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The New Blight


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If you think cheesy strip-malls are bad, how about the new surge in Mini Self Storage places being built?

They take up too much space, require too many trees to be cut down, and are just plain ugly.

And what exactly is everybody storing in these things? A few hundred dollars worth of furniture at a cost of $50/month?

Yeah, that makes sense.

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On top of that, the size of homes has increased to an average near 2500 square feet. I would suggest we own entirely too much JUNK as a society. I bet if you looked through 99% of these storage units, most all of the stored junk has been replaced by some newer model of that junk in the person's home, rendering this junk obsolete, in addition to being junk.

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funny, I was just thinking about this last week when I noticed that horrible storage place on the east side of Memorial City was demolished. Hooray! Whatever replaces it has got to be better than what was there.

The only storage facility I've seen that's decent is the one on Westheimer across from Deidricks coffee.

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On top of that, the size of homes has increased to an average near 2500 square feet. I would suggest we own entirely too much JUNK as a society. I bet if you looked through 99% of these storage units, most all of the stored junk has been replaced by some newer model of that junk in the person's home, rendering this junk obsolete, in addition to being junk.

haha! don't forget that the stored junk (which is now obsolete junk) that was replaced by newer junk is also housed in junk. it's a house of junky mirrors! :D:blink:

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On top of that, the size of homes has increased to an average near 2500 square feet. I would suggest we own entirely too much JUNK as a society. I bet if you looked through 99% of these storage units, most all of the stored junk has been replaced by some newer model of that junk in the person's home, rendering this junk obsolete, in addition to being junk.

Perhaps there is a seed of truth in your assertion, but if you ask "what is the target market for mini-storage units," what do you think is the answer? Is it the person that has recently moved up, into a 2500sf home built this year from the 2000sf home they moved into in 1995? Or is it the person who has been laid off, divorced, foreclosed upon, or evicted? Is it the upwardly mobile youth who jumps from job to higher-paying job and from home to higher-costing home or is it the student that went abroad for a year and didn't want to lose their worldly posessions? Is it the stable middle-aged yuppie that would be made better off by giving their stuff to Goodwill and taking a tax deduction or is it the executor of an estate that got an excellent offer on the deceased person's home before an auction could be arranged for the rest of the stuff?

I've made the mistake of ridiculing advertisements on TV before, only to be reminded by a friend that "if you don't understand them, then you aren't the target." And that is how I can justify the existence of these ugly things--people need them. Not me, but someone does...just like somebody needed Deer Park. It's not pretty, and it isn't particularly useful to me, but it has a place in the world for someone.

Next on the list is those do-it-yourself car washes. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!

Would you prefer living in a world with only full-service car washes? Do you just despise poor people or something? Don't they have a right to a clean car too?

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Next on the list is those do-it-yourself car washes. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!! Between those two and new drug stores, I don't know which make me want to scream more.

DIY car washes are just real estate investments.

A very rich man once told me that buying an empty property and expecting to sell it in a few years for a profit is called real estate speculation.

But buying property, expecting to sell it in a few years, AND reaping a monthly income from it - that's called real estate investing. And that's what most car washes, surface lots, and even some mini-storages are. So hopefully one day all of these properties will become mid-rise condos with street-level retail... :D

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Obviously these storage facilities are money makers. Otherwise, why would there be so many? Are other cities having this trend? Curious. :mellow:

I think the blame falls on the design of new housing, specifically townhomes.

Older houses had accommodations for 'junk' - tool sheds, attics, utility rooms, and so on. Now, every square inch is dedicated to living space, the barer and airier the better. So the disused exercise equipment goes in the garage, as does the leaf blower and the hobby equipment and collectables that people are going to do something with...someday.

I'd rather see storage unit facilities than have people fill their garages with 'stuff', and then park their cars across the sidewalk because there's no where else to put them. :angry:

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DIY car washes are just real estate investments.

A very rich man once told me that buying an empty property and expecting to sell it in a few years for a profit is called real estate speculation.

But buying property, expecting to sell it in a few years, AND reaping a monthly income from it - that's called real estate investing. And that's what most car washes, surface lots, and even some mini-storages are. So hopefully one day all of these properties will become mid-rise condos with street-level retail... :D

In some cases, that is true. But the city charges, I think, a $60,000 fee to start up a carwash. They say that its to offset environmental damage of some sort. That means that the investment is harder to recoup and fewer car washes will be built in a given neighborhood. Those that are built see significantly less competition, but reap enough revenue into perpetuity to justify their existence for a long time. Mini-storage is also very profitable, especially in hot neighborhoods with a significant number of multifamily dwellings, like Midtown. The last time I checked, the mini-storage place there was nearly full. I seriously doubt that they're going to sell the land any time soon.

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I like DIY car washes.

Soapy Sam's on Almeda was my regular Saturday morning haunt for a while.

Sometimes I am too lazy to whip the hose out.

Soapy Sam's is my favorite as well, especially on a nice bright day when lots of other folks are out there. I wouldn't want to be out there after dusk, though.

