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Midtown not feeling the recession

Good to know some parts of town are still thriving.

The recession seems to have forgotten about Midtown.

A drive around the neighborhood reveals forgotten buildings undergoing restoration and new apartments being framed.

This area between the Central Business District and the Texas Medical Center began its transformation in the late 1990s when Post Properties built an upscale apartment complex above street-level retail that’s attracted sidewalk cafes and boutiques. A tax increment reinvestment zone formed in 1995 has helped fuel development by pumping money into the area’s infrastructure.

Matt Stovall, vice president of Midtown property owner Crosspoint Properties, said inquiries to lease office space in the company’s commercial buildings are on the rise.

It’s just too bad that that original Post property remains the only such example of truly pedestrian-friendly mixed use development. If only there was to be a revision to the city codes that governed new development so that policies that encouraged that kind of building could be enacted.

Having said that, as one who remembers what Midtown looked like 20 years ago, when it was used as the filming location for a movie set in post-apocalyptic Detroit, the place is several orders of magnitude better now. We didn’t call it “Midtown” back then – we didn’t call it anything, because there was no good reason to be there. Even if it’s a missed opportunity for urbanism, Midtown is a huge asset to the city now.

Houston attorney Genora Boykins was able to persuade a lender to finance a roughly $2 million bed and breakfast called La Maison in Midtown that has broken ground at 2800 Brazos.

“It was a little challenging early on in the process,” Boykins said. “The thing that made the difference is we really didn’t give up on the vision we have.”

The amount of real estate activity in the area helped too, she said. One of the largest projects is a $39  million apartment complex being developed on Travis by local developer Camden Property Trust. It’s going up just behind the Crosspoint retail and office project that houses acclaimed restaurant Reef.

Boykins and her business partner, Sharon Owens, plan to open their B&B in next year’s first quarter.

The seven-room property will be in a three-story build-ing designed to evoke New Orleans-style architecture. Rooms will run from about $175 to as much as $300 for one of the two suites.

Gotta admire the optimism in that. I’m unsure how good an idea such a B&B would be in good times, but best of luck to ’em. I will note that this location is seven blocks away from the McGowen light rail stop, which will surely be a plus for them. I’d say the Main Street line overall has been a sizable boon for Midtown.

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