For Looped In's 100th episode, we sat down with some of the city's most prominent figures in real estate and development. Joe Colaco, Marvy Finger, Ed Wulfe and Welcome Wilson Sr. have spent a collective 230 years shaping our skyline and our suburbs. They debated such charged topics as mass transit, historic preservation and zoning, and shared the high points of their careers and the lessons they learned working in a city whose economic success is inextricably linked to the price of oil.
Looped In has been on a mini break gearing up for a new year and new episodes, so enjoy this rerun from November 2016 on the history of Houston neighborhoods. (Incidentally, we recorded this episode right after real estate developer Donald Trump was elected president.) Stay tuned for a fresh episode of Looped In (our 100th!) next week.
Nearly 1,800 households in East Texas are still living in trailers provided by FEMA more than a year after Hurricane Harvey. Now, many are at risk of losing their temporary shelters.
More than a year after Hurricane Harvey, developers continue to build in parts of Houston that flood, and it's not expected to stop anytime soon. After all, one-third of the city is covered by flood plains. On the newest episode of Looped In, Nancy is joined by the Chronicle's Mike Morris, who explains his recent reporting that found one in five homes permitted in Houston in the year after the hurricane is in a flood plain.
After years of catering to move-up buyers with big housing budgets, builders in Houston are introducing new models with lower price tags and smaller footprints. One company is marketing a 1,000-square-foot model with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a one-car garage for under $92,000. Lawrence Dean, regional director of home building consulting firm Metrostudy, talks with Nancy about the growing market for small homes.
Nancy and Chronicle retail reporter Paul Takahashi deep dive into Mattress Firm’s strategy of “over-storing” and talk about where the company – now in Chapter 11 – goes from here. Houston retail expert Jason Gaines of NAI Partners joins them to discuss the real estate implications.
Rose Bonaduce received a letter from the Harris County Appraisal District in August notifying her that a request to protest the value of her brand new home was scheduled for a hearing the following month. But there was a problem: she never filed a protest. Bonaduce's daughter, Karen Scott, posted the letter on her neighborhood Facebook group and discovered others who had also received notices for hearings they never requested. So on the date of her mother's hearing, Scott went to HCAD to get answers.
How many explosives does it take to implode a 20-story building? What's the best time to do it? And who gets to push the button when it's go time? In Part II of Demolition Man, Mike Dokell, vice president of demolition for Cherry Cos. shares stories from his 30 years tearing down Houston office buildings, hotels, and one of the messiest jobs he ever had, imploding the former Macy’s department store downtown.
Mike Dokell has spent the past 30 years in the business of tearing down houses, office towers and other commercial buildings, but he rarely uses the word "demolition." In his industry, when you demolish a building you "wreck it." When you fill it with explosives and blow it up, you "shoot it." No matter the lingo, Dokell's mind is a treasure trove of all things destruction. The vice president of demolition for Cherry Cos. joins Nancy and Allyn to talk about wrecking houses post-Hurricane Harvey, how it's done and where all that rubble goes.
The city of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department’s affordable housing program has suffered from lack of oversight and mismanagement for years, a recent Chronicle investigation found. The rules governing the long-standing program, which was meant to help low-income Houstonians become homeowners and improve neighborhoods, weren’t always followed and in many cases homes were sold to people who shouldn’t have qualified because they made too much money. Mike Morris, the Chronicle’s City Hall reporter, conducted the investigation and explains what went wrong and how the city intends to fix it.
Whole Foods Market's lower-priced 365 grocery concept debuted in Houston last month, filling a hole in an area long underserved by grocers – Independence Heights. Yet the opening has also spurred fears of displacement and gentrification. Retail reporter Paul Takahashi explains the tension and updates listeners on the latest Sears store closings.
The sale of the Kirby Mansion to a luxury car dealer has Houston preservationists working overtime to figure out a way to save the property. Now there are rumblings that the historic home could be relocated from its Midtown block. Nancy and Allyn discuss the latest updates about the Kirby Mansion, as well as plans for a separate project not far away: the W Hotel. The proposed hotel development, slated for a site next to downtown's George R. Brown Convention Center, could benefit from millions of dollars in tax incentives if the city approves it later this year. A veteran hotel consultant talks with Nancy and Allyn about what a W Hotel would mean for Houston and the controversial plan for incentives.
Houston is often cited as being one of the most affordable cities in the nation. But is it really? Irene Vazquez, a student and writer for Rice Design Alliance's OffCite, wrote an article this summer looking at income segregation and home prices in Houston. The takeaway: The city is divided into two parts – the arrow, which covers the historically wealthy parts of town, and the horseshoe, the rest of the city. Lumping the two together can lead to a false impression about housing and affordability. Vazquez talks with Nancy and Allyn about what she learned from her research. She also sheds light on what people from her generation think about home ownership.
