Construction Work Has Begun on the Ashby Highrise

Construction Crew at Ashby Highrise Site, 1717 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, HoustonWhat? No friendly neighborhood groundbreaking celebration? No pics of developers and local politicos wearing hard hats and wielding pointless shovels? A mere 7 years after Buckhead Investment Partners first quietly upgraded utility service, prepared traffic-impact studies, and replatted the property of the former Maryland Manor Apartments hoping no one would notice, some sort of construction work appears to have begun on the 21-story apartment tower planned for 1717 Bissonnet St. At least that’s what this photo, taken at the scene and sent this afternoon to Swamplot by a reader, appears to show. Last week, a district court judge refused to grant an injunction that would have blocked the building’s construction.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Moving Dirt

28 Comment

  • Bravo………
    Build it !!!

  • Common sense and reason has won in the end. Here’s to more high-rise construction in the inner loop in the future.

  • Build , build ,build. And the naysayers in Southampton need to get the frick over themselves. PERMANENTLY! You’re not that important,you obstructionists. These are some of the SAME negative Nancy’s who voted AGAINST zoning laws. Well it has bit you naysayers in the ass. Your property values has/will continue to INCREASE. BTW, I was in Highland Village today supporting the economy (among the stores I was in today : hello Central Market- very tasty watermelon /cantaloupe and myriad fresh baked breads .) On the way to visit a friends nearby boutique : . com. I passed the 2727 Weslayan residential building @ the North East corner of Weslayan & W.Alabama -on the site of the old Confederate Steak house. It is now 40 stories (originally 35 stories ) . Houston is in an amazing growth phase..Again..Build I say ,build .

  • Rise high, Ashby!

  • I really don’t get the super pro-Ashby comments in every article. This isn’t really that black and white of an issue, and the developers aren’t some amazing urban density knights in shining armor, fighting off the barbarian hordes of greedy property owners. Both sides have a point, and both sides fought their hardest for their own interest. Now we move on.

    But “yay, build it!” x20 in every article?

    Either every commenter is a developer, partially braindead, or there’s something astroturfy going on.

    No sir, I don’t like the smell of it.

  • While I believe development was ultimately to come I personally grieve at the increased traffic and can understand the homeowners’ opposition …. the roads are narrow and generally at capacity already. I will definitely try to avoid the area especially during the construction phase.

    The question now is not if the traffic will come but how to best handle it. As the Ashby high-rise is essentially a “block buster” announcements of new construction will appear, so widening Bissonet St. to at least four lanes will soon be necessary. Is there enough setback to do so without confiscation of private property? Of course the city will have to bear all the costs of widening (essentially a “gimmie” to the developer). Would this widening have happened anyway? Perhaps, but locating a major new building, and it’s traffic, next to major thoroughfares, is much more logical route of development.

    In full disclosure, I too am facing a similar situation with the site clearance for the 20 story Chelsea Montrose tower. While I do not plan on suing the developer (the site is at least reasonably located for development) I might ask for an injunction against construction traffic which is already using our narrow neighborhood streets.

  • I guess a good reason I’m not a developer is that I would have quietly decided to make this a low income housing unit, and apply for federal funding after it was built (assuming you can do that). They can still choose to make it a halfway house for affluent sex offenders, right?

  • Don’t look for the City to widen Bissonnet anytime soon regardless of what is built on it. Putting money back into infrastructure is a foreign concept here. You can’t even get a traffic signal upgrade much less a turn lane here unless there is a 380 agreement attached to it.

  • I only keep up with this when I come back to the Houston office, but having grown up around the location, unless flood mitigation is a major consideration, I think the homeowners will have a hearty laugh the first time one of Houston’s legendary October or April monsoons occurs after the building is occupied. They will drive up the wide well-drained streets to the safety of their garages, mix a drink and watch Channel 13 interviewing residents who are paying a small fortune to live in Ashby creep a centimetre at a time up and down the cramped confines of Bissonnet, trying to get into the entrance queue before they wet their seats.

  • Feared traffic density related to construction of highrise apt/condo buildings is severely over estimated. Traffic flow in and out of the garages is spread out throughout the course of the day, so the increased number of cars will be mostly unnoticed at any point in time on any given day. There are more traffic concerns associated with a drive thru at Starbucks when the line backs ups on to the street, thereby interfering with cars which are trying to get around the line. People do crazy things with their cars when trying to get in line for their coffee.

