Hines Buying Up Museum District Property To Build Highrise Apartments

A few sources are telling Swamplot that Hines is planning to build either a 20- or 22-story apartment tower on the entire city block where this house stands in the Museum District. The house is at the corner of Caroline and Southmore, directly across from Yoshio Taniguchi’s Asia Society Texas Center and that recently cleared residential lot immediately behind it. The block is bound by Caroline, Southmore, Oakdale, and the light rail line along San Jacinto. One of the sources says that 3 of the 4 property owners on the block have agreed to sell, and that Hines will be taking those properties over on July 1. Another source speculates that Hines might go ahead and build around the holdout. As of this morning, there’s been no word from Hines — though a rep in an email writes: “No deal has been closed so it is too preliminary to discuss,” which sure makes it sound as though there is an “it.”

Photo: Swamplot inbox

51 Comment

  • I’m glad it’s Hines. We know it will be high quality and well designed. I think our fine city is finally growing up!

  • Why does it seem to be so much more common for developers to buy up lots that actually have houses on them, instead of building on the many bare lots in the area?

  • #2- Because they are parasites.

  • #1 Are you from the Hines PR/Spin department, and just had a bit too much of the Kool-Aid?

  • There are definitely some empty lots within a block or two of there. As much as I’d love to see a high rise in the museum district, I wish it would replace an empty lot.

  • Cool.Great addition to the neighborhood. Hopefully there will be some retail on the ground floor. What a great location. Increase ridership of the light rail and encourage patronage of local businesses.

  • Vacant lots are probably owned by speculators who think their lots would be more valuable after Hines builds their building, so why would they sell to Hines?

  • agreeing with everyone else about the empty lots. i did a lot of apartment hunting this month, and pretty much drove block by block in areas i wouldn’t mind living in. the amount of empty lots surprised me considering every other day i see a story here or see something in person where a perfectly good house is demolished to make room for some crappy new development. there is plenty worse in the world to be concerned about, but it still sorta pains me to see these great old houses be destroyed like this.

  • “I think our fine city is finally growing up!”

    Yeah, when the fine homes in the Museum District start falling for highrises, the manhattanization of Houston in underway, until the next down cycle anyway.

  • Filling empty lots is not the point of development, money is. Developers build things to make money just like the rest of us get up and go to work to make money. It’s not their job to fill empty lots.

  • I’d also like to hear more about why so many lots remain vacant. I’ve heard several people say it’s because property owners in Houston are notorious for believing their property is worth more than it really is and hold out for “the right price” for years on end.

    A study not too long ago ranked Houston as one of the emptiest cities in America based on the acreage of vacant lots. Seems like the recent boom is a great time to start addressing this, especially if there are special rules in place to encourage this kind of behavior.

  • This is a great location for a mid-to-high rise condo. Close to the light rail. Walkable neighborhood. Nearby amenities. That said, why take down this house of all houses? It’s absolutely stunning and well cared for. It’s even better looking in person. Houston perplexes me.

  • Hines has a lot planned buildings but only one is actually going up. Announce ground breaking for 609 already! :)

  • why would someone put ground floor retail in this building though? there’s hollowed out strip centers all up and down the two major roads running parallel to this neighborhood in desperate need of demand. if there’s not enough retail demand to support existing builds then it’d be very un-wise to place it in this building.

    as for vacant lots, they’re usually vacant for a reason so developers have to balance out their needs with the cost of the parcels that are available to be obtained.

  • I can’t wait until this bubble pops… it should be a dandy.

  • Spoon Man hit the nail on the head. Speculators jack up the price of open land so far that it pushes developers to buy existing buildings. This is also why you don’t see a rush of new construction immediately adjacent to light rail lines.
    My advice to the owners who haven’t already sold: do what the speculators do; hold out for more money. If Hines wants your house bad enough, they’ll pay it. I usually don’t advocate for this kind of thing, but if everyone did it, it might help push development back to open land.

