The Last Stand of the Ashby Highrise Impediment Apartments

There they go: The Maryland Manor Apartments received their demolition permit on Friday, clearing the ground for the Ashby Highrise. Salvaging work inside these 10 structures at 1717 Bissonnet St. is reported to begin today, prepping the fought-over Boulevard Oaks corner for the 21-story, 228-unit residential tower. The final few tenants were seen moving out of Maryland Manor at the end of March.


Photos: Candace Garcia

58 Comment

  • The real question is what is going to happen to all those yellow signs?

  • Rex, I’m no supporter of the tower, but the signs are a blight that will be a relief to be rid of.

  • It’s still a stupid location for that tall of a building.

  • Build Baby Build!

  • GREAT!!! Glad this project didn’t die from political pressure to subvert development rules.

  • @rex: haha! A valid question. Now what will all those folks do since their beloved cause is dead? Maybe protest something yoga or pilate-related? Thats my hunch.

  • I’m getting a Mariachi band ready to parade on the streets 24/7 past every house with a yellow sign.

  • but the signs are a blight that will be a relief to be rid of.

    hate to break it to you, but those signs won’t go away just because the tower gets built; reference the evergreeen crop of “stop heights walmart”……srsly people, the war is over

  • Finally some progress. I always have fun explaining to out of town guests what those signs are. For my benefit, I hope they stay up for a while longer, at least until the building is finished and their predictions come to pass. As an aside, I do feel bad for the lawn people who have to mow around them each week…they are unsung heroes in this drama.

  • How dare you all criticize the signs that property owners put on their own private property, which they own.

  • ugh, was hoping demo would wait until school was out. That street is going to become a worse nightmare. Ahh, well. This, too, shall pass.

  • Criticism is well and okay. If these people who are criticizing the sign owners went to city council to have them remove the signs saying they were a distraction to drivers or some such nonsense, that would be on level with the sign owners.

  • @Robert – “How dare you all criticize the signs that property owners put on their own private property, which they own.”

    My head is spinning with all the possible interpretations of that comment.

    Is it sarcasm directed at those defending Ashby Hi-Rise (AHR) on property rights grounds but then then criticize others for the signs they put on their own property? Or were you defending the property rights of those who want to deny the AHR developers their property rights?

  • This snarky schadenfreude aimed at the anti-highrise homeowners in this neighborhood is completely inappropriate. There is nothing more NIMBY-esque than the question of whether or not property owners should have a say in how their neighborhoods are developed.

  • I just want the Tower of Terror to be painted yellow with the giant black sponge figure painted on the side of the building to piss off the neighbors forever.

  • I’ve always been amused that the principals in Buckhead Partners development live in Southside Place and West University Place, 2 areas with zoning that would never allow a building like Ashby to be constructed there. Obviously they voted to live in a zoned community with their wallets.

  • The signs are the sign of the many angry, narcissistic neighbors that fully intend to hold onto their anger. BOCA/Southampton has already made it known that they intend to be nasty neighbors, contrary to neighborliness that is such a fine quality about both neighborhoods…? Rather than channeling all of the collective engergy into positive change for the entire city, these people intend to be horrible and some will probably die youger than before due to their very own negative energy. Grow up!

  • Walt–All of the above! Because property rights are more important than all other rights!

  • From the “Stop the Monster From Eating Southampton” website:

    “2. A unique tag has been created within the 311 system that denotes a problem regarding 1717 Bissonnet/AHR, and the constituent.”

    Nice to know City Hall is still “aiding and abetting” in the ongoing harassment of the developers…

  • Does anyone remember the net gain of residents will be after the project is finished?

  • Objectively it’s a terrible place for a high rise. As anyone who has ever traveled down that stretch of Bissonnet can tell you. Calling it “The Tower of Traffic” allows for a good “I told you so moment” in a few years.

    Most of the Anti-Anti Ashby complaints come from people that never enter the area which is completely ridiculous because what’s more absurd than pompously telling others from afar to shut up about what’s going on in their own backyards?

  • I’ve said since the beginning of this stupid fiasco that what I really, sincerely wanted was for the Ashby Hi-Rise to be constructed in *precisely* the same manner as depicted on those silly yellow signs. Namely, that the building have a menacing, toothy smile and large flailing arms that scoop unsuspecting motorists into its steely maw of doom. Of course, when people realize I’m being serious the conversation turns awkward and promptly moves to more entertaining subject matter.