  • Oh yes! As a long-time resident of (nowhere near this area) I am so happy this is being built! This is going to make my life so much better. Rise, Ashby, rise, I say!!!!! Bwahahahahahaha!!!!!!

  • @escout Isn’t it possible that the increased trips will be distributed “bimodally”, with a peak during morning rush hour as people leave, then again when they come home? You know, when there’s already traffic on Bissonnet?

    @JT You are absolutely right – our infrastructure is completely neglected within the loop (where I mostly live and drive, hard to comment about other areas). You would think that COH could use some of the new tax money to improve the streets. Nope, keep dreaming (and keep calling 311 to report potholes!).

    @WR Widening Bissonnet is desperately needed. I don’t see any way to do it without taking private property, mostly on the north side of the street. It needs doing, but the “winners” will be the commuters like me, while the “losers” will be the property owners nearby. It’s insane that from the largest medical center in the world, there is no easy way to get on the 59 from the Medical center. And that the last segment of MacGregor leaving the medical center, trying to get on 288 looks like it belongs in Tijuana. I have complained about that section several times and gotten potholes fixed from time to time but a complete repaving is always several years away.

    Now that they have torn up the 59 frontage roads for no good reason, my 6-mile commute home from the medical center is entirely on surface streets. WTF? We need a traffic plan and cops directing traffic at rush hour leaving the med center!

  • @etherist. Do we really need to obliterate hundreds of old live oaks on Bissonnet just so you can have a quicker 6 mile commute home from the medical center?. What’s wrong with you moving to Riverside?

  • @lhd – 106,000 people work in the medical center. Should they all live in Riverside Terrace, which has 1,315 houses?

    If you disagree that the TMC needs a comprehensive traffic plan, fine. Such a plan would involve tradeoffs, hopefully discussed in the light of day, with public comment. One of the options might be to widen Bissonnet. I will be fine, whatever happens to Bissonnet. I use it as an alternate route to my alternate route.

    But Houston has changed since that area was platted, and the roads need to keep pace with the population growth and traffic patterns. Which other east-west street should I take? Holcomb, a mile and a half to the south? Richmond? I would gladly take Main to the 59 freeway, but the city/TXDOT managed to completely bungle the Wheeler entrance to the 59 from Main. I would take public transit, but my round-trip commute is currently about half an hour, and on public transit it would be an hour and a half.

  • Oh the horde of traffic that will come as the site transforms from a 79 unit apartment complex to a 131 unit condo tower. The horror, the horror that those extra 52 units will bring upon the neigborhood!

  • @etherist. Unless people like sitting in traffic they need to plan to live near where they work. Why not just get a place at the Ashby highrise like a lot of the other posters here are going to do? It is certainly closer to the medical center.

  • @Jardinero1 – Good point about the actual impact on traffic, when you put it like that. I think the posters with the scary building-monster may have had their desired effect.
    @lhd – I agree that people should live near where they work. There are a lot of things people _should_ do. That’s why I live _relatively_ near the medical center, and not in Pearland or Sugar Land or Sienna Plantation or wherever. 8 or 9 minutes going to work (off peak), but a dysfunctional 20 to 25 minutes going home (peak). But not everyone can afford to live right near the medical center. Are they not allowed to have reasonable roads to commute on? Should every aspect of Houston infrastructure stay the same as when it was built in the 40s or 50s? What about (gasp) couples where both partners work? Should they both work at the same job, or each maintain an apartment close to their own job? Then I suppose they’d also better move every 3 or 4 years: “The average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that.”
    It’s a good thing no one’s put you in charge of things, lhd.

  • All of you Robin Hoods who support the poor, little developers against the big, rich homeowners, you are confused. The developers are the ones with the enormous wealth—and influence. You do not know their names. The names are hidden behind corporations, LLC’s, and silent Partnerships. As to wealth, look at the money developers have spent to cram a 200 unit high-rise onto an acre + lot. Seven years of litigation, against the city and the homeowners, and the result predictably is that they won to right to build the thing in a residential neighborhood. The losers are not only the neighboring residents. The losers are the commuters and taxpayers. They have to pay for the widening of Bissonnet…that was the objective in the first place.

