County moving forward with my 2003 Astrodome proposal (sorta)
OK, maybe that's a little bit of a stretch. Back in 2003, I formally submitted a proposal to make the Astrodome a climate-controlled festival events venue
. At the time, it was passed over for the big money hotel conversion that never was able to get off the ground. Today, HCSCC rejected 19 private proposals and approved their official proposal to Harris County
: "convert it to a state-of-the-art conference and exposition center capable of hosting a large number of sports, convention or community events
." Not exactly the same, but pretty similar. Just took them 10 years to circle back to it ;-) Obviously the Rodeo and OTC are thrilled. NFL should be excited for the Super Bowl too. Conversion estimates are 30 months and $194 million.
My second idea, the National Museum of Technology and Innovation
(STEM/engineering focus), was included as part of the very impressive Astrodome Tomorrow
proposal that was rejected, primarily for financing reasons I suspect. Although HCSCC claims they will be integrating the best elements of the private proposals, so pieces may end up in the final plan. I still think NMTI is a great idea for Houston, but have received feedback over the years that the Astrodome is probably not the right facility, so this may be for the best. I hope the concept is able to move forward at a different location at some point (maybe in the Museum District or on the post office land downtown).
While I am very glad to see the Astrodome get preserved rather than demolished (it was added to a most endangered American landmark list today
), I'm disappointed they're talking about filling in all of the facility that's below ground (~25 feet deep). That seems like such a waste. I understand that they want the floor at ground level, and that's fine, but build an elevated floor and keep the space underneath. Even if it doesn't get finished out now, maybe one day it will get a use. Why expensively fill it in with dirt or concrete? At the very worst it could be storage. Or parking! A space 20+ feet high and probably about the size of two football fields is nothing to throw away, even if requires support columns breaking up the space. Hopefully the plan is, uh..., not set in concrete ;-)
Metro's lost decade, why Houston should be the capital of Texas, our affordability, and more
This week's misc items:
- Fortune article on a new book about how the the U.S. is bifurcating into high-growth, low tax, low debt central states and low-growth, high tax, high debt coastal states. Yet another reason to be thankful you live in Texas...
- Rising Prices Make Homeownership Affordability More Unequal Across the U.S. Despite the local headlines about Houston home prices moving up, it's relatively mild compared to more constrained metros, with only 12% of monthly average wage needed to pay the mortgage (second lowest after Detroit) and only a 8.7% year-over-year increase in prices. #1 Honolulu requires a whopping 74% of the monthly average wage to make mortgage payments. Mega-ouch. Houston was in the middle of the pack when it comes to rent affordability, requiring 29% of the monthly average wage (vs. 57% in Miami and NYC) and 9.7% YOY growth. Hat tip to Hugh.
- Texas Monthly on why Houston should be the capital of Texas instead of Austin, and the debate that ensued. Yes, it's a bit tongue in cheek. But still some fair points... ;-)
"So here we are, almost two centuries later. Austin, the capital, has forsaken the risk-taking ways of its founder and more closely resembles its dour namesake. The city is becoming ever more buttoned-down, striving, and full of modern-day “impresarios” (luxe condo flippers and McMansion builders) while insisting it is still the same “weird” Shangri-la it was when LSD and mescaline first came to town. Meanwhile, Houston—whose city father, incidentally, was known for his shaggy mane, gaudy head scarves, and Indian sashes—effortlessly goes about being one of the strangest and most wonderful metropolises on earth.
Consider first a few of its contrasts: For nine of the past eleven years, U.S. News & World Report has named MD Anderson the top cancer hospital in the country, while the Rothko Chapel will forever be an idyllic meditation space and the foremost shrine to suicidal depression on the planet. Rice is the state’s only private university with Tier One status (and the University of Houston is vying to become only the third public university in Texas with that status), while 2013 marks the twenty-sixth annual Houston Art Car Parade, a rolling spectacle and movable feast for the eyes like none other. Houston is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any American city outside New York and more taquerías than any ciudad this side of Monterrey.
Then there’s our sheer cultural heft. More than two million people avail themselves yearly of ballet, Broadway shows, opera, plays, and symphonic music at the nine arts venues downtown. Taken together, the seventeen-square-block theater district has more concentrated seating for arts events than any place besides Broadway. Seven million people a year stroll through Houston’s nineteen museum district attractions; last year the Houston Museum of Natural Science almost doubled in size with a 115,000-square-foot expansion that includes the gobsmacking, Smithsonian-level Morian Hall of Paleontology. And need I mention NASA, or that “Houston” was the first word spoken on the moon?"
