Have you seen this video (at top) from the city’s planning and development department? It’s silent, several years old, and not the flashiest portrait of Houston available on YouTube. But in a compelling series of images, it shows how mightily the city’s official boundaries have grown — simply by tracking Houston’s annexation history, decade by decade.
But now there’s a more active way to appreciate Houston’s historically bulging waistline — one that could even help increase your own in the process (depending on your choice of beverages). Each of the 5 laser-cut acrylic coasters in Data Design Co.‘s limited-edition set (shown in the photo above) is etched with an outline of this ever-expanding city at some point in its history. Designers Brian Barr and Matthew Wettergreen had the sets manufactured in Houston by Post-Studio, and are now offering them for sale for $60. Buy a set, and try one beverage on each over the course of an evening of thirst-quenching, and you’ll allow yourself to drink in a progressive view of this city’s expansive growth.
HOUSTONIANS THINK HOUSTON IS 63 PERCENT URBAN, KINDA In a guest post for ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight, Trulia’s chief economist trots out a bunch of maps and charts that purport to show that Houston, unlike the other 5 most populous U.S. cities, is actually only 63 percent urban. But among the lower-downs on that list, Houston isn’t the big suburban metropolis standout. Phoenix and San Antonio rate half of Houston’s urbanity, and even San Diego comes in at a sprawling 49 percent. Of course, there’s the small question of how anyone determines whether a place is urban. Trulia went with the old “know it when I see it” rule, rating a Zip Code urban if its residents called it urban, suburban if they called it so, and rural otherwise. But with only 2,008 responses to their online survey, the company had to resort to other measures to fill out its maps for Houston (above) and several other cities, including figures for the density of households within a particular Zip Code. [FiveThirtyEight] Map: FiveThirtyEight
Blogger and amateur bedding-sales analyst Christopher Andrews has updated a few of his maps of mattress chain stores in the Houston area (including the one shown above) to include Mattress One (or Mattress1 One, or Mattress 1 One, as the company variously refers to itself). Altogether, that Florida-and-Texas chain, plus Mattress Firm and Mattress Pro (owned by Mattress Firm), operate 166 separate retail locations in the region.
A reader tells Swamplot that he thinks recent newscoverage of population projections from the state demographer up until the year 2050 have missed the big story: The dramatic projected growth of the over 60 population in Harris County. Between 2010 and 2050, it’s expected to more than triple, from around 500,000 at the turn of the decade to about 1.5 million in 35 years.
To illustrate, RobertinHeights sends in the chart above, showing how increases in the older age segment will dominate others in the coming decades. “By 2040 we will have an over 60 population in Harris County that is larger than the total current population of Dallas,” he writes. “Go long property by the Medical Center.”
THE FUTURE OF HOUSTON IS ON HILLCROFT NOW Armed with a few stats, Monica Rhor takes a look at Hillcroft Ave, ground zero for the Great Houston Influx: “More than 1 million immigrants — one of every four residents — call Harris County home, and the percentage holds true across 10 surrounding counties. From 2000 to 2010, Houston gained 400,000 foreign-born residents, more than any other U.S. city except New York. Last year, the county received 4,818 refugees from 40 different countries, the most of any county in Texas. The newcomers have done more than shift our demographics. They have created a metropolis where one-third of business owners are foreign-born, where the number of Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus has tripled in the last three decades, where more than 100 languages are spoken by students attending Houston public schools.” Hillcroft, of course is only the area of greatest concentration: “Immigrant communities are dispersed across Harris County — from the southwest side to The Woodlands, from Spring to Pasadena. Over the last two decades, even as the number of foreign-born residents has increased, segregation levels have decreased. Two out of every five people speak a language other than English.” [Houston Chronicle] Map: John D. Harden
Is this Houston real estate’s Wile E. Coyote off-the-cliff-but-hasn’t-realized-he’s-gonna-fall-yet moment? Or is a new era dawning, in which out-of-state investors new to this whole “Houston is booming” thing swoop in to buy up everything and save the day? A fresh serving of home-sales data from real estate agents is available this morning . . . to support either notion. This past December was a record-breaking month for home sales, the Houston Association of Realtors claims in its latest report. Total property sales were up 11 percent over last December, and the current 2.5-months supply of inventory (a comforting term to those who regularly consider a home to be an off-the-shelf item) is scored as “the lowest level of all time.” Total dollar volume of housing sales for this past month was up a whopping 18.1 percent over December of last year. Both average and median sales prices for single-family homes reached “historic highs for a December in Houston.”
Separately, using her own calculations from MLS data, buyers’ agent Judy Thompson has updated her hand-carved regular roundup of appreciation rates and market conditions for the 21 well-known (and mostly Inner Loop) neighborhoods she’s been tracking on her West U Real Estate website for the past decade. (“In some areas I have had to make value judgments about which sales might have been lot value sales that were not listed that way,” she explains.) Of note: Of the tracked neighborhoods, little old Westbury led the increase in average sales price per sq. ft., rising 22 percent in the last year; the combined average for 2014 was an 11 percent uptick.
