Comment of the Day: The Midtown CVS Domino Effect

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MIDTOWN CVS DOMINO EFFECT “. . . CVS didn’t follow Post Midtown’s urban scale approach even though its lot was right across the street and the collective wisdom at the time was that Gray and Bagby would be built out with mid-rise, mixed-use developments right up to Main and the new rail line. It seemed so obvious and for those who longed for true urban living in this town, it was a dream coming true. CVS didn’t play ball simply because they didn’t have to. No code required them to build in any way, shape, or form that might have benefited the collective vision of Midtown. So be it, that’s Houston. However, after CVS bucked the urban trend, so did most every developer after them. So instead of all or most of Midtown being walkable, populated with street life like just the 3 blocks developed by Post ultimately became; Midtown’s blocks are populated with suburban style apartments complexes with no street life whatsoever, just block after block of gates and fences. If Houston had had the guts to enact urban design strategies then, Midtown would be the success that similar areas have become in Dallas, Atlanta and other cities. Houston punked out and we are all the losers for decades to come. Ironically the very same developers who fought urban guidelines in Midtown were building successful urban properties in all those other cities at the same time. . . .” [John, commenting on Cul de Sac City: Houston’s Ban on New Street Grids]

43 Comment

  • Hear!! Hear!!

  • I lived in Midtown for a few months when I first moved here before fleeing, because frankly, it sucks. Having lived in actual urban neighborhoods in Boston and Washington DC, I found that it had all of the negatives without the big advantage of walkability. (I did go take the light rail to a museum once; the only other human being I saw in the several blocks between my building and the station was a bum sleeping on the sidewalk. In the middle of a lovely afternoon.)

    Mostly my neighbors seemed to do what I did – walk to the garage, get in the car, drive three blocks to the CVS or Randalls, drive three blocks somewhere else, then drive back home.

    it takes more than proximity to create walkability – the streets have to be pleasant to walk, and Midtown sadly is mostly a barren wasteland of parking lots and strip-mall exile buildings. I moved to the Heights, where not only can I walk to things (which are all a bit farther away) – but it’s PLEASANT. I see people. I look in shop windows. I see what people are doing to their houses.

    It’s much more of an authentic urban experience than Midtown is ever going to be – there’s now too much dreck there for it to anything but a soulless collection of crap.

  • John should get together with a few like-minded individuals, buy a city block, and develop it into a mixed use walkable urban whatever and see how badly his customers really want that. Lots of people have been saying what he is, but zero are willing to put their money where their mouths are. This is a sign of a thing folks support as long as other people pay for it.

  • John,

    The reason some of the developers that in Midtown “successfully” build urban walkable places in other cities are that they are forced to and those cities give a massive tax abatement for them to build them. Dallas’ Victory Park is great example. Several projects in Midtown Atlanta have this also.

    While there are lots of things I complain about the city wasting my taxpayer money one, I’m glad this is one area they don’t go into. The closest they come to doing this is through TIRZ’s which is much more financial sound than just throwing away tax money.

  • Houston didn’t “punk out”, CVS did.

  • I wish the folks complaining that Houston should regulate to mirror other cities would just move to those other cities. I’ve lived in them and found “walkability” and the “authentic urban experience” to be overrated. I came back to Houston so I could enjoy a high standard of suburban-style living at a low price with a reasonable commute.

    Folks who don’t appreciate Houston’s unique advantages should relocate to one of the many cities that caters to their tastes, rather than attempt to force Houston to conform.

  • wpr,

    I feel like that all the time when people complain left and right about how we need this and we need that.

    It’s almost like our world is going to come to a crashing halt if we don’t change our ways.

    Let Houston be Houston. More people like this place that live here than go about there live lamenting how we aren’t like other cities.

  • Only thing that needs fixing is the climate. Other than that, Houston has tons of great things going for it.

  • I am assuming that John did put his money where his mouth was by renting an apartment in Midtown. Then he voted with his feet by moving away.