  • While I wish Houston had zoning, it doesn’t. Residents have every right to protest, and unfortunately, the developers (given that they’ve been granted clearance) have every right to move forward. It would be my hope that the developers of this building understand, intrinsically, that their high rise is going into a residential neighborhood. They should responsibly make every effort to involve the neighbors who’ve cultivated this pocket of Houston into such a desirable location, on how to make such a building fit the landscape as seamlessly as humanly possible. Let the Museum Tower in Dallas be a lesson to us all on the woes of building a high rise in a beautiful arts district, because it’s a beautiful arts district, and destroying the heart of the district in the building process. There has to be some common ground in this situation, but it’s going to depend on both sides to find that, cultivate it, and work together, to make the best of this situation.

  • “There is nothing more NIMBY-esque than the question of whether or not property owners should have a say in how their neighborhoods are developed.”

    They do. They’re called deed restrictions, and any neighborhood can get together and come up with them.

  • @23, Emily,

    It’s probably a little late for all that.

  • I agree with miss Msry, tht is a really stupid location for a tower of that height. There are so many better places it could have been. If they had gotten the site over at 59 and Greenbriar before the Audi dealership got it -imagine how cool that’d have been as a site for condos. Great restaurants right at your doorstep. The freeway right there for your current commuting needs. If METRO gets their act together and builds the Richmond line, light rail a short walk away. I’d have paid good money to live in a condo there.
    But alas. The war is over. Unless Buckhead Development calls it off, the Ashby High Rise is going up on Bissonnet. And I suspect now they’re going to build it just as a matter of principle, or to cut their losses – or both. Can’t say I’d buy one.

  • UGH! This story won’t die! Just build the stupid highrise already! This story has been going for years. Do these developers have the money to build this building? After all this fighting, they just drag their feet. Either build it or go back to Atlanta or wherever these idoits are from

  • Hey, except for the glass killing the Nasher, I like the Museum Tower. It’s a much prettier building than this cheap thing they’re building on Ashby I can assure you of that. Have you seen the specks for this thing. It’s just a brick slab, sort of cheap pre fab Georgian. It’s horrid, but hey, they have the right to build it. Personally, I’d rather the Museum Tower on Ashby, it’s a least a beautiful building.

  • Inwood and Willowick Towers didn’t DESTROY River Oaks. Four Leaf Towers didn’t DESTROY Tanglewood. Tealstone Tower didn’t DESTROY Tealwood. Traffic is only bad during rush hours, like it is almost everywhere. There won’t be anymore cars coming/going from this building than there are coming/going from the Rice Graduate Housing Complex a few block away. When Ashby is built and fully occupied, nothing much will change; and the lunacy of these NIMBY fools will be revealed.

  • yes, yes Jon, but still I wish the developers were not building on the cheap. The Four Leaf Towers were designed by a famous architect and are beautiful, this thing is designed by some developer, you just know it’s going to be so cheap and mediocre, like that Museum thing Finger’s built. Yes, condo towers like The Huntingdon or The Warrick can work great. Yes they’re tall, but they’re attractive buildings, this thing is an speck pre fab thing that it seems they will throw up in 9 months when they start it. It’s sad the prettiest neighborhood in Houston will get an very average to less than average slab hovering over it like some cheap suit on a Colt Model

  • Jon(29)- Actually I think you will see an uptick in traffic. Any given day only about half the cars left MM and cars rarely leave the grad housing as Rice has a campus shuttle. At 3500 a mo in rent i’m sure most of the folks in the ashby highrise will be working. I am going to guess very few will take advantage of the Metro stop on the corner. So yes, more cars on Bissonnet. The problem will not be Bissonnet though, it will be turning onto Bissonnet from a side street which is already hard enough durn peak drive times.

    I live around the block and am happy to see any improvement to the area, but 22 stories is just to much. 5-8 would have been alright, but 22 is just not appropriate. The reason people around here are complaining is the same reason buckhead is building, because we can. Merica!

  • FWIW, I think that the tower may be bland, but that it will nevertheless fit into and improve the neighborhood. Maryland Manor only looks attractive to view its leasing office head-on. Other than that, its somewhat of a visual blight.

    People like ZAW ask why the tower couldn’t be elsewhere. Its because this neighborhood is very attractive and because nobody with Southhampton/Boulevard Oaks money wants to live next to a freeway or in a marginal or transitioning neighborhood. The demographic that a project like this appeals to likes everything to be “just so”.

  • Let’s see if these guys even have the money to build this. First it was going to be condos and then the plan went to apartments. Looks cursed to me from the start.

