Comment of the Day: West Houston’s Plan for Suburban Domination

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WEST HOUSTON’S PLAN FOR SUBURBAN DOMINATION Humpty Dumpty Houston“Houston does not have a centralized downtown district. After Gerry Hines built the Galleria, the city fractured into numerous regional shopping centers and has remained decentralized since. Perhaps Houston functions better this way. Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and all the King’s men cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again. MetroNational and Midway Cos. are determined to reconstruct Houston with a new centralized downtown district in CityCentre. They envision Memorial Drive and Gessner as commercial 8-lane thoroughfares. They envision the corridor of residential neighborhoods between the Katy Freeeway and Memorial Drive as one big mega shopping center, an expansion of Memorial City that stretches on for miles. They envision deed restricted neighborhoods of Walnut Bend and Briargrove Park as office parks. Don’t believe me? Just go to the West Houston Association website and click on 2050 map. They are serious about remapping Houston. And what are they going to do with all the storm water run-off from these commercial buildings? They are going to channel it into Buffalo Bayou, of course. To do this they have to deforest the bayou and widen and deepen and concrete it. They are determined to do it. And where are they going to get the money to do this? Out of TIRZ 17 and MetroNational Bank.” [Memorial Resident, commenting on Comment of the Day: Houston’s Westward Tilt] Illustration: Lulu

20 Comment

  • i wouldn’t be expecting much of any growth in this west part of town over the next 35yrs no matter how much Houston grows. it truly is a horrible location for an office corridor and is full of artificially inflated housing stock thanks to its abysmal transportation options. if Houston grows dramatically, this part of town will be quickly passed up for further out locales with better transit options and land acquisition costs. this part of town has locked itself in for the most part and will not see any dramatic growth aside from further infill along the major thoroughfares.

  • “And what are they going to do with all the storm water run-off from these commercial buildings? They are going to channel it into Buffalo Bayou, of course. To do this they have to deforest the bayou and widen and deepen and concrete it. ”

    HCFCD will not let this happen. No channels have been paved in concrete for over 40 years. The USACE will not let this happen because it’ll violate federal laws (not just regulations) on the books.

    Educate yourself a little bit first.

    Don’t forget, the Memorial Villages and downtown have stakeholders that will pummel HCFCD and CofH if this was proposed. There are many nonprofit groups that also have pull to influence regulators. And lastly, local media would eat a story like this up.

  • Developers have never read an environmental textbook they didn’t burn.
    One thing, at least they have a plan about infrastructure, because the CoH sure doesn’t.

  • Now I think I get it. Suburban shopping malls are not really the antithesis of urbanism. They are actually urban seed pods that germinate and spread their seeds all around the immediate area, growing new urban areas all around them. And in the case of City Centre, the old mall actually composted itself to make the soil fertile for re-development.

  • It’s absurd to assert that Houston doesn’t have a centralized downtown, I mean 90 percent of Houston’s tall buildings are downtown. Nobody mistakes the Medical Center or the Gallerie Area for downtown, get real. Look around, dude, it’s obvious where Downtown is located.

  • WHOA BABY! This one took “Developers fucked my shit up” to a new level….. I mean they dug deep into the decade era psyche in order to pin down how victimized they are. And THEN they projected ANOTHER few decades onto their dilemma into the future!!!! Add in the conspiracies and this puppy is a gold mine for any business savvy real estate therapist.

  • I don’t like this one bit. I don’t get why they think this plan is reasonable.

  • Wow, a little paranoid are we? I understand your mistrust of the developers, but let’s cut down on the hyperbole and focus on the real issues. The developers are not going to buy-up neighborhoods, channelize the bayou, etc. But they will use the TIRZ money to advance their best interests, and not those of the neighborhoods. Let’s keep the focus on demanding that the TIRZ money be used to address the most pressing problems: runoff and traffic. Using inflammatory rhetoric like this will not advance those goals at all.

  • @Shannon: “Nobody mistakes the Medical Center or the Gallerie Area for downtown, get real.”
    I’ve met several people who do just that. They live in distant suburbs and call anything inside the loop “downtown”. The Houston metro area has a large population for whom the inner loop is a rarely visited, almost exotic, and usually frightening destination.

