Houston 5 Tallest Skyscrapers

August 25th, 2014

 

It seems only fitting that Texas’ biggest city and biggest boomtown also has the biggest building in the state. The Bayou City’s skyline is recognizable for its sheer height ‒‒ even its runner up buildings are taller than most buildings in Texas. Three of them are in the top 30 tallest in the U.S. The moral of the story is, if you go to Houston, be prepared to cast your gaze skyward. Just don’t hurt your neck.

1. Heritage Plaza Tower

At 53 stories and 762 feet, his tower is the fifth-tallest building in Houston, the eighth-tallest in Texas, and the 60th-tallest in the United States. Completed in early 1987, it was the last major office building completed in Downtown Houston, as the state’s real estate, banking, and oil industries collapsed in unison in the 1980s.

 

2. Bank of America Center

At 56 stories, the BOA Center is Houston’s fourth-tallest building. It’s also the 55th-tallest building in the United States and the seventh-tallest in Texas. Unique to Texas skylines, the northeast corner of this building houses a building within a building ‒‒ Western Union. Relocation of the latter’s telegraph cables proved infeasible, so the new building was built right over the old one. BOA Center reaches 780 feet.

3. The Williams Tower

Once (and still commonly) known as the Transco Tower, this 64-story office tower is the bronze medalist in Houston’s tallest buildings competition. Reaching 901 feet, the tower is the 26th-tallest building in the United States, and the 140th-tallest building in the world. At the time of its construction, in the early 1980s, it was thought to be the world’s tallest skyscraper outside of a central downtown business district.

 

4. Wells Fargo Bank Plaza

Though it is the runner up to the city’s tallest building, Wells Fargo Bank Plaza has a few cool distinctions. It’s the second-tallest building in the state, 16th-tallest building in the country, and at 992 feet, is the tallest all-glass building in the western hemisphere. It’s also the tallest building named for Wells Fargo. It was formerly known as the Allied Bank Plaza and the First Interstate Bank Plaza.

5. JPMorganChase Tower

The tallest building in Houston is the tallest in Texas and 14th-tallest in the country. Soaring a mighty 1,002 feet, this 75-story giant is the most visible landmark in the city. And though it is the 79th-tallest building in the world, it actually is the world’s tallest five-sided building. There is also an observation deck on its 60th floor.

Our Houston Rockets ‒‒ Will They Be As Hot As Our Real Estate Market?

August 22nd, 2014

Over the past 10 NBA seasons, the state of Texas has been the capital of championship basketball. Since 2004, Texas has been represented in the NBA Finals six times and has won four. Alas, the Houston Rockets have yet to join the 21st century party. Not since 1994 and 1995, when the Rockets won back-to-back titles, has Houston yielded an NBA championship contender.

Still, as we head into fall, and the 2014-15 NBA season, Houston may not be poised to take off like it’s team name suggests. Everyone knows the city and its suburbs are growing in a big way, but will the Rockets be able to match the explosive growth in the city?

Certainly the team’s hopes are high. Despite the devastating, three-point buzzer-beater loss at the hands of that guy from Portland who shall remain not named, which knocked Houston’s championship hopes off the fast track last season, the sting of that loss has lit a fire under the Rockets that had the team scurrying to land the mighty LeBron James. Okay, so no one expected them to, but the fight to be in the conversation shows how serious the Rockets are about getting a marquee name and a big-time run at the big time.

It’s safe to say that Houston is at a crossroads, both in its real estate growth (where the boom is outpacing the city’s infrastructure) and its NBA team, which failed to land a megastar in the off-season but is looking to build organically, and solidly. And the team is looking solid already, with the likes of Patrick Beverley, James Harden, and Dwight Howard in the mix.

How the team bounces back from its heartbreaking loss in last year’s playoff will be a good indicator of how suited the Rockets are for another run at a championship. And it’s only fair that they get to play in the Texas championship party some time this century, right?

