Hines' Main Place, circa 2010
Leave it to Hines - the much respected,
international real estate firm with its roots entrenched in Houston terra
firma - to have plans underway to build the first LEED silver pre-certified
high-rise office building downtown. Debuting in 2010, Hines' Main
Place will soar 46 stories above 811 Main, replacing one of the most
blighted blocks downtown with an environmentally green building featuring
horizontal sunshades made of glass and aluminum, vertical glass fins and a
recessed sky garden on the 39th floor. Designed by the architecture
firm Pickard Chilton, the one-million square-foot space will have
floor-to-ceiling windows to maximize natural light, not to mention the
Read about Houston's
Discovery Green Park!
One Park Place is a new high-rise luxury apartment
residence development overlooking
Downtown Houston's new park.
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Ground Broken for $170 Million Downtown
Houston Pavilions, a four-block shopping, restaurant, entertainment and
office development broke ground today in downtown Houston.
developers celebrated the start of construction at a ceremony alongside
city, county and other government officials, including Mayor Bill White
and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.
"This is another
turning point in our city's revitalization," said White, adding that the
project will attract more visitors and convention business to downtown.
The $170 million
project will have 360,000 square feet of retail space and a
200,000-square-foot office tower.
The newest tenants
include clothing retailer Forever 21 and Books-A-Million. Both will build
urban flagship stores and join House of Blues, Lucky Strike Lanes and seven
restaurants, including McCormick & Schmick's, Red Cat Jazz Cafe and Lawry's,
The Prime Rib.
"We will be the people
place to see and be seen in the city of Houston," said William Denton, who
is developing the project with Geoffrey Jones.
The Pavilions will be
built on three surface parking lots bounded by Dallas, Polk, Main and
Partners of Newport Beach, Calif., provided $47 million in equity for the
project, and North Houston Bank provided $120 million in construction
The developers also
lined up an $8.8 million development grant from the city and $5.5 million
from Harris County in additional funding
Houston Redevelopment Efforts Focus on Houston’s Old 'Wards'
Chairman of HAR's Commercial Advisory Board
You hear a lot about “wards” these days, as Houston’s real estate community
seems to have rediscovered the inner city. Now while many of us who have
lived in the Heights or attended the University of Houston never forgot
about Houston’s more mature neighborhoods, throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s and
most of the 1990’s; most of the focus of Houston real estate has been on the
Baca is the Chairman of HAR's Commerical Advisory Board and serves
as president of the Houston office of Colliers International. Baca also
serves on the HAR Board of Directors.
The economic forces that are driving the property appreciation inside Loop
610 are huge and cut across many traditional demographic boundaries. The
suburbs have always offered a bigger house with a bigger yard, the promise
of better schools and the guarantee of a longer commute. But as baby boomers
become empty nesters and Gen-Xers become homebuyers, more and more of them
want to trade in the commute for an urban experience. As people ponder
moving into historic neighborhoods, they find definite cultural traditions
that are associated with these areas.
Much of the current dialogue about these older neighborhoods is discussed in
terms of the “ward” in which a neighborhood is located. These “wards” refer
to the city council districts established more than 100 years ago. Although
at various times Houston has had as many as eight wards, you typically hear
people speak in terms of the six wards.
The First Ward is the area to the northwest of the downtown central
business district (CBD). Located in what would today be called the
“Heights,” the First Ward was bounded on the east by North Main Street and
on the south by a diagonal line extending from the CBD to the northwest. In
1900 it consisted primarily of small farms.
The Second Ward included the bustling waterfront as well as housing,
and extended to the east of Main Street and the CBD along the southern bank
of Buffalo Bayou. Congress Street is the southern boundary of the Second
The Third Ward was the more affluent residential area south of
Congress and east of Main Street. In 1906 this area would have included the
Houston Country Club's original location that is now the Gus Wortham
municipal golf course, as well as the area that is now the main campus of
the University of Houston.
The Fourth Ward is west of Main Street and south of Buffalo
Bayou. This is the site of Freedman's Town and was one of the original
African American communities in Houston. When contemporary citizens speak
about the Fourth Ward they are usually referring to that portion that is
east of Taft Street and north of West Gray.