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Would you prefer living in a world with only full-service car washes? Do you just despise poor people or something? Don't they have a right to a clean car too?

Dude/Dudette, what are you talking about? I didn't say I was against them, I thought I inferred I had issues with the AMOUNT of them, that's why I said, "enough already". And to take it a little further, I can't stand the fact they are being built in the parking lots of businesses now. Back in the old days ;) , they used to build them on empty parcels of land. Now, you will see a strip center with a DIY carwash in the middle of the parking lot. Drive down South Gessner and tell me it isn't so.

Shucks, let's take it even further than that.....there are now business that share space. There is a restaurant on Gessner near Bissonett where half of the parking lot is used for parking for the customers of the restaurant and the other half is used as a Used Car Lot. Now what would our elitist brothers in the NYC think of that? ^_^

WesterGulf, those storage facilities have been a thorn in my side for exactly 3 years now because it was 3 years ago that one of my favorite bootleg football fields was converted into one. Curses. What happened to garage sales, what happened to the Goodwill, what happened to just giving stuff away, what happened to selling stuff from the trunk of your car in the parking lots of abandoned businesses? We've all done that, right? These young whipper snappers need storage facilities. I spit on storage facilities. That does remind however, I haven't made my monthly payment on my stuff in storage. :o

Despite my bitter disposition, I'm really a happy guy.

Edited by VelvetJ
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I'll take a Starbucks and a CVS over a pawn shop and a check-into-cash (and its clones) any day of the week.

I thought that there was about to be a pretty decent retail development on the northside of 290 just west of Fairbank-N Houston. Not a huge parking lot. Pretty good design. Had a tile store.

Weeks later, pawn shop. Pawnshops and payday advance places may as well be cruise missiles for neighborhoods.

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Pawnshops and payday advance places may as well be cruise missiles for neighborhoods.

Do you mind if I steal that quote? Very insightful.

Perhaps this justifies a new thread; are payday advance businesses and pawnshops welcome members of our (or any) community?

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It's the perfect scam if you ask me.

Have people pay you to store their worthless junk.

Wish I would have thought of it.

Maybe I'll build one.

Good point...why not?

As you mentioned earlier, storage facilities aren't usually a compliment to the cityscape. I view them as part of the free-wheeling capitalism which has made Houston such a vital city. That they're not pretty is, well, sheer economics. If you think you can make a buck by opening one, more power to you.

And so we have to examine why people do build and run these storage units. Obviously, there's a market. Sometimes people find a month or two of storage easier and cheaper than selling everything and starting again. Other times, sadly, it's the last gasp for those who end up homeless.

What's sad is that people sometimes can't pay the bill. Read the classified ads in the Chronicle; you'll find auctions for the contents of these storage units. Ever go to the Texas Junk Company? That's where he finds the bulk of his stock.

It's not a pretty business, but it serves a purpose.

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i'm strangly fascinated with these buildings, i'm guessing in the same light as "complexity & contradiction"

the larger ones might make a great remodel job for a potential hotel project

They maybe blight but they represent the cowboy architecture that Houston represents.

I would lump them into the "tacky" side of town like the airport corridor (45) filled to the brim with car dealerships and strip clubs. (DFW)

Edited by infinite_jim
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i'm strangly fascinated with these buildings, i'm guessing in the same light as "complexity & contradiction"

the larger ones might make a great remodel job for a potential hotel project

They maybe blight but they represent the cowboy architecture that Houston represents.

I would lump them into the "tacky" side of town like the airport corridor (45) filled to the brim with car dealerships and strip clubs. (DFW)

Nah! No!

How cool...are you making reference to Robert Venturi's "Learning from Las Vegas"?

kudos!

Imagine, some future generation taking over storage units, as ours did 19th century industrial spaces...

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We've seen a number of places popping up in the northwest part of Harris County. We've also rented space from some of them in the past. It seems that a some of them are investment type properties for retirees. It's a low-maintenance type thing that generates steady cash-flow for them. Some of the retiree/owners also live on site also. Not a bad deal, from the investment side of things. It's just too bad that they're so ugly to look at. But, there's not really any way to dress up something like that. It is what it is.

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Perhaps this justifies a new thread; are payday advance businesses and pawnshops welcome members of our (or any) community?

I was going to mention the pawnshops too. Nothing like a place in the neighborhood for burglars to sell off their stealings, and the pawnshop itself is a potential target for thieves. The one behind my street was robbed by 3 guys from outside the neighborhood last year. The security guard shot 2 of them, both eventually died, the other got away.

The payday loan places are just indications of a lower/middle class population living hand to mouth. No big deal.

The mini-casinos are true, silent blight. Well disquised, they suck the savings out of hard-working residents causing untold grief and destruction. And, HPD can do little about it.

As for the mini-storage places; one definition of disappointment might be watching a groundbreaking/construction taking place on an important block in your neighborhood, and slowly realizing it is a mini-storage facility. They are benign at least, whereas the others I've mentioned tend to be more malignant.

A good sign in a neighborhood is when a dollar store goes out of business and a bank pops up in its place, such as has happened where I live.

The changing retail establishments are visible indicators of the direction in which a neighborhood is moving.