    I am always astonished when commenters suggest that people who have a gripe (legit or not) about their neighborhood should “buy a city block” and develop it the way they want. Such a course of action is clearly outside the financial wherewithall of most people, and way outside their expertise. When someone writes that, the message I get hear is “Just shut up and quit complaining.”

    “From kjb434:
    The reason some of the developers that in Midtown “successfully” build urban walkable places in other cities are that they are forced to and those cities give a massive tax abatement for them to build them. ”

    Developers are in the business of making money. No one forces them to do anything–if they can’t make money doing a development, they just won’t build it. And if they can get a tax abatement, they’ll grab it with both hands. Do you think the suburbs don’t play the tax abatement/subsidy game? Tell that to the people of Sugar Land who are paying millions to have Minute Maid headquartered there. Or to anyone living near a Cebola’s, Bass Pro, Wallmart and other big-box retailers.

    Besides, I can think of one “walkable” development that is being built in a place with fairly lax land use/zoning rules–Houston. Specifically, this development is being built in my neck of the woods on the site of the old Town & Country Mall. It was featured on KUHF this morning ( I don’t know if they are getting any tax abatements for it. But certainly they aren’t building it this way because they have to. They could develop that land any way they want. Midway Companies is building CityCentre because they think they can make money doing it. And I wish them luck.

    If a Houstonian wants to live in a autocentric neighborhood with curvilinear streets and lots of cul-de-sacs, where getting a gallon of milk means driving to a grocery store on the nearest arterial road, he or she has many choices. And that’s great. However, if that person wants a walkable middle-class neighborhood in Houston, he or she has very few choices–which is one reason neighborhoods like Montrose and the Heights have gotten so expensive. Obviously demand for this kind of living experience is high. But hidebound developers don’t seem willing or able to follow through on building for this demand.

  • “Tell that to the people of Sugar Land who are paying millions to have Minute Maid headquartered there.”

    I feel bad for the suburbanites. They pay higher property and MUD taxes, and higher school taxes than urban Houstonians. But they do get to earn their money by working in Houston or Houston based indutries and NOT contribute to the city. “Quit complaining” would be my words of the day :-)

    Also, what is up with all this “what makes me happy” rant? What happened to “our community” rant?

  • Yeah ok RWB maybe he walked away, as he should have. There’s no evidence of this, but you can assume it if you want.

    When someone writes that, the message I get hear is “Just shut up and quit complaining.”

    Then you get the wrong message. The quip is obviously about the total absence of risk capital interested in funding John’s vision, but maybe you think there are zero developers who have the means and expertise. More likely you simply misunderstand the quip. John is advocating that the city forcibly limit development that neither he, nor his friends, nor any other group of people, is willing to risk their own money on. The message isn’t “quit complaining” it’s “please don’t have the city use force reduce competition.”

    The city doesn’t forcibly limit construction of the kind of development John wants… why should his vision be insulated from competition? Because it’s his? Because it’s yours? Because it can’t survive unless the city protects it?

  • CVS plans their site like that because the CUSTOMERS WANT IT! Check out the urban Walgreen’s in Midtown…it’s empty compared to the CVS.

    If people in Midtown want urban design, they should shop at urban retail. THAT is how to get retailers to jump on board.

  • Actually, I did not advocate that the city do anything. I shared my observations about Midtown and why it’s crap, and compared it to another Houston neighborhood which despite being less dense and more suburban is actually is a much better example of city life and how it can work well in an utterly Houstonian way.

    So please don’t put words in my mouth and then criticize me for the things in your imagination.

  • “John should get together with a few like-minded individuals, buy a city block, and develop it into a mixed use walkable urban whatever and see how badly his customers really want that. ”

    You mean like the Post development in Midtown?

  • How exactly would Midtown be a success “If Houston had had the guts to enact urban design strategies”?? I cannot disagree more with this column. I hear this rhetoric time and time again and I tend to think that people that make these statements simply do not understand fundamental real estate development or mindset of Houstonians.

