COMMENT OF THE DAY: CHANGING TASTES AT THE CORNER OF MONTROSE AND WESTHEIMER “Dallas invading Houston with its bland ‘designer tacos’ made for yuppies. Right across from Austin’s Uchi, where the waitstaff tells you what you’re suppose to taste as you eat. I remember when you could get a blowjob for $20 in this neighborhood. This is sad.” [MW, commenting on Edge Realty Now Seeking To Fill Bright Orange Box with Neighbors for a Montrose Velvet Taco] Photo: Swamplot inbox
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ARE THE MONEY AND THE WATER FLOWING THE SAME DIRECTION? “So I was looking at this the other day and a thought just hit me, based on a comment on another thread: Is this trend of gentrification following the bayous? Seems like that is a major draw to new development, and with the transition of the East End and Third Ward, it looks like a possibility.” [Mr.Clean19, commenting on A Purple Map of Race and Public Housing Projects in Houston] Map: Texas Housers
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SUBTLETIES OF PARKING LOT COMMUNICATION “The wide open parking lot does seem to say, ‘We’re more than ready to receive you’ from retailers that want to have an image as ‘convenient.’ In other situations, the tighter parking supply seems to communicate, ‘This is a popular place where many people like you find happenings worth attending.‘ CityCentre and Rice Village seem to be examples of the second category.” [slugline, commenting on Comment of the Day: Why It’s Still Blacktop Friday] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: THE SCREWBALL MIDTOWN GENTRIFICATION COMEDY YOU’VE BEEN WAITING TO SEE “The whole fooders trying to gentrify the post-grad frats out of midtown would be a good subject for a Vince Vaughn movie. The frats won’t take loss of their party town laying down. There will be hijinks before the eventual migration of the frat houses to EaDo.” [Houstonian, commenting on New Midtown Whole Foods Market Will Stand Apartments on Its Head, Shut Down a Street, Become Center of Universe] Illustration: Lulu
HAS THE INNER LOOP BEEN RUINED BY OLIGARCHS? “A brutal strain of neoliberalism” and Houston’s disdain for its own history taken to “gothic extremes” have allowed developers to transform Inner Loop Houston from a “bastion for the creative class” to an “exclusive playland for the rich” in a few short years, writes Anis Shivani of Alternet. (The essay was later rebroadcast from the bully-er pulpit of Salon.com.) The nexus of Shivani’s lament is Steel St., the oak-lined Upper Kirby avenue that was once home to the Kirby Court Apartments and is now the site of an upcoming Hanover Company apartment building. Shivani, a poet, critic and fiction writer, sees the transformation of Steel St. (where he lives in
a townhouse an apartment) as a microcosm for the changes going on across the Inner Loop, where “unoccupied zombie high-rises which are pure investment vehicles for global investors” are displacing the “artists, writers and eccentrics from around the country [who] descended in droves in the 2000s to take advantage of Houston’s livability.” Today’s Houston is “as unaffordable as Los Angeles or New York,” Shivani says. Among the more prominent events in this transmogrification: Last year’s demise of lively public-private space” Taco Milagro, where the “food was very healthy and people from all over the city danced the night away and congregated on the large patio.” Also, changes to the scenery of Memorial Park, where the “drought had supposedly killed” “oaks that were planted in the 1920s by the city fathers.” Shivani writes: “[In] the blink of an eye, without public discussion, the trees were demolished.” [Alternet; Salon; previously on Swamplot.] Photo: Jessie Wilson
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WITH OR WITHOUT LIGHT RAIL “I would dispute that the light rail has had any substantive quantitative impact on Houston’s development patterns, except to shuffle around the placement of some developments within a distance of several blocks. (That is to say, for instance, that downtown was destined to pick up a few big highrises over the last decade, but perhaps they were closer to Main rather than Allen Center.)
A lot of people forget that the re-gentrification of the Heights took place over a span of decades — without light rail. The gentrification of 3rd Ward, the East End, and the Near Northside has been ongoing for a shorter period of time, and these neighborhoods simply aren’t as well-located as Rice Military — which also transformed without light rail. I would suggest that these neighborhoods are all destined for gentrification, that it will happen slowly because we’re talking about a huge geographic area — and that it would’ve happened with or without light rail, just as with other neighborhoods.
