A New Sign of Future Development Appears on Heights Hike-and-Bike Trail Site


Here’s the sign that a reader says went up earlier this week along the south side of the Heights hike-and-bike trail just south of the Freeland Historic District, at the ends of Frasier St. and E. 5th 1/2 St. Does the promise of “future development” mean that another developer is taking a turn trying to develop the 1.4-acre parcel of land where a proposed 80-plus-unit condo project known variously as Emes Place or Viewpoint at the Heights stirred up a fair amount of neighborhood opposition when it was last in the news a couple of years ago?



No. Because Surge Homes, the company mentioned on the sign, is simply a new brand created by the same developer: Canadian firm Group LSR, known locally also as Inner Loop Condos. The same firm built the Piedmont condo building kinda near River Oaks and the Serento sorta near the Med Center. But the sign doesn’t indicate whether the group’s plans for the site have changed.

Photos: Swamplot inbox


43 Comment

  • They’ve also posted a sign in the Woodland Heights. What is the word on this particular developer?

  • Oh no! More condos! How will the Heights ever survive?!

  • They also have a sign at 1820 Binz and one on Fannin near the Sears.

  • If you look at the second part of the story, you’ll see that it is just another incarnation of the same developer that tried to do the condos a few years back. Maybe they are hoping that the old opposition has moved away by now?

  • I believe they also did The Vistas…sorta near Midtown

  • Heights neighborhoods should go to decal parking; the dense development getting thrown up, 6-8 townhomes on single lots, mid rises, condos, do not provide parking and are content to dump cars into the surrounding neighborhoods because they are too greedy to allow for it in their own developments.

  • This will be single family homes.

  • Their website says single family homes with a picture of town homes. The condo tower had trouble with the City due to the planned driveway from E. 5th. Public safety had issues on the width of the driveway and turn radius at the dead end by the proposed condo tower. They did not want fire trucks stacking up if there was a fire and then not be able to get ambulances in and out. i A town home farm would probably be able to work around that issue as they would not require a big pile of fire trucks to respond to a fire.

    There were rumors that the City was going to buy the property and make it into a park if the developers decided to bail. The City is supposed to have a dedicated fund to buy property for new park land from development fees paid by new multifamily construction in lieu of dedicating green space on their properties. But it turned out that the City had been raiding the fund to support the general parks department budget under the oft cited Houston municipal law doctrine of “it doesn’t say anywhere that we can’t do it and you can’t stop us anyway.”

    Oh well. Good bye trees. I guess it is better than having a 8-9 story tower sticking up out of nowhere. Yeah. Woo Hoo.

  • Town homes are typically single family homes. It’s just that the latter sounds less jarring.

  • My question would be do they have a legal right to be putting commercial signs in the hike and bike right of way. If not, that is a bad omen for how they might take cate of the rest of their business, i.e. trees, ordinances, and other important issue inherent in building especially in the Heights

  • They just popped up a sign across from the old Caroline Collective in the Museum District.

  • How did they get permission to put a sign on the Hike & Bike trail. I wonder what other kinds of things they’ll try and get away with like cutting down trees or disregarding city ordinances.

  • I’m guessing that they don’t have permission to put that sign there. Feel free to take it down.

  • @greg: Homes in Houston are required by law to provide off-street parking ranging from 1.25 spaces (for studio apartments) up to 2 spaces (anything bigger than 2 bedrooms). So basically, you’re wrong–the developers HAVE to provide parking when they build these townhomes, two spaces in most cases. Furthermore, these existing parking requirements are already much too high and really disrupt walkability in areas like the Heights.

  • They are rubbing it into the NIMBY’s faces with that sign…knowing they’ll be there on that trail.

  • Well listen folks, I’ve got some big news for all of you. David Weekley homes has been buying up single family homes. “Tear downs” and odd individual lots in the heights. They are buying them up using a secondary name. Invest Block and the name Elizabeth Grant. To trick the neighbors and Heights activist groups. They are going to start building homes all over the Heights and no, the home designs are not cutesy pie ginger bread houses…they are plain ass brick and siding. I have heard from a good source that they currently have 150 + building sites and are looking to buy 200 more. David Weekley is going to ruin the heights!!!

