Ashby Highrise: The 9th Is the Time for Charm

Plans for the Ashby Highrise were rejected by the city for the 9th time last week. But . . . this rejection appears to be a bit kinder than the others have been.

How much kinder? The West U Examiner‘s Michael Reed explains:

. . . the tone of the city engineer’s remarks seemed less perfunctory than in the project’s recent permit denials.

In his comments dated March 16, Mark Loethen said “conflicts in drawings sets have been addressed and revised” since the previous rejection Feb. 13.

Saying the city is still concerned about the distance between a proposed entrance on Bissonnet Street and the Dunlavy Street intersection and the volume of left-turns during peak traffic hours, Loethen offered a potential solution.

“Increasing distance between (the) entrance driveway and Dunlavy along with other mitigation measures may be considered,” his comments read.

That sure makes it sound like a building permit for the 23-story highrise — which developer Buckhead Investment Partners still insists on calling 1717 Bissonnet isn’t that far away from actual city approval. Can’t these tiny remaining details just be worked out in a friendly little get-together?



Loethen asked the developers’ engineers to schedule a meeting with the city engineer to discuss the possible changes and the traffic impact analysis.

“Since the bottom line seems to involve a technical issue that seems appropriate to us,” Matthew Morgan, a partner in Buckhead Development Partners, said Tuesday afternoon. “We are going to cooperate.”

He said further comment on his part would be “speculative,” but added, “This process has taught me not to read anything into a comment the city might make.”

Drawing of Ashby Highrise along Bissonnet: Buckhead Investment Partners

37 Comment

  • Now is not the time to build a high-rise and expect the units to sell. Months of inventory for mid-rise/high-rise in the inner loop area is 10.4 ( If I’m remembering correctly, at least 1 of the 2 Mosaic buildings -adjacent to Hermann Park & Texas Medical Center- is now rental. Why do these big-brained developers think their product is going to do any better? No product is that special. What financial institution is dumb enough to provide the backing?
    That’s in addition to the obvious inappropriate and out-sized scale of the proposed project.

  • recession’s don’t last forever and i would think they need this project to at least be accepted by the city so they can justify holding onto the property until things turn around. i really don’t think it’s an oversized project compared to the scale of other developments in this part of town either. i hope they can make it work as more people deserve the right to live in this part of town as the city continues to expand into more of an urban setting. i just don’t understand the congestion issue when they let that 236-unit complex be built at richmond/dunlavy right next to the fire station while they plan on tearing up richmond for the rail. i don’t see how richmond could remain 2 lanes wide after that and there’s not nearly the same amount of traffic on bissonet.

    or someone turn the lot into a trailer park. i’m sold on the idea of it after hearing about the one in the heights. surely you could live in a large 2bd trailer for the same price as a crappy small 1bd in one of these newer complexes.


  • The thing 1717 Bissonnet has that the Mosaic doesn’t is an excellent and SAFE location. One of the best neighborhoods in the city. Quick access to the TMC, downtown, Greenway, Uptown and all major universities. There’s no way that place wouldn’t fill up whether it’s a rental or for purchase tower.

  • While I am not a supporter of Ashby, I certainly think it would sell, even in this economy. Everything about it is better than Mosaic. Besides, the high end homes still seem to be selling.

  • I hope they get approval and move forward as planned. This entire affair has been a ridiculous attempt by a privileged few to have their way, disregarding the laws of the land. The Mayor and COH should be ashamed of themselves. This project is no more a traffic problem and no more inappropriate in size or scale than 5000 Montrose, the Museum Tower, Inwood Manor, or the Huntingdon, and many others. All sit in the middle of high-priced residential real estate; even more prominently when they were built years ago. I lived in Tanglewood back when Four Leaf Towers were being built and remember the outcry about the supposed detriment to property values and the quality of life for nearby residents. Whatever. Multi-million dollar homes are still being built and sold in the buildings shadows.

    That said, I don’t think that highrises in established residential neighborhoods are ideal, but I’ve watched time after time as Houstonians have rejected zoning and serious city planning codes that would have addressed these issues. As long as we refuse to change the laws and codes, we cannot prevent someone who is following those laws and codes to do business, whether we like the project or not. I’ve noticed that these “controversies” only get media and political traction when they are in high income neighborhoods, which just pisses me off.

    If Houstonians don’t like the rules, get them changed; but no law-abiding business or individual should be singled-out by our government because of the political connections of any other group.

  • Ashby is different, though – it sits on Bissonnet and not Kirby, Montrose, or San Felipe.

  • Is it possible they’re just trying to do this now out of spite?

