Ashby Highrise: One Permit Away from Approval

ASHBY HIGHRISE: ONE PERMIT AWAY FROM APPROVAL “Having cleared six of seven departmental reviews, dating back July 30, the project only lacks clearance from Public Works and Engineering’s traffic section.” Developer Matthew Morgan says Buckhead Investment Partners will address four outstanding traffic concerns and resubmit the project for approval soon. [West University Examiner; previously]

72 Comment


    This project should have never been halted by the Mayor (who was acting beyond his power).

    If they meet all the city’s permitting requirements, then they should be allowed to build.

    This is a victory for property rights.

  • Woo-woo, start building. Should have broken ground already, IMHO.

  • Clearly, the residents of West University do not want the Ashby Highrise. What the developers are doing is ruining an oasis in the middle of the city. It’s going to ruin property values and make traffic horrible. It will ruin the residential feel of the area. How anyone can applaud this is beyond me and most everyone I know, the majority of which do not live in West University. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that kjb434 and Brad (same person?) work with the developers or will benefit from it financially somehow. I can’t see why anyone else would approve of this.

  • Yeah! Build the Ashby! Houston didn’t get to be the great city that it is by listing to a bunch a NIMBY’s. This will be a great addition to the neighborhood. And YES, I live nearby.

    Mayor White should be ashamed of himself for so blatantly wielding his political influence to stop this project just because Anne Cluckerfuck and her obscenely rich friends live close by. If this had been in any other neighborhood, the Mayor wouldn’t have lifted a finger to stop it.

    The whole traffic ruse is comical. If we’re going to halt development due to traffic, we might as well put a moratorium on all building permits inside Beltway 8.

  • Brian,

    As for the residents in the area of the high-rise, they were never guaranteed that their neighborhood or the nearby neighborhood would never change.

    The mayor should be quite ashamed of himself for even lifting a finger in this. To me it just shows that he cares more for his high dollar donor than the rest of the city.

    I’m a resident of a quickly gentrifying neighborhood near I-10 and TC Jester. I live in a new patio home in the area. Where was the mayor to step in to stop the development of my home and all of the townhomes in the area to save all of the cottages and larger lots? The mayor came to a civic club meeting and told the residents he couldn’t do anything because the developers were following the rules and change is inevitable. Why couldn’t he give the same speech to the people that live near this future high-rise? There are residents in my neighborhood that lived there for a over 40 years where nothing changed. In the last 5 years all that got turned upside down.

    Also, all of the arguments against the high-rise are bogus. The closest one they could actually use is traffic, and even that one doesn’t have much merit. Bissonet during rush hour does not back up significantly at all. Plus, the with of the current roadway leave ample room to install a long left and right turn lane to prevent traffic backups. This will probably come out in the traffic study/permit application.

    The argument that the high-rise doesn’t go with the neighborhood is bogus too. For one, it purely subjective. Two, there are many upscale single family home areas in Houston that have residential high-rises: River Oaks, 3rd Ward (near Herman Park), South Hampton (Robinhood Tower), Tanglewood. Even in Champion Forest in the suburbs they have one.

  • Dear Mr. Morgan & Co.
    Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

  • Victory for property rights my ass. How are my property rights being protected when my property now has a 23 story high rise looming over it. Lot of good it will do for my property value. Seems to me the only ones with any property rights are the developers to build whatever they please and cash in on the ambience of the neighborhood that they’re now destroying. I’m all for denser development but lets have some planning and sense to it. I’d even be for it at the outer edges of the neighborhood such as the Robinhood on Kirby or the museum towers. Right smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood makes no sense to me.

  • cestbon

    So you are all for denser development as long as it’s not by you?

    Any denser development in pretty much all of the inner loop will be a change from the existing. Dense high-rise development in midtown would be a dramatic change from what’s there today.

    Who are what will you give this all power position to for planning? To me, a planning/zoning board would give developers a much easier way to bribe there way to develop versus the Houston organically let’s development occur by where it is demanded.

  • A Quick Lesson on Property Rights

    It seems some residents of Boulevard Oaks don’t understand the meaning of “property rights”. Property rights means that YOU get do whatever YOU want with YOUR property. It also means that I get to do whatever I want with MY property. Get it?

    Property rights doesn’t mean that YOU get to tell ME what to do with MY property. That is THE OPPOSITE of property rights.

    If you buy a house near a major street or near other large commercial properties (like Maryland Manor), there’s a chance that someday the owner of that property will choose to redevelop it. This is something every resident of Houston SHOULD know. If you didn’t know, too bad. Your ignorance shouldn’t stop progess.

    If the existence Maryland Manor Apartmetns was so critically important to the continued viability of Boulevard Oaks, the residents of Boulevard Oaks should have dug into their wallets and bought the property themselves a LONG time ago. You guys had 40 years to buy the place and control its destiny. You blew it.

    Of course the ruling class doesn’t have to follow the rules, do they? The rules are for the masses. When the rulers don’t like the rules, they just call Mayor White and have the rules changed.

    Unless of course, you ARE Mayor White and HPD is trying to enforce DWI rules on your daughter. When that happens, you call Rusty Hardin.

  • Wow, What a change to midtown that would be . Just think of all the vacant buildngs and parking lots that would be displaced. Call me a nimby if you want but I don’t think its unreasonable if I buy a house in a residential area with all single family housing or apartments to expect it to remain so. I didn’t buy on Kirby/Buffalo Speedway/Westheimer etc. At least with a planning board the developers would have to pay the bribe. As it stands now we have to just bend over and take it from the developers who take the money and run. Curious that these 2 choose to live in West U and Southside place which both have zoning. I’m willing to bet they’re nimby’s to. Hell we all are. Would you like a chicken farmer for a neighbor, or maybe a strip club. That’s pretty organic growth.

  • It amazes me how hypocritical some people can be and not realize how foolish they sound. Time and time again, the people of Houston rejected zoning. While West University has zoning, properties on the edge of West U are certainly subject to the effects of changes in adjacent properties that are not governed by zoning. If you are unaware of these ramifications when you acquire your property, it is not the fault or problem of everyone else in the world to fix (and pay for) what you were too naive to understand. The lack of understanding of property rights by some of the posters above should be astounding, but it’s not. The not in my backyard accusation hits the nail on the head with these individuals. Rules are only for other people besides us elitists. Riiiigggghhhttt. Mayor White should be ashamed of attempting to change the rules for this bunch of elitists when he couldn’t care less about numerous groups of others facing the same problems who might not be able to help him with a statewide campaign in the future.