I might be swayed if it were the case that some meaningful number of people move to Houston because it has light rail, but aside from some extremely narrow subset of people, that strikes me as bullshit. It’s not an effective economic development tool, and certainly not without zoning (which I also oppose).” [TheNiche, commenting on A First Look at the Strip Center-and-Apartments Combo That Could Go Up Between UH and TSU] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: THROWING OUT SOME NUMBERS ON THE FIFTH WARD “The 5th Ward as a whole is light years away from a full gentrification, but the part south of I-10 and west of Bringhurst is about 60% there.” [LRS, commenting on What’s That Cooking on Bringhurst and Clinton?]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: GETTING AHEAD OF THE GAME IN THE THIRD WARD “The developers are usually the 3rd or 4th step in gentrification. My understanding is that it goes like this: First are usually the lower income artistic types who give the area a ‘vibe.’ Then come slightly higher income artistic types who find fixer-uppers and start increasing property values. Then come the affluent who scrape the lots to build their own houses. Finally, the developers come in to build on any remaining semi-large contiguous lots. I don’t spend much time in this part of town, but I’m not aware of much of steps 1 or 2 happening there yet (but am open to being corrected). This feels more like developers trying to sell the area as being gentrified, make a quick profit (nothing wrong with that), and then leave the purchasers stuck with condos that will be underwater for the next 10 to 15 years. So if it is gentrification, I would call it ‘Astroturf Gentrification’ — from a distance, it might look like the real, but up close, its really pretty fake and inferior to the real thing.” [Walt, commenting on New Townhomes for a New(ish) Blodgett St. in the Third Ward] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: NEIGHBORHOOD UPGRADES “. . . right now we have policies that are actively working to get rid of our affordable housing in Montrose (and other places as you point out). They’re just disguised as ‘registration’ and ‘certification’ to make sure places are ‘safe.’ That whole process should be scrapped. If someone has a run-down property people will either 1) not live in it, or 2) decide to live in it because the rent is conducive to the building quality. A ‘smart’ property owner might decide to upgrade the place to raise up the rents, whereas another owner may want to keep his place basic and get lower rents. Renters will decide where they want to go.
It’s not the government’s right to force someone to pay more rent because they don’t feel something is at a given level. I’ve said it here before: Almost every building we’ve upgraded and raised the rent on gave us new tenants simply because the previous tenants couldn’t afford it. So who really benefited by our upgrades? Most of our upgrades were done by us outside of government interference (we don’t need to be told to fix things that are obviously not right about the property, our renters, banks, insurance company, etc. do a good job at that) but there have been plenty of times where we’ve done things per city demand that have raised rents and driven current tenants out. I’m sure they’re really stoked that our hand rails in Montrose are now 36″ high vs. 32″ while they now are living in 5th ward rather than the neighborhood they loved and were priced out of . . .” [Cody, commenting on Comment of the Day: Saving Houston for the Next Generation of Newcomers]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: SAVING HOUSTON FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF NEWCOMERS “i’d just point out that Houston is a large and growing city. although the inner-loop is changing, so are all the other hoods within 20 miles of here. nobody says you have to live in the same ‘hood all your life and i’d even go so far as to say that to expect to live in the same neighborhood indefinitely without seeing major changes is just selfishness. i’ll gladly pick up and move once the montrose has finally been redeveloped for the $150K+ income bracket only. i think it kills diversity and character of the area, but i’m glad it’s growing and more people are able to live near work and greater amenities while providing a larger tax base to make this city better for all the areas . . . i think my fellow citizens deserve that at least. if it changes it changes, but there’s no shortage of places to move to. as long as it’s making the city better.
move to a poor neighborhood if you don’t want to see any changes, there’s plenty around. and that’s the danger of giving neighborhoods rights over [what] can be developed. by nature they will only have their desires in mind, not that of the millions of others that could benefit from growth and new developments.” [joel, commenting on Comment of the Day: Who Cares What the Neighbors Think?]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN THE BULLDOZERS HEAD FOR SHARPSTOWN “. . . The Heights used to be pretty shady too. Times change. Neighborhoods change. Sharpstown’s day in the sun is coming, but it’s still a ways off.