  • I’ll make it a point to go push it over this weekend, it looks as cheap and flimsy as their buildings so I’m sure my friend and I will have no problem.

  • The sign came down Saturday morning while I was riding on that bike trail.

  • Hello Swamplot readers,
    My name is Louis Conrad, I am a partner of Surge Homes. I am pleased to see that many noticed our scity. This is an exciting time for us as we launch many developments. Since you were kind enough to mention some of our projects I thought I would respond to some interrogations in the blog.

    Surge Homes Development LLC is owned by Ben Lemieux and Louis Conrad, not by Group LSR or innerLoopCondos.com Inc. However, like many business people, we are involved in different companies. Ben is also president of Group LSR and we both created innerLoopCondos.com Inc. which developed condos in Houston from 2002 to 2007.

    It will be a few single-family homes detached with lots of green spaces. You can see the site plan and the proposed homes at http://www.surgehomes.com (make sure you register to view all details). Although there was a lot of demand for condos on the site, we realized that many were not in favor of such projects so we planned a different project that we think people will really like. Someone from the Houston Parks Board called once to discuss a potential acquisition of the land but there was never any written offer. Anyhow, the priced proposed over the phone would have created a loss for the land owners so there was no need to put it in writing. So, really, nobody bailed on anybody, it was just one informal phone discussion on a potential sale which is common in the business.

    Condo is a part of our activities but not all. We will build all types of homes. There does not seem to be a unanimous way of calling different types of residential products in Houston. Here is how we call ours: single-family homes (detached), townhomes (attached) and condominiums. Depending on the location (we propose 10 different urban sites) we will build these 3 types of homes.

    Some have mentioned that the Frasier (Heights) sign has been installed in the Hike & Bike Trail’s right of way. Thursday we noticed the mistake made by our installer and requested that he removes it ASAP which was done this morning, Saturday, 48 hours after the sign was installed. We are truly sorry and we wanted to make sure we get back to readers of Swamplot today regarding this sign. We know the Hike & Bike Trail is important to Houstonians and we spared no efforts to correct our mistake rapidly. Again, sorry about this.

    Have a nice weekend!

  • No worries Joey Jo-Jo and UG, no condos are planned here. Check out their site. They are planning single family homes. Looks like they have pretty exciting new developments planned all over town.

  • I like projects Louis and Ben. Your locations are great and please keep me posted with your continued progress.

  • Louis, can you commit to building single family homes on lots of no smaller than 5000 sq ft per home in the Heights? This keeps in harmony with the existing Heights home stock. Subdividing lots and maximizing # of homes per sq ft of land will make you wealthier at the expense of the neighborhood and its existing community. If you are serious about caring about what the ppl in a community want then you would do this. Separating townhomes by a couple ft and calling them “single family homes” is a little disingenuous don’t you think?

  • Another intersection with motor vehicles for those of us who ride the trail to avoid just such. Great. The sign in the ROW is the least of it.

  • I love when developers ask their friends to come to Swamplot and talk like robots..

    I love what is doing in , they have some very exciting projects!

  • @Louis Conrad, don’t listen to anyone here or especially any of the NIMBY’s and busybodies in that area, they WILL NEVER BE HAPPY. Even if you build exactly what they want and even let them pick colors and hardware, they will not be happy. They have elevated the “unhappy” with any development to an Olympic sport.

    Your sole duty is to your business, your investors, and the income you bring to your family, hence your duty is to maximize return on investment into that project, nothing else. (as long as it’s permitted by the city)

  • Commonsense, why are you speaking for, on behalf of or even about Heights residents? You don’t live in the Heights and, as usual, have no idea what you are talking about. In other words, shet ep, and stick to what you know, squeezing every little bit of profit out of everyone else’s quality of life.

  • I am anti-development, as a rule, but I am impressed these guys came right out and put up their sign and the home plans on their website well in advance of the actual construction,and apologized for and righted the wrong of posting their sign in the City’s right-of-way. Most of the developers in this city (especially the Heights) are like roaches, and the first time you see or hear anything about the crap they are foisting on us is the first day of construction. At least these Surge guys are telling us what they are doing and seem to be interested in what the community thinks. Good for them, and I hope they are truly interested in making something that is part of the community, especially since they are getting ready to build in my own neighborhood.

