“Stop” Signs Oppose 17-Story Hines Office Building on San Felipe

These understated “Stop the San Felipe Skyscraper” signs started going up about knee-high this weekend in River Oaks and Vermont Commons to protest that shiny 17-story office tower that Hines is proposing to build nearby. Though these signs — spotted at the corner of Spann and Welch and San Felipe and Spann, catty-corner from the proposed site — might be lacking the services of an imaginative cartoonist like their yellow precursors across town in Boulevard Oaks, their message still comes through, directing the onlooker as well to a recently launched website for all things skyscraper-stopping:


Of course, Hines continues to say through PR man George Lancaster that the company plans to build something “upscale and handsome, befitting its River Oaks address.” The rendering shown here is the most recent version of that; it differs a bit from the one Swamplot published in May that seems to have sparked much of the ire — and which boiled over in what the new website describes as a “heated” and “tense” community meeting last night with reps from Public Works and city council member Oliver Pennington: “Many participants came away from the meeting with the idea that the only way to stop the project will be through immediate legal action.”

And why do they want to stop the project? Among concerns about property values, noise, light pollution, and obstructed views, the website lays out the anti-‘scrapers’ case:

1. Traffic and safety issues. . . . During the construction phase, the neighborhood will be filled with construction workers and heavy trucks for well over a year. Once the tower is built, the presence of hundreds of new office workers will create a strain on the entire neighborhood, added to the existing congestion we already have along Shepherd Street and Kirby Drive. Traffic and speeders cutting through back streets will create safety issues for our children playing in nearby yards and at nearby River Oaks Elementary.

2. Inappropriate non-conforming use. . . . There are a few small businesses and offices along San Felipe, typically in one-story buildings, which are fully appropriate to the scale of the surroundings and compatible with the low-key nature of this neighborhood.

3. The potential for unrestricted ‘breakout’ development and a ‘River Oaks Skyline.’ The developers are taking advantage of the unrestricted property and Houston’s ‘no zoning’ philosophy to build their tower here. If this project is allowed to succeed, it will only encourage other developers to come in and build similar buildings, so that River Oaks could become the next ‘Greenway Plaza’ with a series of office towers along its southern edge.

4. Effect on neighborhood cohesion. River Oaks has a long history of gentility and is built on a foundation of solid trust and cooperation between the residents. This issue will create the potential for significant discord and infighting. . . .

Images: Hines (rendering); Allyn West (signs)

24 Comment

  • Oh oh, is someone going to call the wambulance for these NIMBYs? How is it that the ugly “high end” construction that is taking place on San Felipe near the Huntington is acceptable but this is not. Both appear to have the same eyesore potential to me.

  • Wow. The folks in the Woodland Heights fighting the multistory building on Morrison could use the exact same text as their arguments!

  • In an ironic twist that is most likely lost on these people, an element of class warfare has entered into the fray…
    From the FAQ’s:
    What are the benefits of the project?
    Based on information provided in public reports and private meetings, this building will allow some of the wealthiest and most well-connected people in River Oaks to commute to an office building on the edge of the neighborhood, without having to mingle with the rest of us in traffic. The list includes at least one major billionaire, foundation chairs, trustees, and other very highly placed and powerful individuals.
    Those greedy fat-cat BILLIONAIRES better watch their backs. The River Oaks salt-of-the-earth, God fearing MILLIONAIRES won’t stand for this injustice!

  • Gerald,

    Your looking mighty handsome. May I have this dance?

  • Oh the horror.

  • Living in the city core and complaining about tall buildings means you should rethink moving to the suburbs.

  • “River Oaks has a long history of gentility and is built on a foundation of solid trust and cooperation between the residents. This issue will create the potential for significant discord and infighting. . . .”

    Anyone who has read the deed restrictions for River Oaks will find this statement hilarious.

  • I saw on the news that someone in a 4-5 story Townhome didn’t want his view obstructed. I’m just wondering if his Townhome blocked someone else’s view! I guess his project and the other increased density residentials are okay. I wish they’d just spend the $$$ buyin these themselves and make them a park rather than spending a million dollars fighting it after the fact.

