06/30/16 12:30pm

Beltway Crossing Northwest Construction Progress, April 2016 Beltway Crossing Northwest Access Map ExcerptMost of the square box just left of center in the above photo was officially leased by Amazon yesterday, reports Cara Smith for the HBJ. The deal is for roughly 100,000 sq.ft. in the Beltway Crossing Northwest business park, located on the other side of 249, Greens Bayou, and an AMC Theater from Willowbrook Mall (as seen in the access map and intended eventual site plan from developer Panattoni). The agreement on the park’s Buildnig 5 was reportedly made official within 24 hours of the commissioners court’s Tuesday vote to approve a larger-than-normal tax abatement deal for a different Amazon facility — the proposed 855,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Pinto Business Park (catty-corner across Beltway 8 and I-45 from Greenspoint Mall). But building permits naming Amazon as the occupant of the Willowbrook site at 11720 N. Gessner Rd. date back to at least 2014.

Here’s a shot of the Pinto site — the park’s 971 acres lie in place next to the Houston National Cemetery (the yet-unoccupied eastern end of which is visible on the far right in the south-facing aerial below):


05/15/14 11:15am

Proposed Aspen Heights Dorms, Cullen Blvd. at Coyle St., East Downtown, Houston

A company that’s been building a growing chain of private college dorms is seeking a 10-year tax abatement from the city to help it build a $56 million 305,076-sq.-ft. complex just north of the Gulf Fwy. from the University of Houston. Houston’s version of Aspen Heights (as the company and all its dorms are named) would sit on 7.7 acres just north of the Catholic Charismatic Center on Cullen Blvd., across the street from the former Finger Furniture warehouse recently purchased by developer Frank Liu. The dorms would sit in the far southeast corner of East Downtown, backing up to the railroad tracks that form the neighborhoods northern and eastern boundary:


A Quarter Mile from Campus
03/14/14 10:30am

Following his report earlier this week on a newly proposed city program that would provide tax incentives for the redevelopment of dilapidated properties, the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris put together a couple of maps identifying all Houston structures with existing “repair, demolish, or secure” orders issued by the city’s Buildings and Standards Commission. The zoomable and clickable map of commercial properties — including apartment buildings of 4 or more units — is shown above. Properties marked with the pin-shaped tags had orders filed in 2013 or 2014. That means redevelopment of those properties would be more likely to qualify for the city’s new tax break — because in order to be accepted into the program, applications would have to be filed within a year of the property receiving a repair-or-demolish order. (The intent is “to prevent slumlords who have sat on shoddy buildings for years from qualifying,” Morris explains.)

The tax-break program isn’t intended to cover residential properties tagged with orders to raze, secure, or bring up to code, but Morris put together a second map showing residences of 3 or fewer units that had received the same kinds of notices from the city:


Repair or Demolish
02/03/14 10:30am

From the self-described “guy with a quadcopter” behind Skyhawk Videos, here’s new aerial footage from high above the brand-spanking-new intersection of I-10 and Houston’s latest orbiting ringroad, the Grand Parkway. The view is primarily to the southeast, with a few tilts and glances in either direction; the new section of State Hwy. 99, aka the Grand Pkwy.’s Segment E, begins in the upper right of the initial image and extends to the lower left, across the Katy Prairie to the outlet mall in Cypress, running over an ancient burial ground in the process. The highway is carrying the last of its free traffic; tolls kicked in on Friday, about a month and a half after the segment opened and just a few days after Skyhawk’s drone shot.

In the lower right of the image is the new 151,600-sq.-ft. Katy Costco and gas station, scheduled to open to the public this Thursday. Its 14-acre site is the focus of its own separate video as well, filmed on January 25th:


Grand Parkway, Costco, Cars!
12/10/13 12:00pm

Rendering of Proposed Developments at Hughes Landing, The Woodlands, Texas

Yes, ExxonMobil has been constructing an enormous new 20-building corporate campus on 386 acres near the intersection of I-45 and the new Grand Parkway, where it plans to consolidate approximately 17,000 employees from several Houston-area and out-of-state locations. But the oil company is apparently planning a bit of a move in the opposite direction at the same time. It now has plans to lease more than 480,000 sq. ft. in 2 new office buildings in a new separate “satellite campus” 7 miles north. This won’t be a contrasting urban setting for workers seeking something similar to the company’s longtime Downtown Houston tower. It’ll be in Hughes Landing (pictured above), the new mixed-use development on the shores of Lake Woodlands in The Woodlands.


