Here’s a second rendering of that new office tower Hines tells the Houston Chronicle it hasn’t announced it will build. Of course, a different story is coming out of this neighborhood near River Oaks, where the 35,000-sq.-ft. property on the corner of Spann and San Felipe, purchased in November by an entity connected to Hines, has been cleared of its garden home and staked with flags, as the photos after the jump show:
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: IS THIS A HOUSTON APARTMENT BUILDING BUBBLE? “. . . it certainly does seem like they are overbuilding. Only time will tell if that’s the case. If it is, it’s going to be a replay of 1982-3. The developers who got in the game early will have sold their complexes and moved on to the next hot market. The guys left holding complexes when the market crashes will lose their shirts.
There won’t be a bailout. But a bunch of complexes will fall into bankruptcy. Rents will crash. Real estate values and tax revenue will plummet. Any semblance of maintenance, security, and tenant screening will fly out the window. Oh, and there might be a few half finished complexes that just sit there for a few years gathering graffiti and vagrants.” [ZAW, commenting on The Luxury Trackside Apartments Coming to Briar Hollow]
Here are just a few of the designs created by a UH undergraduate architecture class that spent much of this semester going on field trips to the Almeda Mall. Under the direction of Susan Rogers of the UH Community Design Resource Center (or CDRC), the 4th- and 5th-year will-be architects, who also spent time on nearby Kingspoint Rd. taking in that street art study center known as the Mullet, were charged with developing strategies to reanimate the dead retail zone in South Houston.
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Architect John Kirksey has an idea for building a park on 36 blocks in south Downtown — just north of the Pierce Elevated, between Louisiana and Caroline. But he doesn’t own the land, and he’s not proposing to buy it up. So Kirksey’s plan isn’t for a single park space — it’s for a bunch of linear walkways. Okay, call it a series of extra-wide sidewalks on the east-west streets. Here’s how it might look, driving through:
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MAYOR PARKER’S PLAN FOR A BIGGER, FRIENDLIER UPTOWN TIRZ
Why not both? Yesterday, Mayor Parker announced a $556 million plan that, if approved by city council on April 24, would fund the seemingly unrelated instead-of-light rail Post Oak BRT and Memorial Park reforestation: Uptown would annex 1,768 acres of property into the TIRZ, and a gradual increase in tax revenue over the next 25 years would help to keep the BRT operational and implement a program of park improvements. Those would include, says Houston Parks and Rec director Joe Turner in a city press release, “erosion control, removal of invasive non-native plants, the reestablishment of native grasslands and forests and facility needs.” Still: Only 36 acres of the property roped in for annexation would be taxable. And does this plan mean that BRT — first thought to be up and running by 2017 — will be delayed? Don’t worry, says Uptown Management District president John Breeding. Besides what will be generated by the more environmentally friendly TIRZ, money for BRT will come from TxDOT and — if approved by a vote on April 26 — Transportation Improvement Program grants from the Houston-Galveston Area Council. [City of Houston; previously on Swamplot] Drawing of Post Oak BRT: Uptown Management District
CITY COUNCIL TO DECIDE WHETHER DOWNTOWN HOTEL REDO WILL RECEIVE FEDERAL DOUGH Houston Politics’ Mike Morris is reporting that city council will vote today to decide whether it will loan Pearl Real Estate up to $7.4 million toward the $81 million renovation and redevelopment of the 22-story slipcovered 1910 Samuel F. Carter building at Rusk and 806 Main St. What does Pearl have in sight? A JW Marriott. (It’d be across the street from BG Group Place.) Last summer, explains Morris, the city applied for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development money that would be passed on to Pearl and ultimately paid back with interest — or that’s the idea, anyway. This kind of deal went off without a hitch in 1998, when the Rice Hotel paid back their $4.8 million right on time. But the city’s been kept waiting before: “In early 2005, it came to light that the Magnolia Hotel (which had gotten $9.5 million in 2002) and the Crowne Plaza (which had gotten $5 million in 2000) had never made a full payment to the city on their loans.” Though by 2012, Morris adds, those loans had been repaid. [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 806 Main St.: Swamplot inbox
HOUSTON PAVILIONS TO BE RENAMED, REBRANDED Clearly, former NBA star Earvin Johnson knows the value of renaming — and Houston Pavilions, which Magic and other investors bought back in August, will be given a new moniker of its own, reports the Houston Business Journal’s Shaina Zucker: Today, @HouPavilions tweeted an invitation to a party on April 4 at San Jacinto between Dallas and Polk during which the mall-ish complex will reveal its new name and new brand strategy. “[R]etailers and restaurants,” the invitation says, “will have booths featuring complimentary tastings and interactive activities including Wii Bowling, a basketball hoop-off for the chance to win a signed Houston Rockets basketball and more.” [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Flickr user cjt3
COMMENT OF THE DAY: LOOKING AT OUR SPREAD “It’s interesting when friends from back east visit, because they almost universally observe that Houston is ’empty’ (to quote directly). Given the amount of space in this city, the idea that we need to build things far from everything (and then build more roads to get people to them) is really kind of bizarre.” [John (another one), commenting on Comment of the Day: Heading for Points Greener]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HEADING FOR POINTS GREENER “Unless I’m missing something, the whole thing seems like an egregious example of waste. You build Greenspoint 30 years ago and then for various reasons it’s no longer ideal, so do you improve it? Revamp it? No, you abandon it all and clear a new forest ten miles north for your new office park. And all the smaller companies that clustered around you there do likewise. And Greenspoint with its hundreds of acres of concrete just sits there like damaged goods.
