Feature Photo (above): A mural on White Oak, around the corner from the Urban Genesis multifamily project, highlights the neighborhood’s bicycle friendly environment. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Houston (Harris County) — A Houston developer is attempting a Greater Heights four-story multifamily project that would have relatively lower rents by reducing a parking requirement.
The project appeared on last week’s Planning Commission agenda, but was deferred at the applicant’s request, “so that they may continue meeting and working with the neighborhood residents.” Given the density proposed–66 units on less then six-tenths of an acre–it’s no surprise the neighbors may be expressing concerns.
The owner of record on the application is Richard J. Archer. Archer runs a financial services/investment management firm in Austin. Archer’s role is unclear, since he isn’t a developer, and the application statement of ownership conflict with Harris County Appraisal District records, which show UG Oxford LLC as the landowner.
Project site for White Oak Highline by Urban Genesis. Image: Google Maps.
UG Oxford LLC is a holding of Urban Genesis, a Houston-based urban real estate and development firm. The civil engineering firm Big Red Dog is representing the stakeholders on the parking variance request.
As explained by Big Red Dog’s James Roman, “rents in urban areas such as the Heights, Montrose and West U continue to rise and are starting to squeeze out median income earners. This development is an opportunity to help keep the Heights a realistic neighborhood to live in for working class people that are generally under-served.”
Average rents for Class A one-bedroom/efficiency units in Greater Heights are currently $1,490, according to CoStar. Similar apartments south of 11th Street average $1,660.
“This development will be a Class A product that will provide an average rent of $1305,” Urban Genesis claims.
The ground level site plan for White Oak Highline. Courtesy: Urban Genesis.
A development of this scale requires 87 parking spaces by ordinance, but the developer wants a reduction to 74 off-street parking spaces. In addition, they’re offering to include eight bike racks with capacity for 32 bicycles.
The planned apartment mix is 18 efficiency units and 48 one-bedroom units. Due to the type of tenant anticipated and the location, the developers claim their project lends itself to alternative modes of transportation.
“This development will be located: less than one-quarter mile (a 5 minute walk) from three metro bus routes (two of which are within a block of the site); a block and a half from the Heights Hike and Bike Trail which can provide a 20-minute bike ride to central downtown, Montrose, Greater Heights, Washington Avenue, and twelve different public parks; one block away from the vibrant White Oak area which has several retail stores, restaurants, bars, and music venues; and within one of the most walkable areas of Houston.
“It is very reasonable to believe the development will need less vehicles than the parking code requires given the proximity to all of these great amenities.”
The site plan indicates that almost the entire ground level lot area will be dedicated to parking. Above that would be three levels of residential units.
The north and west elevations for the project at Oxford and East 6 1/2 Streets. Courtesy: Urban Genesis.
There appear to be four structures on site that will have to be removed. These include single family residences at 610 Oxford and 614 E. 6 1/2 Street. The properties are a half-block north of White Oak Drive, a busy neighborhood commercial strip.
According to a Houston Business Journal December report, the Oxford Street project is one of two that Urban Genesis plans to break ground on this year. The other multifamily development in progress is a 50-unit structure in Montrose that is near Avondale and Taft streets. UD Architects is their designer, and the project names are White Oak Highline and Avondale Highline.