    Fist of all, mentality in Houston is to drive everywhere and for the most part people in Houston hardly walk anywhere mainly because we have 9 months of summer and HUMIDITY. That is one of the main reasons mixed-use projects have not worked well other then in certain sub-markets. Just look at how many mixed-use projects were announced over the last 5 years and how many of those are actually out of the ground. Even projects like Sugar Land Town Square, Woodlands Town Square and CityCentre are destination projects. In other words people drive there, get out of the car and walk around. Keep in mind these projects are relatively new and it remains to be seen how successful they will be in years to come and whether retailers in those projects will be able to sustain high rental rates. La Centerra in Cinco Ranch is already having a high turnover of tenants. Rice Village and Highland Village are the only successful mixed-use, open-air projects that have withstood the test of time but it is mainly because they are both situated within areas that contain some of the highest income levels in the city.

    Second, for developers it is a matter of economics at the end of the day. They make money by leasing space to retailers or other tenants. Price of land in Midtown skyrocketed over the last few years and so have the construction costs. Once you start enacting so called “urban design strategies” the projects start to become cost prohibitive. The higher the cost of the project the more rent developers have to charge retailers. Keep in mind, for retailers rent is a function of sales. It is not some arbitrary number and retailers cannot sustain high rental rates in markets like Midtown.

    I am all for urban living and pedestrian friendly development, however, it is simply not feasible in Houston.

  • From LandGuy: I am all for urban living and pedestrian friendly development, however, it is simply not feasible in Houston.
    And yet, people will pay a premium to live in neighborhoods like Montrose and the Heights that offer a more urban experience–or at least the option for a resident to live that way. If people are willing to pay a premium for greater urbanism, smart developers who are not wedded to what worked in the past should be able to exploit it. (Of course, building codes in Houston actively discourage it, but a new day may be dawning there.)

  • John, your argument about Midtown’s non walk-ability makes no sense. Walking five to eight blocks IS NORMAL to get somewhere in a city… have you ever been to Chicago or NYC and ever walked to the subway stations? Three blocks to a CVS is a walk in the park!

    I live on the other side of Midtown (the townhouse side) and I WALK EVERYWHERE… even CVS! I have neighbors that do the same… and my friends in the apartments do the same.

    Keep thinking what you want about Midtown… in the meantime I will continue walking everywhere.

  • Brian, you missed my point: in terms of geography, Midtown should be an ideal walking neighborhood, but because of crappy development, it’s not; I think it’s great that you walk but my observation was that most residents did not walk much at all… because the street environment is mostly dreadful.

    And, yes, after living for two decades in Boston and Washington, DC, I think I DO understand the concept of a walkable urban neighborhood.

  • John-
    Midtown is crap. I couldn’t agree more. I see you’ve spent over 20 years living elsewhere; I’m sorry Midtown was your “urbanist” choice. A bunch of apt., etc., developers jumped on this war-torn, burned-out hellhole (HYPERBOLE!) about 10 years ago.

    It was and is a lousy place to try and carve out an appealing, walkable ‘hood, and -no surprise to me- they failed miserably. The grid (long blocks) is not conducive to walkablility without a massive gov’t/developer/public “push” to change the status quo. The “push” was weak (there was one, believe it or not).

    Midtown is a high-crime, concrete-dominated cut-through to downtown. It was in 1960, and excepting some apartment
    COMPOUNDS and a decent little niche @ Bagby/W. Gray, it remains the same, except that these days, aggressive panhandling is part of the mix.

    Kirby @ W’heimer is the latest and best effort at New(er) Urbanism. It’s expensive, but at least you’re not hasseled by new TDC releasees just out of the Midtown bus station.

  • The cut-through aspect is one of its biggest challenges – when I walked to Randall’s (I lived at 2222 Smith) it wasn’t a bad walk, except for the running across four lanes of traffic part.

    When I say it’s crap, btw, I mean compared to what it could be. It’s just an enormously disappointing area.