So what happens in thirty years when Springwoods Village is no longer ideal, when the new wears off? Do you improve it and make it work, or do you jump another ten miles north where there’s another waiting forest and build your new campus there?
The irony is that I’m sure these buildings will be LEED-whatever certified and Exxon will tout itself as a great steward, but any environmentalist will tell you that the real way to conserve is to adapt & reuse, not just wantonly abandon & throw away.” [Mike, commenting on The Next Springwoods Village Rumor]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: A CITYCENTRE IN THE CITY’S CENTER WOULD’VE MADE THE GRADE “. . . The Ainbinder/Orr/San J Stone sites represent over 30 acres of land being developed with only 280 residential units going up on the old Sons of Hermann site. About the same number of apartments were demo-ed for Ainbinder’s strip mall. That means 30 plus acres of land being developed with no net increase in housing or office space in an area that should be booming with that kind of development. There are no other 30 plus acre tracts west of Downtown that have the same development potential as this site did. It may be one step forward to replace vacant land with strip malls. But it is two steps back when you consider what a City Centre style mixed use development would have done for the area. It would have generated way more in tax revenue and made property values in the immediate west end neighborhood shoot through the roof. Instead, we are getting the lowest possible tax revenue generating development that will cost six million in future tax revenues. It is like being happy when your kid gets a C minus in school. It is better than getting an F and graduating is better than dropping out. But if your kid has the potential to do A plus work, then the C minus should be a huge disappointment. Those thirty plus acres had the potential to be one of the most significant developments in Houston. Instead, it is going to be the same development that gets put in on cheap land in the burbs when a new housing development goes in. If my tax dollars are going to be thrown at wealthy developers, I want to get every dollar’s worth and will not be happy with anything other than the most productive use of the land. Developers who will not deliver that can pay their own way.” [Old School, commenting on Shops Replacing San Jacinto Stone, Just North of the South-of-the-Heights Walmart]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S THE THOUGHT PROCESS? “. . . There is one other thing that troubles me that maybe some of the developers on this thread might clear up. How much does humanity and civic duty factor into these decisions? I could quickly assume that the dollar and cent logistics is enough for anything like this to get green-lit, but I would rest a little more easily knowing that someone along the line questioned the implications of suddenly forcing so many people to find new places to live. Especially considering that, for students like me and my room mate, springing this change so close to the beginning of the coming semester only makes finding a new place that much more impossible to find. It might sound petty, but I hope someone somewhere feels at least a little guilty for the amount of hardship that has been dumped onto my lap.” [thisboy, commenting on Report: Castle Court Midrise Planned for Andover Richmond Apartments Site]
CLOSEST HOTEL TO EXXONMOBIL, FROM SCRATCH Has it been your lifelong dream to develop a quaint little hotel in the town center of a brand-new 1,800-acre “eco-themed” community in the shadows of the formerly woodsy new suburban-style corporate campus of the
world’s largest oil company world’s largest publicly traded oil company? All righty, then: Now’s your chance! CDC Houston announced today that it’s looking for proposals from would-be developers of the very first hotel in Springwoods Village, on a site “in walking or shuttle distance” of ExxonMobil’s humongous new office hub, currently under construction just west of where I-45 spits out the Hardy Toll Rd. The Houston subsidiary of New York real estate firm Coventry Development Corp. plans to reach a total of 1,400 hotel rooms in Springwoods Village eventually. [Previously on Swamplot] Map: Springwoods Village
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT THEY’RE PLANNING TO BUILD IN HOUSTON “I always have to chuckle when people are discussing what is being built somewhere in town. ‘Why don’t THEY build . . .’ or ‘Why don’t THEY put in . . .’ There really is no ‘THEY’ sitting back and ‘planning’ what to put in. When property is up for sale, there are numerous buyers out there who already have their OWN project (whatever it is they do) looking for a place at a price they are willing to pay, and usually in a certain part of town. If it’s a medical group, ‘they’ are not going to say ‘Hey, this neighborhood needs a restaurant’ — unless of course they decide to put one inside the medical building they build. But you get my point. These are not planned communities with someone (called ‘They’) at the helm, making decisions. As long as the citizens let the rich ‘good-ole-boys’ swing the vote every time ‘ZONING’ comes up, people can generally build what they want — where they want in Houston, TX.” [Mr-DJ, commenting on Clearing an Empty Lot in the Museum District]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN NOTHING IS BETTER THAN SOMETHING “. . . this is Houston, where most people think that something is better than nothing (like a WalMart). If you live here long enough, you learn the hard way to stop expecting much from local developers — even those who build amazing things in other cities. They don’t bother here, mostly because they don’t have to. No zoning, no planning, no architectural or design reviews, hell the 4th largest city in the land doesn’t even have an architecture critic on staff anywhere (only food and arts critics in H-town), so no bad reviews — just kudos from the press for ‘at least’ doing something. Houston has become the land of ‘at least’; at least they built something; at least it’s not an empty lot anymore; at least . . . Empty lots are underrated.” [Jon, commenting on Hanover’s Next Apartment Tower for BLVD Place]