Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Thoughts on the news... and an appeal

A lot of interesting items in the Chronicle today. The downtown park plan is pretty cool, even if it is a tad derivative of Chicago's Millenium Park. There are additional links there to the graphic map and a conceptual photo gallery. I predict it will completely reinvigorate the east side of downtown, with many residential towers within a few years - just as it's done for Chicago. Take a look here to see how many blocks are available for development nearby. Eastside downtown workers can say goodbye to their surface parking lots.

Next is the article on alarmed Heights residents scared of dense development. Can somebody explain to me why the houses to the right are scary? Many neighborhoods would kill for this kind of nice, context-sensitive, upscale development. I think they have much more character than the usual Houston townhome developments. Splitting the lots also keeps housing affordable, which keeps the neighborhood's cool, funky character. If they lot sizes get locked big, they'll have to get covered with expensive McMansions, the whole neighborhood will gentrify, and people will be even more unhappy. Somebody should also point these residents to Glaeser's study showing that they'll also be giving up a lot of home value by eliminating the extra development option from their land.

Third is the news we're probably going after the 2016 Olympics. Sigh. I'll stick by my predictions/handicapping from before - San Francisco will win. And I'll repeat my opinion on bidding:

Am I being disloyal to Houston? No, just realistic. And as I've posted before, an Olympics would be a big drain on the money and energy of our city that could go into more important long-term problems. I just hope we don't waste too much energy being a straw man for the USOC to get more out of San Francisco. If, by some miracle, we do win it, I will certainly be a major supporter and booster - and I think we will do a great job just like the Super Bowl. It's kinda like light rail: once it's a done-deal sunk cost, we might as well get everything possible out of it...

One nice side-effect is that the Astrodome will be part of the bid, keeping it from the demolition ball for a few more years until a good new use is decided (assuming the convention center hotel idea doesn't actually fly).

Finally, a personal appeal. If you have a little time, please go the Houston Travel Survey by TAMU and TXDoT and fill it out (Chronicle article). Tell your friends, too. Tell them it is critically important for Houston to have a comprehensive network of congestion-priced toll/managed lanes to maintain jobs in the core and keep it healthy and vibrant. It is inevitable that a large portion of our metro growth will be in the far suburban job centers like The Woodlands and Sugar Land, but we can avoid core stagnation with a high-speed option that prevents existing employers from getting fed up by traffic congestion and moving out. And let them know the network needs to reach all the major job centers, not just downtown - and that means covering the loops too. More on "MaX Lanes" can be found here - Managed eXpress lanes that move the maximum number of vehicles at maximum speed. Your vote counts. Thanks.


At 6:35 PM, May 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a bungalow owning Heights resident, I agree with you completely. I cannot for the life of me, figure out what the problem is with these rowhouses. On my lotline protected street, which was mentioned in the Chronicle article, I own one of the few bungalows left. Everything else is 3,000 to 4,000 square foot McVictorians. Hardly in keeping with the character of the Heights.

Heights residents are destroying the Heights in order to save it. And someone ought to tell them, because they are not listening to me.

At 9:18 PM, May 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you're right about all the new development that this downtown park will spark. I seem to remember the same thing being said about Minute Maid Park... and Metrorail (esp. for Midtown)... and Main Street Square...

I'm for the park either way, but I keep being disappointed by Houston's developers.

At 9:44 PM, May 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're losing 2 parking lots in front of the GRB and then if the pavilions ever breaks ground there's another 3 surface lots gone. If nothing else happens I can almost guarantee development of a parking garage.

Re: Mike said...

Think back to 1996 when people were giddy about the surface restaurants on the bottom floor of the new Rice Hotel. We've come a long way from those days. It doesn't have to become Time Square to be a success.

At 10:02 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

FYI: They are putting a parking garage under the park

At 8:16 AM, May 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the Olympics, I think we are in the same position we were last time:

We're really good at putting on sporting events. We have so many venues we can't figure out what to do with them, we're great at building stuff on time, and we're organized.

We're not a tourist destination.

Now, if the Olympics were purely a sporting event, I think we'd have a great shot. But the Olympics are first and formemost an "event", and that means entertaining lots of people, providing good photo backdrops, and generally being a tourist destination. So I don't think Houston stands a chance. And building rail lines has nothing to do with that.

Do we want it? That's another question. I think not.

At 10:47 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger kjb434 said...

Since they are calling Crawford Street the Crawford Promenade, can we be led to the conclusion that Crawford Street will not be open to vehicular traffic?

I'm perfectly fine with the concept. The underground parking concept also a great feature so the maximum benefit of the land can be obtained.


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