Comment of the Day: The Far North Heights Townhouse Boom

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE FAR NORTH HEIGHTS TOWNHOUSE BOOM Housing Boom“A ride around the far north Heights (bordered roughly by Yale, Shepherd, 610 and, say, 23rd) reveals a staggering amount of residential construction activity. The Sullivan Brothers project on 23rd is finally nearing completion. A dozen new townhouses at 26th and Ashland. Eight single-family homes at the same corner, with 20 or so to follow between 26th and 27th. Eight single family houses at 26th and Rutland. Twenty townhouses about to go up at 24th and Lawrence. Plus a dozen or so 2-to-6-house developments. The numbers easily reach into the triple digits, and that’s without anything on the old National Flame & Forge site (the double block between Nicholson, Rutland, 25th and 26th), which could add another hundred.” [Angostura, commenting on Where a Couple Dozen Townhomes Are Going in the Far North Heights] Illustration: Lulu

22 Comment

  • When you put a bunch of these old knee-busters together, they really start to look like empty public housing. Has anyone been over to “EaDo” off of Polk St. across from the Frankel’s? It’s like a marvel out of some lazy future. Do architects get paid to design those things, or is it sort of like the WordPress, where you can just get a template off of the internet? Not that the discount architecture over there is anything worse than what preceded it. Progress is progress, but other than the occasional UH/LSU flag or a dust-caked bistro table sitting on a lonely juliet balcony, you can’t even tell anyone is living there!

  • The real action is over in Shady Acres along 26th. Between Sandcastle, Ryland and whoever is redeveloping the Moss Landscaping lot, there will easily be 300+ new townhomes just between Bevis and Brinkman.

  • on 26th between Ella and Bevis, Urban Living has got their information boxes up on 10 under construction free standing homes along 26th and across the street on a small lot I think they plan on putting 10 townhomes on (but I must have read it wrong. . .). I don’t know who the builder is.

  • Amen OldOldTimer. Im stunned that i dont hear more discussion about this sad sad issue. I live in Montrose and have since 2005 and am depressed to see these devastating changes – demoing period bungalows, reducing lot sizes, and erecting these POS corner-cutting structures with no yards, hardiplank, etc. I invest and remodel and i am stunned so many people keep buying. No originality, cheap materials, no parking, etc etc etc. My wife and i will keep our property but we are leaving for better value, more traditional area. I would like to stay but i think Montrose as we know it is over. Back to the new townhomes – i dont see value. These arent the brownstones that are built to last with the right materials and with a style that is timeless. This is government housing, track housing. Try selling in 5 – 10 yrs when the market changes and you are one of 500,000 with the same home.

  • Yawn. There are town homes being built en masse all over the city. Museum District, Eado, Montrose, Greenway Plaza, Galleria, yada yada yada. Why are these supposed to me more noteworthy?

  • But, but, it’s the Heights, Houston’s special snowflake community. if you’re not white, progressive, and buying an old bungalow, well then you just better keep on driving.

  • In this area the houses/townhomes being built are mainly taking the place of old warehouses (not the nice potential loft kind, the junky corrugated metal kind) and abandoned industrial space, so no need to lament old bungalows. This seems like a better use of the land than more used car dealerships. I don’t love all the townhome developments–there is a lot of variation in quality and style–but not every house is going to be an expensive “brownstone” (are there even any brownstones in Houston?) or something individually designed by an architect. Most the original Heights bungalows certainly weren’t fancy and expensive or on huge lots (especially for that time).

  • Everyone I know who has bought one of these things is out within a year of popping out their first child. The stairs are not very friendly for empty nesters, so the long term viability of these things are contingent on young professionals securing high paying jobs moving in to replace the ones moving out for a bigger lot and more people choosing to go kid-free. I just don’t see it happening and fear that these places will get really run down as people sell them at a loss and it is too prohibitively expensive to return to regular sized lots.

  • These town homes are no different than the frame bungalows that were built in mass in the 1920s or the ranchettes of the 50s/60s or the builder tract homes of the 70s/80s. They fill an economic niche and will probably age the same way all these other mass produced housing examples have. At least Hardie doesn’t rot like the wood bungalows. I am just so baffled as to what makes a frame house from a Sears catalog so incredibly unique?
    Not saying I want to live in an Urban Living number but, I mean seriously, they provide those that could care less about a yard, privacy or running up the stairs a place to live with some nice appointments. And just what is stopping all of you whiners from becoming real estate developers and producing a superior product?