The Fifth Ward is the northeast quadrant of Houston to the north of
Buffalo Bayou and east of Little White Oak Bayou that is close to North Main
Street. The Fifth Ward included several major industrial facilities and was
a major center for rail transportation 100 years ago.
The Sixth Ward is located on the north bank of Buffalo Bayou just
below the First Ward. Washington Avenue and Memorial Drive dominate the
area. This was Houston's major traffic artery out to the west until the
construction of Interstate 10.
The challenge will be how to manage the process of urban renewal while
retaining affordable housing opportunities and some of the cultural
traditions that have evolved in these areas.
You can download a digital copy of the 1906 Houston city limits map that
shows these historic ward boundaries from a hyperlink located on the
homepage of the Commercial Gateway Information Exchange at
If you find Houston’s history to be of interest, then you should make some
time to visit the Texas Room and Archives, located in the Houston Public
Library's Julia Ideson Building downtown at 500 McKinney Street. The phone
number there is (832) 393-1313 and they are open from 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Monday through Saturday.
October 11, 2004
By Peg Tyre
"Who ever thought," asks Ft.
Worth developer Fran McCarthy, "that suburban flight would be round trip?"
Seniors & the City: Affluent, educated
retirees are forfeiting a regular tee time in favor of loft living, opera
tickets and bistros
When vascular surgeon Dr. Mervyn Burke, 75, decided it was time to retire
last year, he and his wife Delores, 77, checked out two retirement
communities near their longtime home in Marin County, just outside San
Francisco. "They were nice enough," says Mervyn, straining for faint praise.
But in his heart, he knew he didn't want to live around old people 24/7. So
the Burkes sold their suburban colonial and moved to a 10th-floor
condominium in the heart of San Francisco. Delores misses gardening but now
spends more time at the symphony and the opera, which she loves. After 42
years in a quiet suburb, Mervyn is charmed by the vibrant street life in his
new neighborhood. Housing didn't come cheap, he says, but as active,
independent seniors, "this was just the kind of retirement we were looking
The Burkes, and tens of thousands of retirees like them, are pulling up
stakes in suburbia and fashioning their own retirement communities in the
heart of the bustling city. They're looking for what most older people want:
a home with no stairs and low crime rates. But they're willing to exchange a
regular weekly tee time for a different set of amenities-rich cultural
offerings, young neighbors and plenty of good restaurants. Spying an
opportunity, major real-estate developers have broken ground on urban sites
they intend to market to suburban retirees. These seniors are already
changing the face of Ft. Worth, Texas, snapping up condos in the revitalized
downtown. "Who ever thought," asks Ft. Worth developer Fran McCarthy, "that
suburban flight would be round trip?"
The trickle of older folks
returning to the city, which began in the mid-'90s, has grown into a steady
stream. While some cities, especially those with few cultural offerings,
have seen an exodus of seniors, urban planners say others have become
retiree magnets. Between 1990 and 2000, the population of 64- to
75-year-olds in downtown Chicago rose 17 percent. Austin, Texas; New
Orleans, and Los Angeles have seen double-digit increases as well. In the
next six years, as the 76 million baby boomers begin to enter
retirement,downtowns are expected to grow even grayer.Cities aren't going to
replace the sun belt," says Mark Muro, a senior policy analyst at the
Brookings Institution who is studying this urban migration. But for affluent
retirees, "city life is an increasingly popular option."
Nobody's calling it the
fountain of youth, but there may be hidden health benefits to city living,
too. A RAND Corp. study published this month found that suburbanites, who
spend long hours in the car, have higher rates of high blood pressure,
arthritis and breathing difficulties than their urban counterparts who walk
more each day. Ft. Worth banker Tom Lang, 60, moved from the suburbs to the
city to ward off another, even more debilitating, byproduct of aging-social
isolation. After his son got married two years ago, Lang, who is divorced,
realized that he hardly ever saw his suburban neighbors. Lang has many
elderly clients and says he's seen firsthand how loneliness can ravage older
people as they gradually lose touch with friends and neighbors. These days
when he goes to the movie theater near his condo or pops down to the grocery
store, "I'm constantly running into people I know." As he ages, Lang says,
he hopes the continual interaction will help keep him young.
Retired lawyer Marjorie Watson,
61, says moving to the city kept a health setback from becoming a crisis.