  • Lauren,

    I just don’t think that argument holds water. Drive around, or to the back of 5000 Montrose, Museum Tower, or Inwood; across the street or directly adjacent to everyone of them are single family homes. There is not a new house on the market in the blocks around Inwood for under $2M; River Oaks has not suffered one bit. I understand that most folks don’t want a highrise in their backyard,(I don’t either) but unless the codes are changed for everyone, we get what we vote for. The way that this company has been singled out by City Hall (while following the city’s rules) should give every business owner concern. On top of that, I’m so sick of those damned yard signs! :)

  • being on bissonet is the positive thing about it to me. why restrict high-density developments to the busiest and most congested roads? has anyone ever seen traffic on bissonet? i don’t use it regularly but even during rush hour it’s not enough to keep people from making it through the lights in due time and it moves a hell of a lot quicker than all the other larger streets in this part of town.

    how much larger is ashby than the rice grad complex near montrose? i’ve never seen any of the shuttles or cars leaving there increase traffic on the road.

  • Darby Mom,

    Now is perfect time to build. Prices are down for everything, especially the professional services needed for such a project. General contractors and subs are all scrambling for work. Betting that the economy will be in better shape in the 2-3 yrs the project will take to complete is a good bet. Besides the location can hardly be beat, despite the irony in that.

  • OK, I have to say that Ithink these types of developments should be on the busy street. At the same time, if I were one of the folks that was going to live right behind the building, you bet I would be doing everything I could to keep it from happening.

  • Rise High, Ashby!

  • At least we have the comfort of knowing they’ll loose their shirts in this development.

    This is going to be worse than the 1980’s.

  • Joel, yes, my comment was based on the street type, not the surrounding structures.

    I work in the vicinity and have sat on Bissonnet quite a bit…my point was merely that Bissonnet allows one cara each way, while the other examples listed allow much more. Tis all.

    I could personally care less about the highrise and all since I would never be a patron, and if developers want to snag property, decimate what’s already there, and build snooty stuff, have at it.

    I was just under the impression that the apartments there were decent and served a good purpose..

  • I commend Michael Reed of the West U Examiner for staying on top of this issue.

  • Kirby: 4-6 lanes
    Montrose: 4 lanes, with a median turn lane
    Richmond: 4 lanes (and a light)

    Bissonnet: 2 lanes and no light and no turn lane

    That’s why those other streets have highrises, and Bissonnet doesn’t. Further, the Rice Grad housing offers bus service to school, dramatically limiting car traffic. You think those Ashby-ites will use a bus?

  • People are so naive. Talk to some of the mayoral candidates……particularly Annise Parker. I think you’d be shocked at the claims she’s making.

  • Elaborate matt.

  • snooty,

    Those other streets have highrises because developers bought the property, paid for designs, followed the rules to get city permits, and built them. The Ashby developers are doing the same. There is no city ordinance that says the neighbors have to like it. Tell me why there was not a similar uproar about the 2525 Robinhood? That highrise in the same part of town as Ashby is on two-lane streets, not 4 or 6. I don’t remember an outcry from these concerned citizens when the 40 story Parklane was built on a two lane street in the Binz, not very far away. Please understand that I do not think that slamming a highrise down in the middle of a single family neighborhood is a great idea, BUT I also strongly disagree that just because a bunch of people put yards sign up everywhere and yell the loudest; that they should get preferential treatment. The rules should protect all of our properties and neighborhoods equally – or not. Nor do I think that businesses should be singled out when they are following the rules. No zoning is the preferred way of life here (not by me), so if you don’t like the consequences- do something about the rules instead of attacking someone who is following them. Frankly, I just think it’s growing pains for Houston. The Upper East Side of Manhattan was once all single family mansions and townhouses (after it was farmland). Most of them are now gone, replaced with highrises; some of the most expensive on Earth. I’m sure most people in West U, Southampton, Broad Acres, etc . can’t imagine Bissonnet, North, South, or Sunset being lined with highrises some day, but I’m equally sure that the residents of Fifth, Park, and Madison didn’t imagine it either.

  • Thank you, snooty (lol), for elaborating on the street explanation and the Rice shuttle tie-in.

  • John… 2525 Robinhood is on a small non-residential street. If there are any houses, it’s just a couple. It’s mostly small businesses, and there is *very* little traffic on that street. I know, because I live near there, and drive it to get to Kirby (Chipolte, actually! mmm!). And it dumps onto Kirby, a four lane street.

    Ashby fronts on Bissonnet, a busy two lane road, that already has traffic lined up for several light cycles trying to cross town. Dumping more traffic on a small road makes no sense. How will those people even GET on Bissonnet without a light? And heaven help us if someone wants to go left, and have to cross both lanes!

    And the Upper East Side in NYC? It has three, four, even five lane streets. Mostly going one way.

  • I saw a sign on Ashby near Rice blvd that said:

    SUPPORT: Planting trees, world peace, fair trade, etc.

    END: War, crime, poverty, disease, TOWER OF TRAFFIC.

    I thought that was funny that this guy held “the tower of traffic” (Ashby Highrise) in the same regard as war, crime, poverty, and disease.

    If people in Southampton dedicated their energy towards a real problem instead of the Ashby highrise, maybe they could make a real difference somewhere.

