighborhood meeting ( 6/25/19 at Cherryhurst Community center) might be of interest to you.  Neartown represents the 18 Neighborhood Associations that make up the greater Montrose area.  A short article from the Houston Business Journal on the ION Project: https://www.bizjournals.com/houston/news/2019/01/30/midtown-sears-building-s-transformation-into.html

 

Greg Marshall of Rice University will speak on ION progress —7 pm.    Open meeting

 

 

Why not post this in the Ion thread?

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Hmmmm. Guess I was thinking to post in Montrose since Neartown business ( stuff that benefits Montrose residents to be made aware of)is also a big part of the agenda.

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The Ion, Houston's future innovation hub in the former Midtown Sears, to break ground in July 

The former Sears building in Midtown Houston will be transformed into The Ion, an innovation hub.
COMPANIES 
IN THIS ARTICLE
pulsinelli-olivia*90xx1000-1333-0-0.png
By Olivia Pulsinelli  – Senior web editor, Houston Business Journal 
5 hours ago
 

A project to transform the former Midtown Sears building into an innovation hub is set to break ground July 19. 

Plans for the facility, dubbed The Ion, were unveiled in January. At the time, the project was expected to be complete in late 2020. When the project was first announced in 2018, Rice University said it would spend up to $100 million on the 270,000-square-foot project.

Sears Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: SHLD) had a storefront at 4201 Main St. for 73 years before it closed in January 2018. Rice Management Co. bought out the remaining 28 years of Sears’ 99-year ground lease on a 6-acre site and acquired another 3.4 acres from Sears for development, the university announced in October 2017.

Houston-based Hines is developing The Ion on behalf of Rice Management Co. New York-based SHoP Architects, James Carpenter Design Associates and James Corner Field Operations, along with the Houston office of San Francisco-based Gensler, are working on the design. 

The transformation of the former Midtown Sears building into The Ion will incorporate some of the signature art deco architecture elements of the original 1939 building and will add large windows and a central light-well.

The transformation of the former Midtown Sears building into The Ion will incorporate some of the signature art deco architecture elements of the original 1939 building and will add large windows and a central light-well.

COURTESY RICE UNIVERSITY

 

The transformation will incorporate some of the signature art deco architecture elements of the original 1939 building, such as historic corners, glass block windows, decorative tilework and a three-sided storefront with architectural canopies, per the release. It also will add large windows and a central light-well.

Once The Ion is complete, Station Houston will oversee public programming, including entrepreneurial workshops, thought-leadership conferences, industry lectures, job training, educational classes and networking opportunities. Rice, the University of Houston, UH-Downtown, the University of St. ThomasHouston Community CollegeTexas Southern UniversityHouston Baptist UniversitySan Jacinto College and the South Texas College of Law are among the higher education institutions that will provide academic programming. 

The Ion will be the first phase of the planned innovation district in Midtown. The 16-acre district is expected to incorporate commercial development, housing, public spaces and infrastructure. The innovation district is modeled after similar developments across the U.S. such as 1871, a digital startup incubator in Chicago.

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^^^ they have been hard at work on this facility for months and months.  right?  therefore, how is it that the OFFICIAL GROUNDBREAKING is due to commence on 19 july 2019?  isn't this a bit strange...?

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12 hours ago, gclass said:

^^^ they have been hard at work on this facility for months and months.  right?  therefore, how is it that the OFFICIAL GROUNDBREAKING is due to commence on 19 july 2019?  isn't this a bit strange...?

I’ll take it one step further. . . How can they have a groundbreaking ceremony at all?  There is no ground to break.  The building already exists.  This is a renovation.

 

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I think most of what Greg Marshall presented to Neartown has been posted above.

with the exception of parking.

I hadn’ t Realized it was a slippery subject as opposed to sticky subject; which most close by homeowners view it.

When asked about parking in general and

a potential parking garage 

Mr Marshall talked a lot about Market based parking

when asked what would happen if developers didn’t feel need to provide parking Mr Marshall

cited all the surface lots available

but when pushed to have an alternative if developers didn’t provide enough parking.....He changed the subject.

