Saturday, November 19, 2011

Meanwhile, out in the 'burbs.....

There's been a lot of news coverage of late surrounding The City of Houston's endless deliberations regarding their new(proposed) parking ordinance. If this kind of dithering reminds you of the City's issues surrounding Ashby High-Rise you wouldn't be far from the truth. The last few City administrations have had difficulty walking the line between catering to the vocal minority that is the Inside-the-Loop, smart dumb growth set, and staying true to Houston's historic core belief of growth through a lack of central planning. That Houston's 'walkable urban' group has never been comfortable with what makes the City great (a great many of them imports from Cities with strong urban planning, bad job markets and higher costs of living), Houston's elected officials have created a business and development unfriendly environment which is having an unintended effect....

In short, many historic "Inner Loop developers" are choosing to move their expansion plans to those hated 'suburbs'.

(New Woodlands homes coming from surprising source. Jennifer Dawson, Houston Business Journal)
News came out this week that construction has begun on a 41-home gated community in The Woodlands.
The project size is not particularly significant. But what caught my eye is who’s behind the new development — Pelican Builders Inc. and Boxer Property — two Houston names not typically associated with suburban residential development.
The single-family community is being developed by Pelican Builders — which specializes in high-density, urban residential projects.
It's true, both Pelican and Boxer are still pursuing projects inside the Loop, it's telling that they feel the need to venture so far outside of it.

I've said before that, counter to the 'anti-suburbia' hysteria constantly produced by urban proponents, there are 'walkable communities' that exist outside of what many consider to be the traditional urban core. The Woodlands has several of these, as does Sugar Land and Pearland. Even Conroe has dense, walkable areas. Just today, in my far NorthWest Cy-Fair neighborhood, I hopped on my bicycle, rode over to the local grocery store, and dropped off some dry-cleaning before heading home, a trip that took just under an hour. If I wanted to, right now, I could walk to a coffee shop, a local bar, a bevvy of restaurants and a movie theater, all within 10 minutes.

It's not that I dislike urban living, it's that I have 3 large dogs and like to have a big back-yard, luxuries that cost a pretty penny inside the Loop. It's not without some irony however that I see well-to-do urban core residents (most of whom are proponents of 'walkable neighborhoods') fighting tooth and nail to keep the luxuries that I have out here in what many consider the boon-docks. I would even venture to argue that my little outer-band neighborhood is far more 'walkable' than many ideal urbanist-approved areas inside the Loop.

The point here is that "walkability" is a concept that can take on many forms, in many locations, and it's presence isn't contingent on geographic location. Nor does it fit stereotypes well. For all you hear about the "white-flight" suburbs*, remember that the ideal of a single-family home with three bedrooms and a 2-car garage is increasingly becoming attainable for historic minority demographic groups. They're discovering the lifestyle, and they're enjoying it. The great thing about living out here is that there are options for all, options that the market has decided are good things to pursue.

*Funny that most of the disparages: Pasty white, drive down the block to pick up a can of corn, bland, monochromatic, etc. are all coming from a fairly bland, chain-coffee sipping, Macy's shopping, mostly white Prog urban group who wants everyone to view things exactly as they do.

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