Posts Tagged ‘ Texas ’

Trader Joe’s looking for Houston locations

June 10th, 2011

Trader Joe’s, the offbeat grocer whose most popular products include frozen chicken tikka masala, pumpkin ice cream and low-cost Charles Shaw wines nicknamed “Two Buck Chuck,” is expanding into Texas with stores planned in Houston and Dallas.

Specific locations have not been named, but the California-based company said in an email Tuesday that it has wanted to be in Texas for a long time.

“We are a company that grows in a very controlled and thoughtful way in order to maintain the Trader Joe’s customer experience,” spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said. “We’re excited about bringing Trader Joe’s to the wonderful cities, towns and neighborhoods in and around Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and beyond.”

The company said it is looking for sites but would not say when new stores would open.

Trader Joe’s started in the 1950s as a small chain of convenience stores called Pronto Markets.

In 1967, founder Joe Coulombe made the stores bigger, covered the walls in cedar planks, had the employees dress in Hawaiian shirts and changed the name.

Today, Trader Joe’s operates a chain of stores that over the years has developed a cultlike following.

The company sells a line of private-label items and says it is able to keep costs low by buying in volume and directly from suppliers whenever possible. It has more than 350 locations in 29 states.

Keener said Houston has been “crying out” for a hip concept like Trader Joe’s that can open in an urban location on a smaller site than most traditional grocery stores.

Trader Joe’s stores are typically 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, which would allow them to be built in close-in areas where land is at a premium, he said.

Keener expects the company’s site search to focus on Inner Loop locations with a young demographic like Washington Avenue or near Memorial Park. But areas like The Woodlands, with its affluent and educated population, could also be a good market for Trader Joe’s.


New Life for Downtown Houston

May 26th, 2011

When Marvy Finger decided to move forward with development of One Park Place — Houston’s first residential high-rise in 40 years built from the ground up — during the midst of the economic downturn, he was somehow sure it would be a home run.

Many didn’t share that confidence, but the success of One Park Place not only proved naysayers wrong, it seems to have given downtown a much-needed boost to spur more development.

Earlier this month, the former Texaco building at 1111 Rusk, between Fannin and San Jacinto streets, went under contract to a Dallas-based buyer who plans to redevelop it into apartments. This would represent the second major downtown complex to come online in the last couple of years.

EFO Residential Partners LP, a subsidiary of EFO Holdings LP, plans to create as many as 360 apartment units, along with a mix of commercial and retail space, in the vacant 13-story building. Construction is set to begin sometime next year, according to Craig D. “Kip” Platt, principal of EFO Residential Partners.

CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. broker Mike Hassler, who is representing building owner Kimberly-Clark Corp. in the sale, informed the Downtown Redevelopment Authority during an April meeting that EFO would likely ask for grant funding to supplement the project.

The scope of the grant request is not yet known, but Platt said he believes the project will come to fruition.

The company is bullish on downtown Houston.

“I am a huge fan of Houston, and I have a real affinity toward downtown Houston,” Platt said. “Downtown has some real momentum going right now.”

Units in the 410,000-square-foot project would be similar to One Park Place in terms of their high-end offerings, Platt said, but would appeal to renters who are drawn to the historical significance of the building.

“We think the rental market is about to go crazy, and we expect a lot of demand for apartments,” Platt said.

Indeed, Laura Van Ness, business development director at Central Houston Inc., said the downtown organization is hearing rumblings from two other developers considering the downtown market for apartment projects.

“Now that One Park Place is open and successful and the credit markets have started to loosen a little bit, I think we’ll see more developers starting to ride that wave,” Van Ness said. “We are seeing other serious developers coming back and looking at the market.”

Van Ness, who would not elaborate on the pair of potential new projects, said that before the credit crisis hit a few years ago, there were two other apartment projects under consideration downtown. Both of those deals later disappeared off the drawing board, essentially bringing activity to a grinding halt.

But with One Park Place reaching

90 percent-plus occupancy, Bruce McClenny, president of Houston-based Apartment Data Services Inc., which tracks apartment activity, said a new wave of downtown apartments would likely be met with strong demand.

“We definitely needed somebody to blaze the trail, especially going back into downtown,” McClenny said of One Park Place’s success. “Having a developer come out with a good product like that was the successful attempt we needed to get business going in downtown again.”