  • From devans:

    It was and is a lousy place to try and carve out an appealing, walkable ‘hood, and -no surprise to me- they failed miserably. The grid (long blocks) is not conducive to walkablility without a massive gov’t/developer/public “push” to change the status quo.
    This has been an interesting conversation, but I don’t understand your problem with “long blocks”. The blocks in Midtown seem to be all different lengths (which is admittedly kind of weird). The longest block is the one along Main between McGowan and Anita (over 1000 ft), but it is uniquely long. Then between Hadley and McGowan there are 5 longish blocks (about 650 ft). But as far as I can see, all the rest of the blocks in Midtown are much shorter (I would say the vast majority are less than 500 ft.).

    The typical block in Manhattan is about 900 ft. long, and those blocks are perfectly walkable (as seen by the many people who actually walk along them).

    (Note–all block sizes were approximated using Google Maps.)

    New York is not Houston, of course. Even though it can get really hot in New York, it doesn’t compare to Houston. And it’s hard to walk in 100+ degree heat, no doubt. On the other hand, people walk in New York in bitterly cold weather that we never dream of in Houston, and still manage those 900 foot blocks.

    I’m just saying that for all the reasons Midtown may or may not have worked as a truly walkable area, blocks being too big doesn’t seem like one of them. But maybe I am misunderstanding what you think is wrong with the block sizes there.

  • RWB, I repeat… John (and now devans) are full of it, and as I said earlier, Midtown is awesome (and very walk-able).

    I just got back from lunch at my house. My wife (who is off for summer because she works at a school), two aunts, mom, and two cousins just rode the light rail from the HMNS to the McGowen stop, walked to our townhouse to see it (8 blocks away), now just walked to Tacos A Go Go for lunch, and then will be riding the light rail back to the HMNS to meet up with the husbands. These are six women doing this at 12:30pm in the heat of the day in Midtown… and they were loving it.

  • I never had a problem walking through Midtown when I lived there, from a distance perspective. “Long blocks” were only an issue to me if I was walking down a sidewalk with the street on one hand and a parking lot on the other. If there’s nothing to look at while I’m walking but cars, why not drive and listen to the radio?

  • Houston Yankee, that’s exactly my point.

    When I lived in Washington I would regularly walk 10-15 blocks to go out to dinner, to a friend’s house, etc. (it was the most efficient way of getting around, because it wasn’t like you could park at your destination easily) and it was perfectly nice. I love walking to the grocery store after work: about 5-6 blocks, during which I looked at my neighbor’s houses, walked through Logan Circle, and saw what was happening at the big commercial intersection at 14th and P Streets. On weekend I’d regularly walk to Georgetown, about 25 blocks from my home, if the weather was nice; it was a delightful walk, and along the way I could pop into a bookstore in Dupont Circle, sit in the circle and have a coffee while watching the street scene, etc.

    Midtown by comparison was just dreadful – desolate blocks with a parking lot on one side and traffic rushing by on the other. So I just didn’t bother.

    That doesn’t mean that Midtown is a horrible place to live, just in the category of “walkable urban neighborhoods,” it sucks, despite the short distances and relative practicality of walking – it’s just a crappy experience when compared to lots of neighborhoods in DC, Boston, Chicago, almost the whole city of San Francisco, the crappy little half-dead industrial city in upstate NY where I went to college, small pedestrian oriented cities like Savannah, GA (truly a pedestrian paradise), Charleston, SC, or tons of other places. And while the location has challenges, it didn’t have to be that way.

    It is, of course, very convenient and I’m not knocking anyone’s choice to live there. I’m just pointing out that as someone who likes to walk around his neighborhood, and who’s lived in incredibly walkable neighborhoods in the past, I find the Heights actually fits the bill better DESPITE everything being considerably farther apart and the density being lower – because while you walk longer, there are things to see, and it’s a pleasant experience. Even in the summer.

    I walk every day with no particular destination with my dog, and I walk to a few local stores and such, and it’s really nice. It was never nice in Midtown. It was often practical, but never pleasant.

    That said – kudos to you for walking. I think it’s great, really. And it’s certainly nicer not to be a slave to your car, even in an unappealing environment like Midtown.

    Just try not to get run over crossing Smith or Louisiana…

    I think the comparison of block sizes is really interesting. It’s notable that a block in Midtown Houston FEELS so much longer than a block in Manhattan, even when it isn’t.