  • @shannon, Four Leaf Towers are beautiful !?!??! They’re the epitome of ’70-’80 retirement home type design and extremely depressing looking today. Just because it’s designed by some “famous” architect does not make it good. Besides, the phrase famous architect is a stretch, outside of a small circle of architectural students nobody remembers who an architect was for any building… people remember the name of the building a lot more than some schmuck who pokes around in AutoCAD.

  • @23, Emily,

    “They should responsibly make every effort to involve the neighbors who’ve cultivated this pocket of Houston into such a desirable location”

    Um excuse me, the neighbors didn’t do jack anything, the location is desirable because it is spitting distance from the museum district, Rice and the med center. If it were up to the neighbors (and minus all that stuff around them) that place would be a sketchy hood situated close to 59. Of course I’m assuming the narcissism would develop outwardly and blight that whole area near the spur. Those people are worthless all up in there.

  • Hard to say who’s more pathologically small minded, the stubborn little greedsters who are determined to build that ill-advised strip center in the sky, or the snarks who resent people simply because of where they live and are enjoying their discomfort entirely too much.

  • Common sense would tell you that Southampton could have attempted to “annex” that section between Ashby/Cherokee/Bissonnet/Rice and “deed restricted” it but then they may have and found that the property owners refused. So when the inevitable happened they chose to engage two mayors to endorse what has been nothing more than a campaign of harassment of the developers in an attempt to intimidate them. I feel sorry for those who believe that is acceptable. It is not. And if they continue to do so they may end up getting the city sued a second time by the developers who may not be willing to drop it the second time.

  • @ Mother Hydra. You are completely wrong that the property owners in Boulevard Oaks have done nothing to uphold and create the desirability of their neighborhood. Over the past 40ish years, Boulevard Oaks Civic Association was formed, they re-instituted lapsed deed restrictions, kept a monorail project from taking out Vassar in the 1970s, kept a SOB out of the area in the 1980s, planted the trees on the esplanades, and put in a National Register Historic District and City Historic District. To say nothing of their support of Poe Elementary, which further enhances the neighborhood. I know that people like to say they are do-nothing NIMBY whiners, but that’s just not the truth.

  • @Niche: Try selling a 2 mil house with a 22 story highrise apartment looking down at your back yard. Now try selling a 2 mil house without a 22 story highrise apartment looking down at your back yard. Or just forget about the price. Go knock on the door of any single family house in Houston and ask them whether they would like to have a 22 story highrise apartment looking down on their back yard. Whether you agree with the tactics or not, it is completely foolish to think that putting a 22 story highrise apartment in a neighborhood of single family homes is a benefit to the neighborhood.

  • Matt – the developers share responsibility here. Just because you CAN build a high rise on a piece of land, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. 1717 Bissonnet is really an inappropriate site for a building that tall. It’s understandable that the neighbors objected.
    Houstonians deserve more credit than developers often give them. BBVA Compass is finishing a building that’s as tall and far bulkier than the Ashby High Rise. It offers nothing to the street, either: no retail. Nobody complained because the BBVA Compass Building is on a site facing Post Oak that made sense for a building that size. Houstonians aren’t stupid.

  • Drive down Binz near the Children’s Museum any given morning. There’s about a 50/50 chance that one lane will be blocked by construction vehicles for one of the far smaller projects going up. Now imagine the delivery of a crane big enough for the Ashby Highrise and all the steel and other building materials that building would need, on that far busier section of Bissonnet. Plus parking for workers. Linbeck will probably shuttle its workers in, but there very well may be lots of subs, inspectors, and delivery people trying to park in the area. Like I’ve said all along, it’s not just the building itself, it’s the construction.

  • marmer: Last I read, Linbeck was off the project. I want to say the reason for that was some kind of disagreement with the developers. Anyway, if my memory is correct, that was the reason stated in a Houston Chronicle story. What made it interesting is that Leo Linbeck III, the chairman of Linbeck, lives in neighborhood. Wonder what the real story is?

  • “…the developers share responsibility here. Just because you CAN build a high rise on a piece of land, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. 1717 Bissonnet is really an inappropriate site for a building that tall. It’s understandable that the neighbors objected.”