  • Cestbon,

    You are not making sense. What two did you imply live in West U or Southside Place. Kjb just told you he lives in Cottage Grove. The other one didn’t say where he lived. But, they are pointing out that property rights apply to your own property, not that you have the right to dictate to others what they can and cannot do with their own property because you might not like what they intend to do with it. If you don’t want something other than a single family dwelling built next to you, then don’t buy anywhere but in the middle of a zoned or deed restricted area. The developers have every right to build what they are building, where they are building it. I’m not real hot on the idea either, but they have every right to do what they intend to do legally. The elitists that are trying to stop them do not have the right to force the developer to comply with their wishes for the developer’s property.

  • Oh, not that it needs to be said, but obviously a chicken farm could not be operated inside the city limits, but a strip club could be if it didn’t violate any of the pre-established distance requirements from schools, churches, etc. There are land use requirements in the city of Houston, but the Ashby highrise is not violating any of them. Oh, and I don’t live in West U or Southside.

  • Thanks CK,

    You guessed right; I live in Cottage Grove.

    If cestbon had its way, many of the families that live in the cottages wouldn’t be able to sell their home for a substantial profit because their lot would have to remain a single family house.

    When I bought my place in Cottage Grove, I had to weigh the risks of having a rail yard,an active rail line, a nearby freeway feeder road, and industrial buildings on the other side of the tracks. Because of these factors, I chose the location of my home in Cottage Grove. I knew property near the feeder road and TC Jester could become commercial one day. I knew closer to the tracks would yield more noise and vibrations. This all played into my choice. You can’t assume buying a house automatically insulates you from what may be built.

    Oh, and in college I did live near a chicken farm. It’s not as bad as the pig farm that was a few miles down the road. Oh, life in north Louisiana.

  • The developers of the high rise live in West U and Southside Place.

  • And?

    The cost to live in West U and Southside place is higher. The taxes are much higher too. That is the price the citizens pay in order to have a consistent predictable development pattern.

    I personally don’t like it. I guess is the residents in South Hampton that don’t like the Ashby project could go and by a home in Southside Place or West U. Or even move out to the Memorial Villages or Sugarland. They are sure to be safe from “evil” highrise developers.

  • kjb434,
    So who’s the elitist? Are you saying only those who pay a higher cost and higher property taxes deserve a “consistent predictable development pattern”?

  • It’s not being elitist. It’s freedom of choice.

    You can choose to live in a neighborhood or a city with or without the regulations of zoning or deed restrictions.

    If you chose to live in South Hampton, you only have deed restrictions within the community and a lack of zoning that can affect lots outside of the deed restricted area. This setup has been in place for a long time. So the construction of Ashby shouldn’t be a shock because it was always a possibility. And the complainers have every right to come together and buy the property from the developers to stop the development.

    Living in West U doesn’t make you elitist, it’s people that are choosing to pay a market price for what they want. Similar neighborhoods exist all over Houston that are a much cheaper price and offer the same protections as in West U. And guess what, a lot of people chose to live in those places too. West U cost more because it has the stricter regulation closer in town. So they are taking good land off the potential market for being made denser. That means their land cost more. That’s all. In many areas of inner Houston, the land is escalating in price also and the only kinds of developments that can justify the price of the property is dense high-rise or multi-million dollar single family homes. And the lots that aren’t deed restricted are going to go first.

    The price of the lot for the Ashby project could really only be justified by building the proposed building.

  • To reiterate….To avoid these problems, you don’t buy on the edge of a development, such as adjacent to comm’l property that might someday be used to build something other than single family dwellings. This isn’t rocket science. The same thing goes for buying out in the boonies in the middle of undeveloped land. You never know what’s going to be built there. It can dramatically affect any existing property values that are in close proximity. How much money you pay for a property can have alot to do with it, but doesn’t necessarily have to. Even if an area doesn’t have zoning, if it’s in a subdivision with mandatory deed restrictions, a strong property owners association, and with adequate maintenance fees, there should be no future issues to worry about, as long as you don’t buy on the perimeter of the developement where something else could be developed besides single family dwellings.


  • Rise High, Ashby HighRise!

  • Build it NOW.

  • I’m not sure what there is to celebrate.
    This neighborhood does not have the same infrastructure as the Galleria area or even Kirby for that matter to have this monster development without it negatively affecting the whole area….and not just the neighboring houses.

    Good development should benefit the whole community not just the lot it sits on….just b/c developers follow the rules and take advantage of lack of restrictions doesn’t mean they’re doing the right thing.

    These developers should grow a conscience and build communities not ruin them.

  • There are a lot of things you can do. It doesn’t mean you should do them.

    That high rise may very well have a very negative impact on the area in a number of different ways: property values, traffic flows, etc.

    I’m not saying follow the heard 100% of the time, but when a vast majority of the community says no, that ought to factor in.

    I don’t really care where the developers live. Most people don’t feel like the Ashbey high rise will be a valuable addition to the neighborhood.

    And for all those high rise boosters in the comments thread (those who aren’t on the developers payroll that is), if you’re so keen on this project coming to fruition, we’d be happy to help move it next door to you.

    How about that?

  • Lu and Justin,

    I have development popping up all around me that I can’t control on a daily basis. I don’t have a problem with it because I completely disagree with imposing my will on other people’s property. If I didn’t like it, I would move to an area where this wouldn’t be occurring.

    As for infrastructure, it is the city’s job to adapt to the changing development levels. Property values should never be considered on whether development is built or not. Property values is not an easily targeted number and is based upon market condition and subjective judgment.

    There are three critical elements the city is concerned with: water, sanitary, and traffic.

    Water is determined through capacity requests made to the city. The developer had to determine how much demand they require and the city had to determine if it is available. There are clear cut standards to determine the demand the building will need based upon experience, TCEQ regulations, and city regulations. Pressure is not an issue since the building needs to provide its own through pump systems. Actually, this building could increase water pressure to the other homes in the area since it is being taken off the system in terms of affecting pressure.

    Sanitary capacity also needs to be present. If the city cannot effective convey the sanitary flow from proposed development, then they could not permit it to be built. Sanitary capacity in the proposed area is quite large and has been upgraded recently.

