Houston’s Friendliest Neighborhood; Is the Food Truck Fad Over?

Yale and Kohler construction

Photo of construction at Yale and Kohler: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool


18 Comment

  • I never understood the food truck thing. “Hey, let’s track down where food is being served, so we can stand in the heat to pay a lot of money for small portions and eat sitting on a curb with utensils and plates that crumble in our hands!”

  • The “fad” element of the food truck thing is passing. But food trucks are here to stay as they fill gaps in food service. They do very well when paired with bars that do not offer food service. They are also great at big events and festivals. Instead of getting some overcooked burgers and nasty turkey legs, people can get very creative restaurant quality food through food trucks. And they are still a great way for talented chefs to get into the restaurant business. The initial investment is very manageable. Chefs are their own boss and can experiment freely with their cooking. They get lots of time to perfect dishes and have very little learning curve when they open a brick and mortar store.

  • Old School got it right here..

    The only fad part that is dying is actually ‘following’ food trucks around. Many are now stationary and easily found near or in some cases in bars (see East Side King trucks in Austin). Some are now relocated to food truck ‘parks’ where you can find multiple in one place.

    It’s becoming more of a bar + food truck culture and less of seeking out food trucks specifically just for lunch/dinner.

  • Yeah, I never thought of food trucks of a fad, but more of a necessity of the times. You can either try to convince a bank to give you a $300K-$500K loan to start a brick and mortar restaurant or $50K -$75K for a food truck. Once you build up a customer base and a more recognizable brand, then it’s easier to convince investors to help you move into a less mobile location. They’re easy to start, marketing expenses are low — you don’t need to hire sign twirlers since you’re driving a big billboard all over town and Twitter is free. Excuse me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the transition into a brick and mortar location the goal all along? I think we’re just on the first wave of that.

  • Great. 400 new apartments out in The Woodlands. It’s all fine and dandy now, but what happens in 15 years when the apartments are dated and the young professionals who work for Exxon aren’t interested any more?
    I know, I know. We’re not supposed to care about that. Live for the moment. Never question a developer if he sees profits. But I can’t help it. I really do wonder.

  • zaw: I buy my daughter shoes knowing she’ll out grow them and they’ll wear out. A developer is building g housing to fill a need. Who knows if that need will be there a generation from now. It would be hard to build things under such criteria. They do assume the demand will be there long enough to service the note or funds to build however.

  • ZAW,

    There are also apartments that stay full besides aging. Bayou Park on Memorial behind St. Thomas High School is 40+ years old and has waiting lists. It is full of you professionals.

    Allen House still has many apartments left that are full also even with the nearby high-rise construction.

    Westcreek is also old. The only reason it is going away is not because of vacancy, but for redevelopment.

    The longevity of an apartment complex has many factors, but deciding whether one can be built only if it is known that they will be still full and needed 15 years from construction is not one of them.

  • As food trucks were around before they were considered a fad, I assume they’ll still exist after the fad is over.

  • ZAW,

    If the location ispopular, they can convert to condos like many properties along buffalo bayou and then the residents have an inexpensive option for buying in the “then” Woodlands metropolis. If Exxon moves out, the Woodlands becomes outer Gunspoint. Its all about jobs and growth. Nothing looks pretty if things reverse…but if they didn’t build to meet capacity, the area stagnates regardless. Prosperity takes a lot of factors coming together.

  • @Cody: I’m not trying to make accusations against multifamily developers here. These are serious questions that we need to ask for the sake of our Region’s future. They go to matters of socio-economics, government finances, urbanism, the law, and quality of life. If you want to see what can happen if nobody asks the questions, just look at Westwood or Greenspoint.

  • I’m also not trying to suggest a litmus test where apartment complexes can only be built if they can prove they’ll be fully occupied in 15 years. I’d much rather have a government program, paid for with fees on new multifamily development, to help pick up the pieces when apartment complexes hit the skids. Right now there are programs that can be used this way, but nothing formal.