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The changing retail establishments are visible indicators of the direction that in which a neighborhood is moving.

This is an EXCELLENT point, Danax!

It's important to keep this in mind when you're out house hunting.

Check out the retail establishments surrounding your potential neighborhood.

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On top of that, the size of homes has increased to an average near 2500 square feet. I would suggest we own entirely too much JUNK as a society. I bet if you looked through 99% of these storage units, most all of the stored junk has been replaced by some newer model of that junk in the person's home, rendering this junk obsolete, in addition to being junk.

The self storage that was tore down is to be replaced with a new bank owned by Metro National called Metro National Bank and Trust. The rest of the site will be retail. The bank will reflect the same style as Memorial City Mall.

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This is an EXCELLENT point, Danax!

It's important to keep this in mind when you're out house hunting.

Check out the retail establishments surrounding your potential neighborhood.

Not always true. I believe the neighborhoods on both sides of Durham and Shepherd are moving forward (Heights and Shady Acres) but you would never know it from the state of retail on these streets.

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Not always true. I believe the neighborhoods on both sides of Durham and Shepherd are moving forward (Heights and Shady Acres) but you would never know it from the state of retail on these streets.

The intersection of Shepherd and 11th has either new or rehabbed retail on all four corners. Obviously, not all of Shepherd has improved, but there is a clear trend in that direction.

A better example is Shepherd/Durham between I-10 and Memorial. They are wiping out the whole street and putting up new.

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You're right; it is a cop out.

Amazing that it came from me, I get worked up over all sorts of other things. HA!

Big, gigantic things, that other people think I'm totally nuts for even trying to change, like the Grand Parkway! So, thinking of a way to dress up mini-storage lots which are a form of visual pollution, but not air pollution or noise pollution, I would say, why not leave a perimeter of trees or create one if one's not there, to shield the unsightly buidlings from any surrounding neighbors?

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If we could only have basements(at a reasonable cost) in Houston, then, we'd have waaay less of these places...

Excellent point. I love living in Houston but I really miss having a basement. Another 900 sf, or so, of space would be nice and having the water heater in the attic just creeps me out. I think it annoys grandma too. :D

Edited by west20th
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most recently developed mini-storage/warehouse facilities are built so an owner can collect positive cash-flow as the land's value increases. its just warehousing the land (pun not intended). except for the fancy ones, they are inexpensive to build and maintain. when the land's value justifies a redevelopment, it will be replaced with something more pleasing to the eyes. as long as the site does not have land restrictions, its something we just have to deal with in houston, for better or for worse.

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The intersection of Shepherd and 11th has either new or rehabbed retail on all four corners. Obviously, not all of Shepherd has improved, but there is a clear trend in that direction.

A better example is Shepherd/Durham between I-10 and Memorial. They are wiping out the whole street and putting up new.

I'm praying with all my might that the deco building that housed the Wallgreens at Washington/Shepherd will be spared. The for lease sign out front does show an original appearance to the facade at least.

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And so are historic buildlings.

Try to come up with another one.

Because every storage unit and car wash were built where historic buildings used to be.

Try to come up with another one.

Besides, a vacant lot does not as produce much tax revenue for the city as a storage unit or car wash would. At least there is active in the interim.

I know, I'll just go build some historic buildings instead of storage units and car washes.

Edited by kingkirbythegreatoftexas
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Any increase is an increase. If a storage unit or car wash is built (which I prefer were never built), it can be better than a vacant lot.

:huh:

uh, okay... say the improvement is assessed at $100k. at 3%, thats an increase of $3,000 / year in the city's coffers.

$3k may seem like a lot of money to some but from the city's perspective, its pocket change and not even worth the paper work.

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Oh, you're right. $3000 is nothing. Just use it as toilet paper. Come on. $3000 can pay for a lot of things like office supplies, gas for city vehicles for a week, six weeks of a file clerk's salary, etc. Just because it's a little increase doesn't mean it's not worth it. Little increases here added to more little increases there add up to lots of money for the city every year. Large portions of the city's money comes from small sources that added together make big money.

Edited by kingkirbythegreatoftexas
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Think about folks relocating. They get a rental near downtown and spent 6 mos to a year figuring out where to buy. A houseload of stuff won't fit into an apartment. Not all of their tenants come from that, but I have some stuff in storage for that reason, at least.

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car washes and mini-storages are two different things. water, soap, insurance (slippery when wet), plumming, etc can become a huge expense. in regards to taxation, the improvements are minimal, so the city doesnt see that much of an increase.

Unlike any strip malls or apartment complexes, the city receives about $60,000 per carwash before it is built as part of the permitting process. That's a fairly large chunk of change, as property taxes go, and they get it up front, rather than over the course of many years of taxation, so that's an added benefit to the city.

And with both car washes and self-storage, it is not uncommon for individuals or small locally-based and locally-owned companies to operate them. Although the city does not tax business or personal income, the locally-based owners have to spend their income somewhere, and eventually, some fraction of that money will be spent on housing, which is taxed. Its sort of a trickle-down effect.

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