For most it is common knowledge that Houston is one of the largest cities in the country. Even with troubles in the oil industry, the metropolitan area is still growing at an impressive pace.
But what some may not consider is how Houston grows, and the important ways that development guide the Houston of tomorrow. Unlike any other major city of its size, Houston also holds the unique position of not having formal zoning practices. Without governance, where and how structures get built can be very serious business, and influence the politics at many levels. Anyone familiar with the Ashby Highrise saga knows this.
So today’s announcement from the great folks over at Swamplot will be welcomed news indeed. Long-known for their innovative reporting and exclusive dedication to Houston’s real-estate landscape, the website will be back to full capacity starting December 1st, with a new team of personnel at the helm.
Texas Leftist is glad to see Swamplot back on the beat. So add this item to your ‘thankful for’ list.
By now, most Houstonians are used to seeing the occasional crane in downtown, and even more so in the Texas Medical Center. There is always something being built anew in the Bayou City these days.
But as we enter the latter part of 2014, Downtown construction is about to go from a small group of projects to insane with cranes. This rapid growth, the largest growth spurt seen in Houston since the 1980s, will also have it’s fair share of growing pains. As Swamplot reports, traffic can get tricky…
IF YOU’RE wondering what the late-night traffic holdup is in and around Main St. and Texas Ave. over the weekend, here’s your explainer: 180 mixing trucks are going to be lining up to pour a continuous stream of concrete onto this site surrounded by Main, Texas, Fannin, and Capitol streets downtown, where D.E. Harvey builders is putting together a little office building — now slated to rise 48 stories — for the Hines CalPERS Green development fund. The action starts at 7 pm on Saturday and should finish up around 3 in the afternoon the next day.
Weekend street closures are just the beginning. If you are a frequent visitor to downtown, start planning some alternate routes now. By the fourth quarter of 2014, downtown should see 15 simultaneous projects (possibly more) entering the high construction phase. That translates to a lot of blocked streets!
The motivation behind the copious construction is in part due to the business community’s self-imposed deadline of having a new and different downtown by the 2017 Super Bowl. Hopefully everything can get done by then, but for the meantime, Houstonians are definitely going to notice the changes.
Here are some pictures of the 609 Main construction this weekend, along with a preview of the coming rail stations…
Here is the crane base for 609 Main
A view of the assembly crane (needed to construct the primary cranes) with a second project crane in the background.
Some projects will be completed this year, like the Houston MetroRail expansion. Here is a view of Central Station for the Green and Purple Line.
Here is the Main Street portion of Central Station. Houston’s new rail transit services should start in December 2014
There’s still “some uncertainty” over the exact schedule, but all the pieces needed to allow Metro to open Houston’s second and third light-rail lines won’t be in place until late December, according to reports delivered to a committee of the transportation organization’s board of directors last Friday.
The contractor building the lines won’t be ready to turn over the completed tracks until September 30th to Metro, which will then need approximately 60 days to prepare for their operation.
Just for further verification, I went ahead and asked METRO via Twitter, and they gave the same response as quoted above.
The article also cites delays in construction of axle counters, and construction that of a separate building project in downtown. Not mentioned however is the continuing drama surrounding METRO’s delivery of rail cars. At this point, the CAF-USA factory in New York has actually made adjustments to be able to build the cars and ship them to Houston as quickly as possible. But as Off the Kuff notes in a recent post, the delay for the opening of both lines actually gives more time to get the necessary cars operational.
Delays have their annoyances, but it’s far more important that these lines start when everything is done the right way than it is to try and rush the process. Let’s hope that METRO can get them running soon.
As written previously, Downtown Houston is in the beginning stages of a major construction boom, that will continue to ramp up through the course of 2014 and 2015. As the clock ticks closer and closer to Super Bowl LI, to be hosted in the Bayou City, a flood of new projects are racing to get completed before 2017. Though every conceivable type of construction is happening in Downtown, it appears the largest single type is going to be hotels during this high-activity period.
Many Houstonians may be wondering… why the need for so many hotels? Are they all being built just for the Super Bowl?
In reality, Houston is actually playing catch-up. The city’s is now in high demand to host more Conventions, and business leaders from all industries are starting to see the opportunities associated with that demand. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Houston Public Media story…
… the [GHCVB] achieved a hundred percent of its goals in booking domestic meetings, with a direct economic impact of $345 million. Well over a half-million definite rooms nights are booked for upcoming conventions — that’s one yardstick for measuring success. The bureau enjoyed 198 percent of its goals in booking international meetings, with a direct economic impact of $77 million. There were 203 film and commercial projects. Greg Ortale is president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“What it is, is we have a fairly robust database to find opportunities. We’re looking both for groups that have not made a decision on specific years and matching them up with our annual calendar to see if there’s a fit, and then we go and proceed after them.”
Ortale says the ten-year-long “My Houston” campaign has helped solidify Houston’s image.
“Where we got Houston-born — and many living, continuing to live here — celebrities to do endorsements, whether in print or video, about living here. We had well over 40 celebrities, all the way from Bush-41 to ZZ Top.”
That improving image seems to have a direct correlation to rapid growth in the Convention business, but other evidence suggests that it could’ve grown much faster. Studies by Houston First Corporation show that the city lost millions of dollars in potential business last year due to a lack of sufficient hotel room capacity.
But the plan to rectify this seems to be going well so far. Just last Friday, city leaders broke ground on the Marriott Marquis, a 1000-room facility that will be connected to the George R. Brown Convention center, and is set to be the next signature hotel for Houston. With the hotel will come retail and five new restaurants, sure to be a robust addition to Downtown’s retail landscape.
Marriott Marquis is the single largest hotel project, but it will be joined in good company. Other projects in downtown include an Aloft hotel, the 225 room Hotel Alessandra, 325 room J. W. Marriott, 261 room Hyatt Place, and the 215 room Savoy. All told, these projects will add well over 2,200 new hotel rooms to Downtown’s current inventory, and should go a long way to improving Houston’s Convention competitiveness. The increased foot traffic will undoubtedly have an impact on other downtown businesses, such as existing street-level retail. Exciting times ahead for Houston.
(The sleek new design of Hotel Alessandra, expected to open in 2016. Photo credit: Swamplot)