    (And I don’t think it’s just the heat. Walking in the summer in DC was really much more uncomfortable than walking in Houston – lots more concrete radiating heat up at you. Summer there is pretty much as hot and humid as summer here; it’s just a little bit shorter.)

  • Well, one difference between the long blocks in Manhattan and many (if not most) places in Houston is that there is almost always a “shady side of the street” in Manhattan. On thing about walking most places in Houston is that there is no shade. (I should say, most commercial places–of course, there are many shady residential streets.) So on a hot day, walking down a sidewalk with a street radiating heat to your left and a parking lot radiating heat to your right, and no shade in sight (until maybe the next block), a short Houston block might feel as long as a Manhattan block. I find walking in that kind of environment pretty horrible too. (I was at Ikea the other day, and they used to have a covered walkway that extended way out into the parking lot. When I got their, I could see the awning was gone, and the walkway was exposed to the sun. The effect of expecting a shady walk and not getting it was totally deflating.)

  • You can see the same problem at the Sawyer Heights Target – a commercial success but a design disaster. That parking lot feels like it’s ten degrees hotter than everywhere else in the city, because of the sun and lack of shade. Then you get in your host car and wait (sometimes through a couple of light cycles on the weekend) to get out of one of the handful of exits from the lot – to get into a neighborhood with an urban street grid.

    That shopping center is convenient for those of us who live close to it, but it’s also a monument to the stupidity of plopping a suburban shopping center into the middle of the city. It’s poorly connected to everything around it, a giant heat island, and as it fills up an example of wasteful use of space. It’s really a shame.

  • host car = hot car. Whoops.

  • Oh, and for comparison, another fairly recent urban Target, built appropriately for the surrounding neighborhood:

  • John,

    That Target is nice in DC, but in Houston, there isn’t a critical mass of customers to support that kind of development.

    Also, Target doesn’t care where it’s store is located or the style of the development as long as the developer provided good enough demographics to make the store profitable. Essentially, the developer showed Target the numbers for a shopping center in the Sawyer Heights location. Target realized it was an untapped market. The nearest discount retailer is another Target at San Felipe in Uptown which is always packed. Target realized it’ll be the first to capitalize on an untapped market area. Kroger is doing the same thing at its 11th St location.

    It’s also important to not in your comparison of a walkable neighborhood you constantly utilize the word “feel”. It’s kind of subjective. As noted on this board, several midtown residents in the non-post area love to walk everywhere. To me, if more people are walking in an area, then it becomes a walkable neighborhood.

  • Of course Target doesn’t care! Which is why we, as a community, have to proscribe certain development requirements to prevent that type of crap happening again. If Houston had the vision and our political leaders the guts, we could finally see some changes here. Instead, even our city leaders claim to support pedestrians and play lip service to such goals but fail to really makes the changes needed in our development codes so we keep getting the same sprawl garbage over and over again.

  • What you define as a crap, a lot people define as convenience. That target at Sawyer has saved me lots of time now that I don’t have to go to the one on San Felipe in Uptown. Now I just need to see if I can get a Wal-Mart in the area too!

    The people that want that urban walkable neighborhood are a small minority.

    Just because the developer doesn’t want to go to the exorbitant expense of putting up a parking garage to hide a parking lot, doesn’t make the development crap. $1000 per parking space versus $10,000 per parking space is a big difference. Even if the city’s parking rules were relaxed, the center’s tenants would have wanted the parking lot because they need it.

    P.S. That Target center provided a crucial link in a city of Houston Bikeway Trail. It has allowed the project to be completed since the previous land owners weren’t selling to the city. That shopping center will have a direct dedicated bike connection to the Heights and downtown.

  • As most of your posts relate, if it makes something easier for you (distance of a Target in the case), then, by God, let’s etch it in stone. And have you done polling to know exactly how many people consitute the small minority wanting a walkable neighborhood? If those types of neighborhoods are not wanted by the masses, the explain the ENORMOUS popularity of Uptown or Addison Circle or Southlake Town Center in the Dallas region? Surely, our unenlightened other Texan brethren are just as clueless as we
    seem to be.

