February 06, 2008
The latest highrise rumors

Swamplot and the Houston Architecture Info Forum both point to this subscription-only HBJ article that says there may be another highrise in our future, this one on Shepherd near Alabama, where the eclectic jewelry store Fly High Little Bunny now stands. I'm not sure what I think of this. There's no other highrise particularly close to this location - Shepherd Place, just north of Fairview, and the Frost Bank building on Norfolk and Greenbriar, each of which are about ten stories tall, are the nearest such neighbors. On the other hand, once Weingarten has completed its evil plans for the Alabama Bookstop, who knows what might be right across the street from this thing.

To put the best face on this, if we're talking something not too towering - say, about what Shepherd Place and Frost Bank are like - and if it's mixed-use with ground level retail as suggested in the HAIF thread, so that the area maintains its generally pedestrian-friendly feel, then given its reasonable proximity to Richmond and the Universities line, I can see this making some sense. It's not completely out of place in the way that the Ashby highrise is, in any event.

On the other hand, between this and the Gables expansion just down the block, that's going to be a lot of dense development in an area that's already pretty heavily trafficked - I've seen the line of cars waiting for the northbound light on Shepherd at Alabama reach almost all the way back to Richmond during afternoon drive time. There's far from any guarantee that what will be built will fit in to the space. And to the extent that anything could affect Weingarten's evil plans for the Alabama Bookstop, this kind of development so close by certainly won't discourage them in any way. So while I have hope that this won't be bad, I can't say I have a whole lot of faith. I hope I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 06, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston

Shepherd and Alabama are arterials, and we should be able to consider high-rises along major arterials, particularly at the intersections of two arterials. Obviously traffic has to be considered in the design of such a building. Likewise, I think we'd all like it to follow good urbanist practice (ground level retail, for example, plus wide sidewalks). And it would be an extra bonus if it weren't hideously ugly as well.

But assuming it can meet all of these criteria, I have no particular problem with it. In fact, given the Richmond Line going in, I both want and expect higher-density development within a quarter-mile radius of each stop. This is needed to make the train viable, I think. It seems that developers feel that the train will create useful synergies, because it seems we are seeing more and more of this type of development and construction near proposed rail stops.

Posted by: RWB on February 6, 2008 6:21 AM

How much development is too much? Given the narrow roads in that area already and the "Left Turning Lane of Death" already present, you want to add more construction ? Sometimes "the right" to do something isn't as precious as the actual ability "to do" something. I think from a practical standpoint alone, you are making a huge mess if you start the development of a large scale highrise there.

Posted by: TAN on February 6, 2008 7:14 AM