Five years after she and her husband traded their single-family home in
Chevy Chase, Md., for a two-bedroom condominium in downtown Washington,
D.C., an illness left her in a wheelchair. "The stairs in the old house
would have been a major disaster," she says. She also found she could get to
medical appointments without much trouble.
Major developers are already
poised to cash in on the urban migration. Toll Brothers, a company that made
billions building luxury suburban housing, is now constructing high-rises in
Philadelphia, Providence, R.I., and Hoboken, N.J.; these, they say, will
make perfect homes for aging boomers. Some people want to retire to a
slower way of life, says Toll Brothers vice president Fred Cooper. "But the
generation that is getting ready to retire is very fit, very educated and
very culturally active. Many want to stay connected to a city." Del Webb,
which built the sprawling Sun City "active adult" communities in Arizona and
Nevada, is erecting two urban versions just outside New York City and
Washington, D.C., and more are planned.
A condo downtown costs more,
but George Keller, 66, a retired Army physicist, says it's a small price to
pay to finally ditch his car. Five years ago he and his wife Alice, 64, a
retired schoolteacher, sold their home in suburban Maryland and moved to
Asheville, N.C. We were "just flat tired of getting in the car to go
anywhere" says George. Since they've moved, they've cut their mileage in
half. "It'd be even less," George says, "if we didn't have grandchildren in
Maryland." Recently they've discovered that disconnecting from their car may
turn out to be a survival skill of sorts. When their suburban friends stop
driving, says George, "they're trapped." Although they didn't plan it that
way, learning to live without a car means "we can keep enjoying paradise for
a good long time." Maybe that's what they mean by the golden years.
Dive into Downtown - By:
Jacqueline Le Mieux
With social historians working to pinpoint
the h in time that loft living in downtown Houston became the new housing
"trend," Houston Chronicle real estate writer and observer Ralph Bivins wrote an
interesting stinsudy of the Capitol Lofts in a May 23, 1999 special section cover story.
Listed by Sandra Gunn Properties,
Capitol Lofts was a study in miniature of how the move to downtown has forever changed the
face of real estate in Houston.
FOR DOWNTOWN LIVING SEEMS FAR FROM SATISFIED
How wide? How deep? How ravenous
is the demand for downtown lofts?
Consider this case in point. Early
this spring, a new loft residential project was unveiled on Main Street - the Capitol
Lofts. There was little fanfare. The
marketing and advertising budget was tiny.
And there wasn't anything tangible
to sell. All the developers had was a model apartment on the fifth floor of the old
10-story building at 711 Main. The rest of the interior was just an empty shell, stripped
back to the concrete skeleton.
With its wide-plank wooden floors
and high ceilings, the model residence looked great. Otherwise, all the realty agents had
to sell was a 91-year-old building and a plan for 35 condominiums costing from $125,000 up
None of that discouraged buyers.
The lofts sold fast. Eight commitments to buy were made on the first day the project was
open to the public. Within five weeks, 29 of the units were gone, and there is a waiting
list of would-be buyers for space in the building, where construction begins this summer.
"There seems to be a real
interest and a need for downtown housing," said realty agent Sandra Gunn of
Sandra Gunn Properties, which handled sales in Capitol Lofts.
Capitol Lofts is no fluke. The old
building next door is being renovated into 100 units in a rental loft project called the
Across downtown, other old
buildings that were given up for dead are coming back to life as loft apartments.
The trend is growing in many
cities across the nation. But the change will be more striking here because these units
are bringing back night life in what had been an an after-hours ghost town.
According to the Brookings
Institution and Fannie Mae Foundation, Houstons downtown population will increase by
300 percent to nearly 10,000 people by 2010. Other cities may have more of a downtown
population, but no other American city will have as large a percentage gain.
"The overall rise in downtown living
reflects two trends," said Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Institution.
"The first, changing demographics, could be extremely positive for cities; older
Americans, empty nesters and young couples who are having children later in life are all
growing segments of the population, and they are very interested in the convenience and
amenities of urban life.
"The second trend is the resurgence
downtowns as cultural and entertainment centers. Downtowns have energy and excitement.
People are drawn there to work and to live," said Katz.
