Houston

Houston, the city of energy, best known for oil, gas, NASA and the world’s largest medical center, has also come to be known as one of the hippest new cities to live, according to Forbes Magazine. Houston has in  recent years undergone an astonishing evolution from a dreary industry town to young metropolis; with stylish house developments and fashionable new art galleries.

image courtesy of flickr user Katie Haugland

HOUSTON

In Houston, a network of technology and innovation has cleverly intersected, boosting the local economy. In the blend, the city gained what most American cities desire, a 2.6 percent job growth. 50,000 Americans relocated to Houston in 2013 alone, mostly young professionals in their 20′s and early 30′s. The constant flow of young workers has transformed the city. Increasing recreational, entertainment and green spaces, the landscape has changed from corporate cityscape to a successful cultural composition. Boasting a strong economy, Houston hosts a young population and caters for diversity, becoming one of the most sought after, up-and coming metropolitan areas in America.

  • 1836

    Houston founded along the Buffalo Bayou on the heels of the announcement of Texan independence. The city serves as the first capital of the Republic of Texas before it was later moved to Austin in 1840. The first proposed capital, Williamsburg, was largely destroyed in the war.
  • 1870

    Congress designates Houston a port. Improvements to the Houston ship channel are initiated in 1872 and 1902.
  • 1873

    Houston as a gridded city growing from the bayou. Future plans for the city’s development were largely ignored by developers as the city expanded from this point.
  • 1900

    Galveston devastated by hurricane. Houston to take on role as Texas’ major port as a result.
  • 1901

    Oil discovered at Spindletop. Subsequent oil discoveries at Humble and Goose Creek made Houston a hotspot for oilfield development.
  • 1929

    Houston Planning Commission submits the first proposed ordinance for zoning in Houston. The ordinance fails, and a second attempt at zoning laws will again fail in 1937.
  • 1937

    Law creates the Houston Flood Control District. The body is created to try and receive federal funding for flood control projects to alleviate the major flooding that continually plagues the city.
  • 1941

    A new master plan is created for Houston that relies on the creation of a loop system. Loop is proposed as a means for quickly moving military around downtown to protect the port.
  • 1948

    First section of the Gulf Freeway, Houston and Texas’ first freeway, is open for service. The highway will eventually connect Houston to Galveston.
    Additionally, annexation of surrounding suburbs increases Houston’s area from 74.4 to 216 square miles, nearly tripling its size.
  • 1962

    NASA moves its manned spacecraft program to Houston.
  • 1965

    The Houston Astrodome is completed, the first domed sports stadium of its kind.
  • 1971

    Shell moves its headquarters to Houston and begins the movement that would lead to Houston becoming the nation’s energy capital.
  • 1982

    Houston has mandatory development rules for the first time. Until now, all rules for developing subdivisions had been completely voluntary.
  • 1993

    After zoning proposals fail in 1948 and 1962, voters reject a zoning proposal for the fifth consecutive time.
  • 2001

    Tropical Storm Allison submerges large parts of the city in water, renewing the push for better flood control.
image courtesy of flickr user Alex

While Houston has a new hip appeal, it still struggles with environmental sustainability.

Corporate Campus Exodus

One of the challenges for the city is the density of the downtown area, built to suit a one-industry oil town; the center is cramped with car-dependent skyscrapers.  Above the streets of downtown exists a network of subterranean walkways, providing the city’s office workers with access to amenities. However, as much as these walkways might add to increased mobility, they also mean that all roads are stripped of pedestrian traffic and subsequently free surface-level restaurants and retail units.

To encourage a pedestrian-friendly downtown, the city is offering tax rebates to developers who build properties in central Houston. But despite the city’s encouragements, the areas outside Houston are proving far more popular with the younger crowds. The younger market prefers the green, livable suburbs north and west of the Houston I-610 loop. Recent trends also indicate larger corporate tenants are moving in the same direction, building campus-like headquarters with walkable amenities for their employees outside of town.

Creative Class Infill

When the larger corporations settles for the outer areas of they city, they make way for smaller tenants to freely fill the downtown office haven at lower rates. An interesting challenge quickly becomes evident; can the downtown areas meet the needs of smaller businesses whilst providing the same amenities and campus feel that the larger corporations find in the suburbs?

CASE STUDY

Greenway Plaza

Greenway plaza is a mixed-use development, five miles west of downtown Houston, and two miles away from the Houston Galleria. The complex includes over a dozen office buildings and was first planned as a multilayered, commercial-residential development, fitted with a hotel, convention center, sports arena and multi family housing. In the 1960’s Kenneth Schnitzer, bought properties in the West central with the ambition to create a second downtown for Houston. Since it’s opening in the 1970’s, Greenway Plaza has carried his vision, maintaining a diverse mix of office structures, movie theatres and various retailers. With an ideal blend of amenities at and a great location, one would not expect lower rates, but with decreasing interest, Greenway rents are set at 19 percent lower than the market average.

image courtesy of flickr user Katie Haugland

HOW COULD A SECOND DOWNTOWN HOUSTON BECOME LIVABLE, HUMAN AND GREEN?

  • Greenway Plaza

    A lack of growth in the area coupled with the city-led revitalization of downtown and the development of newer, more suburban mixed use developments around the city has likely made Greenway Plaza less desirable than it once was. Additionally, many of the buildings are connected via conditioned bridges and tunnels, leaving very little life at the street level and depriving the center of the vitality of a successful mixed-use development.
  • Greenway Plaza

    A new light rail line is proposed for Richmond Avenue, which will be critical for connecting Downtown Houston with the Houston Galleria (often throught to be Houston’s second downtown.) The line is projected to carry 80,000 passengers per day and will turn Greenway Plaza into a critical fulcrum between the East and West sides of the inner loop, as well as activate Richmond with greater pedestrian and retail presence.
  • Greenway Plaza

    Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. has owned and operated the core office development at Greenway Plaza and has been trying to sell at least part of the property for nearly ten years now. As of July of 2013, they finally found a buyer in Atlanta-based Cousins Properties. Ten office buildings of Greenway Plaza, associated parking, and the Shops at Greenway Plaza were acquired for $950 million in cash, making it one of the largest single commercial real estate transactions ever conducted in Houston.
  • Greenway Plaza Proposal

  • Greenway Plaza Proposal

  • Greenway Plaza Proposal

  • Greenway Plaza Proposal

Houston Credits

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