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AFAIK, this site is still subject to parking minimums, since city council hasn't approved the expansion of the exempt area yet (unless I missed it).

 

That said, within a 2-block radius of this site, there are about 9 full blocks that are either vacant or already dedicated to surface parking. If there's a demand for parking, I'm sure it will be provided (at some price greater than zero).

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I’m sure what you say is true

however

In a City like Houston with population growing ( more cars) parking seems to be dead last to be considered—- puzzles me.

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Posted (edited)

It helps that we don't remotely have a (lack of) parking problem. And the Sears building is at one of the most transit-accessible locations in the city.

 

Edit: Also, our standard parking requirements are quite high, so I'm not sure I understand why you think parking seem "dead last to be considered."

 

The walkable place ordinance, transit corridor ordinance, and expansion of the CBD zone are all attempts by the Planning Department to address an excessive prioritization of parking over more important concerns.

Edited by Texasota
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1 hour ago, trymahjong said:

I’m sure what you say is true

however

In a City like Houston with population growing ( more cars) parking seems to be dead last to be considered—- puzzles me.

 

Based on everything they've said so far, and the comment on In the Loop about a single story grocery store with a large parking lot not being an efficient use of land I think we can guess that cars are in fact the last thing on their mind. The type of people they are hoping to attract to this spot, potentially from out of the state, most likely don't own cars, so I'm sure the Endowment wants to keep that mindset prevalent during development. 

 

Maybe by groundbreaking they mean they will finally start making the changes to the building to transition it from being the Sears building to the Ion. It felt like most of the work has been gutting the building, knocking bricks out, etc; so mostly prep work. 

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5 hours ago, trymahjong said:

I’m sure what you say is true

however

In a City like Houston with population growing ( more cars) parking seems to be dead last to be considered—- puzzles me.

 

VMT (vehicle miles traveled) in Houston has basically been flat over the last 10 years (falling on a per capita basis), and we have almost certainly seen the peak amount of lane-miles of surface streets inside the loop. Absent non-market constraints (e.g. parking minimums) It's natural to start shifting land use away from surface parking and toward more productive uses.

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1 hour ago, Angostura said:

 

VMT (vehicle miles traveled) in Houston has basically been flat over the last 10 years (falling on a per capita basis), and we have almost certainly seen the peak amount of lane-miles of surface streets inside the loop. Absent non-market constraints (e.g. parking minimums) It's natural to start shifting land use away from surface parking and toward more productive uses.

 

Surface street traffic inside the loop has increased substantially in the last 15 years and there's more density on the way. I'm wondering if people might start embracing scooters and motorcycles more as an alternative. I just got back from San Francisco and had forgotten how relatively popular bikes are out there. 

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7 minutes ago, Nate99 said:

 

Surface street traffic inside the loop has increased substantially in the last 15 years and there's more density on the way. I'm wondering if people might start embracing scooters and motorcycles more as an alternative. I just got back from San Francisco and had forgotten how relatively popular bikes are out there. 

 

I was thinking exactly this not long ago. I've even thought about getting a Power Assist Bike. The kind that goes max 30mph. Would definitely help with parking, and they would save space.

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8 hours ago, Angostura said:

 

VMT (vehicle miles traveled) in Houston has basically been flat over the last 10 years (falling on a per capita basis), and we have almost certainly seen the peak amount of lane-miles of surface streets inside the loop. Absent non-market constraints (e.g. parking minimums) It's natural to start shifting land use away from surface parking and toward more productive uses.

 

This is interesting. Source?

 

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3 hours ago, Triton said:

 

This article is so frustrating, I don't know where to even begin. Near the bottom of the article, it evens starts listing all the successful spots around town, though not all of them. So, first off, I was with CBRE for 5 years but I am now part of a startup myself as a software engineer. We have a pretty big idea about the rental car business so we've been looking around the city for space.... it's not easy. With that being said, let's start with the worst offender in that article... this paragraph:

 

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. All that economic development she is talking comes when major developments like this occur, not the other way around. Let's start off on WHERE a large portion of the start ups are flourishing in our city right now.... organically without the city's input... It's not the density of Uptown or Montrose, it's the East End. You have a major one like Headquarters in the East End:

 

Secondly, people who work in startups don't care about those things because most of us go to the local gyms and coffee shops WHERE WE LIVE... not where we work.