    But they decided to. The way others did before them. Inwood Manor, Four Leaf Towers, The Huntingdon three good examples of buildings that probably shouldn’t have been built where they were. There were objections to those as well. But the bottom line ws and is that we have no zoning and so it’s anything goes.And most people in the end accept that. Some in Southampton believed they would show everyone how you stop a building from being built despite the developer being within his rights, and within the law, to do so. By being obnoxious as well as pretentious and being obnoxious within the “legal” side of the law. It was and is still harassment. By lawyers no less.And by two mayors and two city coucilmembers who put their own self-interest above the city charter. The homeowners who took part in the vendetta against the developers claimed it was to protect a very desirable neighborhood. The neighborhood is indeed desirable. And will continue to be desirable even after the highrise, and possibly others, is built. What isn’t so desirable, however, are the homeowners. If there is any devaluation in the neighborhood it will be because of them. Not the highrise.

  • Hanabi-chan, you are right. I thought that Linbeck was the new contractor, but they were the one who pulled out. Over “control of construction.” Rumor had it that the developer was pushing a timeline that Linbeck couldn’t hold to with the kind of care they had to take in the neighborhood. That’s just rumor, though.

  • I went to the buckhead website and looked at their current investments which appear to be a handful of very ordinary looking apartment complexes. It will be interesting to see if they can pull this off and how they will build this on a 2 lane street. Maybe they have a lot of helicopters lined up. Do they have the financing ready to go?

  • Why a 22 storey tower in a neighborhood of single family residential? >>> Why a single family residential neighborhood sandwiched between two major high-rise job cores and a submerged/improved freeway?

  • Also, Bissonet is a major east-west arterial, not a side street. The real question is why has it not been expanded yet like every other major thoroughfare?

  • I just drove by the high rise going up at weslayen and Alabama and the construction on that thing has eaten 1 lane on Alabama and 1 lane on Weslayen. Weslayen is 4 lanes there. Bissonnet is only 2 lanes. The logistics of the construction for ashby will be interesting. As it is right now if a taco truck pulls up to the construction work site and stops on Bissonnet that in itself will cause a traffic jam.

  • Drive around Houston sometime, Matt – outside the Loop. This City is littered with dystopic examples of what happens when developers are left to their own devices and nobody speaks up. The guys who threw up apartment after apartment after apartment in the 1970s were within their rights and within the law, too – and we all know the effect that had. This is why neighborhoods fight certain types of development.

  • Zaw if you want zoning, put it ion the ballot again and see if the voters will approve it. Or reject it again. Until then, be content with deed restrictions. Just keep in mind your deed restrictions don’t apply to property outside of your subdivision. And do some “due diligence” when you buy on the “edge” of a subdivision. This shouldn’t have come as a suprise to anyone who looked at what was east of Asbhy.Most of it “multi-family” and smaller apartment complexes. And Cheyne Walk alone should have been a “hint” that developers were going to utilize the commercially-zoned property in that section any way they chose. And some objected to Cheyne Walk as well. Of course they decided to accept it and live with it instead of throwing a temper tantrum and ruining the reputation of the neighborhood. Who wants to live in a neighborhood where if someone doesn’t like something about your house or your lawn and you decide to ignore them because there’s no real violation of deed restrictions you then find yourself the target of a vendetta? And that has apparently happened in Southampton as well over alleway access and use as I recall. Pretentious people aren’t always nice people and most of us prefer to live around nice people rather than pretentious people.

  • But Matt, I’ not calling for zoning. That wont necessarily protect neighborhoods, and it can quickly get out of hand. New York City’s zoning ordinance is 3000 pages long, full of arcane and often contradictory rules – and it didn’t prevent a fight over the Atlantic Yards redevelopment in Brooklyn.
    I am calling for developers to do THEIR due diligence not only on what will make them money, but what will be appropriate for the site. (To be fair, the vast majority of developers are already doing it. You hear about the ones, like Buckhead, that don’t.) I’m also calling for grass – roots master planning at the Super Neighborhood / Management District level. Not zoning, in that it’s not enforced by a planning and zoning commission – just something for developers to use as a go-by. In areas served by Management Districts, this is already being done.
    One question for you: are you saying the edges of subdivisions should be no-mans lands where nobody wants to live? Buffers between the deed-restricted neighborhood and the free for all beyond its borders? Maybe just demolish all those houses and turn them into green ways, like they do out in the suburbs?

  • “I am calling for developers to do THEIR due diligence not only on what will make them money, but what will be appropriate for the site.”

    What’s appropriate for the site is what makes the most money. There isn’t much development at this point in Houston that is embraced by adjacent residential neighborhoods. The developers aren’t in business to make people happy. They’re in business to make money. And as long as the city charter allows unrestricted use of land that is not “deed restricted” they are going to go for what makes money. Not what makes people happy.

  • Matt-

    If you know the area well you’ll know there are no other locations close that could house another 2X story monster like Ashby, so I don’t think there will be others, thank goodness. But that only goes to show how inappropriate this one will be once built.

