Comment of the Day: The Qualities That Make Houston So Special

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE QUALITIES THAT MAKE HOUSTON SO SPECIAL “Only in Houston can a building be ‘impossible’ to renovate to another use; and the citizens believe it. Try telling that BS to New Yorkers, Parisians, Bostonians, or even the folks in NOLA. Houstonians are a rare breed of gullible; and developers here (including MDAnderson) are a rare breed of lame.” [JON, commenting on The Last Remaining Piece of the Prudential Tower] Illustration: Lulu

27 Comment

  • Sad, but true.

  • Just to add… only in America can a building that was considered state-of-the-art for office use 60 years ago be considered obsolete today. I understand asbestos and new fire & handicapped codes, but the whole “ceilings are low”/”bathrooms are small” argument is a different matter. As usual, what would be tastefully renovated and reused in Germany or London is thrown away in the world’s most wasteful society.

  • It has also a lot to do with cost. A lot of the times in Houston, it’s cheaper to demolish and build a new structure which will fit in more efficiently with a desired purpose. In New York due to regulations, unionized cost of construction, etc, the repurposing round may be cheaper.

  • Save the Dome!

  • I think the correct description would be “indifferent” not gullible. Believe it or not, everyone else is not an idiot. Most people here simply don’t care how other people spend their money. For better or worse that includes tearing down buildings to build newer, shinier ones.

  • No need to travel so far, just go to San Antonio. There is a fantastic old building in downtown San Antonio that was built in the 1870s that currently houses a McDonald’s. Yes, a McDonald’s restaurant.

  • +1000 UrbanNomad

  • @UrbanNomad and @commonsense amen brothers or sisters. And I might add, London and Paris are well on their way to being 2000 years old, both cities saw entire neighborhoods razed at various times in their histories to make room for new and “better.” What would Paris look like today if preservationists has forced it to keep its medieval street grid?

  • Oh yes, let’s shill for that enlightened despot Napoleon III, who I might add had paris rebuilt so his armies could round up the rabble and push then into the rond ponts. Are you really comparing Houston to Paris????? and if you notice that little pile 12 miles to the South, Versailles or that little tower, the Eiffel, have they been torn down??? of course not, nor has Notre Dame or The Concierge, geez, seriously???

  • The Prudential Bldg would have made for awesome student housing. There are thousands of people at school at UTHSC, Baylor Med, TWU, Prairie View Nursing, etc… and yet only one official TMC housing option. That needs to change if we’re going to continue to compete with the best medical centers, med schools, and schools of nursing. Housing in Houston, especially inside the loop, is no longer affordable and we should be giving future doctors and nurses some financial relief. Wasted opportunity.

  • How many people have tried to deal with the city on fixing up or converting an old building for a new use?
    Not fun. Easier to knock it down. There has to be a reason to keep an old structure vs. build new. Typically it’s financial. So what would make a demo + rebuild more financially advantageous? Either the building is so bad it has a negative value, or the government makes it so onerous that it’s not worth it.

  • You’re so correct that Houston should look to San Antonio for preservation, there is a reason people love San Antonio but are ambiviant toward Houston. San Antonio understands how to rehab old great buildings, Houston just bulldozes them then normally replaces it with something far inferior. The student housing idea was a good one, too bad

  • Cody +10: spoke with someone at the old Customs House Rusk & Fannin, the front entrance door is without a door-closer. The old door-closers have to be replaced with new ones that mean drilling 4 new holes in 2 wooden doors (total of 8). The holes have to be approved. Have passed thru those doors for 1 year and have not seen any progress. Nothing stopped the city from pounding the sh*t out of marble/wood to install cameras & monitors on ugly cantilevered mounts, however.

    And let’s be realistic about commercial building materials from the 1960s to the present. I’ve been in refurbished buildings on Millbank in London, you’re talking stone, solid wood beams. Here you’re talking wallboard, aluminum, asbestos, and panelboard, hardly a foundation to build on unless you have an “I love old moldy carcinogenic crap fetish.”

    Concur with the statements on Paris & London, Christopher Wren & Baron Hausmann would have driven a bulldozer had they been blessed with one. Any visitor to Paris would say, “hey where did this lovely slope on the Champs Elysee come from, it’s not native, I miss the Roman- and Medieval-era plague-ridden heritage.” If the ones bringing private capital here are also armed with bulldozers, so be it, better that than Victory Parks (Dallas) and government-sanctioned black holes.

