Call To Develop the East End; Houston a Yahoo Rising City


Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool


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  • Real estate brokers, architects, urban planners and landscape architects looking for East End handouts.

  • Indeed very true Roanoker. Developers only develop when they profit… It’s the all mighty dollar that drives development. Developers have found the sweet spot and that is chopped up land for $400K+ condos. When I read this sentence I about spit up my coffee. “(Affordable housing) is a big concern. We really decided this first effort needs to be as clear as possible for developers and that will benefit the community.” This is a sure deal killer for developers and any hope of getting things kick started in Harrisburg corridor.

  • Urban Institute attempts to high jack taxes for favored groups and do something that the market does not want. Were the demand there, retail, shops, groceries and eating establishments would naturally and organically be flocking to the East End. Interesting that a bunmc

  • I don’t think the East End is needing incentives to develop multi-family projects. Those projects need hard risk analysis by those who are risking whereas govt incentives relax that risk and the result can be a glut of unoccupied apt complexes if the economy tanks. And these statements that the East End is so diverse, that no one wants rows of townhouses and that affordable housing is a problem? The East End is the most un-diverse area in town but is becoming diverse due to natural market forces and affordable housing is still widely available and rows of townhouses are better than rows of dilapidated housing.

  • #eastdowntown

    Do the people at the Urban Land Institute even live in Houston? No one in Houston seriously thinks that east downtown (not Harrisburg) could be a ‘hidden gem’. It’s deserted for a good reason. It was once Houston’s China town, but decades ago people began moving to the suburbs.

  • That Yahoo News, Katie Couric bit is pretty entertaining. Rather premature (misguided) to suggest that Houston beat the oil bust. Seems as though she’s seriously ignorant of our ongoing monetary policy blunders. We certainly haven’t seen the end for the unwind of all the malinvestment. The fact that building permits just dropped 31 percent in January is a pretty clear warning. Local homebuilders are going to continue talking a good game, but the market is suffering from price exhaustion and irrational exuberance. It speaks volumes that mortgage companies are busting out with more zero and 3-percent down products to “expand the credit box”.

  • ULI is providing a developer incentive recommendation that they would typically make. Yes, we want to revitalize our neighborhoods, economic incentives are a way to do that. Some level of economic incentives are sometimes needed. But what is needed more than economic incentives are smart growth policies that guide this type of development without large amounts of capital needed. Houston is very pro-carrot and anti-stick. This doesn’t work well financially when there are specific areas that need extra investment and sound development. When a municipality is very lax in their development regulations (anti-stick) it’s hard and costly to encourage (pro-carrot) anything that citizens and government want to happen. When municipalities plan for and require (pro-stick) sound development/investment and discourage development in far flung areas they save taxpayer money and get what they want.

  • Of the 26 380 agreements the City has done since 2010, only 3 have directly benefited the East End (Dean Foods, Dynamo Stadium and CH2MHILL). The lion share of the agreements have gone to pad the pockets of developers working on high end projects in high demand areas on the west side of town. River Oaks District even got one. Then there is the downtown living initiative that gave out enough tax breaks for luxury highrise developments to completely eclipse all the other 380 agreements that came before and after it.
    So, ULI asks for a bit of equity and suddenly the East End has to sink or swim on its own? With a bit of vision, the East Side could be a great place to develop a firewall against the San Franciscification of Houston real estate where anyone working a normal job (teachers, admin assistants, government employees, etc.) are banished to distant suburbs.

  • Re: East End. Let me first establish my credentials. I have lived, owned a home, and developed commercial real estate in the East End. I was involved in the arts scene there on a commercial basis. I have been a member of ULI. I am none of these things anymore. Actually I am kind of cynical on all counts.

    1) I think that the East End is highly susceptible to economic shocks. If you look at the deep history on the Alexan Lofts or Lofts at the Ballpark, it doesn’t inspire confidence. There have been failed townhome developments at really a very large scale of development as these things go. That was all a while back, but it goes to show that when Downtown catches a cold and takes an antihistamine, the East End goes to the ER. The Heights residential market will always clear at some price; a bet on the East End is a bet that pricing-out must continue to occur. Its what one should expect of a submarket that has been and continues to be on the periphery of more desirable areas. When the tipping point is that it becomes one of those areas…I don’t know. I know of some people that have been waiting for decades; they even thought that Minute Maid park was it. Not then. Not yet.

    2) The geography of the East End is such that it can accommodate the pressures of development very well and there is plenty of opportunity to go around. There is actually SO MUCH opportunity in terms of land area that it may be a little overwhelming in some ways. Many tracts are dozens of acres in size; and if Regent Square is struggling with its scale in a place where premium pricing can be commanded then the East End will struggle as a matter of course.

    3) There are mechanisms in place where a subsidy for residential development could be offered, but I would suggest that resouces are better spent on neighborhood-level streetscape improvements. For example, Eastwood has (relatively) good sidewalks and curb and gutter but the 2nd Ward is sorely lacking in most places and can be ‘scary-looking’ whereas it could easily shift to one notch above that. Investment needs to be in features that have a wide-area impact given the budget, unlike Downtown which is a very small land area by comparison. Regional-scale parks along Buffalo and Brays bayous are also potentially unique and cost-effective investments that perhaps could lure matching contributions from outside the community. This is an area where if the existing housing stock is revitalized, that that will naturally lead to denser residential and commercial development; and even as it stands, entrants to the East End are hardly the pioneers that I was (if I was ever that).