  • If a few apartment complexes with some shops filling up is you data to support more people want this, then the volumes of single family residential development and strip center development all over Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and DFW would be mine.

    Town Centers are still destination oriented places where most customers still need a car to get to them. They are really just open air malls with some streetscapes to look like small town downtowns. Just take a typical shopping center, makes all the storefronts face each other, then put the parking behind it in a parking garage, then you have a town center. Then throw in a apartment complex and you get a mixed use place.

    People still need cars to go to these places.

  • I think this conversation has drifted a lot and it’s kind of my fault. My main point was that it’s hot in Houston, and walking down the street (or even through a parking lot) with hundreds of feet of no shade whatsoever in front of you is no fun; it will discourage a lot of people from walking who might otherwise walk if there were shade. So if you build a suburban style retail environment (like the above-mentioned CVS) in a more urban-ish neighborhood (like Midtown), you’ll end up discourage some walkers by preventing there from being a shady side of the street.

    When it comes to big box stores or malls with huge parking lots, I hate to park far from the entrance because of the long walk through the unrelieved heat. That’s why I liked the covered walkway at Ikea and was so disappointed when I found it was gone the last time I went (was it a victim of Ike?).

  • It’s important to note that many places in Midtown have brand new trees that still have a few years before they become full blown shade makers. The CVS by Post Midtown has a line of trees they planted along with a line that the Midtown Management District planted as part of their streetscape improvements. These streetscape improvements by the district will eventually hit all the main streets in the district. They hit up Elgin last year. McGowen is under road and sidewalk reconstruction as we speak. Much of this area needs a good 10-15 years before these trees become what we need for shade. All of these streetscapes provide a wider ADA compliant sidewalks too.

  • The trees will definitely help in the long term. (Just pray they withstand the hurricanes that hit between now and their maturity, not to mention hitherto undreamed-of street widenings!) Good point on the sidewalks. Wide sidewalks in general encourage walkers (at least in my experience), in addition to being easier for folks in wheelchairs to navigate.

  • Well,

    METRO and the City widened all the streets they can in Midtown. The only street that is left in their consideration is Richmond on where the light rail will go.

    Outside of that, the management district will only be rebuilding old streets and side walks to the newer standard (wide sidewalks and trees with concrete streets versus asphalt. All the streets in Midtown have enough existing right of way and it’ll get prohibitively expensive to widen them. Also, Midtown traffic isn’t bad. The street widening for the north-south streets were for METRO buses to have dedicated lane and to allow downtown traffic to the South and Southwest freeway quick access.

    The biggest threat to the trees would be hurricanes (but that is all trees in our area), drunks, and power lines.

  • Kjb34,
    Perhaps the volumes of single family homes marching across the suburban landscape are
    “popular” by default. Hardly anyone is offered a choice. And your dismissive comments about a few apartment buildings
    thrown over some shops proves you have no clue as to what Uptown Dallas is much less
    Southlake Town Square. Uptown Dallas is the same size as all of Midtown only it is dense with apartments, condos, townhomes and some older homes with shopping,theatres,office,dining, grocery, bike/jogging trails and a streetcar line. If you want to walk to a variety of places you can or there is certainly parking. Tell the thousands of people living there or making it a destination
    that it is hardly a popular choice.

    Cottage Grove and Rice Military COULD have been vibrant walkable neighborhoods had Houston had any guidelines or planned development zoning but as a result we have dense neighborhoods with horrendous parking, narrow streets, inadequate drainage and a sea of godawful Hardiplank.

    I guess we’ll have to cling to the 2 blocks of Post Midtown for any semblance to an urban neighborhood sans the blight.

  • melanie,

    I could argue that you have little knowledge of Houston’s walkable neighborhoods.

    Rice Village, Greenway Plaza, Heights (near Yale and 20th), Midtown, Montrose (south near Westheimer), Kirby (from Westheimer to US 59).

