The Ralph Bivins Project – Podcast Guest John Breeding

Ralph Bivins: This is Ralph Bivins of the Ralph Bivins Project. We’re here today with John Breeding, president and CEO of the Uptown Houston Association. At one time, they called that Uptown  and places like it Edge Cities. It’s about six miles west of downtown. It’s where you’ll find the Galleria and many other property types. The Galleria was the first cornerstone of that area. John is getting ready to retire after 37 years of hard labor here. We’re not going to cover all he has done. We’d have to stay here all day. John, thanks for taking the  time to talk with us.

John Breeding: My pleasure.

Click Here (Spotify) or Here (YouTube) to Listen to the Entire Podcast

Ralph Bivins: I was thinking back to the beginning – when Gerald Hines came along in the late 1960s and began planning and developing the Galleria. Westheimer didn’t have anything like that, but they took huge risks and came up with what some people consider to be masterpieces – the forerunners of really great master plans and mixed-use developments. If that hadn’t been a kind of launch pad for Uptown, things would have been different, wouldn’t they?

 John Breeding: It’s interesting. There were developments along Post Oak Boulevard – Post Oak Road as it was known at the time in the 1950s – that followed residential development in Houston and other Sunbelt cities. The Galleria thing was just a total quantum leap in terms of the amount of development. But the pieces were there. There were retail centers all up and down Post Boulevard – small, single-story. But what you really caught was that phenomenal period in Houston where the city grew in terms that very few other cities in the world have ever experienced. Consider what happened in the 70s and 80s. It’s hard to believe that the West Loop wasn’t fully constructed until after 1969. You know, we all think that it was like that forever.

I think Mr. Hines sort of ratcheted up the vision of what others thought could happen. Mr. Hines produced a book about much of his development activities and in his book, he talks about the Galleria, the office buildings and the hotels, and he said that he was hopeful about what that project would be – which turned out to be  wildly successful. But what he was really amazed about was what happened in the area around the Galleria – the whole Uptown area development. You think about the number of office buildings that were built in the very late 70s and early 80s. Williams Tower (Transco) was completed by 1983. The Galleria was opened in the time frame of 1969-70. It was a decade when more than 10 million SF of office space was developed and we thought, “Well, that seems about right.” We have since found out it was an unprecedented amount of growth.

I remember visiting with – I think we all remember Howard Horne who was responsible for leasing so many of those office buildings at the time. In 1983, I was sitting in a small meeting with him, and he said, “We are in for a very difficult 18 to 24 months.”  Well, 20 years later in downtown, things had completely changed.. And so, Houston has had this incredible roller coaster of cyclical development and certainly Uptown benefitted from that.. If you think about this, Giorgio Borlenghi came in up in the North End north of San Felipe – and built Four Oaks Place. Hines and others built Post Oaks Central, sort of halfway between San Felipe and Westheimer and near Richmond Avenue to the south was the  Lakes on Post Oak. In the beginning, these were just individual projects. What we have done over the years is take these individual projects that were unrelated and really connected them together, and, as a result, the overall area has become recognizable. It’s what Post Oak Boulevard does to connect the area. We achieved something significant by pulling these individual pieces together to form a single business community.

And when you begin to look at the land use that you mentioned, the office uses, the enormous amount of retail, the hotels, etc. In the 1990s, with Giorgio Borlenghi’s development – in the early 80s and 90s – growth continued. In fact, maybe the real growth spurt was in residential development.

Ralph Bivins: Uptown Houston has experienced tremendous growth in residential, with more and more people living in his area – and they are still coming.  You’re right about Giorgio Borlenghi’s contribution of the Four Leaf condominium towers near San Felipe. It took a while to sell. He rented a lot of units. Now, it’s one of many popular residential properties in this area.

I wanted to ask you about the concept of converting office towers like the ones built in the 1980s and 1970s into residential. People are talking about it and looking into it. Tell me, how is this working in uptown? 

John Breeding: I think the idea of converting office buildings into residential is an idea that many people say, “That would be a quick fix.” In reality, there are big challenges to doing that. The floorplates for an office building are much more significant than for a residential building. So, you end up with units with very little exterior glass, things like that. But I think this idea will be a bigger and bigger part of the future. It’s really hard to understand where we are with regard to office buildings. I think the pandemic brought about a total change. The idea of working from home and hybrid work time is making the real estate industry pause and take a look at what our future is.

Click Here (Spotify) or Here (YouTube) to Listen to the Entire Podcast

John Breeding biography

John Breeding will officially retire at the end of 2023 as president of Uptown Houston District and administrator of Uptown TIRZ and Uptown Development Authority (UDA). He has worked on Uptown improvement associations for 37 years.

He spearheaded initiatives that left a lasting impact on Uptown, better known as the Galleria area. Those include funding the development of Post Oak Boulevard, $265 million in contributions to Houston’s Affordable Housing Program and the $200-million overhaul of Memorial Park through a redevelopment master plan approved in 2015.

Dec. 11,  2023 Realty News Report Copyright 2023


LISTEN: The RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with John Breeding of Uptown Houston

LISTEN: The RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with David Aaronson of REVS

LISTEN: The RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Duane Heckmann of Land Advisors

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Edward Griffin of Griffin Partners

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Michael Scheurich of Arch-Con


LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast  with Stephen Meek of StreetLights Residential.

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Carlos Bujosa of Transwestern 

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with Kris Larson of Central Houston Inc.

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with  Mike Spears of Lee & Associates Houston

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with  Maria Perez of Gensler

LISTEN: THE RALPH BIVINS PROJECT podcast with   Bob Parsley of Colliers  

Image: Realty News Report Copyright 2023


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