  • JT, to answer your question, I would argue that you are taking a high value property and adding a product or products of reduced value which is very different than acquiring property of lesser value and improving the value. I would also say that, in response to your assertion that these home are no different than developments in prior decades, that one difference is the former homes were consistent. I. E. There was care to side and back of home in addition to care spent to front of home. It is odd to me that the builder ( and buyer is ok with it) says, hey let’s make the front look nice but screw the sides and back. Don’t get me wrong, there are many nice homes with stucco or brick all around and built with care. I only wish there were more.

  • Montrose Changing–I totally agree with your assessment of the aesthetics. As a former Rice Military resident, I was aghast at the sea of hardie plank that made all these town homes look so cheesy–I just don’t understand this phenomenon. I also do not understand why there are not more large scale town home developments to give some cohesiveness (look at the Knox Park area of Dallas for an example of a developer that literally bought dozens of acres to create a more harmonious community. I’ve always thought the development community here lacks any creativity or architectural reach.

    I will disagree that the idea of these are different—look at all the ranchettes that are half cement shingle/half brick in Timbergrove, Sunnyside, Larchmont, old Bellaire etc……and I must disagree on the premise that developer are cheapening high value properties—I would imagine they’ve crunched the number every way possible and perhaps a $1.2m contemporary is not warranted in a sea of ramshackles in the northern Heights.

  • Joey Jo Jo, there isn’t anything more “snowflake” about the Heights than there is Montrose, Galleria, Bellaire, West University, East Downtown, Midtown, and I can go on and on. Take a break and refect on your comments rather than being so offensive. There are a lot of different types of people making up the Heights, and the area that has taken on the realtor definition of Heights is as varied as Houston.

  • HHHAHAHA take that NMBYS and Hipsters!!

  • Good points JT.

  • JT: the reason for Hardiplank is entirely economic. Developers make a calculated decision based on whether the added expense of better materials would be paid for in higher sales prices. Usually they won’t.
    That said, the sure-fire way to stop the use of Hardiplank is to establish neighborhood design guidelines that specifically ban it’s use. Most of the new suburban communities have these, and it’s why you see a lot more brick and stucco out there. Of course, setting up design guidelines in The Heights will be very, very difficult. Expect a lot of blowback from the “I should be able to build anything I want, wherever I want, and however I want” crowd. And there’s a long legal process to follow, too.
    Until some just take comfort in the fact that it could be worse: it could be EIFS.

  • I think it’s funny all the comments about the Heights being progressive and full of white fedora wearing D-bags, you see I remenber as a kid the area being a world class shithole, so frankly anything is an improvement over what it was, progress is progress people, and hey, everybody likes Snowflakes, right?

  • I’ll take Hardiplank over wood every time. And for Houston, it’s as good as brick in terms of house protection, etc. You can have stucco, I don’t like it at all.

  • @Ross: you’re right that Hardiplank doesn’t rot and offers good protection for a house. The problem is that making Hardiplank look nice is expensive (ask the folks who build custom homes in Bellaire), and when you do a cheap installation of Hardiplank, it really looks cheap.
    If I’m buying a $260,000, brand new townhome, I might be so seduced by the hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops that I look the other way on the cheap looking facade. (Or not.). In ten or fifteen years, when styles have moved on, and I’m now looking at buying that same townhome used, the cheap looking facade would probably scare me off. Of course, by then the original developer is long-gone…..

  • @ZAW, making anything look great costs more. but using brick or stucco on your $260k example probably runs the price up past the price point the developer set for their project. Most folks are much more interested in what they get inside the house than what the facade looks like, and developers play to that bias. It would probably help if builders painted the Hardi in something other than gray or beige.

    I know that for our house, which has cedar shake siding that’s in need of replacement, I can get Hardiplank done well for about half the cost of cedar. It won’t look quite as good as the cedar, but is the appearance worth the cost? That’s an ongoing discussion we are having.

  • I’m with you over all on the look of Hardiplank, but it does last. I think it works on old cottages of a certain style if properly installed and painted appropriately, but on a new high end property I’d use brick over all and the Hardiplank very minimally, it just really looks cheap on some of these new townhouses.

  • Perhaps it’s my SoCal bias, but I think most brick homes in Houston are ugly. I think what makes many Huoston homes ugly is that so many builders slap as many types of materials on the exterior of homes as possible. I’ve never understood why you see a mishmash of brick, HardiePlank, fake stone, and stucco, all on the same house.

    I say if you’re going for HardiePlank, make the entire home HardiePlank and paint it a bright color. Perhaps like Rainbow Row in Charleston or the Painted Ladies in San Francisco. Stucco by itself or with stone is fine. Brick should just stick to brick and stop cheaping out on the exterior sides.

  • Does anyone know the status of the National Flame and Forge property ( the double block) ? It has been idle for about 2 years. I own property very close by.