- Excellent Bill King op-ed on how Metro blew it over-focusing on budget-busting light rail over the last decade. Great concluding excerpt:
"It is a welcome development that Metro seems to be committed to a revival of its bus service. It is unfortunate that we wasted a decade and several billion dollars on building an at-grade system that will do very little to enhance transit in Houston. We can only imagine how good our bus service might be today had Metro spent that decade and those billions on buses. Buses may not have the cool factor that shiny trains do. But if you really want to move a lot of people and really provide an alternative to private car travel, buses are the answer."
Looking forward to some (hopefully) good Astrodome news this week!
Labels: affordability, growth, home affordability, identity, Metro, mobility strategies, perspectives
National press continues its Houston love-fest, the essence of our competitive advantage, and more
Another round of smaller misc items this week:
- Gotta love it: 17 Reasons Why Houston Is The Best City In America in Business Insider magazine. I'm disappointed that the lack of zoning, a major feature IMHO, is buried under the "international trade" point for some reason.
- The BBC on 10 reasons so many people are moving to Texas. I agree with all of them, although #6 is overblown, and #10 is under-appreciated. Hat tip to Joel.
- Houston Is Unstoppable: Why Texas' Juggernaut Is America's #1 Job Creator in The Atlantic. "Houston is blessed by topography and geography. But the city's recent success is really a masterclass in learning from history." Good explanation of how Houston insulated it from the deep national and global recession and is dominating other cities in terms of job growth since the crash. Hat tip to Veronica.
- How the population of Houston breaks down geographically. Surprisingly, less than 2% of our recent growth has been inside the loop. I found it interesting that the numbers break down so cleanly: about a half-million inside the loop, 1.5 million to the beltway, 2 million outside the beltway but inside Harris County, and then another 2 million outside the county but in the MSA. Of course you have to think of those numbers as odometers that are constantly growing... ;-)
- Houston has been ranked as the #4 best performing big city in the country for 2012, and Richard Florida gives his analysis, including "Houston, which has one of the largest concentrations of IT workers and software engineers in the country, is a case study of how resources and ideas can go together to generate growth." Hat tip to Jessie.
Finally, this interesting graph from The Economist magazine showing life satisfaction as it relates to income in different countries. This gets to the essence of Houston's competitive advantage: our low cost of living moves people further up these lines even with modest incomes
. News flash: People are just plain happier when their salary goes further (surprise!).
Labels: affordability, census, creative class, demographics, economic strategy, economy, growth, home affordability, identity, opportunity urbanism, perspectives, quality of place, rankings, talent, zoning
NYT wants to save the Astrodome, Houston rising, Atlanta learns the wrong lessons from us, and more
Let's open this week's post of smaller miscellaneous items with this excellent NY Times essay on the importance of saving the Astrodome
: "Astrodome: Dirty and Dated, but Irreplaceable
". Great old pics too.
So it was despairing to hear that the vacant Astrodome might be torn down and its site paved over as Houston prepares to host the 2017 Super Bowl. Demolition would be a failure of civic imagination, a betrayal of Houston’s greatness as a city of swaggering ambition, of dreamers who dispensed with zoning laws and any restraint on possibility.
James Glassman, a Houston preservationist, calls the Astrodome the city’s Eiffel Tower and the “physical manifestation of Houston’s soul.” New York could afford to tear down old Yankee Stadium, Glassman said, because the city had hundreds of other signature landmarks. Not Houston. Along with oil, NASA and the pioneering heart surgeons Michael E. DeBakey and Denton A. Cooley, the technological marvel of the Astrodome put a young, yearning city on the global map.
I sincerely hope someone at the county shows some leadership to pull together a solution, rather than passively sitting back, willing to only review fully-funded proposals, and then defaulting to demolition when that impossibility doesn't happen.
Moving on to this week's items:
Texas still stands head and shoulders above others in their business climate, employee work ethics and living environment.
Texas is best by far. No other state is even close.
A number of my friends do business in both California and Texas. Their experiences are causing them to move as much of their operations to Texas as they can. I only invest in California if I have to!