The Chronicle’s Erin Mulvaney has thrown data from Apartment Data Services into this interactive Google map — to give you a zoomable picture of where all the new apartments are heading in Houston. The green pins show the 19,923 units (in 72 projects) that have opened recently; the red dots show the 23,781 (in 85 complexes) that are currently under construction; and the yellow dots indicate the additional 18,065 apartments (in 61 new developments) that are proposed — or at least the ones the data company is aware of.
Before delving into the communities residents have built for themselves at the St. Cloud apartment complex on Hillcroft in Gulfton, Thai Xuan Village on Broadway near Hobby Airport, and Greenspoint (each marked in orange on the map), UH architecture prof Susan Rogers tries to present the big picture of Houston’s multifamily situation — accompanied by the above heat map showing (according to HCAD land-use data) where the apartments are: “315,357 is the number of multifamily apartments housed in buildings comprised of 10 or more units. Forty percent of this housing, or just over 140,000 units, were constructed between 1960 and 1979. Today, this housing is home to more than 20 percent of Houston’s two million residents. The units are dispersed in roughly 600 separate complexes, with an average of 250 units, and typically constructed at densities of 30-40 units per acre. Not surprisingly, the new projects are located predominantly outside the Loop and many are in a downward spiral of disinvestment.”
A DIRE WARNING FOR HOUSTON, 1965: IN CASE OF NUCLEAR ATTACK, PROPERTY VALUES MAY RISE Nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein, creator of the online Nukemap nuclear-blast simulator, finds the following charming nugget in a September 1965 report issued by the nonprofit Institute for Defense Analyses, which wad been hired by the U.S. Army’s Office of Civil Defense to calculate the effects of the use of a nuclear weapon on an American city — using Houston as an example: “For single surface bursts of 3- and 10-Mt, about 64 percent and 46 percent of the property values survive, while only 32 and 18 percent of the unsheltered population survives. In a macabre sense, the surviving population would be individually ‘wealthier’ than before the attack. For a single 10-Mt weapon, surviving property value per capita nearly doubles from a preattack value of about $9,000 to slightly more than $16,000 and, as the weight of the attack increases, the greater the per capita gain in ‘wealth’ of the survivors. For a 100-Mt surface burst, the surviving population is nearly four times wealthier than pre-attack ($34,000). However, any joy among the surviving population may be quite shortlived; none of these gross estimates of the effects of nuclear attack indicate whether or not the immediate metropolitan area is viable, either by itself or with the assistance of the rest of the country.” [Lawyers, Guns, and Money; report (PDF)] Simulated image of 10-megaton mushroom cloud over Houston: Nukemap 3D
The folks at Shell may not have known a new campaign was about to kick off declaring Houston to be “The City of No Limits,” but a new report from the oil company on the future of cities around the world certainly helps reinforce a just-as-proud image of our 8,778-square-mile Texas spread. “New Lenses on Future Cities,” one of a series of just-released “scenario” studies sponsored by Shell in conjunction with The Centre for Liveable Cities in Singapore, classifies urban areas around the world into 6 distinct categories based on common features.
Houston, according to the researchers, is too large to be considered one of the Prosperous Communities, and hasn’t earned its way into the Developing Mega-Hubs or Urban Powerhouses clubs. (It certainly doesn’t qualify as an Underprivileged Crowded City or Underdeveloped Urban Centre either) Instead, the report says Houston is a seminal example of a Sprawling Metropolis, proudly featuring it on some accompanying infographics illustrating the archetype (see the green square above). (Other members of this distinctive group of 41 cities include Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, and Los Angeles.)
If the Greater Houston Partnership is eager to include some exhibits or animated GIFs to go along with the video footage of cars driving through imaginary barriers, shiny skyscrapers, and smiling people that pepper its new campaign celebrating Houston as The City of No Limits, it might want to look at the work of California computational biologist [and former Houstonian and longtime Swamplot reader] Ian Rees. Using data from the American Community Survey, Rees mapped structures in the region by the decade they were built, grading their concentration with varying shades of blue. The result helps us visualize the decades-long march of Houston housing ever outward. His map, shown above, was featured in a series of articles on the Next City website on urban sprawl, a few of which compare Houston’s growth to those of other major U.S. cities.
Unfortunately, the data (and the dancing blue construction hotspots) stop in 2010, and we’re left to ourselves to wonder whether Houston is still on track to continue its now-officially-enshrined core mission. An earlier version of Rees’s map breaks out the last recent decade into 2 separate frames, helping to illustrate the scale and sequence of the more recent Inner Loop construction revival:
As many as 8 new bike-sharing stations could open inside the Loop in the next 2 weeks. Will Rub, director of Houston B-Cycle, tells Swamplot that permits are in hand and the bikes forthcoming for these 5 stations: Spotts Park, at 401 S. Heights Blvd; the intersection of Taft and Fairview, at 2401 Taft St.; the Menil Collection, at 1529 W. Alabama St.; Leonel Castillo Community Center, which is undergoing a restoration at 2109 South St.; and the intersection of Milam and Webster, at 2215 Milam St.
And Rub adds that 3 other locations are just waiting for their permits: Stude Park, at 1031 Stude St., and 2 others east, for the first time, of the Southwest Fwy.: Settegast Park at Garrow and Palmer in the Second Ward, and Project Row Houses at Holman and Live Oak in the Third Ward. Rub expects those to be ready to roll September 19th or 20th.