  • Totally, the city does next to nothing to help preserve buildings, quite the opposite actually. They call it pro business, but it’s very short sighted, but the city has a short term attitude about everything, I’ve never lived in a city that cared less about itself

  • Just face it, compared to Paris & London, Houston is just a cheap little whore.

  • Putting things in perspective and being frank, there really is nothing architecturally old in this city. How could there be? The city was founded in 1836 and didn’t grow in earnest until the 20th century.

    Preservation of historically meaningful structures has my interest and even support but a structure that extends decades into the past and has no historical relevance doesn’t.

    Look at Lima or Mexico City having been founded in the 1500s or to the older still european cities. Again, I invoke perspective and sincerely don’t see many parallels along preservation lines.

  • Does the argument that “Houston isn’t an old city like _______ and therefore has no history worth preserving” make anyone else’s head hurt?

  • Actually, WASP, the point was not to compare Houston to Paris. I used Paris and London as examples to illustrate that we are talking about cities in very different stages of their evolution. You make reference to Notre Dame de Paris, well, a 4th century Merovingian basilica was torn down to make way for it. The point is, Paris became Paris only after thousands of buildings, some of them very old and very significant, were torn down.

  • It is true that a lot of the great old buildings in cities like Paris were built on the ruins of previous great old buildings. An even better example might be Vatican City, where the original St. Peter’s Basilica built by Constantine was cheerfully razed in the 16th century to make room for the new super-St. Peter’s.

    But you’re missing a crucial factor here – in most of those cases, there was no room to build new buildings without tearing down old ones. Those cities had walls and the buildings inside them were lined cheek by jowl. In the case of the churches usually the spot was sacred, e.g. the tomb of St. Peter was somewhere underneath, so the need for expansion meant replacing the old instead of building next to it or somewhere else.

    But Houston is blessed with unlimited space. M.D. Anderson for instance might have built a new building in the parking lot where they demolished the Shamrock Hotel 25 years ago. Or ventured south of Brays Bayou, where development let’s say is somewhat less dense than medieval Paris. Also, some of the things those European cities did where genuine historic losses, and remain so to this day. Has anything great replaced the lost Abbey of Cluny? Or if Paris had gone ahead with plans to level Notre Dame cathedral before Victor Hugo wrote his novel, do you think they could have replaced it with something better?

    This building was possibly Houston’s best example of the postwar/early modern era of highrise architecture. It should have been preserved.

  • So some of you want Houston developers to build on new land, which will further spread the city out, while at the same time leaving empty eye sores behind. Or alternatively, you suggest that we preserve 1950 and 1960 buildings and rehab them on the inside. The city would like a cold-war city in Russia with no updated buildings. No thank you — I say raze these dilapidated buildings, and build new. If there is something really worth preserving, I’m all for it. But most of these old buildings are not worth preserving.

  • I love reading comments from our real estate investor and developers friends who do not see or understand the value in salvaging older homes/buildings. I also love reading their complaints about COH’s minimal/laughable pro-development “restrictions” as some sort of tool of communistic oppression. I guess if I agreed the profits and bottom line of real estate investors/developers are more important than the quality of life of every single other person in Houston, I could possibly see their points. However, because I don’t care about their profits or their bottom line, I don’t see their points. Instead, I see these people and their friends as vultures, slowly picking away at the bones of our city. My community does what little it can to swat away the vultures, and I am heartened to see others in other communities doing the same, but unless the City’s short sighted attitude toward development at any cost changes, we can count on “development” eroding the rest of the inner-loop.

  • Blame Prudential. They built it, then abandoned it in the mid 70’s. Well, not abandoned–they got a pretty good chunk of change. If it was so great, whey didn’t they stay?

    Now, everybody go over to another story where you can lament somebody’s plans to build an evil highrise in Houston.

  • htownproud – plenty of low density land to build on right inside the loop, esp. the south loop

  • @mel, is it your belief that it’s perfectly OK to cost a developer millions of dollars to satisfy your aesthetic sensibilities? Even if it’s far more economic to demolish and build new with modern techniques, energy efficiency, and life safety designs?

  • Ross- only millions?

  • Amen Maggie May!

  • Houston sux