Raising the Bar for Upscale Housing; A New Hospital for Galveston


Photo: telwink via Swamplot Flickr Pool


26 Comment

  • A “short-fingered vulgarian” running for el presidenté decides to lease some space in Htown? Our cheap real estate must’ve been a shock to his system.

  • Hope the Trump lessors got the cash up front.

  • The Rice Kinder Institute is starting to sound more and more like a commie rag whilst carrying a an oversized red banner promoting centralized planning for a utopian workers’ paradise. With offices in Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, and Caracas.
    As a card (and gun) carrying member of the Republican Party, I have to say existence of Trump has handed this election to Hitlery. So my vote for trump will be just a protest vote against Democratic party platform of “Unequal efforts yield equal results”.

  • I’ve only ate at 59 (willowbrook), once. And apparently the last time too. It was disgusting, columns of cobwebs in the googie windows, the food was horrifying. I’m surprised they lasted this long.

    I don’t remember Mama’s Cafe declining that bad. It’s a shame because the idea of a diner can be successful. Look at House of Pies, Baby Barnaby’s…

  • Good riddance 59 Dump. Another participant in the lost at sea business model. Horrible food consistency, dubious cleaning practices and a corporate mentality of “We would rather be anywhere but at work” demonstrated by anyone being paid to be on site.

    Not that 59 was sole owner of Houston’s problematic cleaning practices in the food services industry. Holy damn, if the front of house is that bad, what does the back of house look like?

  • Re 59 Diner: It was a long time coming. I remember eating the best chicken fried steak ever with my Dad at Phil’s (where the original 59 Diner was located). When Phil’s closed it was a huge loss. When the 59 Diner opened in its place it was sad, and kind of insulting. Phil’s preserved a slice of a lost era; 59 Diner was just an imitation.
    Still, I’m sad to see 59 Diner go. The imitation was all my daughter will ever know, and now that’s gone, too.

  • Commonsense, this is a real shock. I had you pegged as a Carson supporter.

  • 3210 Bingle Road, is just south of Hempstead Road and Highway 290


    Here is where Trump is renting space. . .

  • Re: Apartment subsidies

    Primary Impact: Apartment construction moves from Downtown (Eastwood) instead of where ever else they were going to put them.

    Marginal Impacts: a few extra apartments for the Metro as a whole, marginally higher taxes/marginally lower services.

    Why does anyone actually think this is a good idea for the city?

  • Re: East End Development: if I had my way, the Houston Housing Authority and/or private affordable housing developers would buy a few pieces of land in the East End, and build tax credited multifamily (“workforce housing”) projects there. This would break the seal, so to speak, on multifamily development in the area. It would also lock in affordable housing in an area that is almost certain to gentrify in the near future.
    Unfortunately, Dallas based housing “advocate” Betsy Julian and her Austin based colleague, John Henneberger, don’t seem to want this. They went to te Supreme Court and made it much more difficult to develop in areas that are expected to gentrify, and virtually impossible to redevelop older deteriorated housing in poor areas.
    A real shame. Because even if it happens, the tax incentive offered by the City won’t provide affordable housing; and with no tax incentive the area will probably be developed with pricy townhomes and not much else. It’ll gentrify like everything else Inside the Loop.

  • East End: What do yall consider “middle- and lower-income Houstonians”?

  • I wouldn’t worry about the East End becoming entirely townhomes, though there will be quite a lot of them over the long run. There are larger parcels available, or likely available in the not too distant future, where previous commercial / industrial uses are no longer existing. These sites are typically too large for typical townhome developers to take on, and the area isn’t yet attractive enough for a Hines or similar developer to do a large gated enclave (though Lovett might be an exception, but they already own a whole bunch of the East End and EaDo). Those sites are more likely to eventually go multifamily.

  • #UrbanEdge
    What kind of “rich cultural history” do 400 acres of abandoned lots have?

  • So the housing units they are building along 45 near the old fingers site doesn’t count?
    what about the affordable housing they are building along Harrisburg street?
    there’s more I know I’m missing.
    From what I’ve seen, most of the affordable housing is already being built in the east end, so why does there need to be more incentives to do so at an even more aggressive rate?
    Let’s see some incentives to get some affordable housing back into the heights, or montrose, or midtown, or washington corridor. All those areas used to be super cheap to live, but no one is suggesting that there be affordable housing built in those areas. Oh that’s right, there’d be the same backlash as their is over in the galleria area. because the people in the east end are already poor they won’t mind more poor people, and they won’t be disgusted by the thought of their child going to the same school as someone that lives in affordable housing. they probably won’t organize and fight against it with thinly veiled insults like the affluent neighborhoods will.