    I’m sick of the yellow signs too. They make the neighborhood look so tacky.

  • The last thing the Buckheads probably want right now is that permit. Seems like it would cause problems for the lawsuit that I heard they aggressively lawyer-shopped, and I can’t imagine any lender in possession of its faculties financing the silly thing in this environment.

    And what’s with all the whining about this project being politicized? Welcome to real estate in Houston. It’s always been that way and always will be unless we grow up and enact the sort of land use controls that most cities realized were necessary about 100 years ago.

  • joel wrote:

    has anyone ever seen traffic on bissonet?
    Yes I have. It can be very bad indeed. I am not super sympathetic with the residents of the area and their crusade, but one thing that does ring true is that Bissonnet is ill-equipped to handle more traffic or lots of people turning onto or off Bissonnet.
    However, Snooty may have accidentally come up with a solution here. Make Bissonnet a one-way street!
    Also, as a former Rice graduate student, I can testify that many students at Rice take the shuttle to the Grad apartments, even if they have cars. Why? The shuttle is free–parking at Rice is not (even for students).

  • From matt:
    People are so naive. Talk to some of the mayoral candidates……particularly Annise Parker. I think you’d be shocked at the claims she’s making.

    I have a twin. How nice. I don’t talk to Annise Parker. But nothing she claims would shock me. What does shock me is the number of people who do talk to her and believe anything she says. I also don’t talk to Peter Brown. Or anyone who hitched their wagon to this dead horse which hopefully will be given a proper funeral with the issuance of the permits.

    As for Bill White, no doubt this will come back to haunt him if and when he runs for public office again. The will of the voters does matter. As does the City Charter.

    No zoning means just that. No zoning.

  • With regards to Jackson’s comment on the TOWER OF TRAFFIC being equated to War, crime, poverty, disease, I have thought for a while now that the yellow, fanged Ashby Highrise tower wreaking destruction on the little houses below would be a fab group Halloween costume. Any especially tall Swamplot readers want to volunteer to be the tower? I will gladly be a terrorized bungalow.

  • Believe it or not, I saw somebody dressed as the Ashby Highrise in Montrose last Halloween!

  • So, nobody wants zoning, except when they do. As another John pointed out, if you want zoning, vote for it, don’t support zoning for the most politically connected neighborhoods but not for anybody else.

    Here’s what I would love to see for projects like this: limited parking, and you pay for it. This project is in an inner-city location well served by public transit. Make the parking extra, and you might find it appeals to people who don’t need it (& won’t add to traffic).

  • Hey, John, great idea about having to pay for parking – I know that apt. dwellers in NYC usually have to pay rent for their parking space too. Last time I talked to someone about that it was ~$300/month, and that was 20 years ago.

    Or how about what Rice just decided to offer the residents of their new housing on Shakespeare? Don’t bring a car and they get a FREE BIKE!

    Perhaps residents of a high rise on Ashby should not be permitted to own or park a car in the area, only bicycles. Then maybe the neighborhood could get behind the “green-ness” of the project and also solve the global warming crisis at the same time.

  • Jackson – Gah, beaten to the punch! That gentleman did a great job with his Halloween costume, but he shouldn’t have written “Ashby Highrise” on his forehead/rooftop deck — too obvious.

  • Jackson – If you think those little 2 foot tall yellow signs make the neighborhood look tacky, just imagine how tacky a 20-something story highrise will look! You’ll have plenty of time to check it out while you sit in traffic on Bissonnet waiting for all those high rise residents to make left hand turns.

  • Emma,

    Those signs and bumper stickers ARE tacky and long ago outlived their usefulness. We all got the NIMBY message a long time ago. Really. Truly.

  • Living near Bisssonnet and Montrose myself I can assure you that the last thing we need is more traffic on Bissonnet and a bunch of people making left turns. Bissonnet is a two lane road and is packed all day long. At least we can watch these guys lose lots of cash on the bone headed project. The recession won’t last forever, but our neighborhood opinion of the project will.

  • The developers do not even have funding for the project! Geeze!
    Everyone here does not need to worry about this project. This whole thing is to prove a point that either two things will have to happen.
    1. The city will have to approve the plans and release a permit.


    2. The city will have to implement zoning.

  • Living near Bisssonnet and Montrose myself I can assure you that the last thing we need is more traffic on Bissonnet and a bunch of people making left turns. Bissonnet is a two lane road and is packed all day long.

    If you look at Bissonnet it is three lanes the same as West Alabama. The city just hasn’t drawn the little lines. People don’t sit behind people making left hand turns. They go around them. Unless the person making the left hand turn hasn’t moved over to the left. In which case they are greeted with a blast of horns. As for the horrible thought of all these people turning left, some may be turning right. And quite a few already turn left on Ashby but I won’t say why.

    I still say the developers should donate the land to West U for a new sewage treatment plant.