Comment of the Day: A CityCentre in the City’s Center Would’ve Made the Grade

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A CITYCENTRE IN THE CITY’S CENTER WOULD’VE MADE THE GRADE “. . . The Ainbinder/Orr/San J Stone sites represent over 30 acres of land being developed with only 280 residential units going up on the old Sons of Hermann site. About the same number of apartments were demo-ed for Ainbinder’s strip mall. That means 30 plus acres of land being developed with no net increase in housing or office space in an area that should be booming with that kind of development. There are no other 30 plus acre tracts west of Downtown that have the same development potential as this site did. It may be one step forward to replace vacant land with strip malls. But it is two steps back when you consider what a City Centre style mixed use development would have done for the area. It would have generated way more in tax revenue and made property values in the immediate west end neighborhood shoot through the roof. Instead, we are getting the lowest possible tax revenue generating development that will cost six million in future tax revenues. It is like being happy when your kid gets a C minus in school. It is better than getting an F and graduating is better than dropping out. But if your kid has the potential to do A plus work, then the C minus should be a huge disappointment. Those thirty plus acres had the potential to be one of the most significant developments in Houston. Instead, it is going to be the same development that gets put in on cheap land in the burbs when a new housing development goes in. If my tax dollars are going to be thrown at wealthy developers, I want to get every dollar’s worth and will not be happy with anything other than the most productive use of the land. Developers who will not deliver that can pay their own way.” [Old School, commenting on Shops Replacing San Jacinto Stone, Just North of the South-of-the-Heights Walmart]

26 Comment

  • but look how reagents square has worked out–what’s the current estimate, 2025? there simply isn’t the demand for that type of development. i wish there was.

  • City Centre cost a hell of a lot more to build than the Ainbinder/Orr/San J Stone developments.

  • There are 28 acres of multifamily in the pipeline within 1 mile of that site. I’m sure that will be enough.

  • Sorry, 38 acres. My bad.

  • I get that some people choose to live downtown because they prefer it over the suburban lifestyle. But I don’t appreciate that they begrudge the many of us who like the suburbs but want to live close to their work. I love Houston because I can afford to live in the loop with a 15-minute commute, but I can still quickly get to a Target (or, dare I say, a Wal-Mart) when it is time for errands.

    That Houston marries the best of the ‘burbs and city living is a unique, lovable feature about our city. I don’t understand why folks want to destroy that and turn us into an over-priced, under-sized real estate market like every other major urban center in the country. If that’s what you’re looking for, there are plenty of other options out there. I lived in Chicago for three years, hated it, and moved here for a reason.

  • I think you hit the nail on the head. Most folks in this town are satisfied if their kid gets a C minus. Both figuratively and literally. Expectations do not run high in Houston.

  • Who wants to live adjacent to I-10 anyway?

  • “That Houston marries the best of the ‘burbs and city living is a unique, lovable feature about our city.”

    There is absolutely nothing good about the bit of the ‘burbs the Ainbinder development brought us. Unless you need a payday loan.

  • CityCentre works for a lot of different reasons, many of which cannot be replicated on the Ainbinder/Orr/Stone site. For example, Midway controlled the entire site; this is a level of control that 3 separate owners cannot achieve. Second, CityCentre took advantage of a severely underserved market in terms of high end restaurants. The Memorial area has the best demographics in the city, and the number of high end restaurants out there was shockigly low. It was a market ripe for the picking, and Midway did a great job exploiting it. Dozens of fine restaurants are withing a 3 mile radius of the I-10 and Yale site, making this less of an opportunity. The apartments and office and hotel properties in CityCentre thrive off of the restaurants in CityCentre. The I-10 property, without the natural attraction for restaurants, likely could not replicate the success of CityCentre with office, apartment and hotel developments.

  • Citycentre excelled only because it filled a massive void for the west end and is actually located close to the center of houston’s population at a major freeway intersection with accessibility. practically every retailer in the citycentre development already has a store in the inner loop or is duplicated by another retailer in some shape or form. these also already exist in high traffic retail areas.

    A new Citycentre devlopment would just vulturize sales from the highland village/midtown/montrose/etc. You can’t just duplicate the experience and expect the same returns because that void doesn’t exist in the loop. we also already have west ave. i could certainly imagine it succeeding, but it would come at the expense of sales tax receipts from elsewhere in the loop.

    we also have vast amounts of multifamily housing and condos that already service the same demographic looking to live in west ave.

    one areas destination is another areas oversaturation and funding a citycentre like devlopment in this part of town would require much more funding than it did on the west end.

  • “Who wants to live adjacent to I-10 anyway?”

    I live precisely 1/2 a mile from the Gulf Freeway. Trees, and Houses buffer the freeway and my house. I still hear all the traffic on the freeway, mostly tire noise, but a lot of it is 3am sport bikes running their engines out to redline.

    I can only imagine how annoying it would be if I lived closer. I’m happy to live as close as I do for the convenience of only having the traffic light at the freeway between my house and freeway access, but I’d never live closer, and I can’t wait for the city to decide my neighborhood is worth putting in some of the noise barriers more expensive neighborhoods get.

  • Nord,
    As an initial matter, there are some stores that are in that development that I appreciate having. So far I’ve enjoyed having a Great Clips and Jimmy John’s nearby, and I’ll like having the Wal-Mart when it is open.

    But the bigger point is that the best part of the suburbs I was referring to in my original post is the easily accessible retail with adequate, no-hassle parking. If nobody needs the payday loan place, it’ll go out of business, and then maybe something better will move in there. But this development puts the infrastructure in place for me to get my everyday errands taken care of in a quick, efficient, and affordable manner.

