Bellaire’s Hong Kong Chef Serves Last Customers; Sunbelt Cities Are Just Misunderstood


Photo of Houston Heights: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool


14 Comment

  • There are a lot of HEBs, but there was only one Hong Kong Chef. They had perhaps the best General Tso’s Chicken in town.

  • From Grady Gammage on the Urban Edge.
    “But we cannot simply abandon the suburban fabric of the last 50 years and wish that things had developed differently,”
    AMEN! A fucking MEN!!!
    I’ve been saying this all along, and people look at me like I’m nuts. They (modern conservationists and urbanists) want to just wish postwar development away. Pretend like it’s a mistake that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) exist. Concentrate on investing in the areas that were developed before 1950. The trouble is, like Gammage points out, they’re ignoring the fact that for a lot of cities in the US, postwar suburban development is the majority of the city. They would have us ignore the bulk of cities like Houston and Phoenix – and we can’t!
    So again, AMEN to Grady Gammage!!!!

  • A bit odd to have Bellaire in the headline and then a photo of the Heights.

  • Damned HEB. A curse on them for shutting down Hong Kong Chef.

  • @ZAW
    Agreed…and when Houston overtakes Chicago at the next census, their heads are going to explode.

  • Jed Kolko says “The senior population has become significantly less urban. All age groups 65 and older were at least 10% less likely to live in urban neighborhoods in 2014 than in 2000; that’s true for the high-density urban neighborhoods, too.”
    I’ve definitely seen that trend here in Houston over the last 20 years. Nationally, the trend for first-wave baby boomers is to age in place and retrofit their home if necessary.

    But local developers keep saying that empty nesters are one of their main targets for expensive town homes and high-rise luxury condos inside the Loop. Who’s on the right side of that equation?

  • Empty-nesters and such folks appreciate not having stairs to deal with, but I suppose if townhomes are expensive enough they will come with elevators. Maintaining a detached residence is a chore, but at least you can hire someone to help.

  • @ZAW
    I believe urbanist focus on the future growth of cities and preventing even further sprawl. If we do not make large changes to our current public policies, which actively subsidize this type of development, the future costs of supporting these communities will become unsustainable. I do not believe that anyone thinks we will simply abandon the current suburbs because it does not fit into their preferred type of development.

  • “But we cannot simply abandon the suburban fabric of the last 50 years and wish that things had developed differently”
    I don’t think anyone is seriously proposing we level the suburbs and force everyone into highrises. What most pro-urbanists want, though, is to stop throwing good money after bad. That is, stop spending all our money on expanding suburbs and start allocating more funding on affordable urban housing and public transit. It’s not wishful thinking, just a matter of where we prioritize our growth.

  • I have seen little indication that there are many older people moving into those townhomes. I think the older generation doesn’t see much appeal of 3 flights of stairs and no land (can’t say I blame them, because I don’t either).

  • Glad to hear a serious voice acknowledging that low-density suburban-type development almost certainly will not be going away in the vast majority of Houston and other sunbelt cities. Why would it ever? Residents of suburban-style close-in enclaves (West U, Memorial Villages, etc) love their cities exactly the way they are – they hardly consider them “mistakes”. They elect leaders whose policies discourage or prohibit high-density development and contribute to stable and growing property values. Further-out suburbs aren’t as desirable, but most people who live there consciously chose them over similarly-priced higher-density housing.

    As for “not throwing good money after bad” – the suburbs are growing thanks to private investment spurred by market demand. We hear again and again how sunbelt cities “subsidize” this type of development, but that’s a tough argument in Houston. Most far-reaching suburbs are served by tollways, not freeways. The shiny new infrastructure is paid by high MUD taxes, not general funds. Etc.

    The parts of Houston where residents do value density are already densifying, and densifying fast. You do get a few odd ducks like the Heights Walmart, but as new developments go these are the exception and not the rule.

    As for seniors – I won’t be one for a long while, but the logic of moving into a condo or highrise with $500-1000+ maintenance fees when a lawn/maintenance guy will allow you maintain a single-family home to a high standard for less is completely lost on me.

  • Total Harris County population grew by 300,000+ in the last 5 years. For all the folks who want to stop development in the further reaches of the County, where would you have put all those newcomers? Keep in mind that many, if not most, want a single family house with a yard and some decent schools. They do not want to live in a townhouse or apartment. Unless you are going to use eminent domain to buy up all of Denver Harbor, or Acres Homes, or other developed, but relatively inexpensive, part of town, the new folks are going to have to live in new developments on the prairie.

    I live in a suburb inside the Loop. I would not be amenable to tearing down all the houses and building more density. I like my house, and my neighborhood as it is. So do the people buying in the new subdivisions.

  • @Coffeeadict; Derek. Those are exactly the arguments that Grady Gammage (and I) are arguing against!
    Nobody is suggesting that we go back to the old, post-war, car-centric way of developing. Even single family, suburban communities are now being built with something resembling walkability in mind. They have made the houses much more dense, and they have made efforts to link retail to the neighborhoods. But what we risk doing, is creating donut cities: with a core of walkability, older suburbs that are not walkable, and a ring of new, sort of walkable suburbs. Worse than that, if we continue to starve those older suburbs of investment, on the idea that we don’t want to “throw good money after bad” or whatever, we will create wealthy cores, poor old suburbs, and middle class new suburbs. Still worse, if we allow this to happen, we will cause MORE SPRAWL because middle class people won’t see the old suburbs as an option, so they’ll keep driving further and further out.
    At some point, like it or not, we will need to reinvest in those older suburbs – and it’s for the sake of building more sustainable, equitable cities!

  • So, ZAW, how does it happen? How do you “develop” say, the 5th Ward? I’m curious, because I actually own a couple of lots there. Do I build a 1,500 SF home and hope someone buys it . . . and hope my neighbor and his neighbor, and his neighbor do the same? Does a developer come in and buy several blocks and develop their own “neighborhood”?

    I’m not being sarcastic – this is an honest question. How does an already existing neighborhood become a new, master planned neighborhood?

    From someone trying to learn, thanks to all the Swamplot contributors for all your posts. And Memebag. You so funny.