Restaurants take up a whole lot of real estate in Houston, one of the nation’s most buzzed about food cities. Ryan Cortez, a Houston chef and drummer who recently competed on Fox reality show MasterChef, joins Nancy and Chronicle food editor Greg Morago to talk about the city’s best restaurant neighborhoods and the challenges of finding space in them.
Residents and community leaders are taking steps to help preserve the affordability and character of Houston’s Third Ward and neighborhoods surrounding it as new development threatens to change the area in a way that concerns some of the longtime residents. Joy Sewing, the Houston Chronicle’s fashion and beauty editor, lives in the area and is president of the Riverside Civic Association. One of the things that worries her is the number of letters and postcards she gets from investors wanting to buy her home. She spoke with Nancy and Allyn about her efforts to strengthen the community and keep it from becoming overrun with speculators and townhomes.
Some employees love working in an open workspace and are energized by the impromptu chats and collaboration that goes with it. Others wear headphones all day, a sign to their co-workers to stay away. Nancy and Allyn talk to Brian Malarkey of the Kirksey architecture firm about a recent study, which found that open offices may lead to less, not more, communication.
More than five years ago, Houston-based architecture firm PBK invited FBI officials, police chiefs from area school districts and educational leaders to meet and discuss what has become one of the country's most urgent threats: school shootings. Now, the company -- a leader in K-12 design -- has hired a law enforcement veteran to further its efforts in designing secure facilities without detracting from the educational mission. Chief Alan Bragg and PBK partners Ian Powell and Dan Boggio join Nancy and Allyn to discuss what’s being done to keep schools safe.
Real estate investors rushed to buy flooded houses after Hurricane Harvey, buying many for dimes on the dollar and turning neighborhoods into rental enclaves. A few months ago, Chronicle investigative reporters David Hunn and Matt Dempsey set out to find out how many investors were out there, who they were and where they were buying. Their investigation was published last week. They join Nancy to explain how they did it and what they found.
Scenic Houston President Anne Culver talks with Nancy and Allyn about how Houston can become a more pedestrian-friendly city. They also talk Walk Scores, billboards and the best neighborhoods to stroll.
Rice University is spending $100 million to transform Midtown’s 1930s Sears department store into a high-tech home for startups. But as with any urban redevelopment, there's likely to be tension between the newcomers and the existing stakeholders who might not want to see the area change. Paul Takahashi reported on Rice’s plans for the Mitown area after interviewing the university's President David Leebron and taking an extensive tour of the old Sears, one of Houston's first buildings with air conditioning and escalators. He spoke to Nancy and Allyn about the project and what city and university leaders think it could become.
In her attempts to bring a communal-style pocket neighborhood to Acres Homes, Heidi Eagleton discovered another way she could build in the underserved area: affordable housing. But her homes don't fit the typical image of affordable. They have exposed beams, screened-in porches and fenced yards. They are designed to meet energy efficiency standards. Eagleton joins Nancy and Allyn to discuss her new homes and the challenges building affordable housing in Houston.
Whenever Houston finds itself in competition with another city, it’s usually about the food, the fashion or the attitudes of the people – and it’s usually Dallas that we’re defending ourselves against. Houston recently found itself fending off another big-city rival, but for a very different reason: a giant silver bean.
Nancy is joined by the Chronicle’s Allyn West and Lisa Gray, who go into it with a Chicago Tribune columnist who wrote a scathing piece on Houston and our newly installed Anish Kapoor “bean” sculpture. Plus, Looped In’s former co-host Erin Mulvaney brings her own hot take to the discussion.
Perhaps unlike any other time in history, immigrant labor is playing a critical role in getting Houston back on track, a theme highlighted in a new documentary called "Immigration's crossroad, rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey." Director Gregory Kallenberg and producer (and former Chronicle columnist) Loren Steffy discuss the film, which is part of a series of short documentaries that attempt to bridge the two sides of the immigration debate by framing the issues in a historical context and through personal stories.
Hurricane Harvey destroyed the lower portions of Buffalo Bayou Park, devastating the beloved dog park and causing the loss of some 400 trees. After hauling off 30,000 cubic yards of sediment -- at a cost of more than $1 million -- the Buffalo Bayou Partnership continues its costly efforts to repair what's become Houston's central park. President Anne Olson joins the Chronicle's Nancy Sarnoff and Allyn West to discuss the park's future and the long-term plan for the bayou's eastern stretch.
Ryan Walsh, one of the county officials guiding the redevelopment of the Astrodome, and local preservationist James Glassman join Nancy and Harris County reporter Mihir Zaveri to discuss the plans, the funding and the ethos of the project, which aims to transform the Houston’s most legendary landmark into what officials hope will be a coveted event space.