January 25, 2007
Get ready to say goodbye to Allen House

As noted by commenter KH here and as reported in the Chron, the next well known structure to go on the bulldozer hit list is the Allen House apartment complex on Allen Parkway.

On Tuesday, residents there were told that the Boston-based real estate firm that has owned the complex for two decades plans to turn the 24 acres of prime land into Regent Square, a mixed-use urban village housing apartments, condominiums, shops and a boutique hotel.

For Houston, known for its suburban sprawl, Regent Square will be something different: an open, walkable neighborhood for living, working, shopping and dining.

The developer, GID Urban Development Group, a division of the General Investment and Development Cos., has hired seven architecture firms to design the project.

GID owns 12,000 apartment units nationally.

The first phase, scheduled to start construction in September and to be completed in 2010, will offer 740 apartment units, 230,000 square feet of retail, 60,000 square feet of office space and a hotel on two city blocks.

A future phase of the project GID hopes to complete by 2014 could have 1,000 more residential units, including three condominium towers, more apartments and another 100,000 square feet of retail space.


John Darrah, vice president, GID Urban Development Group, said he hopes to create a "symbiotic relationship" with nearby River Oaks Shopping Center to encourage shoppers to visit both districts on the same trip.

I'll bet you'd have an easier time of that if the River Oaks Shopping Center still includes the River Oaks Theater. On a related note, I wonder how the eventual fate of the old Laff Stop site will affect that plan. It's not that it's a bad plan - not at all, actually - it's just that as I see it, there's some real variables in it. Who knows what that area will look like in 2010?

Regent Square will be bordered on the north by Allen Parkway, south by West Clay, east by Dunlavy and west by Tirrell.

Here's a Google map of the area. I couldn't get a good feel for it from the graphic in the print edition. According to this HAIF thread, the artist's conception of the project faces south, which is to say that's Allen Parkway at the bottom of the picture. I'll be sure to swing by with my camera sometime soon to help make this a bit more clear.

A mixed-use project like Regent Square goes against the conventional wisdom of Houston developers, said Michael Swartz, a project manager at David M. Schwarz/Architectural Services, the Washington, D.C., firm that is doing the master plan.

"In Houston, there's a mind-set of: You make your return on investment in three years," but with Regent Square, Swartz said, "you have an owner who's committed to a project for a very long term. They've owned the property for 20 years and expect to keep it for 20 years or more.

"An early exit strategy wouldn't work with a project like this."

I'm not sure what that means from a non-investor's perspective, but at least it's clear they want to get this started and finished quickly, unlike some other projects going on that I could name.

"I think it will be very exciting for the northern end of Montrose. The design, from what I saw, is really very exciting," said Sue Lovell, at-large city council member.

The city will likely have to grant variances for the project, she said. It will look at potential negative effects from the new development, such as more traffic congestion.

"The beauty of their project is there's a lot of entrances and exits, as opposed to other projects in Montrose sending lots of traffic out one way into very busy streets," she said.

True as far as it goes, though I'd think that little stretch of Dunlavy could get a lot busier. The intersection of Waugh and Dallas is pretty congested as well, and there's no protected left from Dallas onto Waugh. I'd put those two high on the list of potential trouble spots.

I'll keep an eye on this one. It'll be nice to have a project now that the Robinson Warehouse demolition is basically done.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 25, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

These mixed-use project are becoming the latest flavor of the month. Similar ones under development at the old Town & Country Mall site - http://www.midwaycompanies.com/Projects/_/town_country.asp (site work underway),

the Portico 8 development in Westchase - http://www.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2006/05/08/story6.html?from_rss=1 (construction underway),

the Lake Point Town Center in Sugar Land http://www.sugarland-properties.com/LPVillage.htm (construction underway)

and the Sugar Land Town Square http://www.sugarlandtownsquare.com/ (almost complete).

And that's just the ones on my way from home to work everyday.

I have mixed feelings about some of these developments. They feel contrived and the retail offerings have few if any local businesses. Most are national chains or franchises.

But denser population centers makes expansion of public transportation links more viable to those areas.

Posted by: Patrick on January 25, 2007 9:21 AM