  • I haven’t had any kool aid but its hot enough to have some. Rather than be negative, my point was at least it’s Hines. Look at our skyline and all the great buildings are Hines. There are only a handful of developers that build high quality buildings in Houston, rather than the junk most of them do before they go out of business or scoot back to Las Vegas. Rather than be bitter and wish for a bubble, try being positive. It does the soul good. And lastly, if you don’t like what’s being built, why don’t you get all your money together and show us how ou could do better! What do you think was in the spot where you currently live or work? Either a virgin lot, or something that was refurbished, or torn down.

  • Want to keep our historic houses and see the towers go on empty lots? It’s simple. Zone everything east of San Jacinto R-1 and put a height restriction of 35 feet. Then slap a no-teardown historic designation on any nice houses or historic structures west of San Jacinto. Ta-da! Historic neighborhood saved, and high-rise towers go where they should go, in empty lots along Main and Fannin.

    Of course, this would require Houston admitting it’s not so precociously unique and adopting the same sort of planning tools that every other city benefits from.

  • jgriff,

    You are missing the point. It seems like it would be cheaper (and thus easier to make more money) to buy vacant land and build as opposed to buying adjacent built up properties demoing then building.

    Some of this could be addressed by shifting property taxes toward land value and away from improvement value.

    Just because your land has improvements on it doesn’t mean you can’t be a speculator. There has to be something else going on. Even if I was a speculator, I would prefer the asset I am speculating on to have some income potential while I am sitting on it.

  • A markd, you are right, I can feel it coming soon.

  • I’m saddened to see one my favorite houses torn down for some crap high rise. I live in this neighborhood and it’s sad to see all the cheaply made overpriced townhomes being built. One on top of the other. I would like to know when this bubble will burst. I’ve talked to several people that have recently moved here and it’s taken them months to find something affordable. Not everyone can afford the “luxury” being bulit here.

  • Here’s my take on the empty lots:
    Bad Landowners! They refuse to sell for reasons a/b/c or x/y/z despite the fair offer for their long underused piece of property (surely they WAY overvalue it too); so the developer is left with little choice but to approach neighboring properties and see if they are interested in selling.

    Is that really that hard to grasp?

  • The negative chronicle whiners have overran swamplot. I guess it was only a matter of time.

  • While I’m seldom and advocate for removing potentially historic buildings.. I will say that losing a house or two for a significant highrise isn’t huge. Besides, aren’t all of you sick of the lack of density in and around the Museum District? I am. Imagine if the area between Hermann Park and Downtown is full of 10-20 floor residential towers? Think of all the added amenities the area would attract: cafes/shops/nightlife etc.

  • “I’ve talked to several people that have recently moved here and it’s taken them months to find something affordable. Not everyone can afford the “luxury” being bulit here.”

    Well, it’s not like there’s a monopoly out there artificially jacking up prices. People have always bought property where they can afford to.

  • demolishing houses is very cheap, especially when talking about a high rise. if teh vacant lot specuator wants more than 5% market, then it is much cheaper to demo (albeit there is some added costs for holdouts, replating, etc.).

    I’m all for infill between the medical center and downtown/midtown. Keep it coming.

  • concerned#21,
    “I’ve talked to several people that have recently moved here and it’s taken them months to find something affordable. Not everyone can afford the “luxury” being built here.”

    Filtering. As long as density is increasing the prices of the remaining housing stock will be lower than it would have been otherwise.

    Why would we expect the owners of empty land to be more likely to overvalue their property?

  • Just because Hines is theoretically purchasing the block – or even 3 of the 4 lots on the block – it is not necessarily guaranteed that they would actually be able to build the high rise. They would have to replat the all lots to be one contiguous lot because of fire codes.
    Even though it would be owned by a single entity, the city/building permit office would still view the lots as separate properties with their associated/required fire separations.

    I’ve been through the replat process before, and the neighborhood association where we replatted imposed very specific restrictions on what we could develop – i.e. height restrictions. I’m assuming that the local neighborhood association could do the same if they wanted to prevent a 20 story highrise from going up at the edge of their neighborhood.

    The people trying to stop the Ashby highrise couldn’t do something similar because the demolished apartment complex was one single lot.