Texas has it ‘right’ on all fronts.
Texas is the best place to do business, recruit talent, every metric, hands down. New Mexico is our home state and they try, but it just has not yet happened like in Florida, Nevada and Texas.
- I found this David Brooks' piece on engaged vs. detached approaches to writing/blogging to be thought provoking. I think I've tried to aspire to be detached, although I certainly have a pro free market and pro Houston worldview (and Brooks points out that even detached writers have a philosophy/worldview). Thoughts welcome in the comments.
- Great time lapse animation of satellite photography showing Houston's growth since 1984. Most of the growth is west of 45, although northeast near IAH grows strongly too. I like that our growth is somewhat balanced around the core, as opposed to cities like Dallas where it's all to the north and west.
Labels: Astrodome, census, economy, growth, identity, perspectives, rankings, smart growth, sprawl
WSJ shows Houston some love, urban planning flaws, #1 mfg boomtown, and more
Mayor Parker and Houston got a great write-up
in the Wall Street Journal Saturday. The whole thing is truly a must-read
), but here's my favorite excerpt:
Like Texas as a whole, Houston sells itself as "business friendly," and Ms. Parker ticks off the attractions—ease of permitting, unobtrusive regulations and low taxes. She also supports Houston's limited restrictions on land use, which some here call its real secret sauce. Without zoning, Houston can adjust to shifting market demands—whether for townhouse complexes or retail outfits—faster than most any other city. It looks unwieldy to anyone of the urban-planning persuasion, but it also keeps prices down.
Yours truly also got a quote in the story. The journalist did an excellent job summarizing an hour+ interview of me with one pithy quote:
Tory Gattis, who writes the Houston Strategies blog, says: "I'd argue we may be the most libertarian city in America. Live and let live; strong property rights; not much corruption; small business culture."
The same WSJ issue also had an inspiring profile of the Houston-based Laura and John Arnold Foundation
and their new approach to philanthropy focused on solving really big, long-term problems (vs. standard gifts to charities). I think they are going to do great things in Houston over the coming years (not to mention nationally and globally).
Moving on to some other misc items this week:
"The urban plans of the future have to combine the capacity first to encourage a city’s entire population, not just college students – an error commonly made in today’s over emphasized reliance on “creatives” – to take up the possibility of innovating and making new companies that meet unforeseen demands in world markets beyond the city. Scale production, not small shop keeping or running art galleries, is the only path to growth and urban futures that hold the potential to restore communities which means reducing poverty. But, of course, this, like the capitalism that holds this promise, appears just too messy for planners who, in the end, see the growth of government and its control over all aspects of the built environment as the pathway to the cities of tomorrow, which in their documents look troublingly nostalgic for the towns that once were."
"So far from these lists we know that Houston is really good at moving scams, nurturing business of all sizes, changing business norms, having a healthy housing market, raising rent, creating jobs (lots of manufacturing jobs actually), growing real fast, being mobile-shopping savvy, and generally being “cool” or whatever passes for cool at Forbes magazine. The business mag put us at the top of their cool kids list, and poor ol’ Austin came in at 19 on the Top 20 list. Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Dallas made it on the list at 13, 11, and fourth respectively."
Finally, to end with a little humor, these NSFW Houston T-shirts
are very cool, but I am not sure I could wear one in public...
Labels: demographics, development, economic strategy, economy, entrepreneurship, identity, land-use regulation, opportunity urbanism, planning, rankings, tourism, zoning
Fare-free transit, Houston beats Austin, better commuter transit, and more
Continuing to work through the backlog of smaller misc items...
"When speaking to detractors of the fare-free system, Litchfield likes to point out the measurable savings as well. The transit agency saves money that would be spent on fare collection, in terms of both staff and equipment (the system has 99 buses, and farebox devices sell in the area of $15,000 each). Advertising costs are down, since Chapel Hill Transit doesn't have to promote its pass programs, and the system also saves money that would have gone toward low-income ridership assistance. Last but not least, the buses save time because they no longer have to check passes or wait for fare swipes."
"Drum roll, please, for this legend in its own mind, a mildly entertaining university town and state capital with fever dreams of greatness, a city whose entire purpose for breathing is to not be like everything else around it. When you're trying to set yourself apart from a place as large and as bold as Texas, you have to work really, really hard. Which could explain why everyone walks around here looking so stressed. Sprawling Austin is one of those unfortunate places that seems really smashing on paper. And then one ruins things by going. You have now been advised.