  • @mel, I really don’t care at all about the Heights but I do care when NYMBYs everywhere try to bully a businessman.

    Your quality of life is absolutely of no concern to me, and I don’t mean in a hateful or ill spirited way, I mean it as just a statement of logic. You have not contributed financially to my project, you will not be employed in the project, you most certainly will not be the customer for the project. In essence, you have no consequence what soever on my project (much like Indiana Jones in the Raiders of the Lost ark). So, as a question of reason, why would I pay any attention to your opinions or care how you WANT to live several blocks away from my project?

  • So the plans have changed from a 60+ unit condo project to a few high end single family homes and this still has people in a tizzy? What’s even funnier is that there is an article on Houston Press about said tizzy. The NIMBYs are out in full force and the lady doth protest too much, methinks.

  • Mel……Why is your beef with the developer? As commonsense said they only care about profit. That is what they are working to make. It was also pointed out that they have to abide by any city permitting rules. The CITY is who you should be concerned with. They are the ones that have authority over our quality of life. People, ‘should’, come first from a governmental perspective but the developers need not have a concern for ‘the people’ unless regulated to do so. Money over people*….*unless those people are the ones buying there stuff.

  • Duston – Why am I against development/developers? Please read every post by commonsense, ever, posted on swamplot.

  • Ryno – NIMBY? Really? That is so boring and unimaginative. “NIMBY” has been so overused (and so often used in the wrong context, ahem) by you libertarian/developer/developer-sympathizer types that it long lost whatever “zing” factor that “name” might once have had. This is a blog devoted to real estate and on this real estated devoted blog, readers were provided an update about a developer whose hotly contested early plans for property located in a highly visible place fizzled out (see Old School’s informative background narrative), was making another stab at the same property, under a new name and with a new concept. So, looking at the comments, I see a bunch of general questions and comments, and I even see a few comments in favor of the project or recognizing that the developer is doing a better job with the whole PR thing (for example, my second comment) than last time. I also saw a post from commonsense urging the developer to be adversarial toward the community(ies) in which it plans to build. Please point me to which of these comments you believe to be “NIMBY”. And, so we are clear, I am not a NIMBY as that term is used in the comments to this blog because that rather pathetic attempt at a pejorative incorrectly assumes I support development so long as it is not in my backyard. That is not NIMBY, that is hypocritical, and I am no hypocrite. Not only do I not want bad development in by backyard, I don’t want it in anybody else’s backyard.

  • And exactly what would be the ideal development? A smattering of brand new 1100 sq foot bungalows ? God knows you Heights people hate the Faux Victorians, the Faux French Quarters, townhomes in general, apartments, chain stores, anything with a parking lot so exactly what is left? A cemetery or a park? Direct your outrage to our elected officials who don’t have the cojones to actually
    to try and establish some more stringent land use rules.

  • Hello Swamplot bloggers,
    I was not expecting that many questions but we will answer each and every one of them after we analyze all postings and formulate a response that covers them all. Right away, I want to reassure you that the entrance to our development will be from East 5 1/2 Street and not from Frasier so don’t worry about this development being a nuisance to your bike ride (bike riding is my favorite hobby by the way).

    Thanks a lot for the encouraging comments and keep sending the constructive criticism, we value both positive and negative. We invested a lot of resources to build a website that presents our 10 developments BEFORE they are finalized in order to give us a platform to discuss during the planning stage. So please check out the details of what we plan to build on the Frasier-5 1/2 location at http://www.surgehomes.com. I would love you to see the overall site plan and homes we are looking to build on the Frasier/5th ½ location. You have to register to see all details but you can enter a bogus email if you don’t want us to contact you after you registered. We will read your comments regardless of whether your email is valid or not. The email is just a way for us to give a unique ID to a set of opinion regarding our upcoming communities and you can unsubscribe at any time.

  • I live in Woodland Heights and rent from LSR. They put letters on everyone’s doors (in our complex) about the future development sign going up and told us not to worry, that it would take years of development… Here in Woodland Heights, the homes depicted on the sign look like condos. I’m not very excited. I love my complex and the rent is reasonable. Definitely not looking forward to having to shop around for a new place…

  • @Louis, good idea, let the Peasants with Pitchforks have an Illusion of Choice. Let them pretend to participate, let them vent some hot air, and then throw them a bone to the side so while they bark over that, you build what you were going to build in the first place. Don’t forget, they don’t have any legal standing in this matter, they’re merely a construction nuisance like graffiti or defecating raccoons, just to be handled as a normal course of business.