  • does everyone really feel that there is enough demand for this type of development in the washington area?

    we have downtown/rice village/highland village/galleria/greater westheimer area all filled to the gills with high-end restaaurants and retailing and all these places i avoid like the plague. i live in the inner loop to avoid having to deal with destination devlopments like citycentre and i’d imagine that’s the norm.

  • “There is absolutely nothing good about the bit of the ‘burbs the Ainbinder development brought us. Unless you need a payday loan.”

    There wouldn’t be a payday store unless there was demand …

    Oh, and I like the convenience of a nearby Walmart too.

    Seriously, the arrogance and insensitivity of some of the comments on this blog is mindboggling. Can’t we just talk about real estate?

  • Very simple solution. Go raise the millions that it takes to buy the property, spend the 100’s of thousands of dollars to create the plans, to attract the tenants to pre lease, and convince a lender to loan you the money to develop, and the 40% cash your going to need for equity, and still figure out how to make it profitable.

    And if it does not work, you would have committed financial suicide and ruined your reputation, and probably your life.

    People act as this is as simple as just talking about it on a blog.

  • That might have been a great post, if not for a couple of pretty blatant lies. While it is true that the multi-story apartment complex being built on Heights is about 280 units, the suggestion that it is replacing 280 units that were razed is a baldfaced lie. That complex was less than 100 units. The new complex triples the density of the area. Anyone who has doubts need only look at msn or yahoo maps and count for yourself (hint: count the rooftop AC units).

    The 2nd blatant lie is the suggestion that this was one contiguous parcel of 30+ acres. It is not. There are several parcels, and more than one seller, and more than one buyer.

    I must admit that it is good to see Old School come around from his wasteful ways. He used to oppose condos on Studewood, condos near White Oak, and the Ashby highrise. Now, he is a full fledged advocate for dense building policies. Maybe he will join me in getting the Heights Historic District overturned, so that we can turn that wasteful suburb into some efficient mixed use developments.

  • I’m usually a Tar-jay on San Felipe kind of guy, but if the mood to buy strikes in the middle of the night, I’ll drive out to Dunvale to make it happen. I hope this Walmart is open 24/7 so I’ll have one less reason to ever leave the inner loop.

    Is it perfect? No, but nothing ever is. Besides, there are plenty of other parcels of land in the inner loop that are ripe for redevelopment.

  • I get rather tried of these élites who think they know the best use of other people’s property. You want Rockefeller Plaza next to the kick ball stadium; you risk your own money and build it. You say you have no money? Sill paying off that student loan? I see that master’s degree in Music Therapy has turned out to be a stellar decision.

  • “Vulturize”?

  • I don’t understand CityCentre. Going there is always an uncomfortable experience, very contrived. It makes me feel alien, an outcast to some sort of collection of happy-go-lucky zombies. I definitely don’t want that kind of development inside the loop.

    Wal-Mart and other assorted retail shops are far preferable.

  • This sentiment has been echoed above, but the development has brought much needed convenience to the neighborhood. I enjoy having a dry cleaners, Jimmy Johns, and in the future a Chipotle within walking distance or less than a minute drive.

    The neighborhood where the development is still is growing, and still has issues. A city center development would not get rid of the guys on bicycles who wander the neighborhood at all times of night, or the random pit bulls that wander the street.

    People like Old School want to pretend like this area is Harvard St. in between White Oak and 20th, but it’s not.

  • I think everyone here is missing the point completely. Old School is simply lamenting that folks do not take a more creative approach to development in our city. Rather than replicate the same ol’ strip mall, do something interesting or innovative. Thankfully there is a lot of land to go round, this certainly isn’t the last place left in town.

    PS: Alex1776, your tired response gets posted on nearly every post/comment/article etc that has the lowly citizen at large attempting to engage in some creative discourse on development and how our city could be a better and more beautiful place. Its called expanding your consciousness and it actually is just as easy as posting something on a blog, the ‘idea’ is where it starts, get on board.

  • @Dave: There were more than 100 units in that complex. They were mostly 1 bed units that were 500-600 sq ft. If you want to find a lie, your claim that adding @100+ units of multifamily over 30+ acres of available land is “densification” is a good place to start. The parcels were not one contiguous tract. I never said they were. But, 22+ acres were assembled by Ainbinder and the rest of the land was available for sale within a time frame that one developer could have assembled everything. If you took SJ Stone, the Walmart tract and the now cleared Standard register tract, you would have enough land to do 80-90% of what is up at City Centre. And it is funny that you bring up the buildings on Studewood, Ashby and White Oak. Those buildings prove my point. If these large parcels were developed to their full potential, there would be no need to cram highrises into peoples back yards and take out green space for a mere 80 odd units.

  • We have a tendency to over think these things. I’m quite positive the people that bought the land and are building there thought about what would work best and what would give them the highest return on invested dollar based on demand for that area. If building single family homes would be best, they’d have done it. If building a high rise would be best, they’d have done it.
    What they came up with was what they came up with. If they’re wrong, the market will punish them. If they’re right, then they’ll do well — which by definition means they’re serving the area with product they like and are willing to pay for.

  • There’s a Walmart going in in the Heights?!?! WE HAVE TO STOP THIS!!

  • To Northsider:

    Your right. You are a part of market forces that determine the highest and best use of a property in this period of time.

    I lean to people that put their faith, their money, and take the risk in developing a property to achieve the highest and best use.

    I also beleive that market forces have something to do with this.

    Not to say that creative discourse is not important. just tell me the last development that it financed.