Instead, try If your precious snowflake mind can tolerate a little diversity of thought, Houston -- our nation's fourth largest city, if you didn't know -- is currently the place to experience Texas at its most interesting. Sure, this is a city so ugly that sometimes you may be tempted to put a bag over its head, but Houston is also an impressively creative and very fun town, with good museums (the Menil Collection, the Contemporary Arts Museum), plenty of good food -- Austin's own golden boy, Tyson Cole, opened Uchi here recently -- good drink (start with Anvil and Hay Merchant), plenty of music and -- best of all -- fun-loving locals who are generally anything but uptight."
"While 24,000 people an hour is a lot compared with a single freeway lane carrying 2,000 cars an hour with a rush-hour average of 1.1 persons per car, there is no reason why freeway lanes have to be limited to cars. A freeway lane dedicated to buses is capable of moving 1,200 buses per hour safely spaced six bus lengths apart. If WMATA used 80-seat, double-decker buses such as those used in Las Vegas, that lane could move 96,000 people per hour, without even counting standees.
On reaching downtown, the buses could disperse to various streets, any of which are capable of moving at least 160 buses an hour (40 buses per hour per stop with four designated stops every two blocks). That means directing buses down three or four north-south streets and four east-west streets, allowing most riders to find a stop close to their actual destination.
The Washington DC region could spend tens of billions of dollars and many years building new subway lines that would provide a modest increase in the rail system’s capacity. Or it could spend a small fraction of that amount of money and time on new buses running on high-occupancy toll lanes that would more than double the system’s capacity. Unfortunately, the political momentum created when DC made the mistake of building rail in the first place will probably doom it to doing the former. The result will be a lot of money spent but little congestion relief."
Finally, in the dark humor department, I snapped this pic of a Rice University parking meter after you've given it your credit card to pay for parking upon exiting. It doesn't actually tell you how many dollars it's charged you, it just gives you this graphic of the most evil looking smiley face I've ever seen, taunting you with "I've just charged your credit card an obscene amount, but let's keep it a secret until you open your credit card bill, shall we?"
Labels: Astrodome, commuter rail, density, high-speed rail, identity, infrastructure, Metro, mobility strategies, rail, rankings, tourism, zoning
Can Houston learn from and emulate Cornell's NYC tech campus?
The NY Times has an article with the details on the Cornell NYC Tech university model
, including close ties between commercial tech development and academia. It is an economic development project for NYC as much as an academic one, and one that Houston should consider emulating. The school is completely focused on masters degree students in the applied sciences - no undergrads or doctoral students - and is thus a perfect fit for catalyzing a tech startup scene.
But the most striking departure of all may be the relationship it sets forth between university and industry, one in which commerce and education are not just compatible, they are also all but indistinguishable. In this new framework, Cornell NYC Tech is not just a school, it is an “educational start-up,” students are “deliverables” and companies seeking access to those students or their professors can choose from a “suite of products” by which to get it.
Colleges and universities across the country — a great many of which are scrambling to find new ways to finance scientific research, as well as new ways to profit from the fruits of that research — are watching closely. In the last year, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has announced the creation of technology schools by both Columbia and New York University. And Cornell’s president, David J. Skorton, said he had been visited by representatives from other cities hopeful that the Cornell NYC Tech model might work there, too.
A longer and even more compelling NYT story on the pioneering Cornell NYC tech campus can be found here
But for Cornell NYC Tech, that close relationship is not merely the desired outcome; it is the founding premise. “The campus was set up specifically to increase the talent pool in New York City,” Dr. Skorton said, “to positively influence the New York City economy.”
I really do wish Houston was doing something like this, and have written about something similar in the past with UH
. Rice might also be able to do something similar right now with its BioScience Research Collaborative
building in collaboration with the Texas Medical Center. And just as Cornell is in remote upstate New York but building a tech campus in the city, TAMU could do the same thing here. In fact, Texas A&M has ambitions to be the largest engineering school in the country
, which should have great benefits for Houston. They want to grow from 11,000 to 25,000 engineering students. Maybe they'd consider a satellite campus in Houston, maybe even at the KBR site
? Lots of possibilities. This would be a perfect initiative for the Mayor's office to champion if anybody wants to forward this post along...
Labels: economic strategy, education, entrepreneurship
Houston vs. NYC, density does not equal wealth, DART's poor rail investments, good rankings, and more
Another round of smaller misc items:
"What’s happening in New York is just part of a national shift. Highly paid, college-educated people are increasingly clustering in the college-graduate-dense, high-amenity cities where they get good deals on the stuff they like, while low-skilled people are increasingly flowing out to cheaper places with a worse quality of life. The end result, Diamond’s research shows, is that measures of the growing income gap between the high-skilled and the low-skilled, which already look pretty shocking, seriously understate the inequality between these two classes.
This two-tier economy can seem inevitable, but other middle-income cities — particularly Sun Belt hubs like Houston and Charlotte — are now offering a third option, says Edward L. Glaeser, an economist at Harvard. A large part of their appeal has to do with policies that make it easier to build homes and expand the affordable housing stock for those people fleeing cities like New York. Places like Detroit are cheap, Glaeser told me, because they have become drastically less attractive locations to live and work. But places like Houston are cheap — and staying cheap, even as they grow — because the local governments have realized their comparative advantage is in deregulation, not in fancy cookies."
No. 7: Houston, Texas
"Houston's close tie to the Caribbean, as well as its dominant global energy industry, thriving industrial base, huge Texas Medical Center complex and first-rate airport all work to its long-term advantage. Arguably the big city in the U.S. with the healthiest economy, Houston is also investing in a "green" future; last year it was the nation's largest municipal purchaser of wind energy."
- Houston was recently named the fifth most attractive investment market in the world by AFIRE (trailing only New York, San Francisco, London, and Washington D.C.). Hat tip to Jessie.
- Reason TV: CA vs. The Suburbs: Planners, Smart Growth, and the Manhattan Delusion
- How driverless cars will both expand sprawl and increase core density simultaneously. Hat tip to Charles.
- A nice writeup in Voxxi: Houston, Texas: A vibrant city of immigrants. Hat tip to Jessie.
- Joel Kotkin demolishes the "density = wealth" assertion used to justify forcing density.
- Dallas Area Rapid Transit gets taken to task for poor rail investments. Let it serve as a warning to METRO to not make the same mistakes...
- Mayor Parker's excellent State of the City address from last week. We are really on a serious roll.
- In the "unintentional humor" department, check out this Atlantic Cities article predicting that cars will go the way of the steamship or landline and slowly fade away. Of course that premise is absurd unless we develop teleportation. What they're really saying is that cars may run on something other than the internal combustion engine (some already do), or that widespread private ownership may end (we may just order up a temporary automated car from our smart phone anytime we need one). But the personal vehicle, i.e. "car", is certainly not going away any more than ships and phones have gone away.
Labels: affordability, demographics, density, economy, home affordability, Metro, opportunity urbanism, planning, rail, rankings, sprawl, technology
More great rankings, an outsider on our Ch.42 revisions, rethinking METRO, and more
My backlog of smaller miscellaneous items is at an all time high (over 50!), so prepare for a deluge as I try to clear it out over the next few weeks:
“Houston has gained broad acceptance as a top-tier market,” said Greg Kraus, managing director at Atlanta-based Invesco Ltd. (IVZ), a global adviser for pension clients including QSuper Ltd., an Australian fund for public-service workers. “It’s reflected in job growth, more gas refineries, more oil out of the Houston port and a true international feeling.”
"Houston, up 4.8%. Texas' largest city is big in the energy industry -- and not just in the traditional areas of oil and gas. It's also seeing gains in newer areas, such as wind and solar. Health care and aerospace are other major industries in town. Houston has an interconnected bikeway network over 300 miles long spanning across 500 square miles, so commuters can get past gridlock while getting healthy on their way to work. In their free time, residents can enjoy a rich, multicultural arts community."
"For the $75,000-annual-income hypothetical family, the highest total tax rate is in Bridgeport, Conn., where the family would pay $16,105, or 21.5 percent, of its income in taxes.
The lowest rate at the $75,000 income level is in Cheyenne, Wyo., where the family would pay nearly $2,808 in taxes, or 3.7 percent of its income.
In Houston, the same hypothetical family would pay $4,333 in taxes, or 5.8 percent of its income, making it 47th in the list of 51 cities.
The tax burden that is looked at in the study includes state and local taxes on income, residential property, sales and vehicles. The vehicle tax incorporates the gasoline tax, registration fees, excise tax and the personal property tax."
Finally, dear readers, please fill out this Urban Houston Framework survey
about what tools the city should and should not use in getting certain kinds of dense, urban development from developers. I found some of the tools reasonable, and some to be overreach, and if you read my blog, you probably have a thoughtful opinion on these topics the city should know about.
Labels: affordability, density, development, economy, growth, land-use regulation, Metro, port, rankings
Seizing the Astrodome opportunity to establish Houston's new global identity
The Chronicle published my op-ed this morning
, although with an inaccurate headline (it would cover all technology and innovation, not just locals). The headline above is the original one I proposed. As I always do with such op-eds, I put a full copy on the blog here as a backup. If you'd like to contact me to discuss it in more detail, I can be reached at tgattis (at) pdq.net . Looking forward to your comments. If you're interested in the bigger picture behind this, see here: The Ultimate Houston Strategy
"Houstonians love Houston. So do U.S. business owners. The rest of the world ... not so much. With lax zoning laws and plentiful space, Houston's low cost of living and doing business is a dream for American businesses and middle class workers, but the rest of the world pretends as though the city doesn't exist. The city has fewer international tourists than any other comparable global city."
Unfortunately for Houston, other cities have staked out the best tourism identities: family fun in Orlando, adult fun in Las Vegas or New Orleans, beaches in Miami or Honolulu, Hollywood glamour in Los Angeles, romance in Paris, culture in New York and so on. But there is a city Houston can learn from: Washington, D.C., a city where millions of families and school groups visit to learn about our country's history and culture through the great Smithsonian Institution and government institutions and monuments around the National Mall.
- Price WaterhouseCoopers survey of the best cities for business, life and innovation
Every year, countless children are inspired toward careers in public service by this experience. But where can America's kids go to be inspired toward careers in our country's most crucial need: science, technology, engineering and math (aka STEM)? Something far beyond their little local science or children's museum?
Houston could be that city, building not only on our energy, chemical, aerospace and biomedical industries, but also on our top-rated and very popular existing STEM museum
s like Space Center Houston
, The Museum of Natural Science
, The Health Museum
, The Children's Museum, Moody Gardens and The George Observatory. But we really need one additional anchor "mega-attraction" that will give us critical mass and undisputed STEM leadership. That flagship would be the National Museum of Technology and Innovation
, the world's largest engineering and technology museum - something in the class of D.C.'s National Air and Space Museum
(the second-most popular museum in the world), Germany's Deutsches Museum
, San Francisco's Exploratorium or Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry
. It could even be one of the Smithsonian's network of national museums, which have started to move out beyond Washington, D.C., like Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
in New York and the Smithsonian affiliate, National Museum of Industrial History
in Bethlehem, Penn.
Think of it as Houston's version of Paris' Louvre or London's British Museum
. And with the right design, it could attract STEM-related academic and commercial conferences from around the world to Houston (imagine a Davos of STEM).
By showing students stories of the great historical innovators who invented technology to address civilization's problems, we can inspire America's - and especially Houston's - youth into STEM careers. They can see how they could become the next Edison, Bell, Ford, Gates, Jobs or Musk. But this institution would not just look backward at history. It would inspire kids into STEM fields by framing the great challenges of the present and future, such as the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering by the National Academy of Engineering
, including limitless fusion energy, health informatics, better medicines, artificial intelligence, carbon sequestration, preventing nuclear terror, securing cyberspace, advancing personalized eLearning and more.
Where can Houston find a grand structure to house such a grand institution? Yes, the Astrodome.
The problem with most of the Astrodome proposals so far is their isolation from a bigger civic vision. If a purely for-profit enterprise were feasible, it would have happened by now. Houston's philanthropic community needs to be inspired to invest in the future of the Astrodome (in partnership with Harris County). If it fails to act, based on the latest buzz, the Dome simply will be torn down for parking, and Houston's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and historical icon will be lost forever. Imagine if Paris had torn down the Eiffel Tower after the World's Fair there, or if Rome had torn down its epic Coliseum?
Houston, we have our biggest problem since Apollo 13. It's time to come together to solve it.
The city has a great history of big visions and big projects that have paid off big time, from the Ship Channel to the Texas Medical Center to the Manned Spacecraft Center
to the original construction of the Astrodome. Can we uphold that legacy and muster that civic will again for another round? Can we channel part of this great energy boom we're enjoying now into investments for our long-term prosperity? And most important, will a farsighted philanthropist step forward to champion a new vision for the Astrodome?
County officials have already stated a STEM museum is one of the best ideas they've been presented for repurposing the Astrodome, but they want to see philanthropic backing. The Getty Trust
stepped up to build the spectacular $1.3 billion Getty Center in Los Angeles. Ross Perot
's family donated $50 million to kick off a successful $185 million campaign to build the stunning new Perot Museum of Nature and Science
in Dallas.Bernard Marcus
, founder of Home Depot
, donated $250 million to build the world's largest aquarium in Atlanta. Does Houston have such a visionary leader?
As we bid for the 2017 Super Bowl, it's widely acknowledged that the time is now to decide on the fate of the Astrodome.
In two years, on the 50th anniversary of its opening, will we be celebrating a grand second life for this Houston icon, or will we be looking at a little golden plaque among a sea of parking spaces saying "The world's first domed stadium and Eighth Wonder of the World once stood here"?
Gattis writes the Houston Strategies and Opportunity Urbanist blogs.
Labels: Astrodome, education, identity, tourism
Winter 1Q13 Highlights, 8-year anniversary, updated best-of-the-best
It's time for the Winter 1Q13 quarterly highlights post, as well as acknowledge the 8-year anniversary of this blog. Wow - kind of hard to believe I've been able to keep it going this long. And around the end of this year, I should be hitting another major milestone: my 1,000th blog post. That's a little intimidating to think about writing... no pressure, right?
These posts have been chosen with a particular focus on significant ideas I'd like to see kept alive for discussion and action, and they're mainly targeted at new readers who want to get caught up with a quick overview of the Houston Strategies landscape. I also like to track what I think of as "reference posts" that sum up a particular topic or argument; and, last but not least, they've also been invaluable for me to track down some of my best thinking for meetings or when requested by others (as is the ever-helpful Google search). They're not quite as useful as they were when I was still doing multiple posts each week, but still have some value (at least for me).
Don't forget we offer an email option for the roughly once/week posts - see the Google Groups subscription signup box in the right sidebar. An RSS feed link is also available in the right sidebar. As always, thanks for your readership.
And don't forget the highlights from the first few years. For what it's worth, I think the best ideas are found there, often in the first year (I had a lot "stored up" before I started blogging) and most definitely in the 5th birthday retrospective (which I'm now updating at the end of each year).
Astrodome to be restored to host 2017 Super Bowl LI
Harris County officials announced today a comprehensive plan to restore the Astrodome to its full functionality and grandeur by its 50th anniversary in 2015, and the NFL announced in parallel an agreement to have it host the 2017 Super Bowl LI. In addition, both professional teams that once played there will return, with the Titans returning from a failed foray to Tennessee and renaming themselves back to the Oilers (Houston will join NYC as the only two cities to host two NFL teams), and the Astros returning from an aging Minute Maid Park, including a return to those stylish rainbow uniforms (although it has not been announced at this time whether they will be playing major or minor-league baseball). Minute Maid Park will be converted into yet another convention center hotel to join the Hilton Americas, the Embassy Suites, the Four Seasons, the previously announced new hotel next to Discovery Green
, and the Star of Hope - finally giving the GRB enough hotel rooms to compete in the convention big leagues.
Although the Oilers will not be sharing a stadium with the Texans like the New York Giants and Jets do, parking constraints do mean the NFL will not schedule them with home games on the same day other than the days they play each other, which will be twice a year given that they will both still be in the same division, the AFC South. Bob McNair and Bud Adams have a tentative agreement on separate tailgating areas for such games.
Rodeo Houston will also be taking advantage of the new venue to double its programming, offering separate concerts each evening in both the Astrodome and Reliant Stadium. Rodeo officials are thrilled now that they will have the opportunity to greatly expand their rap, DJ raves, and Justin Bieber concert programming.
Hope you enjoyed this year's April Fools post. Here are previous years if you missed 'em and would like a chuckle: