Tag Archives: Downtown Houston photos

Is Houston REALLY About To Be Bigger Than Chicago??

It’s a news story that’s quickly becoming all the rage for the Bayou City.  But can it really be true?  Is Houston actually about to be the 3rd largest City in the United States… ahead of even Chicago?? Before my answer, here’s the story from Reuters

Houston has been one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities for years, fueled by an energy industry that provided the backbone of the economy, low taxes and prospects of employment that have attracted job seekers.

But Houston also embodies the new, urban Texas, where political views have been drifting to the left, diversity is being embraced and newer residents are just as likely to drive a hybrid as a pickup truck.

Houston’s move is also indicative of demographic shifts unfolding in the United States that will increase the population and political clout of the Lone Star State over the next several decades.

Within eight to 10 years, Houston is forecast by demographers in the two states to pass Chicago, which has seen its population decline for years, as the third-largest city.

Houston is projected to have population of 2.54 million to 2.7 million by 2025 while Chicago will be at 2.5 million, according to official data from both states provided for their health departments. New York and Los Angeles are safe at one and two respectively.

If you’re a regular reader Texas Leftist, you’ll probably know two things:  1) This blog is based in Houston, and 2) you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger supporter of the things Houston does well.  At the same time, it’s important to look at truth in these situations.

While it’s possible that Houston’s city population may edge past that of Chicago in the coming decade, using that measure alone is an inaccurate determination of a city’s true size, particularly when comparing cities so different.

From a land area perspective, Houston is already much bigger.  At 230 square miles, Chicago occupies just one third the land area of the Bayou City.  Or another way to think about it… Houstonians are way more spread out than citizens in Chicago.  As Rice University’s Kinder Institute points out, Houston’s land area is sprawling so much that it could contain the entire cities of Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Detroit into the space and still have room left over.




It’s also important to understand that a city is much more than the population that simply resides within its borders.  Houston draws from it’s entire metropolitan area, which currently stands just short of 6.3 million people over 10 counties in Southeast Texas.  This is where the Bayou City would have some catching up to do.  Chicago’s Metropolitan Area stands at 9.1 million people.  So on that metric, it’s going to take a while for Houston to catch up.

But far beyond any numerical ranking, Houston is already experiencing a world of change.  It may not be as dense as Chicago today, but the city is experiencing some of the fastest growth in its history.  Rapid densification is occurring all over Houston.  Even without the competition, this process will be exciting for everyone to witness.

So can Houston surpass Chicago in the next 10 years?  We’ll see. But perhaps a more important question to ask… how are we going to fit all these people on the freeways??





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Could The Houston Construction Boom Go Bust?

Whether young or old, rich or poor, anyone in the city of Houston within the last year or so has at least one shared experience… We’ve all had to endure massive amounts of residential and commercial construction. At the start of 2015,new construction projects are likely to hit their peak, with many hoping to reach completion before the city hosts the 2017 Super Bowl.

But are all of these fast and furious projects truly warranted?  Paul Takahashi of the Houston Business Journal isn’t so sure…

Texas housing markets have remained relatively stable despite a volatile national market. While average home prices nationally grew 38 percent between 2000 to 2006 — before the housing market crash of 2007 — Texas averaged a “comfortable” 18 percent growth. The Lone Star State “remained largely on the sidelines” during the most recent housing bubble, the Fitch report said.

Since the Great Recession however, the Texas economy has been booming, buoyed by the state’s strong energy sector. The job growth has attracted thousands of new residents to Texas, fueling the homebuying rush and homebuilding frenzy. Today, the Texas housing market is about 11 percent overvalued, according to Fitch.

However, Texas’ current housing boom is “out of character with its price history,” and is unsustainable in the long run, said Fitch director and analyst Stefan Hilts.

“What we’re most worried about is speculative buying and selling,” Hilts said. “People aren’t buying houses because they need to; it’s because they can. That’s causing a big market distortion.”

This is not to say that all of the city’s construction projects are suddenly unjustified.  The mini-boom of residential and hotel construction in downtown Houston, for example, is not a measure of over-build.  In fact, the CBD is actually playing catch-up to remain competitive with other cities, especially in the Convention and Tourism sectors.

And of course the construction and housing markets, though inextricably linked because most construction is of the residential variety, are not one and the same.  Even if one sector of housing construction were to slow a bit in 2015, it doesn’t mean that it will tank the rest of market.  Demand for relocation to urban neighborhoods like downtown and the Galleria is still firmly on the rise.

But the potential trouble, if any, could come in the single family market.  If energy prices continue to drop, job and population growth will eventually feel the effects.  In any scenario, it seems virtually impossible for the area to retain record-high home values, as they have driven both property taxes and rents to levels never seen in the best of previous boom years.  Hopefully, those artificial valuations will be the first to go in 2015, allowing a healthy amount of construction activity to continue.

Chase Lantern

Downtown construction at night


Downtown Houston from the Wells Fargo Tower with cranes visible in the lower right corner.


The east side of Downtown is currently dotted with cranes.


Construction just behind a new rail station in Downtown.  The rail line is set to open in April of 2015.



A crane rises above residential houses in the Montrose neighborhood, set to construct a 30-story tower at Montrose and Hawthorne streets.  Due to a lack of comprehensive zoning laws, skyscrapers can be built in virtually any area of Houston.