  • Interesting. A 20+ story phallic symbol between two, oops, maybe just one, of the finest historic properties that Houston has left is growing up? Both are on the National Register BTW. The house pictured is 100yo, time to tear it down! How long do Hines buildings last? Hey Miz Allen, need your bucks back for that full sun landscaping at ASTC? Miz Garwood might want her money back too…those gardens at Clayton are history with this sky blocker. Light rail? Ha! TOD sounds good but…8+ stories of garages. Think Ashby will create traffic? Just wait! Anybody notice all the museums are low rise? Wonder if Hines has given a cent to Hermann Park, ASTC, or any other museum? Oh wait, it’s Hines, we’re supposed to be grateful..”at least it’s Hines”. Not.

  • Yes, Houston is growing. Yes, we need more affordable rental. But this won’t be it. These will hardly be bargain rental apartments. I live a half block away from this site, and there is NOTHING of this size near here; everything else is around seven stories or fewer. So the Hines project will be a monstrous eyesore in the middle of a unique and formerly liveable area in which nothing even remotely looks like it. That said, if the deep pockets in the Rice University area couldn’t stop the Ashby Highrise, what chance to we little people in the Museum District have?

  • Walt: Blah-blah-blah.

    I was here for the 80s and saw it for myself, so you just go on convincing yourself.

  • That house on Caroline and Southmore pictured above is lovely. I really hope they’re the holdouts. It’s been so carefully renovated and the homeowners clearly have put blood, sweat and tears into it. I can’t imagine that they would have accepted lot value for it.

  • Ashby part 2?

  • ragazzotexano,

    you do know what you speak of is a non-issue. Lots are aggregated and subdivided all the time with ease. No big deal there. Hines snaps their fingers, pays some civil engineers or architects, plats are updated.

    this happens all the time I Houston.

  • Worried about the bubble, we’ve heard that Houston added 90,000 jobs last year. A good/growing city will average about 50,000 jobs. Those who understand growth suggest that 1 house should be built for every 3 new jobs created. Last year, Houston built 20,000 new homes, falling short of the 30,000 needed (according to this stat). If you look at Houston in comparison to New York or LA, two of the largest US cities, we have a long way to go in terms of the cost of inner city housing. Not to mention, the housing inventory in Houston is the lowest it’s been since the 90’s. Short of an oil bust, I don’t think Houston growth is going to face a downturn anytime soon.
    All that said, I live in Museum Park. I love this house. I don’t want to see this house go, or this block change, but I do want to see growth in the areas of the neighborhood noted by others as vacant and prime. We need more retail. I live in the loop so that I can walk to a coffee shop– where is my local coffee shop?

  • “Besides, aren’t all of you sick of the lack of density in and around the Museum District?”

    Absolutely. Why, the very thought that someone may not be genuflecting deeply enough before the tin-plated New Urbanist utopian idol of rampant Manhattanization keeps me awake at night, let me tell you.


  • I went over and admired this house today. I’ve loved it for a very long time. So sad to hear it might be ruined. As for Hines, I appreciate their office team, but the crap apartments rising near the waterwall look like a dime a dozen. There is NOTHING about the place that screams quality. I noticed Cafe Adobe is already fenced off, so we’ll get chance #2 to see what Hines Residential is all about. I’m not holding my breath. There’s little chance that what is built will be better than what is already existing. Heck, why not just copy Dallas’ Museum Tower of spitting fire and call it a day.

  • This is (another reason) why we’ve been buying apartment buidlings all over Southmore/Almeda.
    And another reason people that say there is no affordable housing inside the loop confuse me. This area is by Montrose/Midtown/Rice/downtown, etc. and you can rent for $400-$600/month. Is the apartment great? No. Is it old? Yes. But is it in a great location for the money? Yup

  • I’m curious to know the ratio of suburb/urban apartments being built now vs. 10 to 15 years ago.. Maybe we are not overbuilding, it just seems like it because all the locations are so prominent.

  • I live in the neighborhood and know the owners through our civic association. It’s a beautiful that I’d hate to see disappear. I’m all for high rises along Hermann Dr (or maybe even Binz), but really prefer to keep the rest of the Museum District residential. There are plenty of places along San Jac and Almeda that could be torn down and replaced with new retail.