When 386 Acres Is Not Enough
08/08/13 11:15am

CHEVRON GETS A CHEVRON-SIZED TAX ZONE DOWNTOWN To further persuade Chevron to build that 50-story tower that it told everyone back in July that it was gonna go ahead and build, city council voted unanimously yesterday to create a tax abatement reinvestment zone for the 2 acres on which the tower would stand at 1600 Louisiana. The resulting cash should help Chevron replace a sewer line on the former Downtown YMCA property, the Houston Chronicle reports. And the Houston Business Journal’s Shaina Zucker adds up all the incentives that might be coming to help out the energy giant: “[The zone] could mean $2.7 million to $3 million for the company . . . . That money would be in addition to the $12 million it could receive from the Texas Enterprise Fund, which Gov. Rick Perry’s office announced in July.” [Houston Chronicle; Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: HOK

10/19/11 10:50am

NEW LAWSUIT SEEKS TO BLOCK WASHINGTON HEIGHTS WALMART TAX DEAL A nonprofit group formed to fight the proposed Washington Heights Walmart in the West End filed a lawsuit in district court yesterday, claiming that the tax reimbursement deal between the city and the project’s developer, Ainbinder Heights LLC, violates state law. Responsible Urban Development for Houston calls the $6 million agreement, in which the city promises to pay the developer back for infrastructure improvements, an “unconstitutional gratuitous transfer” that doesn’t meet state standards. The lawsuit also seeks to shut down all similar agreements established by the city, for “failing to provide sufficient controls to ensure that 380 agreements are not abused as either an end run around bond finance procedures or as political favors returned to well connected developers.” City Council is scheduled to vote on a similar agreement, for a new Kroger on Studemont just south of I-10, today. [Houston Politics; lawsuit; West End Walmart coverage]

10/17/11 10:41am

STUDEMONT KROGER AIMS FOR A CITY TAX DEAL A couple of news bits about the new grocery store Kroger is planning for an 8.5-acre site it purchased in February at 1400 Studemont, just south of I-10 and just north of the Arne’s Warehouse and Party Store: It’ll measure 79,000 sq. ft., and will have a gas station. Plus, Chris Moran reports, Houston’s city council will consider sales and property tax reimbursements to the company of as much as $2.5 million. The proposed deal would require the company to create 170 jobs at the location for 13 years and donate $40,000 for improvements to Olivewood Cemetery across the street. [Houston Politics; previously on Swamplot]

02/11/11 3:44pm

An effort led by former Houston mayor Lee P. Brown to recruit wealthy Chinese investors for a proposed 1000-room East Downtown hotel project on the opposite side of the 59 freeway from the George R. Brown convention center appears to be picking up steam. Brown is listed as chairman of the managing general partner of the project, a company named Global Century Development. Brown and Global Century’s president, Dan Nip, hope to raise money for the $225 million project from investors who want to immigrate to the U.S. through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ EB-5 Visa program. That program, established as a result of the Immigration Act of 1990, allows foreign nationals to obtain a green card by investing a minimum of $500,000 — and thereby create 10 or more jobs — in qualified areas with high unemployment rates. An East Downtown investment zone identified by Global Century Development in the area bounded by Preston St., the 59 Freeway, I-45, and Dowling is the only area in Houston that qualifies as a “regional center” under the program.

A Powerpoint presentation prepared by Global Century Development that appears to date from last year sites the proposed hotel on three adjacent blocks near Saint Emanuel and Polk St. But a report in today’s Houston Business Journal by Jennifer Dawson indicates plans for the East Downtown hotel are focused on only 2 of those blocks, which Nip controls: They’re bounded by Polk, Saint Emanuel, Bell, and Chartres. Dawson reports that a pedestrian bridge connecting the hotel to the convention center across the freeway is being planned, but a schematic drawing of a bridge featured in the presentation appears to show it only crossing Chartres St., requiring pedestrians to cross under the freeway:


07/28/10 11:41am

CITY TAX INCENTIVES TO HELP WALMART BUILD IN THE WEST END? Mayor Parker tells the Houston Press‘s Christopher Patronella Jr. that the city has been discussing the possibility of a tax-incentive agreement with the developer of the 25-acre site off Yale St. in the West End — where Walmart is planning to build a new store: “‘The city is not negotiating with [Walmart]. However, there are ongoing conversations with the developer regarding a 380 Agreement, which allows for the dedication of future tax revenues from a qualifying project to be used as reimbursement to the developer for necessary infrastructure improvements. 380 Agreements are authorized under state law and have been used previously by the city. This is still not a done deal.’ The 380 agreements, as established by the Texas Local Government Code, authorize cities to refund a portion of projected sales-tax income over a period of time. From Jan 1, 2000 to May 21, 2008, according to the City of Austin’s peer city comparison of economic development agreements, Houston has among the lowest number of such agreements with 11, next to Austin with 7. San Antonio is next in line with 43 and Dallas and Fort Worth with a combined 85. City spokesperson Janice Evans told Hair Balls that the city generally considers projects that are at least $25 million, require substantial new public infrastructure and create a measurable number of new jobs, for the 380 agreements. “The major project that I can point you to that utilized these same concepts is the planned [Regent Square] redevelopment of the former Allen House site. That project will eventually be a $750 million investment.'” [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot]