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Old Posted Mar 13, 2014, 8:39 PM
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Seven Buildings (and Neighborhoods) That Would Never Fly in Any City But Houston

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Seven Buildings (and Neighborhoods) That Would Never Fly in Any City But Houston
Infrastructure | 01/10/2014 9:58am
Stephen J. Smith | Next City



Pearl Greenway, a 341-unit building in Houston, near one of the city’s “five downtowns.”

Houston and its surrounding cities are notorious for their lack of planning. In the decades after World War II, this meant unfettered greenfield building opportunities, with suburbs sprawling in every direction for miles. While the sprawl machine is still hard at work, in recent years infill development — which has always been a part of Houston’s construction industry — has taken off, and the lack of planning is resulting in some surprisingly dense projects in areas where, were they in other cities, builders wouldn’t even think of poking the NIMBY hornet’s nest.

In a way, Houston is where more traditionally urban cities were before World War II, back when developers ruled and there was very little planning to speak of. Here’s a look at seven developments, from mid-rise apartment buildings to entire business districts, that have sprouted outside downtown Houston.

...........................
http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/six-...ty-but-houston
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Old Posted Mar 13, 2014, 8:51 PM
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In my region, highrises aren't allowed except in the Downtown Seattle area, a couple other historic downtowns, and a small number of urban nodes, only one of which was upzoned early enough to have any (Bellevue). We don't allow highrises next to some existing highrises.

And industrial/port land is jealously guarded, true industrial, not the low-intensity stuff found in more urban neighborhoods.

That said, there's an enormous amount of infill in nodes. Six-story, 300 unit (and 50 unit) buildings are commonly built in dozens of nodes on both sides of the city limits.

Parking is a big difference of course. The article talks about a highrise with as much space for parking as actually living in, which we wouldn't do. The high-growth areas generally don't do surface parking either.
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Old Posted Mar 13, 2014, 9:19 PM
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Strangely enough, even though Austin has zoning, you find a mix similar to what you have in Houston, although not as much. There are also a lot of zoning variances granted in Austin.

I wonder if at some point voters in Houston will change things regarding zoning. The catalyst, I assume, will be the high rise condos that are sprouting in affluent neighborhoods (causing the most rebellion at this point). I personally enjoy seeing the chaotic variety of land use and architecture, but I might feel differently if I suddenly can't plant a garden because so much of the sun is blocked out by a highrise in my neighborhood.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 13, 2014, 9:17 PM
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i dunnah.

Not many cities — okay, no city outside Houston — would let a developer build an entire business district from scratch miles from the urban core, but that’s exactly what Gerald D. Hines did nearly half a century ago. Anchored by the Galleria mall, the largest in Texas, Uptown has emerged as a “downtown” to Houston’s western suburbs, centered on Post Oak Boulevard, just west of the 610 Loop.

you have the plaza in kansas city, one developer.

downtown clayton in st. louis county, mo, also nearby by the galleria mall (pictured)....


kcphotos.com

you see, this IS our uptown, except its a little further from downtown st. louis than uptown houston is from downtown houston.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 13, 2014, 9:22 PM
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i dunnah.

Not many cities — okay, no city outside Houston — would let a developer build an entire business district from scratch miles from the urban core, but that’s exactly what Gerald D. Hines did nearly half a century ago. Anchored by the Galleria mall, the largest in Texas, Uptown has emerged as a “downtown” to Houston’s western suburbs, centered on Post Oak Boulevard, just west of the 610 Loop.

you have the plaza in kansas city, one developer.

downtown clayton in st. louis, also nearby by the galleria mall (pictured)....


kcphotos.com

you see, this IS our uptown, except its a little further from downtown st. louis than uptown houston is from downtown houston.
The author does seem naive by saying that this is exclusive to Houston. Dallas has "downtowns" outside of the central downtown, as does L.A. and other cities. How about Atlanta's Buckhead?
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 13, 2014, 10:16 PM
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The author does seem naive by saying that this is exclusive to Houston. Dallas has "downtowns" outside of the central downtown, as does L.A. and other cities. How about Atlanta's Buckhead?
Lots of cities are multi-nodal, but most have some zoning restrictions that limit these types of development. This article makes it seem like Houston is pretty much a free-for-all...
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 12:06 AM
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Lots of cities are multi-nodal, but most have some zoning restrictions that limit these types of development. This article makes it seem like Houston is pretty much a free-for-all...
Yeah, although for the most part, major office, hotel, and high rise residential is still occurring within established nodal "downtowns" or along major thoroughfares. Midrise condos and apartments are definitely taking over neighborhoods that many people think needed to be razed anyway and are serving as good infill. Unfortunately, some historical neighborhoods have been damaged, and poor people have been displaced. What really makes headlines, though, is when highrises pop up in affluent neighborhoods (e.g., the famous or infamous Ashby highrise residential and at least one other controversial high rise). The NIMBY syndrome is alive and well.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 1:33 AM
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Yeah, although for the most part, major office, hotel, and high rise residential is still occurring within established nodal "downtowns" or along major thoroughfares. Midrise condos and apartments are definitely taking over neighborhoods that many people think needed to be razed anyway and are serving as good infill. Unfortunately, some historical neighborhoods have been damaged, and poor people have been displaced. What really makes headlines, though, is when highrises pop up in affluent neighborhoods (e.g., the famous or infamous Ashby highrise residential and at least one other controversial high rise). The NIMBY syndrome is alive and well.
The NIMBY syndrome may be alive but in Houston it isn't all that prevalent. Most people's reaction to the whole Ashby high-rise controversy has been "F**k em'. They live in the middle of the city. If they don't like high rises they can move out to Bellaire, West U, or any of the dozens of master planned communities and neighborhoods that have strict deed restrictions or are incorporated and have zoning." If you don't like dense development, you move to where these is none and where there can never be any. You don't get all pompous and self righteous and start suing real estate developers to dictate the economic terms of their investments.

As for the poor getting displaced, I don't have much sympathy. It's happened to me twice in the last 5 years. I just moved to a cheaper place. If you own and are forced to sell because property taxes are too high, that's upsetting. It happened to my grandmother recently. If you rent and are forced to move, that is simply a risk you take. I chose to pay unbelievably below market rents for the neighborhood I was in. The risk was that the owner would sell because the rental income barely covered more than property taxes. When they notified me that the building was going to be demolished, they gave me 60 days to move, returned my security deposit, and gave me an extra month's rent on top of that to put towards moving costs and a new deposit. I, as a renter had no right to force the owner to let me stay as long as I wanted so I found a new home and moved. I wouldn't consider it "displacement" as that has a real negative implication. The volcano displaced the villagers. The tsunami displaced the people. I moved from an apartment to another apartment nearby.
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 2:10 AM
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http://nextcity.org/daily/entry/six-...ty-but-houston

Good grief, that one rendering plopped into that aerial photo is hilarious and epically bad at the same time. Nimbys crack me up. They did the same for the Spring Condominiums in Austin when someone made a bad Lego model of the area that was most definitely not to scale. They just plopped down some Lego bricks and made one skinny stack of bricks to show the tower. Do they not know that if their model isn't to scale that their argument is being severely damaged? It would be like a developer proposing a building with a bad presentation that doesn't accurately show their proposal and gives the wrong idea of what it'll actually look like. Imagine a developer knowing that and using a bad model to under estimate the height of their project to win support. But, accuracy and honesty are not something Nimbys are shooting for. They love making projects out to be a boogieman. They should just go ahead and use an image of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man to denote the building instead.