For his part, Finger said although he is pleased with the success of the 346-unit, 37-story One Park Place tower, which saw its first residents take occupancy in 2009, he is not surprised by it. He pointed to the completion of the nearby Discovery Park and the Discovery Tower — an 871,000-square-foot office building now completely leased by Hess Corp. and set to be renamed Hess Tower when the company takes occupancy later this year — as the catalysts for the quick lease-up of One Park Place.

“There was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be successful — I wouldn’t have engaged in it otherwise,” Finger said. “There had to be a start, and there was a lot of momentum going into that part of downtown.”

In fact, statistics compiled by Apartment Data Services indicate there is momentum in downtown’s housing market overall. The occupancy rate for all downtown rental communities combined was 91.3 percent in April, up 4.1 points from April 2010. And the annual growth trend in rental rates for those properties was up 3 percent.

McClenny said those statistics — when combined with a couple of other trends — make the downtown apartment development market ripe for activity.

He said that because there has been very little new apartment construction in recent years, especially in downtown, there is pent-up demand for apartment units. Also, it is still difficult to get home loans, so people are choosing to remain renters longer, McClenny said.

In addition to new projects, the owners of the 31-story Houston House apartment building at Fannin and Leeland, which was built in 1966, are spending $10 million on a restoration and renovation effort, slated to be complete by spring 2012.

The aging downtown landmark will be refurbished with a new lobby and a renovated amenities floor featuring a full-size basketball court, lounge, workout center and pool cabanas that overlook downtown.

All 396 units in Houston House are being updated with natural stone countertops, tile backsplashes, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors. The building’s infrastructure is also being replaced.

“There was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be successful — I wouldn’t have engaged in it otherwise,” Finger said. “There had to be a start, and there was a lot of momentum going into that part of downtown.”

In fact, statistics compiled by Apartment Data Services indicate there is momentum in downtown’s housing market overall. The occupancy rate for all downtown rental communities combined was 91.3 percent in April, up 4.1 points from April 2010. And the annual growth trend in rental rates for those properties was up 3 percent.

McClenny said those statistics — when combined with a couple of other trends — make the downtown apartment development market ripe for activity.

He said that because there has been very little new apartment construction in recent years, especially in downtown, there is pent-up demand for apartment units. Also, it is still difficult to get home loans, so people are choosing to remain renters longer, McClenny said.

In addition to new projects, the owners of the 31-story Houston House apartment building at Fannin and Leeland, which was built in 1966, are spending $10 million on a restoration and renovation effort, slated to be complete by spring 2012.

The aging downtown landmark will be refurbished with a new lobby and a renovated amenities floor featuring a full-size basketball court, lounge, workout center and pool cabanas that overlook downtown.

All 396 units in Houston House are being updated with natural stone countertops, tile backsplashes, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors. The building’s infrastructure is also being replaced.


Houston in Top 10 on Pedestrian Danger List

May 25th, 2011

More than 1,000 people were killed while walking in the Houston metropolitan area between 2000 and 2009, according to a new report released by Transportation for America.

The report, “Dangerous by Design 2011: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods)” ranked Houston at No. 9 among the largest 52 metro areas.

Blacks, Hispanics, seniors and children 15 and younger are most at risk and affected by roadways poorly designed for pedestrians, the report found.

A predominant factor in those deaths is street design with most deaths occurring along high-speed arterial roadways that don’t incorporate pedestrians into their designs, according to the report.

The Transportation for America report found that 67 percent of all 47,000 pedestrian deaths between 2000-2009 were on roads eligible to receive federal funds for construction and improvements with federal guidelines or oversight for design.

The Top 4 cities were all in Florida — Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami. Rounding out the Top 10 were Riverside, Calif.; Las Vegas; Memphis, Tenn.; Phoenix; and Dallas.

Click here to see the complete list of dangerous cities for pedestrians.


Fast Company names Houston City of the Year

April 20th, 2011

Houston has been named 2011 City of the Year by Fast Company magazine.

In the issue due on newsstands April 26, the publication features the Bayou City as an excellent place for innovation, technology and design. The magazine cover proclaims: “Hey Houston! You’re No. 1.”

Allegra-Jo Lagani, Fast Company’s managing editor, said the City of the Year is picked internally based on a number of factors.

“This year, it was Houston that seemed to keep popping up over and over again,” said Lagani. “In our estimation, Houston came out as a city to watch.”

Houston was selected this year, she said, because of its beautiful appearance. All the things that are important to the magazine are found in the city, she added.

The magazine feature includes an interview with Mayor Annise Parker. In addition, 10 creative Houstonians share where they seek ideas in their hometown.