  • I don’t disagree with you, Toasty. But my point is that the ship has sailed on affordable housing in The Heights, the Washington Corridor, Midtown, and Montrose. The land is expensive now, and there’s not much of it left (unless you go to the edges, but then you’re not in the neighborhoods any more). The time to build new affordable housing is just before gentrification starts to become noticeable. That’s when the land is still relatively cheap and available.

  • But wait, there’s a new 59 Diner in Shenandoah (I45 North past The Woodlands)
    Originally, the building was a Bierhall serving Bavarian/German fare – started by local businessmen.
    Since then the place has been Bennigan’s, sushi, middle-eastern, Mexican. Now the poor building is painted turquoise.

  • @matx, I believe what we are looking at is the future site of the Donald Drumpf Presidential Library (“Geld macht frei”).

  • @ZAW The ship on affordable housing in nice areas has NOT sailed. The problems with executing the Briargrove affordable housing location has nothing to do with affordability. You yourself came up with a whole slew of other reasons (mostly school overcrowding) for why it shouldn’t be there. So first we try to push it to low income areas because “affordability”. Then if that doesn’t work we push back against it in high opportunity areas because “school crowding”. I swear the amount of mental gymnastics that goes on in affordable housing discussions is incredible.
    I can think of a number of locations in all of the areas you have mentioned where there is relatively unused/under-used land. The same is true of the East End as well (moreso), but there is a lot of data that shows that affordable housing needs to end up where opportunity exists (which is part of why that lawsuit won). While the East End is one of the best places to live if you want to work at the plants it’s not fantastic for a lot of the lower income/lower skilled retail and low level/menial business work that is incredibly accessible from places like Montrose or the Galleria.

  • All of what I just said aside, I do find the idea of subsidizing any sort of multi-family housing in this market to be a little absurd. I do think it’s unfair that of all the 380 agreements most of them ended up in areas that were already doing great, but we should not be subsidizing more apartment construction with the apartment market so glutted.

  • Re: East End Townhomes. I respectfully disagree with Local Planner. I think that multifamily developers will play a relatively small part in developing the many large tracts in the East End. At the very least, that’s going to be true in terms of land use by acreage; the number of multifamily units could be substantial right along the periphery of downtown. I say this because multifamily developers don’t generally have the stomach for very large projects or anything on the outer periphery of somewhere desirable. I mean, there were Archstone’s garden-style developments on Washington and Fannin back when and I know that they made money on it as a land play, but I don’t really look to these as models of success in terms of community or economic development; maybe back in the day, but not anymore.

    Look at how long its taken to get even just as far as we have on sites like Archstone’s on Washington, GID’s Regent Square, or Kaplan’s Westcreek. These are all much-better locations than any large tract in the East End, but they are not short-term projects whether there’s cash flow to facilitate the holding pattern or not. But then, also the East End has lots more of such sites; and whatever their capture rate, they will always compete with more mature neighborhoods in the urban core which can always make more land if the price is high enough. Therefore I see townhomes as dominant — and that worries me some.

    The big concern that I have about townhomes is that perhaps about 15 to 30 years out and as they start to show their age in the predictable ways (never mind the less predictable ways that relate to the regional economy or transportation), that some individual owners in fee simple arrangements will shirk repairs and bring down entire clusters or neighborhoods. They are different from condo regimes in that way, but also in another…fractured land ownership and deed restrictions make redevelopment and land use change basically impossible. Forever. Its possible that state laws and municipal ordinances would change to cope with things or that Houston will become so affluent as to render the concern moot, but I see it as a risk.

    Now, on the subject of affordable housing, the East End already has plenty of affordable housing and a lot of it is older, considered crappy for various reasons, and vacant. I don’t really see how building more of it there is strategic. It could be argued that agencies should pursue a strategy where they buy/renovate/hold/subsidize, but I think that building new stuff from scratch makes no sense and I think that they will negotiate very poorly if entrusted to buy a fraction of units in new development. Giving per-unit subsidies may work for downtown where it could be argued that there is a regional interest in that that neighborhood should have a large affluent population that’s buzzing about at all hours of day and night, but I don’t know how you go and apply that argument to the East End. I don’t see what the subsidies of housing for rich people would accomplish — UNLESS its to guide the pattern of development such that fee-simple townhome blocks aren’t quite so prevalent. But the East End is vast in terms of its land area. I don’t foresee that working either on its budget.

