Comment of the Day: The River Oaks Shopping Center’s Coming Double Mocha Latte Problem

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE RIVER OAKS SHOPPING CENTER’S COMING DOUBLE MOCHA LATTE PROBLEM “Finger is adding 431 units next to Whole Foods, Regent Square is putting up 290 units down the street in their apartment tower, Hanover at W. Gray and Waugh will be 275 units, the Richdale development on W. Gray where the ballet used to be is supposed to be 160 units and this new one on Montrose and Dallas will probably be at least 250 judging from the size of the lot and the economics of apartment complexes. That makes somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300-1400 new units all within about a mile of each other. That will certainly impact traffic in the area. The bigger impact is going to be on retail in the area. A couple thousand more people are going to be living in the area, yet the retail layout is largely going to remain the same. Regent Square may finally get active and save the day with some needed retail and restaurants. But once all the apartments fill up, there will be long lines at Starbucks whether you are on the north side of W. Gray, southside or inside Barnes and Nobles.” [Old School, commenting on The Apartments Behind the Finger Apartments Behind the Montrose Whole Foods]

41 Comment

  • Just down Montrose two recent land purchases will be yielding two more highrise apartment buildings. A new project is slated for the rear portion of the Chelsea Market, tenants have all been given six months notice to vacate. The Gramercy Place Apartments have just sold, with a highrise projected on the sight. The Gramercy Place located on Portland is in the shadows of Finger’s Museum Tower.

  • That intersection probably needs 4 or 5 Starbucks, then. Lewis Black’s head just exploded.

  • Ready for rail yet?

  • Noooo, not the Gramercy Place! :(

  • I’m sure all those developers will feel SO SMART they didn’t build any ground floor retail into all these new apartments.

  • You wanted density, you got it! Toyota.

  • There is definitely enough room behind the Chelsea Market for a Highrise, but I don’t see how a Highrise would fit on the Gramercy place property.

  • keep it coming, i haven’t seen any shortage of commercial space in need of leasing or re-development. the montrose is still full of small strip centers that can easily be re-developed to better maximize the space and value of the land and would be better off for it. lack of ground floor retail in these new buildings is not a panacea and as stated nearly all these complexes are within walking distance of a grocery store, something other dense cities don’t have the privilege of.

  • Isn’t this guy one of the biggest complainers about the Walmart/Ainbinder development and the new Kroger on Studemont? Now, he claims there is not enough retail?

    Jeebus, you just can’t please some people. Or, perhaps he has Faux Outrage Diabetes.

  • I feel really dumb for renting a single family house, geez. Should I be in a high-rise?

  • This all so Houston. Overbuild the density, tear down cool affordable pre war buildings, build horrid cheap apartments to replace them, charge 10 times the rent, overbuild the market..etc. Jesus, even Dallas! has some respect for its old buildings, Houston has none, it’s just, hey this guy will pay more so tear it down and let him build anything he pleases, no matter how ugly or overbearing. I grew up in the Houston (Rice Area), lived in Austin while at UT, moved to Dallas, then Los Angeles, and now im in San Antonio and I’m always just sicken by Houston’s lack of care at all for its history or for overbuilding a cool area. My own beautiful area around Rice wear I grew up is being encroached upon by these horrid apt towers. Come on Houston!, don’t be such a whore, show some class for a change. It’s not all about who can pay the most. Thank God the Hoggs said when they gave Memorial Park that if it’s transformed in anyway it reverts back to the family otherwise im sure Houston would have found a way to sell it to the highest bidder and let a shopping mall and apartment towers be built on top of it. Sic transit gloria

  • Shannon, what makes you qualified to tell a property owner that she can’t maximize her earnings from that property? Why do you think it’s reasonable to criticize someone who wants to replace the aging 20 unit complex with a 100 unit complex that’s better built, has better amenities, and can rent for 3 times the price? Want to keep the stuff you call cool? Buy it and operate it yourself.

  • Settle down there, shannon, things are working perfectly, the way the market should. Cities are not static things catering to nostalgia of a few, they are organic ever changing and ever growing entities.

  • For every Houstonian who feels like Shannon, there’s another Houstonian like me who thinks all this new development is awesome.

  • I’m with Bernard on this one. The places that show so much “care” for “history” and “cool areas” often wind up creating layers of restrictions that – however well intentioned – end up preserving things that nobody wants (to pay for anyway) at the expense of the future. Houston is a dynamic community. So is its real estate. I hope we can keep it that way.