  • This topic is getting old…

  • It’s my understanding that the long term plan for traffic leaving the Med Center was for it to move down Main St., Fannin and San Jacinto the freeways. For whatever reason, the Med Center has instead used Bissonnet as a cut-through to 59 South. I predict that the construction of the high-rise (or whatever else might have been built there) will have a chilling effect on this cut-through traffic. New traffic patterns will develop and when construction is over, it will be a long time, if ever, before Med Center traffic resumes.
    And, high rises are not like apartment complexes. There are lots of retirees, few people with children; they are generally well off and have smaller percentage of 8-5 workers than in the general population. I don’t think Ashby will generate significantly more traffic than its predecessor, Maryland Manor, did.

  • “This topic is getting old…”

    It was old when it began seven years ago. And if they can find a way to appeal the judge’s denial of the permanent restraining order, it will probably be old seven years from now. But it’s been watching a bunch of pretentious spoiled brats throw their money and their weight around I must say.

  • What a great point about only FIFTY TWO additional units being added to the site. The traffic argument just doesn’t hold up. While I don’t think the tower is appropriate to the neighborhood, this is Houston and Houstonians have consistently voted against zoning. I get the impression many of these protesters just are not used to being told what to do.

  • @Jardinero1- As a soon-to-be ex-Southamptonite, I was never quite sure what to make of the traffic debate. Your point — unknown to me previously — is excellent, and a nice departure from the typical celebratory grave-dancing that accompanies most Swamplot stories about Ashby. Thank you for that insight.

  • For you 52 more units people I’ll warn you against just jumping on a number somebody else throws out. While there may only be a 50-80 unit increase in the property, the residents will be a majorly different kind of neighbor. I used to see lines waiting for the bus, or people walking or riding bikes all day every day from the Maryland Manor apartments. I rarely saw cars leaving and almost never blocking any traffic to do so. The folks living at MM were students or young professionals from the Med Center/Rice. Not the kind of folks who drive in and out all day. Additionally, they were small units and I am going to guess more of the new Ashby Highrise tenants will be doubling it up with two or more drivers.

    If you’ve ever tried to make a turn to or from Ashby or Dunlavy and Bissonnet then you know that every car in front of you at the stop sign is 30 seconds to a minute longer you have to wait to make the turn.

    Construction already has impacted traffic. They have Ashby down to one lane and they kept blocking half a lane of Bissonnet today.

  • Houston has its “no zoning” and Las Vegas has its “legalized prostitution” as claims to fame–both are just different forms of exploitation.
    When citizens–neither rich nor poor– can get a fair shake in this city and city leaders are oblivious to land use or traffic planning–time to stop boasting about the greatness of Houston. It is in sad decline.

  • The Ashby development uproar has caused great concern to all advocates for strong property rights and free markets.

    Houston is a growing world class city with a high standard of living and the best economic value in the United States. Curiously, there are no natural attributes that warrant Houston’s growth and prosperity. Houston is geographically undesirable with poor weather, unattractive topography (no hills, valleys or mountains), little indigenous vegetation, no redeeming body of water (no rivers, lakes or ocean) and lacks any strategic location within the United States.

    So, how did Houston become such a world class city? Some reasons offered are its vast natural resources like oil and gas or it’s ship channel, medical center, world renown energy industry, its high tech industry, etc. But Houston has little oil and natural gas and it’s prowess in industry is a byproduct of Houston’s “special sauce”.

    Houston’s “special sauce” is it’s political system advocating strong property rights and a free real estate market, which permeates all aspects of Houston’s social and economic environment. Houston is by far the most capitalist region in the United States.

    Houston is the only densely populated city in the world with no zoning. The absence of zoning and restrictive land use regulations enable Houston to naturally adapt and grow. No other region in the United States can compete with Houston’s dynamism.

    The Ashby outcome will define Houston’s future. Houston desperately needs to repel the pressures toward Government interference and the pollution of its “special sauce”.

  • I really wish Rice could buy this place and turn it into grad student/visiting scholars apartments. They need it desperately, and it would keep the place from causing traffic issues since all the students would walk/bike/or take the Rice shuttle for the most part.