    Lastly…ULI is for networking, not for hard-hitting wonky analysis — although it can be a gateway to that if and only if you treat it as a networking tool. Its not a business, but I think of it as a sort of a media company. I don’t think that thats too much of a stretch to say. (And of course the community leaders would support their findings; I actually can’t fault the Greater East End Management District. They do a difficult job pretty well.)

  • I think East End is done for for now. The reasons to live in East End was thin at best, and when prices are now falling even in the Heights, they will tumble in East End, the cool has evaporated. Most builders have frozen any “Spec” projects and are only doing contract, and all those Urban Pioneers who bought with hopes of the area turning hot and popular will now be sitting on “unsellables” for a decade or at least till oil doubles in price.

  • This is a comment on the East End apartment article from It’s pretty good I think.

    This would be an incredible opportunity for the area. Though, it’s a shame that Affordable Housing has such a stigma associated with it. The medium income for the Houston Metropolitan Area is $59,354. I’m a young professional with student debt making less than what is considered the medium income. And my situation isn’t very different from many of my peers, of which spend more than 30% of their income on housing so that they can live close to an urban area (read as ‘not the suburbs’). A $400,000 home is a luxury. A $300,000 home is still hardly affordable to my demographic. Affordable Housing doesn’t have to equate to ‘people living in abject poverty’. It’s an opportunity for young, hardworking people to set down their roots and live within their means.

  • Man, look at all these East End haters. For one, the East End is actually pretty darn diverse. You have the boring EaDo stuff, nothing really of note there in terms of diversity, although standing in line at Sparkles on a Saturday afternoon gives you an idea of the surrounding areas. Then you have Eastwood, which is a fairly diverse neighborhood and has been for a very long time, it’s a blend of working class and middle class whites and hispanics. Then you have Idlewood, aka “Where the rich white folks go”, then you have the Harrisburg corridor which is generally working class hispanic. Then there’s Country Club place with a large mix of hispanic and newer white residents. Then there’s Forest Hill and some of the surrounding areas which are generally older hispanic/white crowds, lots of people in their 60s (someone has to keep the Dinner Bell cafeteria open).
    As for poopooing EaDo, I mean really? Every bit of available land there has been snatched up and built out. While I may not agree with the seemingly absurd price point stuff got listed for there it definitely has been selling. The retail hasn’t hit yet but I can’t see it not happening. It’s simply a matter of momentum. The money is already there. There’s that new retail center that’s supposed to go up soonish (the one that looks distinctly continental, was mentioned here a while ago). I won’t deny that right now it’s not so great. There’s only a handful of good restaurants and bars, but they actually do fairly well and are well known (District 7, Moontower, 8th Wonder, etc etc).
    Also keep in mind that the East End is more insulated from the economic troubles coming in due to the glut of oil. Many of the people in the East End are employed in either downstream refining/chemicals stuff or the construction associated with it, and both of those job markets have fairly positive outlooks for the next few years.
    I do agree though that there’s little need for affordable housing in the east end proper. There’s plenty of cheaper places to live over there. Although if I recall correctly the new stuff going up over at the old Fingers warehouse will have an affordable housing unit attached to it.

  • That study on the east end is suspect.
    The first sentence says that a grocery store is much needed. Yeah, there’s no Randalls, and no HEB megalopolis store, but there’s a Kroger which has a great produce department, there’s a fiesta which is even better. There’s an HEB in gulfgate, there’s a walmart on wayside. To top it off there’s all sorts of small grocery stores, not convenience stores, small grocery stores.
    As far as density, no it’s not as dense as gulfton, but it is more dense than most of the city thanks to a bunch of little 4 and 8 unit apartments, and larger complexes littered about.
    Anyway, all of that aside, I like the area as is, development is going to happen, just look at eado, townhomes, condos, it’s going to slowly bleed east following the artists and hipsters who are paving the entry, why try and force it. Hell, developers would be smart to jump on land now for development in 5-10 years.

  • Also the idea that it will take a decade for oil to double in price is pretty laughable. It won’t go above 60-80 for a long while (and high cap batteries may hit the streets by then), but it should be back at 50 in a few years. The Saudi model is completely unsustainable, while they may have good cash reserves they are engaged in insane deficit spending at the moment. It was a smart play on their end and it did a good job to cripple the tar sands and other low margin alternatives, but they simply don’t have the cash to maintain production at their current rates for much longer. Chinese demand may not pick up overnight but lots of the shock we’re seeing now isn’t because China is retracting, but simply because it’s not expanding at the insane rates that the Shanghai indexes were leading people to believe. Supply can’t stay at the excess it’s at now, and demand isn’t reducing, we just overestimated its growth.
    Oh yeah, and if you want an interesting indicator of the area check out The Satellite Bar. That place is on Harrisburg east of 90 and is packed to the gills. That’s about as bad a location as I can think of and yet it can actually pull a crowd. Lots of the credit for that goes to the incredibly good promoters who have bands scheduled all the way through April, but still, people are actually willing to fill those seats.