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Ashby everywhere: The San Felipe highrise

Hard to keep track of them all.

THESE UNDERSTATED “Stop the San Felipe Skyscraper” signs started going up about knee-high this weekend in River Oaks and Vermont Commons to protest that shiny 17-story office tower that Hines is proposing to build nearby. Though these signs — spotted at the corner of Spann and Welch and San Felipe and Spann, catty-corner from the proposed site — might be lacking the services of an imaginative cartoonist like their yellow precursors across town in Boulevard Oaks, their message still comes through, directing the onlooker as well to a recently launched website for all things skyscraper-stopping:

Of course, Hines continues to say through PR man George Lancaster that the company plans to build something “upscale and handsome, befitting its River Oaks address.” The rendering shown here is the most recent version of that; it differs a bit from the one Swamplot published in May that seems to have sparked much of the ire — and which boiled over in what the new website describes as a “heated” and “tense” community meeting last night with reps from Public Works and city council member Oliver Pennington: “Many participants came away from the meeting with the idea that the only way to stop the project will be through immediate legal action.”

“Good luck with that”, said everyone who opposed the Ashby Highrise. You can see the antis’ webpage here. They address what I consider to be the main question here:

Aren’t there already other high-rises in this same area?
There are three other high-rises within four blocks of the site. Of these, two are office buildings that are shorter by several stories. A residential high-rise (the Huntingdon) is taller. Here are the differences:

– All three of the other high-rises are on major thoroughfares with six lanes (Kirby) or four lanes (Shepherd).
– The other high-rises are separated from nearby residences by high walls (Huntingdon), open space (Shepherd), or other intervening structures (Compass building).
– 2229 San Felipe has larger garage capacity but will be surrounded by two-lane streets
– 2229 San Felipe has only a 10-foot setback from the street.

Residential buildings have a much lower density than comparable office buildings. As an idea, the Wingate and St. Honore developments on San Felipe at Revere may add 20-30 cars to an entire block, as compared to the 400 cars being added at 2229 San Felipe.

I have no idea what they’re getting at in that last paragraph. “Density” is people per square mile, so by their own reckoning the 2229 San Felipe building contributes greatly to it. Be that as it may, I have some sympathy for these folks, since that stretch of San Felipe is just like the part of Bissonnet where the Ashby will be – one lane each direction. On the other hand, as they themselves admit, there are three other highrises in the area. It’s a little hard to claim that a new highrise would stand out.

My general rule on these things is whether or not the location makes sense. This one is more of a gray area than others. I don’t think the neighbors will have any luck blocking it, but I suppose they haven’t yet broken ground on the Ashby, so who knows. The one sure thing is that we’ll continue to see situations like this, until either the real estate market inside the Loop gets saturated, or city ordinances get a drastic makeover. I’m not sure which is more likely to happen first.

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