Sunday, March 15, 2015

Avoiding CA's mistakes, Astrodome talk, great rankings, cool H-town video, and more

Let's kick off this week's post with an event announcement: if you have even the slightest interest in the Astrodome, don't miss Jim Gast's talk this Thursday.  I saw him speak at Rice, and he has a really compelling mix of great slides and stories of the Astrodome's history - so good I suggested he get it turned into a documentary.  As an added bonus, he'll sign a copy of his Astrodome book ("The Astrodome: Building an American Spectacle - A book about the people, technology, and times that built the biggest room in the world") for you.  Not to be missed.  Details here.

In other news, our new Center for Opportunity Urbanism think tank had an incredible inaugural luncheon event last week, with over 200 in attendance (!) and yours truly got some nice pics and quotes on the front page of the Chronicle.  California land use attorney David Friedman gave a scary talk about how environmental good intentions went awry in California starting in the 1970s and, combined with judicial activism, led to complete development and infrastructure stagnation as well as a gutting of the middle class there (housing and jobs).  You can see his slides here. A cautionary tale for Houston and Texas.

Other misc items this week:
"Paradoxically, perhaps the city’s biggest strength is its sprawl. Unlike most other big cities in America, Houston has no zoning code, so it is quick to respond to demand for housing and office space. Last year authorities in the Houston metropolitan area, with a population of 6.2m, issued permits to build 64,000 homes. The entire state of California, with a population of 39m, issued just 83,000... Joel Kotkin of Chapman University in California argues that thanks to cars, even over its vast size, Houston creates the same possibilities for people to meet and share ideas that generate wealth in denser cities such as New York. Sprawl may not be pretty—but it seems to work."
"Since 2009 the area has welcomed some 1,500 corporate relocations or expansions—and that’s just counting those that created 50 or more jobs, leased 20,000 or more square feet of office space, or invested $1 million or more in capital improvements.
In the past four years, greater Houston grew by half a million people—half from moves, half from births. Population growth means housing demand, and realtors sold more than 425,000 homes in the last five years, amounting to a home-closing rate of one every six minutes, according to the Greater Houston Partnership. What’s more, jobs boost construction, which is why last year Houston topped our list of Building Boom Towns: metro areas with the most new construction. 
What’s behind the boom, besides the obvious oil explosion? Exports. Between 2009 and 2013, the value of Houston’s exports grew 74.5%. More than 3,000 companies in greater Houston do business internationally, by Jankowski’s count, from oilfield services giant Schlumberger to Universe Technical Translation. The metro area is now the nation’s top exporter, ahead of New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Detroit. "
Finally I'd like to end with this really well done short promotional video of Houston by the GHP.  It'll make you proud to be a Houstonian (you can make it a more impressive full screen size with a click on the lower right corner brackets).

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