Comment of the Day: An Alternative Plan for the Site Next to Allen Parkway Village

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR THE SITE NEXT TO ALLEN PARKWAY VILLAGE “. . . In an ideal world, I think that the City should’ve recognized that there was an opportunity for the HHA to acquire this site and work with a private-sector master developer to completely demolish the existing complex and integrate government housing into a much more intensively developed project on this extremely high-profile site. Doing so would’ve bypassed some of the issues that they’ve since encountered with the adverse SCOTUS ruling. It wouldn’t have been cheap, but it would’ve also tastefully incorporated government housing into a project that could have mitigated the externality of APV on the areas around it and established an open street grid. Doing so would’ve made everything around there and along the Buffalo Bayou much more desirable and accessible, and leveraged the tax base upward over a large area. However, that also wouldn’t have been uncontroversial; some people think that the original Allen Parkway Buildings are architecturally significant enough to warrant their preservation. In any case, that ship probably has sailed. . . .” [TheNiche, commenting on Your Best Look Yet at the Shiny Highrises Fitting Between Allen Parkway Village and the Federal Reserve] Image: Tianqing Real Estate Development/DC Partners

10 Comment

  • uhhhhhh….. what? did i hear that correctly? incorporating gov’t housing into an area leverages the tax base upward? please elaborate in less than 10,000 words.

  • Better yet, do like Austin and tie 380 agreements for multifamily developments to setting aside a certain number of units for affordable housing. The city is committed to up to $75 mil in tax gifts in the downtown living initiative for up to 5,000 new units. The city could have required 10% of those to be affordable housing and added 500 units right downtown without having to take a penny of HHA funding.

  • @ Toby: The government housing is there already. I’m talking about rebuilding it in such a way as to leverage an existing asset to mitigate the adverse impacts. Everybody wins except for effete architectural historians and the people that read too much into symbols of something they don’t like and incumbent hangers-on to the civil rights movement whose only grasp on relevance is the ability to gerrymander their districts; and all those folks can **** **.

  • “…some people think that the original Allen Parkway Buildings are architecturally significant enough to warrant their preservation.”

    If they are “architecturally significant”, they have plenty of identical examples spread all over the city to look at. The only reason APV was saved in the 1990’s was because of local politics (i.e. NOT logic). The primary argument at the time was that it afforded close public housing to downtown, but the light rail system has now made that argument moot. Today APV a very poor use of public land and resources which could be put to better use elsewhere.

  • Well, I thought I would eventually agree with WR on something. I just didn’t think it would be this soon. Toby, I don’t think Niche can order a Grand Slam at Denny’s in less than 10,000 words.

  • Why, J, what ever did I do to deserve such a compliment?I must be slipping LOL

  • Oh, now I get it. This was just a post to trigger people to hate on Allen Parkway Village. First, short history of APV. Back in the 1920s, the 4th Ward was Houston’s version of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. Racist white city officials did not want a thriving African American community right next to a rapidly growing downtown and demolished a huge section of the community to build public housing (the decisive blow to the 4th ward would be extending the freeway through the community, effectively cutting it off from downtown). APV was designed byMacKie & Kamrath and was intended to be public housing. It ended up as all white housing for veterans. Eventually, African Americans moved in as whites moved out and headed to the suburbs. In the 70s, as the City was booming again, City officials wanted to demolish APV as it, and much of the rest of the 4th ward, was falling into disrepair. Every single move after that was just controversy on top of controversy. The City was accused of moving Vietnamese immigrants into APV to dilute the number of African Americans who opposed demolition. Then, there was a big master plan project proposed to redevelop the entire area, a court case over demolition of APV and designation of APV and the Fourth Ward on the national register of historic places. In the end, more than half was demoed and replaced with new apartments in 2000. The original MacKie & Kamrath designed buildings are architecturally and historically significant. But, like the history of the 4th ward, Houston’s transient population knows very little about the trials and tribulations behind APV. So, it is an easy target to troll for hate on preservationist.

  • I’m with Niche. Enough with the large-scale, course-grained development pattern.
    The area currently occupied by APV could be re-platted into 30 to 40 blocks, and sold off in small parcels. You could continue the narrow street widths and one-way traffic of the 4th ward on the other side of Dallas.
    By selling in small parcels (say, a mix of 25, 50 and 100-ft frontage), you would likely see a mix of single-family, small-scale multi-family, and retail. Exempt the area from parking minimums and building setbacks, and you might even get a real walkable neighborhood.
    Current residents could be given mortgage or rent subsidies to ensure they won’t be displaced (or developers could be incentivized to provide a certain percentage of BMR units).

  • @ Old School: I am well aware of the history of Allen Parkway Village. It certainly is interesting and the architecture is certainly uncommon, but cities are meant to be inhabited by living breathing people; if I perceive that there’s an opportunity to materially improve their lives in a way that is financially feasible, I favor that. Not many sites present themselves as such a win/win for such a disparate variety of constituents quite in the way that the APV site does. And in this case, the particular stakeholders that I expect would be opposed, as I said before, can **** **.
    About your suggestion that the City could have incorporated a requirement to provide affordable housing into developers that took the downtown incentives…it’s not a bad idea on the face of it, but I wasn’t involved in any of that in any capacity and couldn’t tell you whether or to what extent the City left money on the table. If they hadn’t then there would’ve had to have been substantial additional investment by the City. The beautiful thing about the APV site is that the City could tap their equity in the land without that impacting other budget items. Also, I have seen how Austin has approached it in a couple of their deals (although nothing very recent), and was totally unimpressed by the seriousness of their commitment to providing or protecting affordable workforce housing.

  • W/r/t to adding an affordable housing component to the Downtown Living Initiative, it’s not that simple. Unlike most residential development in Houston, residential projects downtown are competing for land with commercial development. If demand for housing downtown were already high enough that renters were willing to pay rents per s.f. similar to what office tenants pay, there wouldn’t need to be a DLI.
    If you add a requirement that 10% of the units be BMR, then the rest of the units would actually have to be priced even higher, which would make the projects untenable. So the DLI incentives would have had to be more generous in order to get projects to go forward. So the “free” BMR units aren’t actually free. That kind of incentive only really works in places where supply is so constrained that developers are willing to supply BMR units in exchange for permission to add density. Since we don’t have zoning caps on residential density, that condition doesn’t exist here. Which is good, since the best way to keep housing affordable is to increase supply.