Topping Off Texas Reservoirs; Why Companies Are Moving Downtown; An Architectural Historian’s Guide to the Third Ward

Construction on Avenida de las Americas North of George R. Brown Convention Center, Downtown Houston

Photo of Avenida de las Americas: Marc Longoria via Swamplot Flickr Pool


14 Comment

  • Businesses moving downtown!? Can’t be true. The suburbs are where all the cool things are! Where else can you enjoy the delicacies and uniqueness of New York Style Sub Sandwhichs: Subway. Do you want really good local BBQ? I got that place for you– Chili’s. They even have a song about their ribs. Want to unwind on a friday night? Theres a local place for that too, TGIF’s! Italian food? Suburbs got that covered at the Olive Garden.

  • NotCommonsense, don’t forget there’s a zoo in most suburbs as well, they’re called Malls, but the bonus is they are air conditioned and don’t smell like animals!

  • much as I bitch about my office location in the Galleria and miss working downtown, I recognize that it’s still one of the best spots in Houston to work (just behind downtown and the Medical Center in my book). I’m so glad not to have to trek out to some godforsaken office park out past the Beltway every day.

  • The Bryan Museum looks great and I look forward to visiting! I admire all those who keep history present. However in light of oceans rising and T.S. Bill… is Galveston a good bet for a museum of vulnerable artifacts?

  • I’ve always thought highly of the Stephen Fox. His books on John Staub and Houston Architecture are excellent. I was lucky enough to have lunch with him once and could have say there until the place closed listening to him talk about architecture and Houston. It’s cool that he’s doing a sort of blogg on the 3rd Ward.

  • I agree that advantages can be found living in-town if your situation matches-up right, but claiming “best BBQ”, “best Italian”, “equals shorter commute”, and somehow being by a an over-priced inside loop mall is the best while another apparently thinks suburban malls equate to a zoo???? Certainly you can do better than that.

  • With their greed and poor management, Simon properties is hard at work making the Galleria into a zoo.

  • Galveston County homeowners should be howling. They should be marching on the steps of the CAD and City Hall when our operationally corrupt property tax system dumps the lion’s share of the tax burden on the one pool of owners with the worst access to due process in the system. What is happening in Galveston County is also happening in Fort Bend County, Harris County, and other counties across the state. Our incestuous property tax system has now become the laughing stock of the U.S. We now have appraisal review boards (compensated by the same county/board that also pays the chief appraiser) who blatantly ignore credible evidence that is presented to them, and in some cases raise the value of owners’ properties at their supposedly independent appeal hearing.
    Who benefits from our current “appraisals” of local property is pretty obvious. Travis County Texas just opened the door to the polluted process of property appraisal, destroying the myth that Texas property is valued (taxed) equally and uniformly. That claim is now a ridiculous joke after an independent analysis showed that commercial property was undervalued by an average of 48 percent during each of the last 3 years.
    Uniform and equal? Hah! The Harris County Appraisal District just “appraised” a downtown parking garage for 37 percent of the sale price!

  • Confused – I assume the overpriced mall is the Galleria (which, um, isn’t inside the loop…) I’d agree that it’s no less dreadful than suburban malls, but the Galleria area has lots if great stuff – if you could get around it without sitting in hideous traffic it would be even better. Interestingly, I worked for some years in Tysons Corner, VA (basically a LOT like the Galleria area but with much, much worse traffic) and it was the same situation. Except now the whole area is being redeveloped so human beings can use it without cars, and it will be accessible from downtown DC by Metro. Wish that had been the case when I was there.

  • John (another one) — I think you referenced the “beltway”, which I believe is the outer loop. – – and even if it the reference was 610, the Galleria is basically on it. We do agree that not all “closer-in” areas of cities are created equal.

  • @ Aaron Layman: While I appreciate the point that you’re making about the various problems with appraisal districts and the ARBs — really, I do — the sale of income-producing commercial assets reflect the market price of financial instruments that are associated with and that typically transfer with the real property. However, only the real and tangible business personal property is taxable; not the leases or anything else that may have conveyed. With the possible exception of land sales, I have yet to see an analysis of sale prices against property tax appraisals that is at all valid.

    For example, the sale of Hess Tower shattered records and caused a stir among the general public. The reason that the building was so valuable (and the reason why the developer didn’t just sell the building as soon as it was completed) is because lease-up is a very risky period of time where they add value. Hess was a highly creditworthy publicly-traded company that took the entire building on a long-term contract using net lease terms. To be sure, Hess received favorable terms on the very basis that they were an attractive tenant however in capital markets such as they have been in recent times, institutional office investors are willing to pay a very very low cap rate on such an asset. You could almost think of an office valuation as a kind of hybridization between real estate and corporate bonds, and in this case it is very tilted in the direction of the corporate bond. HCAD is forbidden from using that same logic in its mass appraisals.

    In fact, case law in Texas is so specific about that that you could have an instance where two identical big box department stores are across the same street from one another where one is occupied by a creditworthy national name-brand retailer and the other is vacant. Their sale prices would be radically different, but their appraised values should be the same, each allowing for the rent potentials and vacancy factors that are characteristic of the market during a given tax year.

    That doesn’t mean that HCAD hadn’t been undervaluing downtown towers. The nature of their sources of market data are such that they are often slow to detect rising rents and quick to detect rising expenses. Whereas their analysts will build a valuation model that tries to value only the real property, their line appraisers often seek compromise in ways that undermine their own efforts for instance by adjusting rents downward because individual leases *appear* to be less favorable. Doing so creates inequities in the tax roll that every subsequent protest can latch onto and use as a basis for litigating. HCAD isn’t even the worst offender, NOT EVEN CLOSE. Some smaller counties are far more conciliatory, whereas others are obstinate to a degree that you could not imagine.

    The populist outrage, meanwhile, has been very poorly directed and has not been as politically productive as it could have been.

  • See this article is confusing to me. I’ve long held that millenials and whatnot wanted to live in the city, but recent stuff has come out showing that they are actually far more interested in teh suburbs than their GenX/GenY predescessors.

  • @MrEction, probably the reason that they profess to prefer living in the suburbs is that that is where they can get free room and board with mom and dad.