    Traffic is reviewed through a traffic study that is required by the city to permit the development. If mitigation measures are needed, the developer will have to pay for it.

    As for determining what is good development or not, how would proposed to do that? There are no rules or guidelines for good development other than the requirements set for in the city’s Chapter 42. If you don’t like what’s in there, then going to your city council member and mayor to work to alter these rules is how you handle it. This routinely occurs every year or so. There are meetings that are open to public for input on these exact topics. There are appeal boards, planning commission meetings, and engineering reviews where objections can be made.

    The public has the ability to push these concerns out. Many of times this will result in the changes to the development. It happens plenty of times. The only problem is that your concerns need to be legitimate. Worrying about the fabric of the community or architectural flow the neighborhood are not true concerns. Rulings based upon those concept go against the concept of property rights. A concept within Houston and much of Texas that is valued very highly.

  • Sad to hear this. I really do loathe all these gun-slinging developers that run amok in Houston with no regard for the neighborhoods and communities they blemish. It is interesting to me though that West U has been so up in arms about the “Tower of Tower” ruining views and property values. Much of Old West U has been torn down and replaced with McMansions that IMHO have already changed this once quaint and charming “oasis in the city.” Some of these custom houses are just brash declarations of excess that disregard their neighbors. I haven’t run any numbers, but many of these monuments of excess dwarf their next door neighbor’s cottage view, not to mention their property value.

  • The McMansions as you call them actually raise the cottage values. Actually, it raises the land value a lot and the cottage value stays about the same.

    So the neighborhood will be all McMansions, if you don’t like it, then move.

    Charm is not permanent and some people may like the McMansions better and think the older smaller houses are a load of crap. It’s all opinion. The city of West U won’t stop it because it grows their coffers without placing much if any increase in demand for services.

  • To be precise this isn’t going up in west u. It’s in the middle of southhampton and boulevard oaks. We haven’t quite had the proliferation of mcmansions and rebuilds but the trend is starting full force with many teardowns and spec homes that dwarf the neighbors and engulf the entire lot going up.

  • @kjb434

    In the interest of transparency, do you mind telling us your name, what you do professionally and any connections you have, direct or indirect, to the developers of this property?

    It’s not very often that you hear someone defending an unwelcome development against what you term the non-legitimate concern of the “fabric of the community”.

    I think that’s why it’s called “fabric of the community”…because it’s what ties it all together and makes to work. It is the most legitimate of all concerns.

  • kjb434
    good development benefits the whole community, not just one person or group of investors.

    I’d be curious to know if these “developers” have any background/studies in urban development.

    … as i see it right now this development will make this area less desirable..not more. Over time i believe values will decrease thanks to unwanted spawn of greedy developers.

  • Justin,

    I’m a civil engineer employed at a local firm. I have no connection to the Ashby project whatsoever.

    I work in hydrologic and hydraulic area of civil engineering (flooding, drainage, floodplain, watershed analysis).

    I work on large scale private and public drainage projects. I also work on watershed studies concerning floodplain delineation and management.

    The basis for my support of this and any development project is property rights oriented and the basic freedoms that are the foundation to our country.

    Don’t blame the developers, blame the people that support them by demanding the development they are providing. If the market for McMansion style homes that tear down smaller homes didn’t exist, then they wouldn’t be built. Customers are causing this, not developers. Also, I don’t believe in zoning to force people into certain style developments. This causes so many problems in cities because a handful pf bureaucrats are trying to control development by the wishes of the few.

    The Ashby project exists because the developer truly believes there is a demand for people to move into that style of living. These people want to be centrally located. The developers sees this old apartment complex that could be the basis of a project to supply the housing that is in demand. It is as simple as that. Also, there is nothing wrong for generating a profit from the demand.

    It’s no different than any other business model. If you want to call it greed, then every business in the U.S. and the world needs to be labeled the same way.

  • There is a demand to be centrally located…and developers see this demand…true. But you can’t try to fit everyone in ONE place…and businesses and traffic…and not expect to cause chaos.

    It is unnecessary is to build a 23story tower when you can easily fill this demand by building something that could fit appropriately with the area. there are many centrally located places that are far more appropriate than in the middle of a neighborhood. i.e. off kirby, westheimer, montrose….etc.

    Another example of this supposed demand- the developers that built that monster over on kirby by the univesity bank. although this is better location for this kind of building it remained empty for several years… and i believe it is still not full. Were their demand calculations accurate? ( or maybe it’s because it’s one of the ugliest buildings around hehe)

    i think it’s more speculation in the hopes of making the most without any consideration of anything else. Townhouses in this area sell like hotcakes… why not build town homes? even a small mixed use development would have been interesting…and welcomed. I think a community knows when something makes business sense and when something is blatant greed and disregard.

    Sadly i know i can’t shame anyone into doing the right thing. i appreciate the discourse and insight and hope this all loans some “food for thought” to anyone planning on developing anywhere.

    I hope that restrictions will change in the future for the better of a community and not to enable “towers” in the middle of great neighborhoods. I fear that allowing this building to proceed will just make it easier for other developers to do the same or worse.

  • What is appropriate? If people buy the units then many would consider the 23 story tower appropriate.

    If they can’t sell the units, then it wasn’t appropriate.

    It is a very subjective area.

  • site appropriate…not demand appropriate.
    i think that demand appropriate is what is subjective.

    If you study the site and area this doesn’t seem to be a suitable development…outside of the demand for people to be there… and i really really hope that the traffic report doesn’t get “fudged” in order to make this an “appropriate development”. Anyone who lives in this area can already tell you that traffic is a problem on bissonet.

  • To all the people who are not happy with this project, I have a question:

    When the City of Houston had a vote to have zoning, were you old enough to vote? If so, did you vote? What was your vote, zoning or no zoning?

    The majority of people in Houston are against zoning (at least the majority that bothered to vote), so if you believe in democracy you should accept this as the will of the people. It may not be fair, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

    Still, even in a no-zoning city such as Houston there are ways to control development, such as deed restrictions, and yes, city ordinances. If the neighbors were so worried about future development, they should have fought to establish deed restrictions in their neighborhood, or lobbied council members to draft city ordinances to protect heir neighborhoods, as has happened in a few other neighborhoods. They did neither, instead they want to change the rules as they see fit.
    Is it possible that people that vote against zoning, and do nothing to protect their neighborhoods, act that way because they’re afraid their property will be less valuable with “all those restrictions”?