  • Ashby 2.0

    I find it wholly ironic that the NIMBYs of Southampton suggested that Buckhead should’ve sited their highrise somewhere east of Main. And now that Hines (with its comparatively stellar reputation) has come along and proposed precisely that, a new crop of NIMBYs think that the building should be placed elsewhere. How am I not surprised?

  • Yay more apartments in completely inappropriate locations!!

  • #42: That’s not very apt, The Niche. I don’t think most of the commenters concerned about this news live in the Museum District any more than you do. Some appreciate what the house adds to the streetscape, others the patch of green, and they are (mercifully) unafflicted with class resentment. It is perfectly natural to wish the highrise go elsewhere in the vicinity, and increase the sum total of things that Keep Houston Pleasant.
    Instead of NIMBY, “nostalgist,” uttered sneeringly, might suit.

  • What?!? I LOVE this house…like “Oh how I wish I could afford THAT house”. I am sure the owners were offered a ton of money, and I can’t speculate what I would do if in their shoes…but I am truly, truly sad about this one.

    And Hey Hines! Come on over to my hood just across 288! There are lots of homes – once cute, but now beyond repair – that anyone would rather see go than this gem.

  • I’m for this development if done right, which means: no trees destroyed (unlike Ashby hi-rise and the Heights Sycamore), seamless and walkable integration with sidewalks on all 3 or 4 sides of the project, strong city inspection of sidewalks (unlike the Heights Walmart example), creative architecture since it’s across from the Asia Society (Yoshio Taniguchi’s work), mixed use on all sides (need coffee houses & boutiques in the area), first floor awnings on all sides to keep the temperatures down in summer (Rice Hotel example). And how about having Pedestrian Pete involved in the planning? So development at this site, yes, but smart development please.

  • Geez, Quantum, sounds like you have a lot of great ideas for the development business. Why don’t you get involved?

  • #42/The Niche – that is not the case. I think many people in the neighborhood are ok with the a high rise moving into the area. Most people that have moved to the Museum Park neighborhood are looking for a more urban lifestyle, and higher density fits that model. I believe the concerns are much more related to the inappropriate location within the neighborhood (it is fairly deep into the neighborhood for such an enormous building), and the fate of the most gorgeous home in the area. The proposed condo would work much better along Binz, Hermman Park Dr., or Almeda, where the street traffic is high, and the surrounding properties are consistent with a 22-story building. The building will stick out like sore thumb if it goes up on the blocks bordered by Southmore, Caroline, and San Jacinto.

  • Creative architecture because of ASTC!?! How about creating great cities which means respecting ALL surrounding architecture…and green space!!! Oh, did ya’ know the house pictured was designed by Green and Finger for one of the founding Rice Institute professors? Yup, its 100 yo, but guess what, it also has a geothermal heating/cooling system Oh yeah, this is an historic part of town, did ya know? Oh yeah, the Clayton House at Clayton Genealogical Library was the former home of WL Clayton and Susan Vaughn. He was, among other things, the principal architect of the Marshall Plan.
    Does anyone in this godforsaken planless City know any history!I bet C/S owners are running for the hills from this stupidity.

    No trees destroyed???? HA! They want this street because the beautiful esplanade, ASTC gardens, Clayton Library Gardens, and (maybe)the 1220 gardens mean they’ll poach the green space of others!! Gerald WalMart Hines.

  • Hines = great architecture and quality???? Not since the 1980’s. This company’s reputation has outlived it’s reality. It was great when smaller and young, but like every company, it outgrows creativity because that gets in the way of profit.

  • “Besides, aren’t all of you sick of the lack of density in and around the Museum District?”
    No, what makes me sick to my stomach is your comment.
    Like others who live in an older home in this neighborhood, I know of much open space and/or very delapidated properties along Almeda, Binz, and Hermann Park Drive. Those streets better befit high-rise, mixed-use development. They are still very close to the museums, park, and rail line, and development there would be welcomed. But not smack in the middle of the neighborhood. And not over this meticulously maintained gem.
    Please, please, please don’t sell your beautiful home to Hines.

  • This is the most beautiful and well-maintained home in the neighborhood (as seen from the street). I will be sad to see it razed no matter what replaces it.