Being close to work is the No. 1 reason
that people move to downtown Houston, according to a survey by CDS Market Research
released in May. The survey showed 51 percent of the people who live downtown also work
downtown. Being close to downtown theaters and music halls was the second-biggest reason
people moved downtown, the CDS survey showed.
Heritage Texas Properties vice president
Cheri Fama agreed that many of the new downtown dwellers are seeking to be close to
theaters, restaurants and downtown night life, said. "Its such a striking
change from suburbia," she said.
Another factor in the housing move to
downtown is the much-anticipated opening of the Enron Field baseball stadium, a plus for
another Heritage Texas loft building, The Keystone at 1120 Texas. Floors 1-8 of The
Keystone take in the breathtaking vista of the framework of the stadium and retractable
roof, now under construction.
May 23, 1999, Special Section
History of Downtown
Excerpted from "Lofty
Ambitions" by Ralph Bivins
Living in downtown Houston is not
new. For years, urban dwellers have been living in mid-rise or high-rise apartments such
as the Beaconsfield Condominiums, Four Seasons Place and 2016 Main.
But after the realty crash of the
1980s, downtown was showing a very weak pulse. All the attention was centered on the
so-called "Edge Cities" - suburban business hubs such as the Galleria and
Downtown office vacancies soared.
Anybody who would have proposed constructing anything in downtown Houston would have been
laughed out of the real estate community. That depressed market offered one advantage: It
meant low rents and bargain-priced old buildings - which inspired developers to sniff
around for opportunities.
But in the early 1990s, Randall
Davis, a young apartment developer, entered the scene. Davis had cut his teeth on
developing apartments in Houston suburbs. But after a trip to Portland, Ore., Davis came
back to try something he had seen in the Pacific Northwest - urban loft apartments.
The lofts were being built in old
office or industrial buildings. The high ceilings, wide-open floor plans and exposed brick
walls gave the apartments the same character that artists found appealing when they
transformed old buildings in New York City's SoHo district into the first loft apartments.
Air-conditioning ducts and
structural beams were left exposed. Old brick walls had more character than walls covered
with Sheetrock. The floors were wooden planks or concrete.
On the northern edge of downtown,
Davis bought the old Bute paint factory. He transformed the old building built in 1911
into the Dakota Lofts. Its 54 units range in size from 800 to 1,700 square feet.
When it opened in 1993, the Dakota
was a big success and that encouraged other developers to try lofts. It was followed by
the Hermann Lofts, Hogg Palace Lofts and some smaller projects.
But the real catalyst was Davis'
Rice Hotel project. For most of the 20th century, the Rice Hotel was at the heart of the
city's social life - a site for debutante balls, political speeches and swing dances in
The hotel closed in 1977 and
remained vacant for two decades, a boarded-up hangout for the homeless that was a blight
on the neighborhood.
The city bought the hotel, then
leased the property to Davis and his partner, Post Properties. The financing package was
aided by money from the Market Square tax increment financing district. With the creation
of this district, property valuations in the area were frozen. As property values go up
with the renovation of nearby buildings, the extra tax income is funneled back into the
The city has expanded the
district, so it now will be used to pay for improvements, such as street repairs and
improved lighting, in the area around the loft projects that are going up near the Rice.
The old hotel was transformed into
312 loft apartments. Not only was an eyesore removed, but the high-profile Rice project
helped spawn other development and draw customers for retailers.
The Rice, which opened last year,
is now 95 percent occupied, with rents ranging from $650 to $4,000 per month for units
ranging from 500 to 2,800 square feet.
The Rice is also an incubator of
sorts for downtown dwellers. At least four of the buyers at the Capitol Lofts are renters
at the Rice, according to realty agents.
THE RICE 909 TEXAS
2. ST. GERMAIN 705 MAIN
3. BAYOU LOFTS 915 FRANKLIN
4. HOGG PALACE 401 LOUISIANA
5. 220 MAIN
6. DAKOTA LOFTS 711 WILLIAM
7. CAPITOL LOFTS 711 MAIN
8. KEYSTONE LOFTS 1120 TEXAS
9. HERMANN LOFTS 204 TRAVIS
10. ONE BAYOU PARK 100 BAGBY
11. WHITE OAK LOFTS 1011 WOOD