  • You have another flaw. If site appropriate the angle you are taking, that’ll mean downtown is out of wack. Several skyscrapers were built adjacent to single family homes on the southwest side of downtown. That little church next to the former Enron buildings was a community church in a single family area.

    By your definition of appropriate, those buildings shouldn’t have been built there.

    Think of Ashby as the coming change to the neighborhood. To believe that this neighborhood should be as it always was is idiotic. That means no city could grow unless it only sprawls out where no existing development has occurred. By your definition, no townhomes should get built in areas of the Heights and/or places like Cottage Grove/Rice Military. They are not appropriate next to the existing cottages. The loom 3 and 4 stories over 1 story old homes. If you pass rules prevent lot subdivision in this case, you’ll get what’s happening in Bellaire and West U with the McMansions.

    In the in end, the only way could enforce you version of appropriate would be to have a Czar of development. That would be an utter disaster and the foundation for massive corruption. The czar could say that South Hampton should become dense and the Westmoreland area should stay not dense. And you’ll have little recourse in this situation.

  • UM…downtown EXPANDED into its surroundings …which makes sense when a city CENTER grows.
    ashby and bissonet is by far NOT the same scenario.

    No one is saying that this neighborhood will or should stay the same … i’m just saying that people should take into consideration what works best for a majority and not just the few.

    I’m not a fan of McMansions either but i think i would prefer it to a 23 story tower that brings in more traffic and possibly other towers to this area. there’s is quite a difference b/w a 3 or even 5 story building and what is trying to get built here. also i welcome density… but i think this is an extreme…. subdividing a lot into several townhomes will never be the same as mixed use 23 story tower.

    i don’t propose a czar of development hahaha just good conscious design….and definitely a review and change of building design and standards for this area.

    by all means develop… make money…its the American way… i don’t think proposing moderation to what gets built denies any of these goals….i think the goal is to set some standards to ensure that neighborhoods like these remain desirable and livable.

  • “i don’t propose a czar of development hahaha just good conscious design….and definitely a review and change of building design and standards for this area.”

    So what is good conscious design? It seems like another vague subjective term. How do you want to impose this concept on the current property owner if you ever fully define?

    Saying what fits that neighborhood is not a good definition because you haven’t defined anything.

    Again, whatever regulated basis you establish to enforce your conscious design will be open to interpretation. Perhaps taking conscious design to a direction not to your liking. Perhaps saying that Ashby represents the new trend to what South Hampton is to become….

  • We will probably have to agree to disagree. You believe that community input, environmental impact and conscious development and urban planning are to be ignored, and I believe that they should be a central concern.

    As far as how to define “conscious design”, I can tell you what is NOT conscious design: a 20-something TOWER in the middle of a NEIGHBORHOOD. Consciousness is defined as “the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one’s environment.” If anything this development has showed complete disregard for its “environment”.

    I would also like to point out that progress is: advancement: gradual improvement or growth or development; “advancement of knowledge”;develop in a positive way;

    There doesn’t seem to be outstanding positives to this development.

    For me, it is a matter of taking a community and its interest into consideration. For you, it is a “devil may care” attitude that puts a developers agenda above the thousands of people in the community he will impact. I do not see that as a public benefit..a profit benefit perhaps, but not a public one.

  • I know I won’t change your mind, but I have to correct some of mis-characterizations of my views.

    Community Input: Houston has many level of community input within reason. The reality is that most of the true input was irrational and the Mayor reacted because some of the community was part of his rich donor base.

    Environmental Impact: The reality is that this building would be better for the environmental types. Each condo in this building represents potentially 1 less house out in a far flung suburb. The end product will plant more trees than ripped out.

    Urban Planning: Urban planning has failed so horribly in so many cities. Why would we want that here. To have a comprehensive urban planning scheme in Houston would ruin a city that has defied the status quo. The reality is that Houston leaders through the years took the approach of property rights over an over bearing Urban Planning style.

    The decision of whether or not there are positives from this project is a matter of opinion. Everyone against it saying how bad traffic will be, yet we have several high-rises on streets that don’t have much capacity: Lamar Tower, towers on Herman Drive, Regency on San Felipe, Robinhood in the Village. And assuming the traffic numbers are “fudged” if it favors the tower is pretty dangerous assumption. If it is true, the engineers on the project can lose their licenses as they should. If it isn’t, the accusers could be slapped with a defamation lawsuit.

    To me, community interests are being taking into account. All the concerned residents were heard at city and before any hearings at the planning commission. Just because it still is being built doesn’t mean your concerns weren’t taken into account. The planning commission hears thousands of objections over the course of the year and many are taken and addressed with the developers making adjustments with compromise.

  • “Environmental Impact: The reality is that this building would be better for the environmental types. Each condo in this building represents potentially 1 less house out in a far flung suburb. ”

    – Will these people that are looking to move to some “far flung suburb” be able to afford living here. I seriously doubt these were built with this audience in mind…because i doubt they would be able to sell them at the price these people would be willing to pay for the compromised space.

    more trees? really? will this mitigate the amount of rainwater not absorbed by the giant footprint and large impermeable areas of this development or help with the extra pollution by the increase in traffic and cars?

    The building examples you mention also in no way replicate Ashby and Bissonet:
    Robinhood in the Village- already a mostly empty
    commercial area. Lamar Towers also surrounded by mostly large buildings in a mostly business area.
    towers on HERMAN DRIVE…ditto

    Most of these types of buildings are built within an existing condition with “similar neighbors” and perhaps on the perimeters of residential areas….NOT RANDOMLY WITHIN a neighborhood.

    Personally I love how some of the lack of zoning in houston has worked.. having some businesses mixed into the residential…sometimes it works really well…as gathering places for the community.. other times it becomes pretty malignant and soulless. I think it’s worth taking a look at what works and doesn’t work… what makes sense and what is going to disrupt.

    I think there are plenty of examples within our own city worth looking into…and none of the aforementioned provide a similar situation to make them an honest comparison.

  • Lets take each of your comments one by one….