  • Movocelot: Of course people do better in high opportunity areas. But there are two approaches to this. One, that we always see in the news, is to move a select few lucky low income folks to higher opportunity areas. The other, that I would argue can be more fruitful, is to bring opportunity to historically poor neighborhoods. To their credit, Julian, Henneberger, and other housing advocates acknowledge that both approaches are necessary, though their efforts to bring opportunity to underserved neighborhoods seldom get the same press as their efforts to move people to high opportunity areas.
    The trouble with bringing opportunity to underserved areas, is that timing is everything. Do it too early, and unless you spend a ton of money on other local revitalization efforts, you’re really just putting working people in low opportunity areas. Do it too late, and land prices are so high (and neighborhood push back so strong) that you won’t be able to do it easily. There has to be a sweet spot: where the first inklings of improvement are happening, but land prices are still low and the area is still considered underserved. This is what I was saying when I was talking about ships having sailed in certain neighborhoods. Moreover: I started this discussion specifically because the East End is in that sweet spot right now.

  • The townhome plats get platted the way they do because there’s a huge discrepancy between the requirements for a city street (60′ ROW, 28′ concrete) and a privately-maintained easement (20′ ROW, 16′ concrete). The ultimate solution (we’re talking 50-year horizon) is that the city is going to need to annex the easements as proper street ROWs.
    We could get a jump-start on this process by approving a narrower, townhome-friendly street section (see “website” link above). Then the townhomes could go in with 25 year deed restrictions, so that when the stucco panels start falling off we’re left with a lot of interesting small unrestricted lots. Would make for some very exciting urban redevelopment opportunities… but it won’t happen if we don’t lay the groundwork now.

  • zaw, I disagree. The incentive is just as great (in fact greater) to have some affordable housing in those areas that are out of the price range. the whole point is to offer incentives to build affordable housing. so offer incentives.
    what good is being done (other than to make people feel good about themselves) to build affordable housing when a person can rent an efficiency for a lower price than the affordable housing would allow?
    No, it doesn’t make sense, all it will do is make rich people feel good about helping the community, when the people they are helping need to be served in the other areas where they can’t already live.

  • TheNiche finally (to this reader) explains why owners of townhouses built 25 or 30 years ago cannot sell them and sometimes simply walk away and abandon them. Why hasn’t the market fixed this? Is there something in the tax laws or government financing restrictions that encourage townhouse building?

  • I would love to know how you can bring opportunities to a low income area. That is phenomenally more difficult than bringing low income housing to a high opportunity area.

  • It seems one thing that’s being lost in the discussion about affordable housing in the East End is that what ULI recommended was primarily for “workforce” housing – meaning not truly low-income folks, but the vast swath of service and government employees who earn a working person’s wage but can’t afford a unit in a “Class A” property. Normally those folks get to take advantage of the aging of former Class A properties into Class B, but there aren’t any Class A properties in the East End except maybe one or two right next to Downtown (I’m not counting the EaDo ones). Normally apartment developers don’t develop new Class B projects, particularly in the urban core, because the returns work out much better for Class A development (and the corresponding rents). So it’s not dumping more poor people on top of other poor people; if anything, many residents of workforce housing would have higher incomes than others in the area.
    I should note, however, that there is apparently a small class B+ project (I believe unsubsidized) that is supposed to be going in near the Wayside Fiesta.
    As for the large tracts, Niche, I was thinking very long term. It is townhomes and restored bunaglows that will bring “cachet” or more upscale legitimacy in the East End for many years to come, plus adventurous non-chain dining/entertainment/artisan businesses looking for more affordable commercial space that still has a whiff of hipster cool. Eventually once the area has market credibility the Class A multifamily developers will get interested. After all, how many decades of such activity with older homes and funky businesses preceded the recent interest of Class A multifamily in The Heights? In the mean time, the larger tracts not owned by Lovett may sit vacant or with underutilized commercial / industrial for extended periods.
    Regarding opportunity in poor areas, the presence of nearby non-minimum-wage jobs is of little import. It has been shown that very few workers who live in the East End actually work nearby at the Port or the neighborhood industries. Opportunity for upward mobility is pretty much all about education and training, (in some cases) enterpreneurship, and individuals not screwing up their lives with bad decisions. These are not necessarily place-based, at least at the neighborhood level.