  • Look,I love great modern buildings, like the Williams Tower, and many of the Hines Developed properties, but so much of the new developement is horrid. Call me a anti growth Houstonian for not wanting great neighborhoods destroyed? I’ve watched in horror as they’ve torn down great old houses and put up “modern” architecture like Arnold did in River Oaks. I’ve watched them just plow neighborhoods and change the whole dynamic of what made them desirable in the first place. I know of no other city that has such disdain for its history. I’m a native of Houston, and have a great love for my hometown, but come on people, save something!! I applaud the County Judge for trying to find something to do with the Astrodome, when the Texans want a parking lot. I like the idea of saving the steel shell and making a park in the middle. I’m hardly anti growth, Im an architect!!, but come on!

  • Oh and im sure Bernard and Ross would love to see Rice sold and torn down and a new Le Corbusier inspired high density modernism built all over the 260 acres, oh and let’s just sell Hermann to the highest bidder too, why not. Bulldoze River Oaks and build Central Park West, why not? If that’s what developers what to do, why not let them? Pull up all the headstones at Glenwood and put up a high rise and parking lot, why not. Look, guys, just because it’s new doesnt make it better, frankly, it usually makes it worse. Ask anyone if they’d rather a new track home in Katy or a pre war Georgian in Braeswood.

  • @shannon
    While I appreciate your passion for Houston’s architectural history, your story is exactly how it should work; if you don’t like the way development is done in our city, you are free to move to somewhere else that is more accommodating of your views. Federalism lets you vote with your feet!

    Forsan et haec olim memnisse juvabit.

  • Spoken like a states rights good ole boy–if ye don’t lyke it, jes move–look, neocon or whatever your name is, I’ll state my views about my hometown anytime I please–I don’t need the likes of you, madame telling me how I should view my native Houston–maybe you should leave, Mrs–

  • Shannon: If you were really an architect, would you really call them “track” homes?
    Do you perhaps mean “tract” homes?

  • ” Ask anyone if they’d rather a new track home in Katy or a pre war Georgian in Braeswood.”

    Judging by the number of people in Houston live in sub/exurbs, and how many pre-war houses are sitting in the east end for (almost) cheaper than a new car, you don’t want to know the answer to that question.

  • bankruptcy court will be packed with “developers” in a few years, stick around. This is a fed enduced housing bubble, wake up folks.

  • I agree with Shannon, however this thread started off with the dense development in upper Montrose. Some of the land was vacant, and the rest was the Allan House apartments. None of it particularly beautiful or interesting. We do live in a CITY remember? The bigger question to me is, why wasn’t some of this building done on the surface lots or empty lots in downtown?

  • @Shannon, as the current state of affairs proves, your view is shared by very few, and laughed at by the rest. You can try to go “Occupy” one of those old houses to save them.

  • There was actually some consideration given to selling the Rice campus and building a new campus north of Houston in 1973. I don’t know how far it got but there was a lot of discussion, even among the administration, for several months. The reasoning was that several of the older buildings needed significant maintenance and a land swap plus brand new buildings would create a significant profit for the University. The idea that people and programs were more important than place and a sentimental attachment to history was explicitly stated. In any case, the idea quietly died by the mid-70s.

  • Marmer, here is a link to a Rice Thresher article about that subject. PDF:

  • Shannon,

    > …you are free to move to somewhere
    > else…

    It’s much better to stay and get political. This is what it’s all about, and because it requires compromise and consensus it’s a long term process. Step 1: turn Texas blue again.

    As little as 2 years ago that would have seemed like a pipe dream, but today the reds like commonsense are running scared.

    He’s trying to convince you that you are heavily outnumbered, but long term trends inside the loop are in fact heavily on your side. The reds exiled themselves to the exurbs and so Houston proper is now the most culturally diverse city in the nation.

    Diversity is good for aesthetics.

  • Rodrigo: yes, that was my source. Later Thresher articles of that period chronicle the debate, which I didn’t think was really necessary to post.

  • This is definitely not an old v. new issue. The Dallas St. complexes near Whole Foods are going in on vacant land. The real issue is whether the “markets” are going to be able to deal with the fast population growth inside the loop by providing additional needed retail and restaurant development. Dallas and W Gray are ripe for densification. But residential densification without an expansion of the retail and restaurants needed to support the population growth becomes a serpent eating its tail. More multifamily taking up big lots reduces the amount of space available for retail. It also forces retail development into already overcrowded shopping centers instead of spreading it out all up and down Dallas and W Gray with mixed use.

  • @Patrick
    red/blue and culturally diverse neighborhoods have nothing to do with property rights.
    Besides, the cultural diversity you laud in the inner city is actually out in the sub/exurbs, fort bend county, not harris is the most diverse in the nation.
    It seems that if you are making a correlation that blue = cultural diversity = no property rights for owners, then you should look to Sugarland and beyond…

  • @Patrick, it’s no secret that inner city cores have been strong in the blue, but Texas as a whole has never been redder, if you look at the legislature makeup in Austin, Democrats have no realistic chance of gaining majority power for at least a few decades.
    I like diversity (I’m so white, I should be wearing a horned helmet and carry an axe, my wife is Hispanic) but I take issue with people meddling with natural market processes for some hippy love-in utopia that can exist only in their minds.