    The highest volume of house sales in the suburban Houston market for the last two years is the $400K plus homes found in the suburbs on smaller than average lots for the home price. The home buyers are fitting the demographic of people who are also interested in low maintenance home lifestyle. Typically successful retired empty nesters. This is also the prime market for high-rise clientele. The market trends in Houston for this demographic has not suffered under the current housing/mortgage situation. So yes, people that may live near Lake Conroe or higher end portions of Kingwood and the Woodlands are the exact people developers of high-rises are targeting.

    The current apartment complex has trees only located in the Bissonet and Ashby Road right of ways. These trees belong to city (public) and any removal will require replacement. Removal will also require the new development to replace at the current Chapter 42 requirements which will produce more trees than existing. This will replace the three small pine trees and several Palm trees within the current apartment complex. This is an area the residents can work with the planning commission to require a certain type of tree and the new trees to be of a certain caliper size. The planning commission pretty much always sides witht he residents on this topic.

    The current complex has the same impervious cover footprint as the proposed development. The storm water runoff volume will equal the current runoff. Flooding will not be made worse by the new development since it is not producing worse impacts on the current drainage system. Features have to also be employed on the new building and any new tall building to prevent higher velocities from entering the storm sewers because of the concentrated fall the storm water will endure. Pollution would be identical because of the similar footprint size. The cars will be parked under cover preventing their oil residue from reaching the storm sewer. Also, all on site drains are required to go through a storm cepter or vortex type storm water cleaning device which removes oils from storm water as required by the City of Houston and EPA regulations. Actually, because the new building will be subject to these storm water quality guidelines, the storm water will be cleaner now.

    Developers have taken noticed of what works and doesn’t work as for as commercial being integrated within residential neighborhoods. This is one of the reasons the proliferation of mixed use developments and more new urban style commercial development has occurred in recent years. The evolving and improving development happens through experience and not by government fiat. Older areas of the city between the loop and the beltway are slowly seeing renovation in commercial development of older commercial sites. Inner loop areas are seeing planning and currently executed renewals.

    If you look into TIRZ #5, an entire suburban style spread out apartment complex is under plans to be demolished and rebuilt into a mixed used development. This will take Washington Avenue between Studemont and Heights Blvd. in a new direction. Across the bayou, Allen House Apartments will transform into an urban district with the same mix of shops and residential. All this has moved forward at the pace set by market demands and developer driven all with the lack of zoning regulations. Developers actually apply for variances from the planning commission to implement urban style development that is not set within our codes. This process provides scrutiny and public input since all variance requests allow for public comment.

  • Kjb – Great rebuttle. That’s an interesting tidbit on the Washington Ave. apartment complex redevelopment. That whole complex isn’t even very old. It was built in the 90’s. They really could have done alot more with that prime piece of land than what’s there.

  • @kjb434

    I think it’s fair enough to say that you are anti-community input, and we are pro-community input.

    You have a vested financial interest in seeing these types of developments go through because your business will grow as a result of it.

    There are many people who put the needs of the thousands of people in the community above the handful of developers looking to turn a profit at any and all costs, regardless of the impact.

    We will not count you among them and call it a day.

    Let us agree to disagree.

  • Thanks CK. Justin, I’m all for community input. Community input is how I’m partially involved in the TIRZ #5 discussions. I belong to multiple community groups that tackle development issues in relation to community input. I’m also active in a local civic club.

    The Washington Ave project is part of a long term redevelopment in TIRZ #5. Currently if you are in the area you may be seeing the new high-rise apartment/condo tower going up. This project is part of TIRZ #5 also. A pedestrian bridge across Buffalo Bayou is also is also under way. I may be doing the hydraulic design for the project. Either way it will be a great amenity for the area.

    The project came to my attention through the Super Neighborhood 22 group. They went speak on the variance at the Planning Commission for the Washington Ave project. The end result is the Planning Commission directed TIRZ #5 to have a community representative on the TIRZ #5 board. Now the community has a voice and heads up knowledge in all the redevelopment plans. TIRZ #5 also takes into is boundaries much of Buffalo Bayou in area and parts of White Oak Bayou. This is to direct TIRZ #5 public money for potential parks and trails. The money is generated through only increase in property value taxes (so not to take away from money going to existing taxing entities).

    Community input is valuable when working in compromise, not as a stopping force. Developers and property owners shouldn’t have to bend over and take it from short sighted community activists that don’t make reasonable fact based arguments.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but we’re not talking about Washington Ave, White Oaks, or Buffalo Bayou. We’re talking about the Ashbey highrise.

    But since you believe community input is valuable when working towards compromise, perhaps you could outline for us the good faith efforts towards compromise that the Ashbey High Rise developers have offered to alley the concerns of the community?

    And for what it’s worth, I would say that it is a vast majority of the area that is opposed to the deal, not a handful of shortsighted “community activists”.

    The only handful of shortsided anything in this deal looks to be the developers and their lackey’s trolling the blogs.

  • Why would the developer even care about this blog? I have no stake in this project. I don’t know how a Civil Engineer based in Hydrological and Hydraulic design in reference to flooding would be working for a essential a site specific project like this.

    I work regularly with community groups, Harris County Flood Control District, the City of Houston, many other incorporated communities. When I work with developers, it to have them meet or exceed the local requirement for storm water issues.

    Since the Ashby Project is a site project, I would have no roll in the design. I know what regulations would apply, but know job would be available for me in any aspect of design.

    I also sit on a community stakeholders group for the Buffalo Bayou/Lower White Oak Bayou Federal project being undertaken by HCFCD. The group I belong to has environmental interests in the project and I represent and outside engineering view of the technical aspects of the project so I can relay it to the community.

    You shouldn’t be throwing wild assumptions about who I am. My only stake in Ashby is ensuring that any property owner in the city doesn’t have his/her right trampled on by NIMBYs. The community successfully stopping this project would mean that anyone selling their land to someone could lose value because they the land would have limitations on its potential.

    I’ve have said pretty much all I can say regarding this project. I’ll gladly defend any project that is viciously attacked with no real substantive reasons.

  • I’m sorry but the people that buy in kingwood, woodlands and conroe, buy b/c they want property/land and a house at a price they couldn’t afford in the city… this hardly fits the description of empty nester’s that fit the bill for the low maintenance lifestyle or the many people i know that do live in these towers.