Back To School Shopping ‒‒ Top Three Houston-area Malls

August 20th, 2014

 

Whether your kids are looking forward to going back to school or not, there’s no reason for them to look out of style. If you want them to look their best for a brand new year, you can’t go wrong with these Houston malls.

Highland Village

In the bid for Houston’s best high-end mall, Highland Village may be hard to beat. This is the mall where high-end chain stores cement their presence in the city, and it’s pretty much been that way since 1957. If you want to outfit the kids in style, this is absolutely the place to go. There’s even valet parking.

 

The Galleria

If the high-end of Highland Village is not your scene, maybe the city’s top tourist attraction is. Yes, more so than the Astros, Rockets, and NASA, the Galleria is the top tourist destination on the entire Gulf Coast area. The Galleria boasts 24 million visitors a year, who come to shop and be entertained in the mall’s 2.4 million square feet of indoor space. For back-to-school shopping, you will most certainly find what you’re looking for at the Galleria’s 375 stores, which mix the highest of the high-end (Gucci, Tiffany & Co.,etc.) with more reasonable names, like Macy’s, Dillards, and the Gap.

 

Houston Premium Outlet

Outside of Houston, in nearby Cypress, lies the Houston Premium Outlet Mall, where shoppers can save as much as 60 percent off department store apparel and other goods. HPO is the favorite spot for bargain hunters in Houston, featuring 145 stores, from Coach to New Balance. Bring a big trunk and get there early, the lot is often full before noon.

Houston Traffic: Be Prepared to Stop

August 16th, 2014

 

Even if you don’t live in Houston, you’ve likely still heard about its growth. To say the Bayou City is booming is an understatement for sure. And with the boom comes the traffic. Already famous for congestion, Houston’s roads are getting worse. And, because growth is happening so fast and traffic volume is so high, the city often can’t shut down the roads to repair some crumbling infrastructure. If you’re driving through Houston, do your best to avoid these areas:

1. I-45 into Downtown Houston

Coming or going, if you’re travelling on I-45, be prepared to take a long look at the outskirts of Downtown Houston. Clogged on a good day, the ten miles, give or take, leading to and from the city can be extremely slow going. If there’s an accident or some flooding (it happens), you’ll need to phone whoever you’re driving to see and inform them you’ll be late.

2. U.S. 59 from I-10 to TX-288

The Texas Department of Transportation ranked this stretch of road the second-worst in the state (I-35 in Austin is the worst). According to the Houston Chronicle, this piece of highway accounts for an average of 743,006 hours of delay per mile, annually.

3. U.S. 59 from TX-288 to Loop 610

Come on, you didn’t think you were out of the woods yet, did you? This piece of highway real estate is actually third-worst in Texas. According to the Chronicle, this stretch accounts for an annual average of 730,655 hours of delay per mile. And, sadly, there are no easy alternatives to avoid the congestion along 59.

4. I-10 from I-45 to the Grand Parkway

TxDOT considers this segment the worst truck traffic in the entire state. And with the heavy commercial traffic come frequent truck-related incidents ‒‒ spills, breakdowns, accidents that pinch off already-sluggish traffic.

5. South Shepherd between West Gray and U.S. 59

Less about snarled traffic and more about road conditions that make it slow-going, this slip of South Shepherd is actually too busy to shut down to make needed repairs and ease congestion. And it’s still faster than 59, for the most part.

Top 5 Master Planned Communities In Houston

July 28th, 2014

 

If there’s boom happening in Texas, it’s happening in Houston. But the Bayou City isn’t just a burgeoning urban cityscape. Houston and its surroundings house some of the top master-planned communities going, and more are coming, fueled by the growth of Houston as the energy capital of the U.S.

The Woodlands

 

No community, much less no master-planned community, is experiencing the growth and fast pace that The Woodlands is. This suburb of Houston is the fastest-growing place in Texas, thanks to the coming of Exxon Mobil and the 10,000 new jobs it’s bringing with it by 2015. A home in The Woodlands is so sought-after that there is barely a month of inventory (a normal market has six months) and in many cases, homes are selling the day they hit the market, and for more than the asking price.

 

Sedona LakesSedona Lakes

Sedona Lakes, a new master-planned community just south of Houston, in Manvel, is a luxury master-planned community in the shadow of the big city. Sedona Lakes is just a quick commute to the Texas Medical Center, the central business district, Greenway Plaza, and a most major work centers in the metro area. This gated community is served by the Alvin Independent School District, and an onsite elementary school is planned here.

 

Barrington Kingwood Barrington Kingwood

 

Another gated master-planned community just outside of downtown Houston is the 200-acre Barrington Kingwood. This upscale community is surrounded by the back nine of the Lakes Golf Course of Kingwood Country Club and is renowned for its spectacular views. There are also manicured baseball and soccer fields, horse stables, the boat ramp into Lake Houston, and Deer Ridge Park. All within a few minutes of the booming, bustling downtown.

 

City Park

 

Just minutes from the Medical Center and Galleria area is City Park, an eclectic master-planned community that puts you close to work, but gives you splendid living options.  Renowned builders have lent their hands to a superb location, with outstanding amenities that put you close to city living, but still in the quiet and calm of your own neighborhood.

 

Westover Park

 

Still under construction, Westover Park is a premier 500-acre master-planned community slated to house more than 1,400 homes when it’s completed. The inaugural two  recreation centers feature a 5-acre recreation complex that includes three pools, a cabana house, a multi-purpose sports field, a playground, a lake, and a park. Prices are ultimately expected to range from the $150,000s to the $350,000s.

Top 4 Luxury Gated Communities in Houston

July 14th, 2014

 

Houston isn’t just the sprawling urban cityscape you see in pictures and movies. The Houston area also has some of the finest upscale communities in Texas, if not the country. If you’re looking for luxury living in one of Houston’s premiere gated communities, consider these destinations:

 

Sedona LakesSedona Lakes

Sedona Lakes is a new master-planned community just south of Downtown Houston, off Route 288 in the Greater Pearland town of Manvel. This is great news for anyone looking for luxury living in the shadow of the big city and all it has to offer. Sedona Lakes is just a quick commute to the Texas Medical Center, the central business district, Greenway Plaza, and a most major work centers in the metro area. And for the kids, there’s the Alvin Independent School District, which will feature an onsite elementary school. At home, Sedona Lakes is set amid tranquil trees and features miles of trails for walking a hiking. There’s a family pool, waterslide, and contemporary open-air pavilion for recreation and a soothing waterfall for relaxing. And, of course, there are some of the finest homes, built by some of the country’s most preferred builders.

Royal Oaks Country ClubRoyal Oaks

Eight miles west of the Galleria is the Royal Oaks Country Club and its private, residential community. This is luxury living at its peak, where homes start at $300,000 and continue past $3 million. But what you get for your money is a legendary course accessible only through a guarded, private gate, where the stonework will take your breath away. The 50-acre course itself was designed by golf legend Fred Couples and boasts nine lakes, multi-tiered greens and even a waterfall. The 600-acre community is a completely private collection of homes in an array of styles on large lots. If you’re not up for a round on the links, enjoy the hiking trails, swimming, or tennis.

 

Barrington KingwoodBarrington Kingwood

The 200-acre enclave that is Barrington Kingwood is designed for upscale living. This master-planned community offers a resort lifestyle surrounded by the back nine of the Lakes Golf Course of Kingwood Country Club. In other words, the views are spectacular. From your porch, though, you’re likely to get an eyeful of the manicured baseball and soccer fields, horse stables, the boat ramp into Lake Houston, or Deer Ridge Park. And if you want to get your city fix,  it’s just a quick bike ride to Starbucks, Carrabba’s Italian Grille and all of the shopping you could want. The community’s motto is “City Living without the City,” and in this guarded, gated community, you’ll see why.

 

Place des VosgesPlace des Vosges

Place des Vosges, pronounced “plas ‘VOZH,  puts old-fashioned living in one of Houston’s newest gated luxury communities. This is where cast stone and brick facades meet cobblestone walkways and hand-crafted wrought iron gates. This quiet oasis lies in the shadow of Uptown Park, Post Oak Boulevard, and Tanglewood and boasts 4,200- to 6,800-square-foot custom homes with French exteriors, large living spaces and a low maintenance lifestyle.

Slab vs. Pier & Beam Foundations

June 25th, 2014

There’s nothing quite like Texas mud. All you have to do is step in it to realize it’s slick, it’s heavy, and it’s mostly clay. And it’s exactly these qualities that make building or repairing a foundation require so much attention.

But which type of foundation do you use? Slab or pier & beam? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and both demand a qualified person to do the work, because you don’t want to mess with Texas clay.

Pier & Bean Advantages

Pier & beam is the most common type of home foundation in North Texas, where clay-heavy soil can eat away at concrete slabs in short order. Typically, pier & beam foundations give about 18 inches of space above the ground, which can allow easy access to the plumbing or electrical infrastructure. Pier & beam foundations are also usually less expensive to repair and often require more of a readjustment than an actual repair. Pier & beam foundations also make it easier to spot wood-destroying insects, which must access wooden beams via concrete piers. Termite guards on piers can make a world of difference and are relatively cheap to buy and install.

Pier & Bean Disadvantages

Unless they are properly ventilated, pier & beam foundations can collect moisture, leading to mold or wood rot. Also, that 18 inches of air can provide a cozy shelter for pests below your house, as well as leave you with no underneath insulation against the cold air in winter. If a section of the foundation weakens, it could drag the structure in that direction, which can happen as the ground softens and moves, causing movement and sinking in the piers. Tile floors can easily break when pier & beam foundations shift or warp.

 

Slab Foundation Advantages

Though pier & beam foundations are less expensive to repair or replace, slab foundations are often less expensive to actually build. Slab’s biggest advantage is the solid-feeling floor, which means less shaking, fewer wall cracks, and less moving furniture in the house. This also makes houses quieter.

 

Slab Foundation Disadvantages

Though improvements in slab foundations are happening all the time, the combination of high clay content and dry Texas heat can lead to cracking and deterioration. Repairing slab is usually far more expensive, and any plumbing or electrical repairs done under the house can be costly because it’s hard to get to pipes or lines. Either type of foundation requires proper irrigation and drainage to help keep the clay-heavy soil from robbing your home’s stability from under your very feet. Consult a pro now and you may save yourself some costly repair bills later.

Best Private Schools in Houston

June 20th, 2014

 

Choosing the right school district is a big factor in your decision to move. But if private school is in the budget, the Houston area offers an excellent alternative in some of the finest private schools in the state. Before you move specifically for a school district, consider these elite private academies of learning.

St. Johns

St. John’s School, or SJS, a coeducational, independent, college-prep school in Houston may be the best private school in all Texas. The school is noted for its selectivity and academic rigor. Forbes has ranked SJS as one of America’s elite prep schools, while the New York Times called it “the best private school in Houston.” The Wall Street Journal recently ranked SJS among schools in the United States with the largest percentages of graduates attending highly selective universities such as Harvard, Princeton, and MIT.  SJS was also the inspiration for the film Rushmore, by SJS graduate Wes Anderson. Other notable alumni include columnist Molly Ivins and bestselling author Katherine Center.

 

Duchesne

If you have a daughter, Duchesne (pronounced dew-SHEN) Academy of the Sacred Heart may be right for her. Duchesne’s college preparatory curriculum serves girls from pre-K through 12th grade in its Lower, Middle, and Upper schools. The program is a rigorous one. Upper School students must complete four years of mathematics, English, history, science, physical education and religion, as well as three years of a foreign language and one year of fine arts and computer-intensive courses. Texas Monthly once stated that Duchesne has “an edge in academic standing” over its nearest competitor school, Saint Agnes Academy.