  • I like how 17 stories is now considered a “skyscraper” lol.

  • Grab your lawn-chairs guys! River Oaks has more to lose in property value, so I imagine this fight will be way uglier than the Ashby kerfuffle.

  • Gentility is a code word.

  • Great point, Bernard. I think they forgot the words “…except for the blacks and the Jews.”

  • Obviously the Ashby high rise folks created the road map for high rise opposition in Houston. Somebody over there should start cashing in with ready-made “Stop the ________ High Rise” packages. All you have to do is fill in the name of the new development and the rest is done. Not that it did the Ashby folks any good in the end.

  • My heart breaks for the River Oaks folks. It is so sad to me that their neighborhood might be changing. So sad. So very sad.

    ***wipes tear***

    ***wipes tear again***

    Goes outside to watch the construction of yet another 3-4 story ugly home going up on my street.

  • Those signs worked so well for the “Tower of Terror.”
    People need to understand that when you live near unrestricted land in Houston, Texas, USA, you are at risk for any sort of development being put on said land. When people bought their dwellings around there they should have known that ANYTHING could be built on that land…River Oaks adjacent, or no.

  • I’m usually squarely on the side of the neighborhood, when the majority of residents oppose a project and the developer won’t listen. But in this case, Jack Ogg’s involvement gave me pause.
    Back when I was first getting involved with civic groups and the Super Neighborhood, I went to the TDHCA hearing for the Costa Del Rey tax credited housing project on South Gessner. The developer was represented by none other than Jack’s daughter and partner: Kim Ogg. She actually at one point said “Zoning was defeated in 1840 and it hasn’t had a prayer since. Therefore we’re left to the developers,”….”zero development is not possible on [that piece of land].”
    The developers saw the neighborhood’s opposition and, fortunately, withdrew their plans for the Costa Del Rey. Will Hines withdraw their high rise? Probably not. It just struck me how easily some people (erm, lawyers) can play one side of the argument, and then turn around a few years later and play the other side of it.

  • 1) This isn’t River Oaks

    2) If it were in River Oaks proper, those signs would violate the deed restrictions.

    3) There’s already a 15+ story office tower and Houston’s tallest condo building within spitting distance of this proposal so this fight seems really odd.

    4) Unlike the Ashby, Kirby @ San Felipe actually isn’t a bad place to plop down another tower.

  • Well at least the signs are subdued and polite. But then it’s River Oaks. Known for its “gentility.” Reality is the highrise won’t be in River Oaks. And I doubt the majority of homeowners in River Oaks care. As for where it will be, well, the subidivisions involved allow for “mixed use” as most would realize if they drove around the area. Which is how the Huntingdon got built. Want zoning? Put it on the ballot. And then stop whining. Particularly if the majority of voters again say no. And take your Southampton Syndrome vaccination. Dreadful disease.

  • The anti-Morridson Heights midrise signs are way, way better. IMO.

  • Just because there is no legal impediment to doing the development and the opponents are wealthy doesn’t mean that the project is a good use of the land. This development is going on that land because it is relatively cheap compared to what it would cost to buy up and redevelop land like the strip malls on Kirby and Westheimer. But by adding density in this random fashion, you only maximize the burdens of density (traffic, parking) and minimize the ability of density to minimize those burdens.

  • “gentility”?

    I didn’t realize that was the new spelling for elitism.

    Maybe it’s just autocorrect…

  • I’m not against the project on its face, although I do wish it were about 7 stories shorter. What really gets my goat is that this is clearly a vanity project for rich River Oaks businessmen who don’t want to make the horrible 3-mile trek with the hoi polloi to their downtown offices.

    What should they care about the building location? It’s on the other side of Kirby, well away from their palatial estates, which, BTW, must have plenty of room for home offices. Then they wouldn’t have to mingle with the “rest of us” at all.

  • I’m very disappointed in HINES. I used to consider them to be a responsible developer who was respectful of and sensitive to the surrounding area of their projects.

  • This is two blocks away from a building of twice its height that has been there for what? Twenty or 30 years?