Comment of the Day: Don’t Act So Surprised When Your Outer Loops Grow Up and Take Your Jobs

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DON’T ACT SO SURPRISED WHEN YOUR OUTER LOOPS GROW UP AND TAKE YOUR JOBS Trains to Office Buildings“I can understand the desire to keep jobs Downtown, as our freeway infrastructure was always designed for funneling traffic to Downtown but not through it (which has definitely backfired on us in recent times). Same for those toy trains we’ve just spent a fortune on for the past decade — the more jobs located downtown, the better the chance of seeing population gains and redevelopment in the surrounding areas as well. However, none of this is reason enough to double down on generation-old infrastructure . . . [and] really, Shell’s offices are nowhere near the ‘burbs of Katy. It’s in one of the largest office markets in the entire city that has been around for a long time now.” [joel, commenting on Shell’s Downtown Operations To Shed Offices, Scurry Over To Larger West Houston CampusesIllustration: Lulu

14 Comment

  • Look at L.A. – grew up against every obstacle!
    Houston will grow outward too. There’s no stopping it but other incorporated cities and land set aside for conservation.
    I cannot explain why Shell would be moving to the ‘burbs now, though.
    I still remember Pennzoil Place downtown, for chrissakes!

  • Houston: The Home of Entropy. It’s so poetic. When you burn gasoline, you turn a relatively dense, energy-packed liquid into heat and vapors that spread out into the atmosphere. In Houston, we take money spent on gasoline, burn it, and it turns into dispersed, half-assed attempts at city building that go nowhere. Because we don’t want to “double-down” on existing infrastructure.

  • meh, downtown will continue to survive, just not in the same way.
    instead of people radiating in from their homes in the burbs to their jobs downtown, people will radiate out from their home in downtown to go to their job out in the burbs.
    jobs will still be downtown though, even if all the other oil players leave, it makes room for other industry to expand into downtown, and the banks aren’t leaving (or are they??!)

  • Haters need to quit calling LRT “Toy Trains”. Moving tens of thousands people everyday doesn’t sound very toy-like to me. How many people does your car move a day? One large person maybe? Your car sounds like a sh**ty investment to me…

  • This is a perpetual dance in corporate America. Downtown real estate is too pricey and building is long in the tooth. Build shiny new corporate campus in the burbs on relatively cheap land. Others in the same industry follow suit for fear that they are not being “cost competitive” with their downtown tower anymore. Then, the downtown area get revitalized and is attractive to younger workers and older empty nesters. Corporation has trouble attracting and retaining talent because the suburban campus is no longer shiny and new and is surrounded by boring and soulless suburbs. Corporation moves into shiny new tower downtown and mothballs corporate campus.

  • The existential problem facing Downtown, Uptown, and Greenway Plaza is that the core of the professional workforce for many companies is still people in their 30s to early 50s, a great many of whom are raising school-age children. It wasn’t a big deal commute-wise (at least relatively speaking) when such folks were willing to live in the inner and middle suburbs, like Alief, Spring Branch, Westbury, Sagemont, Sharpstown, even FM 1960. They were willing to live there because they were OK with the zoned public schools. Now, nearly all of the inner and middle suburbs are unacceptable to them, apart from the narrow Memorial corridor out west. Just because such parents are unwilling to let their kids attend schools that have more than 30% economically disadvantaged, they insist on living in the outermost suburbs with the longest commutes to the urban core. They could save so much on home price and still have a large house with plenty of room for the kids’ play set, a pool, the fishing and hunting equipment, etc., by living in the inner and middle suburbs, but they’re choosing not to, because of the school thing.
    What this means is that Downtown / Uptown / Greenway are going to have a harder and harder time competing for Class A office tenants with newer office developments more accessible to the outer suburbs. Those urban core areas will always have an advantage of centrality – they can boast accessibility to the full ring of suburbs, something a Cypress / Sugar Land / Webster / Woodlands location can’t. But at some point, the desirable living places for child-raising professionals become so far away from the core that the centrality advantage loses its meaning, barring development of ultra-fast commuter transit like the hyperloop or something.
    Ultimately it’s hard to see how the Grand Parkway, which (today at least) connects the most highly desirable outer suburbs, doesn’t become a preferred location for employers of educated professionals. Even Energy Corridor and Westchase are at risk of this. Greenspoint has already lost.

  • On a cost per passenger mile basis, my car is orders of magnitude a better investment than light rail. But then again, that’s not exactly hard to do, considering buses already beat it. But buses are ugly nasty square things that smelly poor people ride, not like those sexy sleek rail cars.

  • Downtown is where most of the city/county/state/federal government buildings are, not to mention headquarters for the city’s largest law firms. O&G companies conduct business with these entities on a regular basis, which is why the Shell move baffles me. I agree with Old School: I don’t think large suburban business centers, including the Energy Corridor, will hold up over time. Not everyone who works in the EC lives in Katy or even along I-10. Shell is about to make some employees’ commutes a lot more hellish. At least downtown is easily accessible from all areas. That’s why it’s called the “Central Business District.”

  • @ roadchick
    I can appreciate your perspective of proximity for all involved: O&G, government, and law firms.
    But, since the advent of postal mail and the newfangled internet, I think much of that has been made obsolete except for the infrequent in-person visit needed. After all, bribes are best served in cash and in person. :)

  • Downtown, Uptown and Greenway/Kirby will always thrive….because the VAST MAJORITY of Owners and Execs of businesses (and the most successful professionals who serve them) live in the city’s MOST desirable (for them) areas. These areas are all inside the Loop or just outside (Tanglewood, Bellaire, and Memorial) of it. And as the society degenerates, high rise living with its amazing security will likewise keep these AAA employment centers ahead of the (still viable, just always runnerups) suburban ones. imho

  • @ roadchick: Part of what we’re likely witnessing is the ongoing evolution of the CBD as specialized district which mostly caters to government, legal, accounting, banking, finance, insurance, and some real estate professions. It makes perfectly good sense that industries like these would exist in a cluster that is centered on a seat of government. Once a cluster exists (which it does), it makes perfectly good sense that HR departments would want to recruit from companies that are nearby because people who already work in the area are probably already living a lifestyle that they find acceptable. There’s a term for this in urban economics. Its called “agglomeration”.

  • West U was actually cheap, once (or so I’ve heard). Alief ISD was, if not upscale, acceptable. And I distinctly recall that within the last decade I was paying $495 for a Montrose 1br within walking distance of a porn shop.
    Which is to say, the process Local Planner outlined of the economically disadvantaged spreading out into 20-30yo ‘burbs will continue, and *eventually* Sagemont, Sharpstown, and Spring Branch will see redevelopment, beginning initially with Hipsters but eventually progressing to SWPLs with strollers. Within the next 30-40 years I would expect Lee HS graduation rates and SAT performance to pass Westside HS.
    At that point we’ll end up with one of two topologies. Either (i) every major corporation has two offices, one for Downtown and one for outer-outer-sprawl, or (ii) outer-outer-sprawl folk will commute into downtown on high-speed rail, as occurs now in some areas adjacent to Tokyo and London.

  • @WQ
    Tens of thousands of people everyday? Not sure about those numbers. Especially if you take out the rodeo traffic that shuttles people to one stop across 610.

  • @Rex

    See for yourself: average weekday boardings of 57,564 for Light Rail in July 2016, the most recent ridership report available. Note they even list any special events that would affect ridership.