 

Look, startups are occurring already in Houston whether Ion is built or not. It's occurring naturally. I just went to a major event this weekend and spoke with many people in dozens of startups. Some are coming from local colleges like Univerisity of Houston but others are coming from places like San Francisco where rents are incredibly expensive. The startup I'm in is simply working out a townhouse right now that allows business operations... Now, we have a large car dealership that we own near the Galleria and we're currently renovating the property to make it the central hub and headquarters for Lyft in the Houston area. We may simply build some office space on the lot but eventually, we would like to have a coworking space with other startups.

 

Either way, my point is... It's here. It's happening. And whether the city and Rice capitalize on it, it's up to them. Private individuals are buying out old warehouses on the East side and converting them into to coworking places already and will continue to do so. There's more in the works and Headquarters is even looking to build a second major location in the Heights.

 

 

 

Just because you personally don't live in the same area where you work and play doesn't necessarily invalidate the perspective in the article.  High density areas where people do all three are more supportive of the culture for creative enterprise than areas where each exists separately.  People with artistic, sociopolitical, and intellectual tendencies evident in creative industries tend to congregate in such urban districts.  Portland's an example.  Tech companies dot the metro area, but the city's Pearl District and downtown are where startup & development activity thrive.  Developers seize on the notion that eliminating physical distance between live/work/play attractions retain creative people & their industries.  The tech startup scene, advertising, the arts all cluster centrally where infrastructure & amenities favor less car dependency and where workday collaborations can carryover into nearby restaurants & bars. 

 

Hopefully, Ion indeed becomes a successful node alongside EaDo, the Heights, Midtown, and downtown in helping propel Houston's tech scene.  But it'll be by force of beneficent capital and in spite of its initially spartan location.  

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15 hours ago, Nate99 said:

 

Surface street traffic inside the loop has increased substantially in the last 15 years and there's more density on the way. I'm wondering if people might start embracing scooters and motorcycles more as an alternative. I just got back from San Francisco and had forgotten how relatively popular bikes are out there. 

 

Will probably depend on whether or not they can do so safely, which will depend on more protected lanes/bikeways. E-scooters and bikes are a non-option on our sidewalks, and would be scary on a lot of our streets.

 

 

8 hours ago, H-Town Man said:

 

This is interesting. Source?

 

 

Saw it here:

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, nonenadazilch said:

 

Just because you personally don't live in the same area where you work and play doesn't necessarily invalidate the perspective in the article.  High density areas where people do all three are more supportive of the culture for creative enterprise than areas where each exists separately.  People with artistic, sociopolitical, and intellectual tendencies evident in creative industries tend to congregate in such urban districts.  Portland's an example.  Tech companies dot the metro area, but the city's Pearl District and downtown are where startup & development activity thrive.  Developers seize on the notion that eliminating physical distance between live/work/play attractions retain creative people & their industries.  The tech startup scene, advertising, the arts all cluster centrally where infrastructure & amenities favor less car dependency and where workday collaborations can carryover into nearby restaurants & bars. 

 

I'm sorry, startups don't need any of that. We need Wi-fi and a chair. This is the 21st century and we can literally work from home 3 to 4 days out of a week. It's about the idea, not the area where we are at. No startup is saying "Oh, that mural on the side of a building or this coffee shop across the street is going to inspire us to be successful." Also, most of the people that I meet at these startup meet ups live out in Sugarland, Katy, Spring, and Pearland.... with the internet, you don't have to be confined to an area to find inspiration. Look, the most critical piece is actually the work done and people inside the coworking space. Seeing other like minded people inside a complex like Ion designing, building, and then releasing new material is a real inspiration for you to do the same.

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