  • I am curious as to how “Memorial Drive and Gessner will be commercial 8-lane thoroughfares” without encroaching on the property of homeowners along those streets. I remember the huge stink that went for years when the street Voss was widened.

  • If someone can show me on the map at the link, where it shows that Gessner and Memorial will be 8 lanes each by 2050, I would really appreciate it. I thought I knew how to read a map, but apparently not.

  • I had a former coworker that came to Houston one time. She was staying in at a Galleria area hotel and thought that was downtown. I later drove her by downtown.

    The Spring Branch area is prime for redevelopment. There’s so many apartments that were built in the 70s and collapsed in the 80s in the area. I wish a developer would tear down the apartments and build single family homes. Then hopefully the public SBISD schools north of I-10 would improve!

  • Cities aren’t supposed to expand? Grow? Branch out? I guess I am a little confused why people have such an issue with suburbs that eventually may grow into their own? Would it make more sense to have every one live within the loop and just disregard the space and land that exists beyond? The cavemen should never have traveled, the Europeans should never have explored. They should have just camped and centered around whatever the first central business district was to begin with.

    If I work at a plant, do I have a need to travel downtown, live downtown, play downtown? I base my decisions and lifestyle on what things I need, not what someone else thinks I need or should do.

  • Fly into Houston and look out the window. You see Downtown, Greenway, Galleria, Memorial City, and the Westchase/Energy Corridor buildings all in a westward row. Will the west side replace downtown? I doubt it, and it is very true that traffic out here is getting increasingly onerous during rush hour. Hard to imagine how much more can be crammed into the area without creating continuous grid lock.

    Always tickled by how horrified folks get about any possible quality of life outside the loop though. Why is that?

  • Has anybody read Surburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream? I just checked it out at the library…interesting read thus far.

  • I want to be fair to the OP, but I have to say the comment is over-the-top. Also, I am puzzled by the notion that MetroNational would be determined to make their competition’s project (Midway’s City Centre) the new downtown of Houston. Also, an 8-lane Memorial Drive would required taking a lot of homes by eminent domain … not a popular tactic in a wealthy, heavily Republican enclave. So — while I think those claims are exaggerated — I do expect changes. I lived in one of the Memorial Villages when Memorial Drive was a 2-lane blacktop road and there was no San Felipe connection to it over Buffalo Bayou. The Villagers fought those changes and lost.

  • I guess it’s true that you should never under estimate the level of stupidity in the general population. Of the 10 tallest buildings in Houston 9 are downtown. How can anyone mistake any other area in Houston for Downtown? I mean, get real.

  • Jay, the concern about cities expanding out into the suburbs is about worker mobility and our ability to fund adequate infrastructure. that’s great if the woodlands, katy and sugarland could become real functioning cities comparable to that of Houston. However, it’s unsustainable if you have poor transportation options affecting the supply of qualified labor and an undiversified industry base that leads to boom and bust cycles. We can barely afford Metro’s reach in central Houston and with more low-income workers being pushed further from the cities core we will continue to lose workers from our supply of labor.
    I love Houston the way it’s always been though. having multiple office centers spread across town helps keep housing demand distributed across a wider area rather than turning the central part of town into an enclave for well paid dual income families only. allowing land to continue being gobbled up further and further out allows for affordable housing for new residents increasing our supply of labor. anything that helps cities expand, even if endless suburban sprawl, and make better use of their existing resources and infrastructure is a positive to me.

  • The one problem with Houston’s sprawl that we haven’t solved yet is this: The street network that goes in during initial buildout doesn’t adapt well to higher densities, and we end up retrofitting a grid at great expense, decades after the fact. The Uptown District folks have done yeoman’s work here, but the right-of-way should’ve been there in the beginning.

    The most egregious example of this is the fenceline between the Shell campus and the offices and car dealerships off Wickchester Lane. This gap in the grid adds needless traffic to the IH-10 corridor, as do similar discontinuities to the south. Similar issues face residential sections. If Sharpstown ever regentrifies, we’ll see market pressure for Heights/Hidalgo style townhomes – but the later plats (west of Fondren) lack the through streets to handle that sort of density.

    All that said, traffic management in the ‘burbs is an issue for the people who live and work there; it’s not an issue for people bike-commuting inside the loop. The solution is to Sprawl Better, not to restrict new development just because a certain segment of our population finds it not to their liking.