It’s not hard to look at the wave of redevelopment that has poured out from the center of Houston and realize Sharpstown is the path of growth. Back in the 80′s West U houses were being bulldozed by the dozen. Soon lots of folks were priced out of West U and the bulldozers turned to Bellaire. Now they are turning south all the way to the South Loop. Meyerland is in play too.
Right now the primary western barrier is the edge of the Bellaire HS zoning map. As Meyerland continues to improve though, the childless pioneers who don’t care about school zones will be the first to start the gentrification process in Sharpstown. Eventually . . . critical mass.
If the neighborhood associations were smart, they’d start their own tax district and ear mark all the proceeds for demolition of the junkiest properties. Demo some junk. Demo some more junk. Hold the land as it appreciates. Sell it to a developer who has a plan to build that you like (not just the highest bidder). Pour the land sale money into more demolition. Rinse. Repeat.” [Bernard, commenting on Headlines: Selling the Astrodome in Pieces; Felix Mexican Restaurant Sign Mystery]
WHAT REALLY MAKES IT ALL WORTHWHILE Meanwhile, Laura Lark is hoping that Houston’s 2 new art fairs don’t overshadow this town’s “wacky, welcoming” feeling: “Because, honestly, the coming of the first art fair in Houston reminds me a bit of my neighborhood, and I’m a tad conflicted. I live in Montrose. It’s a little funky, but it used to be REALLY funky, with drag queens and artist studios and a crack house on the other side of my fence. In the past several years it’s become gentrified. Instead of the charming fellows who used to steal magazines like Big Black Butt and moan while jerking off until I sprayed them down with the hose, I now have a couple from Katy whose friends roar at the game on the outdoor big screen TV and toss Smirnoff Ice bottles into my yard. I’d get in trouble if I hosed them down, which totally pisses me off.
The people behind me are soulless jerks and a lot less interesting than even the worst-dressed transvestite, but my property value’s quadrupled, so I don’t complain as much as I should. So let’s hope, as an art community, we can maintain our character and keep the imported assholes to a minimum while still raising awareness of our fabulousness and the market value of works sold.
That would make a Houston art fair, like the city itself, worth it.” [Glasstire; previously on Swamplot]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: BATTLE HYMN OF THE INNER LOOP “Obsolete is obsolete. Out with the old. In with the new. That’s the Houston way. Forget living in the past. I want progress. I want Houston’s core to continue to grow and thrive. Bring in the bulldozers.
What if West U was still filled with crappy little termite infested cracker boxes? Would Houston be a better place? I say No. Progress is good.
Rich people want to live in big houses. If Houston refuses to accommodate them, the suburbs will gladly accept them. Let’s send the rich packing. Then we’ll let the high paying jobs and commercial development follow them outside the city limits. Houston will rot from the inside out.” [Bernard, commenting on Comment of the Day: How We’re Building the Heights]
Longtime Houston Heights resident Ivan Reyna tells Fox 26 reporter Isiah Carey that his family can no longer afford the 3-bedroom 1920 bungalow on Arlington St. his father bought for $18,000 — 37 years ago.
Across from the Reynas are two million dollar homes. Just down the block is another house that sold for $600,000. And that’s the problem. Reyna says as a result of the revitalization of the Heights he can’t afford his father’s dream any more. Ivan says, “the taxes have gone up 100% since they started building the mansions.”
HCAD records show the appraised value on the home has increased almost 40 percent over the last five years alone.
Ivan says they’re hoping to get at least $250,000 for their aging home as is. He knows potential buyers are not interested in the small structure to live in. Many of the newcomers want to shop around, buy the land, and tear down the structure.
Reyna says he’s alright with that. He, his sister, and older brother are hoping to make enough off the sale to move down to the Valley where Papa is. He says there they can get 5 acres of land for a cool $90,000.
Photo: Isiah Carey