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Angostura last won the day on July 7 2010

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  1. I'm curious if this is just something Sola decided to do, or whether they need to do it to be in compliance with the city's parking minimums. Ch 26 requires 3 spaces for every chair plus a space for every employee. This can get pretty onerous on a per-sf basis.
  2. This is the kind of transit project that looks great from the standpoint of number of dwelling units or square feet of retail within 1000 ft, but the actual pedestrian experience would be terrible.
  3. Except where they run on dedicated ROW (and sometimes even when they do) early 20th century streetcars were actually pretty slow. During peak hours, the St Charles streetcar in New Orleans isn't appreciably faster than a brisk walker, and definitely slower than a bicycle. What really limited Houston's density were, in no particular order: The 20th century sewer moratorium, which effectively limited construction inside the loop to 4-plexes during large parts of the high-growth post-war period. Deed restrictions limited certain areas to single-family residential The 5000 sf minimum lot size, which was only relaxed in the 1980s. Chapter 42, which established minimum front and side setbacks and other density-limiting regulations (and established the strip center as the dominant commercial development pattern) Minimum parking requirements (which basically require a standalone restaurant to dedicate 75% of its land area to parking)
  4. The concept is called a land-value tax. The idea is that, rather than base property tax valuation on the land-plus-improvements, you only tax the value of the land. So the owner of a block used for surface parking would pay the same tax bill as the owner of a block across the street used for, say, an office tower. This incentivizes landowners to more quickly develop to highest-and-best use, thereby discouraging the kind of land speculation Golconda is engaging in, and eliminates the tax penalty associated with remodeling existing structures. It also removes the tax incentive to quickly demolish an existing structure, then leave the lot empty for (sometimes) years before actually building on it (see e.g. Chevron's demo of the downtown YMCA).
  5. Good for him. There are few enough grandfathered zero-setback buildings that every one is worth saving, and this is pretty much the only way to do it.
  6. I know what each of those words means, but I have no idea what that phrase means.
  7. I don't know if there needs to be a maximum width, but if you plat at 25-ft or 33-ft frontage and sell lots individually, a lot of development is going to happen on one or two-lot parcel. Yes, at least for uses other than single-family residential, minimum width is 50 (or 60) feet. Recall that a typical downtown or EaDo block is only 250 feet between rights of way. So you can never really have more than 5 different façades on a given block face. Add in the 5000 minimum size for non SFR reserves, and the most different façades on the block face around the corner is three.
  8. The walkability of a neighborhood is pretty tightly correlated with the average parcel size within it. Any parcel as large as a city block is as likely as not to be complete crap. Compare this streetscape: ...with this one: If this area was to have any hope of being an interesting, walkable, horizontal-mixed-use neighborhood, the plot of land that eventually became the Target would have had to be replatted, continuing the street grid from the other side of Sawyer, into parcels with, say 25 to 50 feet of frontage each, exempted from setbacks and parking minimums. 20 years later, you would have had a neighborhood within a 10-minute bike ride of downtown, filled with half-million-dollar townhouses, small mid-rise apartment buildings, and street-level retail, and you could grow it west and south as other warehouses came on the market. This is basically how the Heights came about (except greenfield instead of brownfield.) But in a world where it's pretty easy to finance a huge multi-acre development there's not much reason to develop in this way anymore.
  9. The city generally extracts a commitment to provide 6-ft sidewalks in exchange for approving things like setback variances. (Not sure if this project required a variance or not.)
  10. This is an under-appreciated fact that often goes overlooked by "new urbanists". The long-term quality/walkability of an area is to a very large extent determined by two factors: effective street width (distance between opposite façades, not just roadway width), and average parcel width. The former provides human scale and a sense of enclosure, the latter provides granularity and variety as you walk along it. This development is better than most with respect to street width, (it's probably about the minimum the city will allow), but each blockface is a single building in most cases.
  11. There's a soft spot in my heart for all of Houston's legacy zero-setback buildings.
  12. Would love to see Yale redone as a 3-lane street (like Studewood) with wider sidewalks. Barring that, I'd like more people to take advantage of the fact that on-street parking is legal on Yale for most of its length during most of the day. Speed limit on Yale is 30 mph, but drivers routinely go 45. Speed limit on Heights is 35mph, but drivers routinely go 25. Road design does more to limit traffic speeds than speed limit signs do.
  13. Assuming steel-and-brick construction is $400/sf and stick-built SFH construction is $200/sf, you can calculate the breakeven floor-area-ratio for a given land value. For condo FAR of 4.0 and SFH FAR of 1.0, land values above $270/sf would favor condo construction. There are very few places in Houston where dirt sells for that much. Having lived in mid-rise condo buildings in a neighborhood in an (actually dense) city where that type of construction is typical, I can tell you I couldn't have afforded the same square footage in a standalone house. FWIW, I love these kinds of buildings (4-6 story, <20 apartments), but staffing these kinds of buildings gets very expensive on a per-apartment basis. When I lived in 5-unit building w/ 24-hour doorman coverage the condo fees were brutal.
  14. I understand the dynamic, it's just the opposite of the way things work in (actually dense) cities where land value drives the economics. In places where 90% of the population lives in a multi-family building, where floor area ratios are seldom below 4.0, an apartment being more expensive than a standalone house would be unthinkable. I'm guessing the demand curve is very steep. Doing a very small number of these probably means each one is very profitable (that penthouse alone is probably a 7-figure profit to the developer), but once you get beyond the people for whom it's a lifestyle choice, the market-clearing price drops a lot.
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