HOUSTON – (Commentary by Ralph Bivins, Editor, Realty News Report) Houston is about to make a huge mistake with the development of its high-speed train to north Texas.
The proposed Texas Central 200 mph rail line that will run from Houston to Dallas has a lot of good things about it.
The train will be good for transit, good for the economy and it prepares Houston for the years ahead when the metro area’s population hits 10 million.
It’s the train’s proposed terminal location that’s a massive mistake.
Texas Central Partners has contracted to buy the Northwest Mall site for the southern terminus station. The close-in mall site would probably be an excellent location for certain kinds of redevelopment, but it’s a questionable place for a transportation hub.
If you haven’t shopped at Northwest Mall lately – and not many people have – it’s located near the intersection of Loop 610 and Highway 290.
Northwest Mall is not an easy place to get to – unless you own a helicopter.
The Northwest Mall site is adjacent to the West Loop, which has been recognized many times as the busiest freeway in the state of Texas. And Highway 290 is no slouch when it comes to horrible traffic.
Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to be dumping an additional 10,000 or 20,000 train riders a day into the Northwest Mall area? Traffic will clog to catastrophic levels.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner holds the goal of reducing our dependency on cars. It’s a good goal and necessary for the city’s future growth.
But the train stop should be in downtown where it’s connected to existing transit systems, which will be expanded and improved. Over 100,000 people work in downtown – it’s able to handle the traffic and whisk people away with the best concentration of mass transit that exists in Houston.
I don’t know why Texas Central would choose to stop the 240-mile train line at Northwest Mall. My guess is they want to stop there to shave some costs off the $15 to $18 billion price tag of the project.
Downtown is the right place to put this station. Perhaps it’s not too late to get control of the old downtown Post Office, now owned by Frank Liu. The Post Office is only a few blocks from Amtrak’s station.
Transit stations can be huge catalysts for development. Case in point: Mark Falcone of Denver’s Continuum Partners redeveloped the old train station in downtown Denver. It’s now bustling with retail and restaurants inside, surrounded by new office buildings, new apartments and a new Kimpton Hotel. Eight commuter rail lines converge there. This could happen in Houston.
Falcone is one of the best in the business when it comes to transit-oriented real estate development. He spoke to the ULI Houston District Council last year. Last summer, I toured his developments around the transportation train hub in Denver and it is an impressive, synergistic element in the city’s downtown. I would suggest bringing in Falcone for a consult.
Where is the dream for a world-class train station in downtown Houston? It should have restaurants, retail, hotels, nearby residential – and connections to light rail, buses and commuter rail.
Mayor Turner, who grew up in Northwest Houston, has performed well during his tenure. But this could be an error in the magnitude of when prior leadership ignored the existence of rail right-of-way along the Katy Freeway and decided to transform that corridor into one of the widest roadways in the world.
Don’t make a massive mistake. The rail station should be in Downtown Houston – not Northwest Mall.
Feb. 6, 2018, Realty News Report Copyright 2018
Commentary by Ralph Bivins, Editor. Realty News Report
I guess I just don’t get it. This train will do nothing to alleviate traffic problems in Houston or Dallas. I agree that downtown would be a much better location in both Houston and Dallas but not likely because the locations chosen are already owned by the promoters and they’ve already gotten the green light for tax increment financing for their facilities. (Jack Matthews in Dallas has owned the location south of downtown for a long time). This thing should be going from downtown to downtown up the I-45 right of way with one or two stops north of Houston and south of Dallas. Gets folks to and from Dallas and Houston and accommodates commuters in between. As proposed this will only make the bad traffic worse.
Ralph, I agree that the Northwest Mall location makes little sense and would serve Houston poorly. A downtown station would spark a renaissance of the area. Is there any way to turn this around?
I complexly disagree with my long time peer. First it won’t be 10,000 per day. More likely 2,000 maybe 3,000 per day downstream. The area handles HISD football games all the time without a hassle. And the NW Mall area IS the perfect location. It’s on the 610 Loop, which allows for folks to access from across town. It’s an area that sorely needs redevelopment and enough real estate with access to an existing rail corridor. You could not ask for a better location in a city of 2 plus million people.
Thanks for the comment, Sky
There are a lot of reasons the station is going to be at the Northwest Mall. But one of the big ones is that the company has always said it would make it’s money from development around the stations. No way they could do get this amount of land downtown. All the things you talk about being around the station will be there, and that’s the point of buying an old mall with a lot of land. And the transit service to connect the Mall to other places will come. People are working on it.
I have hopes that by building it there the metro would expand to there. I do have a selfish motive because I live near there. There has been a population explosion in the Greater Heights area. The proliferation of townhouses has shifted the demographics. The majority of the new residents are below 30, a group very likely to use Metro services.