  • Hopefully they put turn signals on gray between dunlavy and montrose eventually with all these new people living right there. It’s already bad when 10 people all want to turn left and have to wait through 4 lights.

  • All the business that are needed for the new residents will pop up in short order… because there will be demand and not because someone directs it. I’ve also noticed all over town that dedicated turn lanes and extra traffic lights don’t take all that long (usually about a year after demand). So, on the whole, this is very normal process, nothing to see here.

  • @Patrick, @Shannon

    It’s our relatively lax development framework that permits a lot of that diversity. Here you can actually redevelop properties — the sites in question here were once the Allen House Apts before they were demolished — to support the changing demands in the market.

    It is the “red” suburbs in our region that have more restrictive development codes that ossify the city in its present form, prevent densification and discourage aesthetic diversity.

    I for one would rather live in a vibrant, dynamic city than one that was a museum for structures from the 1940s, or 1970s, or 1990s or whenever.

  • These “luxury” apartments that are being built will do nothing to encourage “diversity”. As economic diversity tends to follow ethnic lines, don’t expect the inner loop to remain “diverse”. As for retail, that kind of “diversity” tends to create a boutique mentality leaving little room for useful mom & pop business to grow and flourish. If you are looking to the free market to create a neighborhood of shops and residential that is diverse and interesting, don’t count on it any more than a regulated city. The concept of total free market leading to the “highest and best use” (and who decides that?)is a myth perpetuated by those who benefit, just like any economic system.

  • i think the posts telling Shannon to just move are a bit unnecessary guys. there’s plenty of benefits at play here to simply debate the issue with the facts and realities of the issues rather than just avoid them.

    Shannon, can you name one city that has not gone through the same redevelopment as Houston is going through that doesn’t have artificially elevated rents due restrictions not allowing the market to meet demand and punishing the economic diversity of those cities and low-income workers? I can think of plenty if you have a hard time.

    please understand that not all of us originate from the Rice area and had to deal with poor/inefficient infrastructure and public resources while growing up in Houston. to some of us, this redevelopment and energy is a good thing and the increased tax base will be a god send. yes it will of course displace others, but that’s the natural price to pay and is really more of a property tax issue (ha, good luck debating on that one), not a development issue.

    Old School, do you have any statistics and numbers to show that all retail in the area is flourishing with a lack of capacity? not being snarky, but in just speaking anecdotally most things outside of the immediate thoroughfares next to dense/rich hoods don’t appear to be flourishing. especially at a time when the internet is continuing to explode and cannibalize physical stores.

    The Heights is really the only place i can think of that fits the mold for a lack of retail, but my understanding is they don’t want there.

  • I have to ask those of you clamoring for more retail–exactly what kind of retail do you want? You don’t want nail salons, check cashing centers, dry cleaners or national chains, etc….so the pool is quite limited to small clothing boutiques or small home/design stores or a coffee house. No one is graduating from college wanting to go into retail and honestly when you look around at how few successful independent clothing and home good stores are around inner loop Houston, it seems illogical to expect all these interesting shops to appear out of thin air.

  • Great arguments guys–I appreciate everyone’s opinion–Look, I love great new modern skyscrapers and cool modern architecture, but really does Houston have to tear everything! down–they throw out the baby with the bathwater –anyway–I love Houston, that’s why I care about its past as well as future–and of course I meant Tract home, but good for you Frank Lloyd Wright for pointing that out

  • “Diversity is good for aesthetics.”

    Especially when someone else is forced to pay for it, right?

  • Are you paying for the better asthetics due to diversity?–how so? You sound like one of these No Tax Texans–you want to drive on new roads and have great street drainage -etc, but never want to pay for it–you probably don’t make enough to actually pay taxes

  • I couldn’t take the time to read all of the comments. But, having grown up in a small town with only Mom & Pop shops, I will miss not having as many in the future. And, it’s unfortunate for a lot of those business owners that may have to close due to rising property taxes or inability to compete. But, do you have any idea how many jobs are dependent on the construction of a new building? I work for a major faucet company, and only sell faucets. We sell to distributors, who also make money. Imagine the dirt work, steel, glass, carpets, etc that go into these buildings. These are people that will ultimately buy whatever product, service, or widget produced by the company that you work for. Consequently, you will be able to maintain employment. If more Mom and Pop shops is what you desire, small towns like Bellville and Round Top are great weekend or day trips. I say tear ’em down and build more or redevlop the existing old ones. Just like your cat will never bark, development, change, and growth is unavoidable. Our city government needs the taxes created by it.