2017 is a big year for Elmore Public Relations—we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary! For the past 25 years, our agency has been working with numerous clients to help them achieve their goals, or as we say – connecting strategy, expertise and results. Each week we’re highlighting a year of Elmore PR.
Last week, we traveled back in time to 2002 and reflected on our work with various restaurant clients, including Trevisio in the Texas Medical Center. This week, we’re learning about downtown’s past, talking the present and looking to the future with Central Houston President and longtime friend, Bob Eury.
From the Downtown Living Initiative to Learn Central, our team has had the honor and pleasure of working with Central Houston on a wide variety of projects since our founding in 1992. In this week’s blog, we sat down with our friend, Central Houston President and “Champion of Downtown” Bob Eury to discuss the importance of residential development in Downtown Houston.
Q: In the past, Downtown Houston was mostly known as a commercial real estate hub. Why is it important for downtown to offer places for Houstonians to live, too?
I’ve learned over the years that everyone has a vision for downtown and no matter how many people you ask, almost all are identical. People want a place where they can not only work but worship, recreate, shop, enjoy the arts and, most importantly, live. We all draw examples from places we love and cherish around the world or see in all forms of media, including entertainment. As a result, there’s a high bar of what a downtown should be and it is absolutely critical to make that happen.
Q: When and what was the turning point for residential development in downtown?
For me, two come to mind. The first was in the mid ‘90s when we were extremely depressed in the office market and in downtown and saw property values fall especially in older, historic properties. We had a couple dozen buildings that were remodeled for residential use and hotels adding a couple thousand units in downtown.
The second phase came in 2012 when City Council approved our Downtown Living Initiative. To put it into perspective, we had 800-900 units in downtown in the mid ‘90s. Today, 7,700 or more units are completed, under construction or in the pipeline!
Q: What are the residential developments in downtown that stand out in your mind and why?
It’s not fair to choose! There are so many, O.K. I’m going to make somebody mad if I pick a favorite!
Of course, the Rice Hotel comes to mind – the historical significance of the Rice and fact that it was closed for a number of years, it was a monument of utility. Several people attempted to find a use for the building before Randall Davis put the thoughts together for a historic preservation model to make it work! I love the fact that he kept the Crystal Ballroom. So many Houstonians can remember having their senior prom or wedding there.
It is fair to say that One Park Place proved to be a home run. Marvy Finger had thought about putting a project in that lot and wanted to be assured Discovery Green would be built before taking a leap with it! It was one of the first new construction projects downtown had seen in a while, and despite opening around the Great Recession, it swayed developers to take a second look at downtown.
We now have a total of 18 projects completed, under construction or in the pipeline each with so much character that are creating neighborhoods within downtown. This is what it is all about. There is an incredible amount of offerings which is exciting for our future.
Q: Where do you foresee downtown to be in the next 10 years in terms of residential developments?
The question for me is if we will hit 10,000 units in 10 years, but honestly I’d really like to hit 20,000! It’s a bit of a stretch but I think it’s doable. The reason why is because when we see cities around the United States, the 20,000 number is a fairly relevant number to hit in terms of units. As we work our way up to 10,000 units or 14,000 residents, you can see the difference right now with completed projects even month by month. I know we’re talking about residential but increasing the number of hotels operating in downtown is also important. Go back to the late ‘90s, we only had four hotels operating in downtown. We’ll have 25 in the not so distant future! Makes all the difference in the world!
I’ve been in this position for 34 years. Areas that I never thought would be built out have been built! There was a point when I could see nine projects outside of our office windows but it is still hard to believe how much downtown has filled in. We needed that. We heard repeatedly that “you have to connect the dots.” Our mission is to create a seamless experience from one place to the next throughout downtown.
Thanks again to Bob for making some time in his (extremely) busy schedule to wish us a “Happy 25th” and share the past, present and future of Downtown Houston. We can’t wait to see what’s next! Join us next week as we head into 2004 and look back at the Essentially Modern exhibit at the Gulf Building as well as the Downtown Entertainment District’s involvement in Super Bowl XXXVIII.