04/28/09 3:10pm

Yesterday Texas Watchdog released 99 pages of emails and correspondence it received as the result of a public information request it sent to the mayor’s office in January. The collection documents communications sent and received by Mayor White concerning Discovery Green, and includes messages from and to Marvy Finger, developer of the adjacent One Park Place apartment tower.

One tidbit from that stash was yesterday’s revelation that the mayor had apparently rejected a tax abatement request from Finger Properties — and that the letter he sent out promoting the Downtown residential development was offered in part as consolation for that refusal.

Texas Watchdog is asking for help from its readers in combing the documents for other interesting leads. “If you see anything interesting that you think deserves more digging, let us know,” a reporter for the independent nonpartisan organization writes.

If you enjoy snooping through other people’s emails and memos, we hope you’ll lend Texas Watchdog a hand with that effort. But if you do, please keep Swamplot in mind. Swamplot has no use for stories that “deserve more digging,” because this website isn’t properly armed with shovels. But we do love hearing entertaining details that help expose the machinations behind Houston real estate developments.

The documents are divided into five sections, all linked at the bottom of this Texas Watchdog story. If you find any particular goodies in there that you think other Swamplot readers would enjoy reading, please send us a note with the relevant quotes. Also: please tell us where you found them, and why you think they’re noteworthy.

Photo: Serendipity Photography LLC

04/27/09 10:08am

ONE PARK PLACE REJECTION LETTER That letter Mayor White sent out in January touting One Park Place as “THE residence of choice downtown” was apparently meant as a consolation prize for the Finger Companies, which had sought public assistance for the project. White refused to support Finger’s request for a tax abatement — and offered the letter in its place, according to emails recently made public. “[Developer Marvy] Finger added that he appreciated the mayor’s willingness to write the letter, and that he hoped at the time it would help, although he does not believe it earned any additional lessees. ‘If someone rented because of that letter, I’m unaware of it,’ he said. The documents were obtained through an open records request that was originated by Texas Watchdog, a Houston-based nonprofit that promotes open government and investigative journalism.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]

04/07/09 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DALLAS DISCOUNT “Nice property, but those prices per sq. ft. are RIDICULOUS. Even in comparison to other Texas cities, like Dallas and Austin. Best of luck leasing at that price point. Most NEW residential lease towers in Dallas have slashed rates. A friend of mine renewed his lease at the Cirque in Victory Park, which is much more fabulous than One Park Place, and his rate was reduced by $250 per month! Additionally, most properties now offer specials, like one-two months free.” [Ted, commenting on One Park Place or Another]

04/06/09 4:40pm

The River Oaks Examiner‘s Cynthia Lescalleet tours the brand-new 340-unit One Park Place, across from Discovery Green Downtown:

Units are bright and spacious, with several oversized features, such as 10-foot ceilings that, unlike loft properties, are finished, meaning no dust or gloomy black paint. Each unit has a balcony. Views vary. Overall, the apartments toured felt solid and private and very much like city living in other major cities, which was the point. In One Park Place, Finger Companies wanted to build a landmark residence reminiscent of the historic parkside properties in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Meanwhile, the project’s rose-colored masonry with stone accents connotes other noted Houston architecture. . . .

Okay, how much?

. . . the property’s floorplans have verdant names like Cedar and Azalea. The smallest units have about 800 square feet and lease for $1,800-$2,550 if located on the lower floors of the tower. The six penthouses lease for $6,400 to $11,880 for units of 2,000 to 3,500 square feet.


01/28/09 3:11pm

MAYBE HE JUST LIKED THE PARTY HAT ON TOP? Mayor White takes a turn hawking the expensive rentals at the Finger Companies’ One Park Place highrise Downtown. Rick Casey thinks he could have delivered a better pitch: “When it comes to a place to live, people are motivated by a dream. Only a pocket-protected city planner could have his dreams triggered by such phrases as ‘residential infrastructure,’ or ‘leisure destination,’ or ‘luxury multifamily rentals,’ or ‘price points lower than you would think,’ or ‘landmark project on a unique site.’ The mayor managed to stuff all these infelicitous phrases and more onto a single page. One can only speculate why White wrote the letter. He had already done enough, it seems to me, by marshalling the money, the research and the architects to build Discovery Green, a beautiful and exciting 12-acre park across the street from Finger’s property. It’s the best front yard an urban dweller could want, and the city mows the grass.” [Houston Chronicle]