    All these places have many of the components of what is popularly labeled as a walkable neighborhood. The difference is that many of these areas are built on old infrastructure prior to densification. Improving sidewalks to typical urban styles will come after the development demands it. As mentioned above, Midtown Management is doing this. The Richmond light rail line will rebuild the sidewalks for the entire length. This corridor will connect several urban centers and the corridor is densifying already. Upper Kirby is rebuilding the sidewalks on Kirby and making the corridor more pedestrian friendly.

    Houston is doing all these improvements incrementally versus having a centralized planning group dictate what has to be done. I find that much more appealing and cost effective for the majority of tax payers that will not use these areas except for when they drive there. The people that live in theses areas can use them. On top of all that, the improvements are funded by the local districts, businesses, and developers. That saves city funding for real problems such as CIP projects that fund critical infrastructure such as drainage, water and sanitary improvements and not wasting on pretty up areas to an urbanist ideal.

  • Okay, I never said that having Target there was a bad thing – I think it’s great, I shop there often, I am glad Petsmart and Staples are there too.

    Here’s what I notice – the shopping center is fairly new and already, traffic issues are mounting; instead of connecting it to Oliver Street at the back everyone is forced out onto Sawyer, a classic suburban isolated-island approach, and it can already be difficult to get in and out when it’s busy.

    I offered up the DC Target as a an example that a Target doesn’t have to look like it’s in an exurb; there are plenty of other things that could have been done. One is more attention to the street connections. Another would be breaking up the parking lot and adding more greenery and some shaded walkways so that once someone arrived there, they could park and walk between stores (watch what goes on there; you see people re-parking to go from Target to other stores). The apartment complex could have been better integrated into the whole thing. My point is just that it could have been done so much better.

    There’s this assumption that if you are going to build a shopping center you should get to do it however you want, regardless of what might contribute to the ongoing development of the neighborhood. That’s foolish. The quality and value of any property depends on what is near it; why do you think residents of that same neighborhood were concerned about the proposal to move the recycling center nearby?

    I’m not saying any one option is the right one, just that there are alternatives to retail properties that look like they were scooped up from Katy and plopped down in to the middle of a central city neighborhood – like the Midtown CVS, to bring this back to where this started, and the idea that we should not expect anything better is not some divine truth.

    There are plenty of examples all around the country of a business like Target wanting to locate in some fast-developing urban location and being perfectly willing to make some adjustments to their basic store model to fit in there. As the large numbers of people shopping at Target show, that’s still a profitable enterprise, and the results enhance the neighborhood. It’s totally reasonable for residents to require more. That’s hard to do in Houston, but it’s worth considering what is reasonable and how some kind of review process could be implemented.

    The result would be more desirable neighborhoods, and yes, higher property values for everyone in them (including businesses).

  • Kjb34,

    I guess we are not clear on what a walkable neighborhood is. Having sidewalks alone does not make a “walkable” neighborhood. River Oaks has plenty of sidewalks but it is a suburban style setting.
    We have already argued that Midtown ( save the Post development which for the purposes of this blogchain seemed to be the basis of a “walkable” area), is not the urban neighborhood envisioned and the other areas you mentioned are not either.

    To use your argument, why should my taxes pay to locate and staff a fire station, library, multi-service center, police substation or build sewer lines in the outer regions of the city because we have
    no incentives to curb the excessive sprawl?

    And since when are any city funds used to pretty up areas of town? If that were the case, no one would have to pine for ‘urbanist ideals’.

  • I agree with the original post. Midtown is an incongruent, hodge-podge of self-serving interests, just like most of Houston. All it lacks is a 24 hour news stand. The area had so much more potential. The lack of zoning or building restrictions only encourages out-of-town developers with no conection to the city to come in, make a few bucks, and leave a trail of decaying strip centers and apartment complexes in thier wake.

  • People also need to understand that zoning and building restrictions could also force development to not occur in midtown. If Midtown was zoned for a dense urban style development, developers would go just outside the boundary and build a suburban style development where it’s cheaper.

    The asking price for land in Midtown also shot up after the light rail was construction for no good reason except the owners thought they could get that much. Some people believe this spurred the intense development move to Washington and the Dallas/Montrose locations.