    As for the pollution..what about off site drains? on the street that will be heavily trafficked… you can’t say that there wont’ be MORE traffic… that it will stay the same…and that this will have no effect on bissonet and surrounding streets and the pollution “off site”.

    Like i said i’m all for mixed use- or development period…but i think it should be tempered and it should be noted that replicating something in one place doesn’t ensure success in another. This neighborhood is hardly in the same disrepair the way that washington was. I think this area is in need of diversity but i think taking it 23 stories was an uneeded jump. My problem is not so much with the use but the size….and the following repercussions it may cause such as the continuing trend of taller and taller towers filling a part of town that will not benefit from them all because this 23 story tower has opened pandora’s box.

    It’s funny how you’ve perfectly outlined jane jacob’s chapter: “the self destruction of divirsity” when describing what is happening on washington:
    –“We need all kinds of diversity which should be intricately mingled in mutual support. the main responsibility of city planning and design should be to develop a great range of unofficial plans, ideas and opportunities…The winners in the competition for space will represent only a narrow segment of the many uses that together created success…whichever one or few uses have emerged as the most profitable in the locality will be repeated and repeated, crowding out and overwhelming less profitable forms of use.. Competition based on retail profitability is most apt to affect streets. Competition based on working-or living-space attraction is most apt to affect whole groupings of streets or even whole districts…thus, from this process, one or few dominating uses finally emerge triumphant. but the triumph is hollow. a most intricate and successful organism of economic mutual support and social mutual support has been destroyed by the process….both visually and functionally the place becomes more monotonous…at some point the diversity growth has proceeded so far that the addition of new diversity is mainly in competition with already existing diversity. here is a process, then that operates for a time as a healthy and salutary function, but by failing to modify itself at critical point becomes a malfunction….”

    “In this case(city residential districts), so many people want to live in the locality that it becomes profitable to build, in excessive and devastating quantity, for those who can pay the most. These are usually childless people, and today they are not simply people who can pay the most in general, but people who can or will pay the most for the smallest space. Accommodations for this narrow, profitable segment of population multiply, at the expense of all other tissue and all other populations.”

    Anyways, i’m happy to learn more from the other viewpoint… i hope you can see why this is a situation i am wary of and should be continued to be discussed and considered at all levels… i’m also surprised to see that perhaps being as controversial as it is that this development hasn’t been touted as a “green building” as a redeeming quality. It should definitely be a LEED sustainable building fit with all the energy saving /conserving/producing technology possible…if it is to lead as a positive example of development.

    “Good bye…and thanks for all the fish! “

  • I didn’t throw any wild assumptions about who you were. You did however throw around some wild assumptions about the people opposed to this project describing them as “short sided” people who want to “bend over” the developers to give it to them. So try not to be so thinned skinned and sensitive.

    You have not answered my question:

    Since you believe community input is valuable when working towards compromise, perhaps you could outline for us the good faith efforts towards compromise that the Ashbey High Rise developers have offered to alley the concerns of the community?

  • An answer to the question would be appreciated before you take your marbles and run home.

  • clarification, I thought @kjb434 said “good by and thanks for all the fish”.

    So apologies for suggestion you were running home with your marbles.

    An answer would be appreciated all the same.

  • The Pandora’s box of towers in low density areas was opened many years ago. This is nothing new for Houston.

    What compromise do want the developer to make? Lower the height to not make a profit off the tower? That would kill the project as is and would be no compromise.

    It seems that most of the concession the developer could make would deal killers.

    Compromises would involve traffic mitigation measures such as left and right turn lanes which there is room for in the current right of way. The city has to authorize it or require it. The community could have suggested this from the beginning to handle the potential traffic increase. Residents need to realize that Bissonet is a major thoroughfare and not a local collector street. It is meant to carry higher traffic volumes to remove cars from the local neighborhood streets. Under the current Major Thoroughfare and Freeway Plan developed by the Planning Commission, Bissonet is listed as sufficient width. This leaves it open to be widened in the future. In reality it would be repaved and re-striped to four lanes similar to San Felipe and Westheimer within the loop. This consideration was in the works long before Ashby came along. This re-striping plan would essentially mean that Bissonet in the city’s eyes would be able to carry double the existing maximum traffic load.

    This could happen with little to know physical widening of the existing street.

    Compromises to community have to involve real concerns such as pollution, traffic, flooding. All these are being addressed. Pollution from increased traffic is not a concern of the city and the EPA. Public infrastructure is exempt from any regulation in this realm.

    Houston has no airspace, line of sight, or sun blocking regulations. If this is your concern, you can take it up the next time Chapter 42 gets revised.

    The developer respecting the community’s wishes occurs from following the community’s guidelines. The developer isn’t being evil. If you want change, become active in the Chapter 42 revision process which is open. Many community organizations (like the ones I belong to) review drafts and submit comments.

  • so again, what steps have the developers taken towards reaching reasonable compromise with the community?

    You seem to place value on compromise in your initial comments, then subsequently calling describing it as a “deal killer”.

    So are you basically saying that the compromise that you yourself have stated as important, is in the communities interest but not in the developers?

  • What does the community want?

    Everything I see and hear from them is to stop it. All I here is complaints. Compromise in these situation is often in reference to architectural styling, streetscapes, and traffic mitigation.
    There is nothing you can to to stop increase in traffic. It’s not a point of negotiation with the city. Increase traffic is inevitable and measures to mitigate it are the answers. Trying to stop something because it would increase traffic would kill most new developments in the city. Even a short mixed-use development with only about 3 or 5 stories would cost traffic issues with the need to mitigation.

    The steps the developer has taken involve meeting the communities guidelines set forth in city ordinances.

  • so you’re saying that the developer has taken no steps to engage he community in a meaningful way to work towards any compromise?

  • Are you actually reading anything I’m posting.

    I have said lots. The developer is working through the permit system the “community” created. Also, through the meddling of the Mayor at the request of the community, the developer is going to go through extra hoops. the developer is going above and beyond what any other developer would have to do.

    The developer is meeting every requirement is has too. What do you want? A face to face meeting with that one neighborhood? I haven’t seen anything reasonable from the residents other than stop anything that may get built.

    These people should stop whining about this one project. Maybe they should realize like the Heights, Shady Acres, Third Ward, Fourth Ward, Sixth Ward, Cottage Grove and Rice Military neighborhoods that working with versus just saying no will get you further. These neighbor hoods are getting attention by working to preserve and replace trees that development can impact. Involving council members and planning commission sessions to work compromise.