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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 4:44 AM
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Not much of this article seems to be "only in Houston". A CBD built miles away from downtown by one developer? Sounds like Century City to me. Multi-story wood framed buildings being built in SFH neighborhoods? Sounds like a lot of Los Angeles to me. Industrial space being turned into residential neighborhoods? Sounds like the Arts District to me. This article is just factually incorrect.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 6:41 AM
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 4:16 PM
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Not much of this article seems to be "only in Houston". A CBD built miles away from downtown by one developer? Sounds like Century City to me. Multi-story wood framed buildings being built in SFH neighborhoods? Sounds like a lot of Los Angeles to me. Industrial space being turned into residential neighborhoods? Sounds like the Arts District to me. This article is just factually incorrect.
This article is about zoning. Los Angeles actually does have set of limits in designated areas of what you can and can't build, and NIMBYism is much more powerful and toxic in LA like many other cities, sky. It's not even remotely like Houston where it's relatively easy to plop down a tower in a sea of single family homes. And you can't even compare CC to Uptown (a full fledged CBD in its own right thats getting rapidly bigger, unlike CC). LA has one (mild) downtown. Houston has five. The article is correct, there is no other city in the country like Houston and I can't wait to see what its like 20 years.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 11:38 AM
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Houston is just an experiment where we let the free market run the urban development. Although I would like to say that I think the road transportation planning is very good and mostly cohesive. With a large grid, two loop highways and freeways in every direction.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 11:44 AM
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I would also like to say that a lot of you should read the article, which lays out seven buildings and neighborhoods which wouldn't happen outside Houston and explain why that would be.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 12:47 PM
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No city outside of Houston but only in Houston? I can think of many cities in North America and beyond where buildings/developments of this sort took place.

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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 3:09 PM
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Cheap land and the free market also conspire to make most of this Houston infill not terribly urban.

The townhouse trend is good, but marginally urban in density and form.

Every time I dig into a new Houston highrise it has an "entry drive". Most infill seems to have parking garages above grade, with huge amounts of parking. Outside the core many have surface parking. Between form and density, it's better than what was there, but not terribly urban.

Above-grade garages aren't the worst thing in the world but even if well done the result is less density than the same parking underground. To say nothing of mode splits.

Long story short...it's good, but my local suburban downtowns are far more urban than most of what gets built in Houston.
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 4:32 PM
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Cheap land and the free market also conspire to make most of this Houston infill not terribly urban.

The townhouse trend is good, but marginally urban in density and form.

Every time I dig into a new Houston highrise it has an "entry drive". Most infill seems to have parking garages above grade, with huge amounts of parking. Outside the core many have surface parking. Between form and density, it's better than what was there, but not terribly urban.

Above-grade garages aren't the worst thing in the world but even if well done the result is less density than the same parking underground. To say nothing of mode splits.

Long story short...it's good, but my local suburban downtowns are far more urban than most of what gets built in Houston.
Houston's "free-market" philosophy certainly follows the sun belt model of development. I think what holds Houston back is also what makes it's positive; this "libertarian" type ideal of planning and development. In hindsight, Houston should have had a more cohesive regional transportation plan to accommodate the million people per decade growth the past 3 decades and future growth. Houston has the large employment centers surrounding downtown but needs to focus on them being more cohesive in terms of form and connectivity.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 4:35 PM
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Cheap land and the free market also conspire to make most of this Houston infill not terribly urban.

The townhouse trend is good, but marginally urban in density and form.

Every time I dig into a new Houston highrise it has an "entry drive". Most infill seems to have parking garages above grade, with huge amounts of parking. Outside the core many have surface parking. Between form and density, it's better than what was there, but not terribly urban.

Above-grade garages aren't the worst thing in the world but even if well done the result is less density than the same parking underground. To say nothing of mode splits.

Long story short...it's good, but my local suburban downtowns are far more urban than most of what gets built in Houston.
You mention your local suburban downtowns...where are you located? J Not disputing what you're saying at all...just want to know. Thanks.
     
     
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Old Posted Mar 14, 2014, 11:47 PM
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You mention your local suburban downtowns...where are you located? J Not disputing what you're saying at all...just want to know. Thanks.
Seattle area.

Bellevue is the largest suburban downtown. Since the late 80s the majority of new parking has been below grade, and buildings have happened on smaller lots. Towers tend to go straight up from the sidewalks.

Likewise in lowrise suburban downtowns like Kirkland, Redmond, and many others, six-story apartments are common, and their parking is usually below-grade too.
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Old Posted Mar 15, 2014, 12:50 AM
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Seattle area.

Bellevue is the largest suburban downtown. Since the late 80s the majority of new parking has been below grade, and buildings have happened on smaller lots. Towers tend to go straight up from the sidewalks.

Likewise in lowrise suburban downtowns like Kirkland, Redmond, and many others, six-story apartments are common, and their parking is usually below-grade too.
Sounds really great. Would love to actually visit. I've been to Seattle itself several times, but not Bellevue. Have just seen it from the air flying in.
     
     
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