 

 

The Village School

The Village School is a coeducational, nondenominational college preparatory school serving students pre-K through 12. High School and is legendary for a rigorous academic curriculum that develops critical thinkers. It is also known for its highly diverse student body, which represents 40-plus countries from six continents.  The school’s largest claim to distinction lies in its teaching staff, which focuses on more direct nurturing and mentoring than many other schools.

The Other Big Hiring Spree in Houston

June 19th, 2014

By now you’re probably familiar with the promise of the Exxon Mobil development just outside of Houston. And while it’s hard to compete with the staggering numbers Exxon Mobil is throwing out (10,000 jobs to the Greater Houston area is always going to be tough to beat), Verizon is tapping into Houston’s tech pool by going on a hiring spree along the Gulf Coast.

The nationwide communications carrier wants to kick off its hiring campaign on the waterfront with 322 new positions in Houston, according to the Houston Business Journal. The journal reported that Verizon wants in on the city/s and region’s growing economy and talent pool as a natural extension of some of Verizon’s core business customers in the region ‒‒ namely healthcare and energy. Verizon’s regional headquarters is based in Houston.

According to the journal, Verizon already has about 800 employees in Houston and has for the past few years been trying to cash in on the engineering talent moving into the region as the energy sector grows there. The company should fill most of the new positions throughout this year, making Houston even more of an employee’s market.

Verizon’s announcement is the newest phase in Houston’s hiring boom that has been credited (or blamed, depending on your perspective) for the shortage of available homes in the region. According to Houston Public Media, Houston’s inventory of available homes is at about two-and-a-half months. A normal market should have six months of available inventory.

So while job seekers ‒‒ particularly those in the tech sector and in the construction trades, where a shortage in talent is driving up the price of building new residential and commercial space ‒‒ have a healthy plateful of options in Houston, home buyers are facing stiff competition.

 

But on the plus side, if you’re selling in Houston, now is a good time, as all this competition and influx of new talent is helping home prices rise in Bayou City.

College Life in Houston

June 18th, 2014

In most ways, life as a college student in Houston is the same as college life anywhere. You’ll have classes, chase your passions, work your tail off, and contend with the rules of dorm living. The big difference for students attending one of Houston’s several colleges, from Rice to Houston Baptist, is that you get to visit the largest and fastest-growing city in Texas in your off hours.

If, however, you or your son or daughter will be attending the University of Houston in 2015 or beyond, be prepared to experience some large-living. UH is expanding its student housing with a $56 million private dorm complex development on Cullen Boulevard, just north of I-45 and roughly a quarter of a mile from the school’s main campus. The new dorm site will be 305,000 square feet and will house 739 beds on four floors. This will be a nearly 8-acre campus featuring one-, two-, and four-bedroom apartment-like units. It will be set across from the former Finger Furniture warehouse, which is right near the MetroRail station that is also being built on Cullen Boulevard.

In other news from UH, the downtown campus is upgrading according to more lax social norms these days and will be implementing gender-neutral restrooms on campus. But seeing as the downtown campus is, well, downtown, there’s been a slight problem with burglaries recently. The school’s student newspaper recently took a look at crime on campus and asked the question of why burglaries have haunted UH-Downtown.

Well, the short version is, a lot of students don’t lock their doors. That was fine once upon a time, but as the campus has expanded and the UH student body has grown (and is expected to keep growing for a while yet), UH police are not at all surprised that things are getting pilfered from students. Lt. Bret Collier of the University of Houston Police wrote in an email to the school paper: “Unfortunately, more rooms and more people living on campus account for an increase in overall opportunities for crime.”

 

Indeed. The university reported 87 burglaries of on-campus and off-campus residential facilities in 2012, the paper reported. This is up from 74 reported in 2011 and way up from the 14 reported in 2010. So yes, growth equals more temptation for crime. The moral? Lock your doors, be smart, and enjoy college. Just be aware that life in the big city is not like life in any idyllic suburb you might know.