    The biggest step the community took was to circumvent the process by ram-rodding an ordinance with the Mayor’s help to stop this particular development. Maybe this lends the answer of why the developer is not trying to work the residents too much. If they would have approached it in a calm manner versus going off the handle to just plain stop it, maybe some agreements could have been made.

    The community shot itself in the foot by being completely against it versus offering reasonable input.

  • I have read everything you posted. I think we have a fundamental disagreement on what community dialogue is.

    I don’t think merely navigating the permitting process counts as meaningful engagement with a community in opposition to the development.

    So based on that, I would say then that the developers have not engaged the community.

    This community and this development cannot reasonably be compared to the Heights, Shady Acres, Third Ward, Fourth Ward, Sixth Ward, Cottage Grove and Rice Military. It is apples and oranges.

    We will have to agree to disagree.

    Thank you for your comments and your time.

  • i know i said good bye… but i keep seeing you compare this neighborhood to others that have nothing in common: “should realize like the Heights, Shady Acres, Third Ward, Fourth Ward, Sixth Ward, Cottage Grove and Rice Military neighborhoods that working with versus just saying no will get you further. ” and by further do you mean an over proliferation of townhomes?

    Every example you have given offer a completely different circumstance from ashby. these neighborhoods were in disrepair. Ashby/southhampton this area is not needing much if any revitalization and has been doing extremely well for some time.

    I really fail to see any significant benefits to the community now or in the future… it doesn’t even offer improved living in the means of sustainable design. increased property values is not guaranteed especially if people start moving out and selling their homes to build more towers…cleaner? perhaps at that point but not really helping any of the problems caused outside of this point…which will be many.
    I think if people can profit off of 2-3 story townhomes the developers are surely creative enough to come up with something better than a tower.
    …and hey if the developer chose to build in this area knowing the residents would probably not be for this it was his choice and his responsibility to deal with his choice as the new kid on the block…so far there seems to be no reason to welcome him…. just as the developer is using his building savvy and wiles to navigate and take advantage of the system i think the residents have the right to use their resources be it the mayor or their money to achieve their goal if it is the desire of the majority which it appears to be.

  • So it’s ok for neighborhoods you deemed as in disrepair to undergo a drastic change yet a neighborhood that you deem in good shape should not see any change?

    So neighborhoods with poor home owners should be ok with drastic change yet home owners with rich stable neighborhoods should see no change?

    Do you not see what’s wrong with this? Talk about unfair and unequal.

    This goes back to the elitist comments made early in this thread by others.

  • @kjb434

    you can shroud your loyalty to the “develop at all costs for any profit” philosophy in populism all you want.

    The only thing elitist action I see here, is the arrogance of a jack in the box developer forcing an an unwanted development on a community that would have a negative impact on home prices, traffic, quality of life and the environment.

    That is arrogance and elitism at its finest. And if you want to be the developers water boy on this, then that is your right.

    We will agree to disagree.

  • This isn’t anything about loyalty and your ignorance is starting to shine through.

    I was merely pointing out inconsistency in Lu’s comments.

    I haven’t shrouded anything and I’m being completely open in my views and basing them in reality.

    Tell me how does the community get to decide what goes on this property? Where is that right prescribed to them? They even admit this on their website.

    The project site is unrestricted and does not fall into a deed restriction. Just because you don’t like it is not a reason for it not being develop.

    You and Lu haven’t yet set how you would alter this property or control it’s development other than name calling the developer and me (which there is no relation).

    I’m not a blanket supporter of developers. I have work against many developers when they try to circumvent rules and build out of code. Particular in the volatile issue of placing fill in the floodplain and negative impacting drainage in older neighborhoods. I have work with civic organizations to help them formulate arguments against developers to city inspectors. We’ve stopped or halted many jobs because of this. I do this in my free time outside of work as part of the White Oak Bayou Association.

    Fighting against this project because it doesn’t look or feel right to the neighborhood is soft grounds an argument.

    The actual stopashby website is pretty funny especially the Q&A section. Their arguments are quite baseless against all known data and experience with projects of this scale and many larger ones (which is a lot).

    Some of their concerns are issues that occur regardless if this project being built or not and should be taken up with the City of Houston.

    I see why the media has now dropped any new coverage of the project because after their investigation the developer has done nothing wrong or unusual.

  • kj- you’ve twisted my words the way you misrepresent the project with irrelevant examples…
    FIRST of all no one said about not changing or not developing…. what i was saying is that revitalization is relevant in places that are in need of it… This new development is not a revitalization project….so those examples are void of comparison.

    what i am saying is that any community has the right to fight for what they want and don’t want with whatever resources they may have…be it rich or poor.

  • Give me a poor neighborhood that can get the Mayor to ram-rod an ordinance to target a specific development, then I’ll completely agree with you.

    I don’t disagree with a community fighting for what it wants, but the community also needs to understand where it stands and what an achievable outcome is available to them.

    The traffic argument has an answer that is very technical and has to meet city rules. Their concerns are valid, but also has a designated outcome base upon and engineering study.

    The neighborhood aesthetic argument is something that can be addressed in the street level design. From the street, unless you just stand and look straight up, the building would seem to be any different than what is currently there now.

  • what about the large shadow cast by this massive structure? will this go unnoticed as well? Consider the following information:

    “Insufficient height regulation permits a property-holder to usurp his neighbor’s ” ancient lights,” as it is still termed in England and tends to produce a haphazard saw-tooth sky-line, … and usually a distinct loss to the community in land values taken as a whole.

    Congestion in the streets near the building will result if too great a number of people are employed in or served by it; …Insufficient light and air in the street and in the building will result from too great height of the front elevation of the building on the street line. Loss of architectural effect will result when the building has such a great height that it cannot be viewed at a proper angle. … the limit of profitable height from the standpoint of the individual building-owner, however, at present appears to be well beyond that which would usually be imposed by these three factors; for height evidently effects several economies, such as that gained by dealing in large units, making the utmost use of the land, and saving in time due to the proximity of many offices and the relative ease of vertical travel over horizontal. Some limitation is therefore necessary for the protection of the general public.”

  • Your are going quote aspects from London? They have different rules regarding development from ours. They probably have a system much like New York City rules regarding height and visual rights.