  • I’m ready for a new fad: quiet food trucks. The ones we have are LOUD. There must be some way to muffle those generators.

  • ZAW, it’s not really the multi-family complex’s fault that they go downhill, it’s just that they are the first to be affected when the neighborhood they are in loses out on the popularity lottery.
    Because rentals are set up for short tenancy, when the neighborhood they are in becomes less desirable, their short term tenants with disposable income move on to the next hot area, leaving management to lower the rents or offer some other incentive to get people to sign leases. Houses in the same neighborhood will also decline, as purchasers offer less money for houses that come on the market. Houses decline at a slower rate as the cost of moving out is higher that leaving an apartment at the end of your lease. Sharpstown didn’t decline because too many apartments were built there per se, it declined as more and more units of housing were built in Missouri City, and Sugar Land, and Rosenburg that made Sharpstown no longer the new, desirable area to live in.
    So the question is, what can we do to keep our neighborhoods desirable to new people entering the area, whether as renters or purchasers? Over the last 3 decades, new development in the Houston region has spread ever outwards due to lots of available raw land. We may now be at a tipping point where the cost and time value of a commute from, say, 40 miles out, becomes too much to bear for many people. so exurbs like The Woodlands might continue to be strong communities, but not as many units of housing stock are built beyond these exurbs in the future to deplete The Woodlands’ allure.

  • @Shady Heightster: there are other fundamental problems with apartments, beyond just the transitory nature of their tenants. The owners of apartments are usually far wealthier than the tenants and the neighbors, which means the we have little recourse, other than to leave, should there be problems. The owner of a large apartment complex decides maintenance for a whole city block’s worth of buildings. If he happens to be a slum lord who defers maintenance, that whole city block goes downhill fast. And to top it all off, apartments in Houston are sold on average every 8 years, with every sale being a roll of the dice as to whether the new owner will take better or worse care of it than the old owner.
    That said. you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph when you asked: “what can we do to keep our neighborhoods in high demand?” That is the million dollar question, and it’s got a lot of answers. A good balance of housing types and costs is important. A balance of uses is even more important. Easy access to other parts of the City is necessary. The schools need to be good, or at least there has to be magnets and charters around. Taxes need to be favorable. Access to parks and greenways is a huge thing. Protections must be in place to prevent dumps, halfway houses, or other LULUs from coming in. The biggest thing is that there has to be low crime. I won’t get into this because I’d wind up writing a book.

  • @Memebag
    That’s the worst part about the food trucks for me too. They’re around 105 dB. I don’t know how loud it is inside the trucks, but I would imagine that it violates the OSHA rules for the employees in these vehicles – can’t exceed 105 dB for more than 1 hour per day.

  • ZAW, you are so right (as usual)–it’s hard to explain to someone who didn’t live in Houston in the early 80’s, what a disaster in the making this all could be–I grew up in the 80’s in Houston, believe me you’re preaching to the choir –Houston was just lucky the city bounced back and has sort of absorbed a lot of the over development, but just look at the Gulfton Ghetto, in the shadow of the iconic Galleria, or Greenspoint as you noted–just to name a few, it made Southwest Houston a thug ghetto overnight, with some of the highest murder rates in the city—you can just see the Developers doing it all again, do they ever learn–in reality, they don’t give a shit about Houston, all they care about is a short term profit then we are left to deal with their mess.

  • In regard to apartment slums, please note that most of these apartments were built and designed for singles. When Federal Law outlawed these properties as discriminatory
    against families in the mid 1980s, things went downhill. Of course in true fashion, it was
    still okay to have seniors communities. So
    Overcrowding occurred in the complexes as well
    As the surrounding schools whose facilities
    were not planned for the population.

  • “Can Houston Learn To Love Light Rail?” That title makes me cringe. I have tried to love the light rail for years and i have received very little love in return. I want the rail to succeed more than most and a fairly active rider, but am disappointed more often than not. Weather, density, etc are all factors that hurt the rails chances, but nothing has killed off rail more than the fact that it is ran by a corrupt, inefficient, governmental organization.