  • @ June June: I can’t find any relevant records for “Invest Block” or “Elizabeth Grant” in courthouse records or the tax roll. I also can’t find any entities that are connected to David Weekley or his known companies that fits with what you’re talking about. Moreover, I can’t imagine why a homebuilder like David Weekley would make such a substantial investment in accumulating and holding land in a neighborhood with such a high degree of political risk rather than buying and building on a one-off basis during this peak part of the economic cycle. Its a very risky strategy, if that is actually the strategy. Also, you know its actually pretty common for developers to partner with various investors and form a tangle of entities that, yes, are sometimes difficult to figure out if you’re researching them. I used to think that it was insidious as well, but experience has taught me that it almost always has to do with compartmentalizing legal liability.

    So, although what you’re claiming is strictly plausible…yeah, your information is of questionable accuracy and isn’t necessarily indicative of what you think that it indicates. Can you give me more to go by?

  • Thank you, Louis Conrad, for being open to and accepting of the comments from those who have not just invested a few bucks in a piece of land with the hope of a quick profit, but rather have invested their money, time and effort into building a community. I am happy to read that your company is open to a dialogue with the surrounding community and is being up front about its future plans. There are so many developers like commonsense that view the established community around *his* building site as a nuisance to be antagonized. I am heartened to see your company is at least taking the right steps to join the community.

  • Commonsense, go ask your friends how that particular business model you ascribe to worked out for them in the Woodland Heights. Last I checked there is a midrise that is still mostly vacant, townhouses that took about a year to sell and a particular home builder that has had its job site shut down at least three times. Treat the neighbors like peasants, and they will rise up.

  • @ Craftsman
    If you notice our site plan (www.Surgehomes.com), the majority of the development will be covered by green space. We will build ONLY on the portion of the land that is not in the flood plain. As a result, there remains an abundance of green space.
    We cannot commit to an exact minimum square footage for the land on the lot of each home. You will notice that, in The Heights, the older homes have large lots, but all of the new construction is built on much smaller lots. We are trying to build very large homes on Frasier Street, and many have very large yards—some up to 25,000 square feet—which is a lot more than the 5,000 square feet you’re asking for. In terms of the distance in between homes, it will be a minimum of 3 feet. Some builders in the city go as low as only one foot. As such, the term “single-family homes” is what we believe best describes this kind of house, as opposed to a townhome, which designates a design where neighbors share a common wall. Please look at our site plan as a whole and peruse the details of our communities at http://www.Surgehomes.com.

  • @Commonsense
    It’s not really an illusion of choice. If you check our proposed community on our website (specifically the forecast for Frasier Street homes, for example) you will notice that there are many different floor plans. People will choose which ones will be built. We see a lot of interest for the larger homes that offer up to 5,000 square feet of living space. Also, you might see the architecture change depending on the comments from visitors on our website. So, in reality, we don’t know exactly what will be built, but we do know it will not be condominiums (this was our initial idea, but it was not well received by the city and the neighbors so we immediately changed plans). In terms of legal standing, our lawyer corroborated the fact that we can legally build our homes. However a developer’s responsibility goes beyond what he can legally build. We will also take into consideration our future homeowners’ opinions, as well as the opinions of the neighbors. Our biggest challenge is to make sure we find the compromise with our investors—who demand a rate of return on their money in order to keep our company running and our employees employed—and the community that sometimes requests what we build, or not build, which could therefore compromise the financial outcome of a development.

  • This, times 100: “However a developer’s responsibility goes beyond what he can legally build. We will also take into consideration our future homeowners’ opinions, as well as the opinions of the neighbors. Our biggest challenge is to make sure we find the compromise with our investors—who demand a rate of return on their money in order to keep our company running and our employees employed—and the community that sometimes requests what we build, or not build, which could therefore compromise the financial outcome of a development.” Of course, we have no idea how “successful” commonsense’s business or his business model is, because he posts hyperbolic statements about said business model under a pseudonym.