    You also make it sound like East of Ashby is an armpit anyway so who cares. I care. I live east of Ashby. I also know we heard the same thing from our realtor when we bought. “1700 will never be more than multifamily” Not long after many of the multi-family are converting to single or high end rentals, and the over all condition of houses is going up. 17xx north side on Wroxton gave up hope, but the rest of us are holding strong.

    People around here care about their houses and their neighborhoods, and not just because they are pretentious and money grubbing. We bought where we bought because we love the neighborhood. I welcome 220+ new neighbors, I just wish they could have figured out how to do it without 22 stories.

    What I don’t understand is the folks that live outside the area that are coming down so hard on the people of South Hampton/BOCA for putting up a fight. Zoning or not, this has always been about appropriate use of space. Nobody is telling the people of Waller to go pound sand, Houston needs a place to throw their trash. Nobody would tell you that you deserve it if somebody wanted to build a halfway house for recovering pedophiles next door to you. People getting up in arms over NIMBY is bulls__t. If you have not experienced NIMBY for yourself, you’re lucky but certainly not immune. Sanctimonious douchebags.

  • As an architect and a former Super Neighborhood President, I’ve seen both sides of it. Most developers DO take into account the concerns of neighboring residential neighborhoods. And when concerns such as traffic or drainage are brought up, those concerns are usually addressed and the neighbors back off. There’s a fine art to design, and a lot of diplomacy that goes into it – but 99% of the time the development is built and everyone moves on.
    You hear on the news about the ones that don’t. The Ruffino Hills waste transfer station. The Sunnyside Concrete crushing plant. The Heights Walmart. And of course the Ashby High Rise. Each of these cases has different issues and history, but each is marked by a broken relationship between the neighborhood and the development; and each can be tied back to fundamental mistakes on the part of the developer, and neighbors that have had enough.

  • I have friends in Southampton who have resisted the “lawn decorations” and are embarrased by all of this. The only “sanctimonious douchebags” are the homeowners who believed they were special and believed the city charter did not apply to them. You might want to read the city charter some time. And if you don’t like it ask the voters to change it. Although so far the voters have said they like things just the way they are. You are not special by the way. And neither really is your neighborhood. No matter how high the rents go. Which points out the reality. Most of what is in that section is multi-family which belies the lie that it is “single-family residential”. You all keep harassing the developers and hopefully the developers will just sue you the next time and we will see how special you are when the judgement bankrupts you and your HOA. Your names are all over the place. Mainly on that “petition” asking the city to continue to harass the developers. So it won’t be hard for them to determine who to sue and who not to sue. That and the tacky little “lawn decorations.”

  • I’m intrigued by Matt Mystery’s notion that the Southampton residents have a particular monopoly on evil (or whatever quality is denoted by the endlessly-trotted-out “douchebag”). That’s sort of Twilight Zone-ish. I wonder what would have caused that.
    A few counties away, this is the Taco PUD:
    It’s nowhere near 22 stories. But despite a couple layers of zoning it has aroused the opposition of: the people in the quite-recent condo building next door (same developer, I think), the people who monitor lakefront development for signs of a canyon effect, more than a few people who wish the site could stay a Taco Cabana forever, and the nearby neighborhood association.
    In the end the condos will be built, the opposition will have a mild win in that the developer will give up on the additional height he was seeking, a few trees onsite may be “saved,” but will die anyway because they won’t have enough room to collect water. Driving by in a few years, you’ll never know there was any controversy at all.
    This Ashby highrise fight is business as usual here, and fairly mild at that.

  • MH005 and ZAW need to put down the pipe. Developers are in it for the deal and the money. If you are so naive to think that there are not other properties that are potential targets for development, you are crazy or stoned. Just wait until land values continue to rise and low and behold, more property becomes available. While developers put forth an effort to appease the neighbors, it is just that. Oh the concerns of traffic and drainage, those are considered the cost of doing business and I again go back to my comment above about the cost of land. Eventually, my fellow inner loopers will realize that the inner loop as we all know and love is a thing of the past and baby, it is a changin’. Welcome to the world of increased density and if you think traffic is bad now, just wait another 20 years. All of you people will be begging for mass transit.

    I am a native Houstonian, born and raised in Southampton. Houstonians like to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to change and it is only just beginning, either adapt to the change or continue to hit the crack pipe, deluding yourself to what should or should not be.

    If you don’t like what is going on, wake up and do something constructive for the better good of the city and quit being a whining NIMBY.