    None of these are guarantees nor should they be. If Houston has imposed these measures or a form of zoning, you would have a valid case against this project. The problem is that there are many existing cases in this city where a highrise blocks sunlight from a single family residence. These highrises are commercial and residential buildings and built after the establishment of the single family homes.

    The city of Houston should be wary of making an exception for South Hampton and not for all the other neighborhoods that have experienced this.

    In the end, if you dislike the result so much, you can move. You aren’t stuck in your home. People move all the time because their neighborhood and environment changes. I moved from the Kirby/Westheimer area out of a townhome I owned into a patio home in the Cottage Grove area. I didn’t like how the neighborhood was getting too dense and busy. The area I’m in now is dense with homes, but not as likely to foster development of a highrise, apartment complex, or large commercial development nor the bustling activity. In the end I’m still taking a chance and the neigbhorhood could change from my assumptions.

    South Hampton is sandwich between two areas that are targets to become increasingly dense. If they do stop this building, more will try to build on their fringes. If you are worried about shadows, a 23 story building moved further east from the Ashby sight into what you make call a more appropriate area would still cast a shadow reaching South Hampton.

  • Gawd you two haven’t come up with a valid point yet trying to rebuttle anything that kjb has posted, aside from some drivel plucked from somewhere else. As obnoxious as the majority of real estate speculators and developers can typically be, this developer is completely within their rights to build what they are proposing.

    The property is on a major thoroughfare. Residential and commercial properties adjacent (or even nearby, for that matter) to a major thoroughfare need to understand that roadway improvement and expansion are natural expectations for these transitways. An allowed by city code improvement to a property in a non-zoned or non-deed restricted property has to answer to no other property owner regarding it’s usage. I fail to see what’s do difficult to understand about this concept. Just because residents in these hoity toity communities don’t want a tower in an adjacent property (that has every right to be built there) doesn’t give any of you or the mayor the right to come in and change the property rights on that property that existed when the developer bought it.

    The elitist attitude displayed is somewhat comical, but not really funny. It’s sad that people can be so naive, yet rude to someone that understands legal property rights.

    I have absolutely no connection to the developer. In fact, I despise most developers. But, on the other hand, I understand property rights. I have also been a property owner’s association board member for years in a couple of different subdivisions. In addition, I live in one of the subdivisions you look down upon so…. Rice Military.

    Previously I have lived on a busy street. I understood all along that my property values would be undervalued when compared to adjacent off-busy street properties due to my property’s street frontage. I also took this into account as I renovated the property unitl I sold it.

    All along you’ve conveyed the attitude that it’s ok when those less fortunate have something built next to them that they may not want, but not ok when the right elitists are bothered by something that they feel infringes on their pristine neighboring subdivision.

    We don’t have zoning, bottom line. You don’t get to tell others what they can and what they can’t do with their real property. West U has zoning. There, the city can dictate much more so that in Houston what can and can’t be built. This property in question is not in West U. They have complied with every aspect of what is required of them by the governing entity.

    This has to be the longest thread of this blog so far.

  • that is really sad sad and pretty lame statment…it is this moving caused by unwanted development (i’m not saying all development ;)) that causes neighborhoods to disappear.

    FYI-the comments are not based on LONDON..he -a harvard phd.- just references the term “ancient lights” sorry i didn’t know i would have to clarify this???! because he doesn’t seem to reference england in any other part of what was quoted…. in fact in his study he references houston which is why i quoted him.
    Why are you so dead set to say that there are no negatives to this development and attack my posts on the most meaningless (and misinterpreted) of levels… also why have you failed to offer any significant and HONEST benefits to this development? are the developers rights more important than the general public?

    The problem if this ensues will not be just southhampton’s but every neighborhood like this… neighborhoods should be protected. period. protected so that people DON”T HAVE TO MOVE AWAY… this doesn’t mean not developed…(i feel like i have to restate this for you for some reason)
    As i understand it, chapter 42 form based code doesn’t take into account that areas like this should not be classified as truely urban and should be amended as such…where it also defines areas like the galleria as suburban…it is clearly out of whack ?

    You are right the city should not just make an exception for just this neighborhood but for all that have this situation… but i sure hope that by not making the exception that it doesn’t also pave an easy road for developers to take advantage (not saying not develop) of other neighborhoods.

  • would CK and kjb434 mind telling us their real names and what they do, or continue to hide anonymously?

  • Where does it state that a development has to benefit the community at large? What benefits do want? Are they abstract or physical? Can they be measured or reliably predicted based upon existing empirical data?

    The true benefit to the city of Houston is increased property tax revenue.

    I never said there are no negatives, what I have said is this project has done nothing wrong in order for it to exist other than piss off some home owners.

    They have followed all the rules. If you want your neighborhood protected, move into one within the city that has taken the effort to get protected. Move to a suburban neighborhood that has strong deed and HOA rules.

    What is happening here is that bordering neighborhoods are trying govern what happens outside of there neighborhood. The neighborhood is not being destroyed and any conclusion that is has is an opinion. I don’t think the highrises adjacent to River Oaks did much to hurt the property values in the area. In fact, it has raised them. The single family lots and houses are so much larger than the condo units that they get appraised higher.

  • My name is Kyle Blank. As I mentioned several times before, I’m a civil engineer working at a private firm here in Houston.

    I have a background in hydrologic and hydraulic analysis. You can confirm all this by going to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers website and searching my name in the PE Search tool. It will detail the firm I work for and my P.E. licensing number which is 98442. All this is public information.

    I’m a Vice President of the White Oak Bayou Association (WOBA). None of my views in these posts are meant to represent that of WOBA and WOBA’s board members.

    I live in Cottage Grove in a rapidly changing neighborhood within the White Oak Bayou watershed.

    I have no link to the Ashby Highrise project. All the plan sets and reports submitted to the city of Houston would detail all the firms that have worked on the project. You will not see the firm I work for on any project.

    Need anymore information?

  • No, thanks. That covers it. While I disagree with your position on this, I respect your commitment to it and your thoughtful comments.

    I hope we can find something to agree on in the future.

  • The developers of the Ashby High Rise have a moral right to use their property as they choose. The home owners in Southampton and Boulevard Oaks are attempting to use the coercive force of government to impose their values upon the developers. That they are using the government as their proxy doesn’t change the fact that they are acting like thugs.