E … IS FOR ENERGY CORRIDOR
by Cristina Adams
The seat of Houston’s political power may be downtown, but West Houston is where things are moving and shaking. Once dismissed as the outer reaches of beyond, the stretch of land located west of Beltway 8 and east of Grand Parkway is known as the Energy Corridor, and it’s enjoying unprecedented boom times as the hot place to be in Houston. Home to more than 300 companies, including some of the largest multinational energy concerns in the world – ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil Company, Citgo Petroleum Corp. and ExxonMobil Chemical, among others – the Energy Corridor is now the region’s second-biggest employ- ment center. In 2014, the area boasted 28.4 million square feet of office and mixed-use space; 19 million square feet of that is office space, 75% of which is designated as Class A. If that sounds like a ton of space, it is. But a 2014 land use and demographics study by CDS Market Research predicts an even more impressive jump in square footage. By 2030, the Energy Corridor is predicted to enjoy a 59% increase in office, warehouse and mixed-used space to more than 45 million square feet. And the 91,000 people who currently work in the Energy Corridor will grow by 64%, to nearly 150,000.
So what’s driving this enviable growth? It’s a combination of factors: affordability, accessibility and a diversity of choices. No longer just a place to go to work, the Energy Corridor is really more of a master- planned urban community designed to attract people who want to work, play and live in the same general area. Throw in easy transportation, plenty of green space, loads of restaurants and the shiny, state-of-the-art Texas Medical Center-West Campus, and you have a place that more and more people are eager to call home. Nearly 22,000 people current- ly call the Energy Corridor home; that number is slated to jump 24% to about 27,000 by 2030. That’s happy news for real estate developers, who are building apartment buildings and townhouses as fast as they can. “Over the last 20 years, we have seen the area flourish,” says Kelli Kickerillo, chief marketing officer of Kickerillo Companies, a Houston- based residential, commercial and retail developer. “There has been a boom in multi-family projects, redevelopment of business parks, and new single-family developments popping up. Our buyers have embraced the live, work and play mentality to make the Energy Corridor a more urban environment.”
F … IS FOR FESTIVALS
by Ida Sameri
Houston has quietly been amassing a series of festivals as diverse as the city itself. From enjoying a full day of music at Eleanor Tinsley Park during Free Press Summer Fest, to a night completely filled with hors d’oeuvres and drinks at The Whiskey Festival, there is always something exciting and fun going on. If you are looking to have a day well spent enjoying exceptionally unique works of art, the Bayou City Art Festival is filled with hundreds of artists showing off their unique work at Memorial Park towards the end of March. With over 50,000 families and friends, 6 stages of music and entertainment, Disney and Nickelodeon celebrities and 10 big family adventure zones, McDonald’s Houston Children’s Festival is a great place to take your kids and spend the day playing, exploring and learning new things.
The Houston Food Truck Festival offers a wide range of music and delicious foods presented by 20+ local food trucks. Although Food Trucks are utterly delicious, they may not be for everyone. VegFest Houston offers superb vegan restaurants, exciting speakers, live music, kids’ zones and vendors, allowing one to learn and experience something different. If you prefer something new and exhilarating, what better way than by watching the growth of burlesque in Houston with its very own Festival, the Bayou City Burlesque & Circus Arts Festival coming Saturday, January 17. This festival is bringing together two everlasting and titillating performance arts to create an entirely new kind of show. Taking over the stage at Warehouse Live, this event’s notorious acts include burlesque beauties, circus acrobats and death-defying aerialists that will leave you on the edge of your seat. For tickets and more information on the Bayou City Burlesque & Circus Arts Festival, visit www.bcbcfestival.com.
G … IS FOR GALVESTON
by Ida Sameri
After the destructive storm that completely reshaped the Gulf Coast on September 8, 1900, no one
knew what could come of GALVESTON ISLAND. Making many improvements, such as the building of the very important Galveston Seawall, things returned to a new normal and Galveston grew – until September 13, 2008, when Hurricane Ike caused billions of dollars in damages. Galveston is finally coming around six years later and is better than before. There are all sorts of festivals, new restau- rants, Broadway touring shows and many other events drawing tourists. Start your new year off
with the Festival of Lights – through January 3, with 1 million lights within animated displays, live enter- tainment and an outdoor ice-skating rink. Being home of the best Gulf Coast seafood and some of Texas’ most mouthwatering and flavorful restaurant menus, Galveston Restaurant Week is something you can’t miss in January. The famous Galveston Mardi Gras, from February 6–17 this year, filled with dancing, parades, family events, performances and tons of other festivities, is a time-honored tradi- tion. And Broadway comes to town with the story of a young millionaire exploring the decadence, social upheaval and excesses of the Jazz Age – also known as “The Great Gatsby” – a must-see in March at The Grand 1894 Opera House.
H … IS FOR HIGH-RISE
by Cristina Adams
Houston may be most famous for its suburban sprawl and spaghetti-bowl freeways, but the city with the largest number of single-family, new home construction starts in the U.S. last year is embracing a popular trend: high-rise living. That’s right, residents of this 600-square-mile boomtown are increas- ingly eager to move up – literally – not out. Since 2000, about 30 high-rise buildings have gone up, bringing the total number of high-rises across the city to 72 and the number of units to nearly 8,500. Planned new construction starts in 2014 rang in at more than $4.8 billion. As of late 2014, 28 com- mercial and residential high-rises were in development, with plans for 83 more (largely commercial) under consideration at City Hall.
In downtown Houston alone, 14 projects are currently underway – including the 40-story MARKET SQUARE TOWER apartment building on Market Square – and another 39 are under review. In terms of construction and renovation costs, it’s a $4 billion price tag. Meanwhile, neighborhoods not far from Downtown in what’s known as the Inner Loop are also seeing their landscapes shift as developers scrap old two-story buildings and replace them with gleaming new towers like THE RIVA at the Park in Montrose, and ASTORIA and BELFIORE in Uptown – or with projects-in-progress like the 40-story building at West Alabama and Weslayan, or the 30-story building on Montrose Boulevard near Westheimer.
According to Donna Wilson, a realtor with Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty, prices for a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium start at about $500,000 and can run well into the millions.
With demand for vertical living on the upswing, the market for high-rise and mid-rise condos and apartments is exploding. “Inventory is low, prices are up,” Wilson says. “And with all of this traffic, residents, especially those coming from international cities, feel comfortable and secure in a high-rise, close-in building.” That’s not the whole story. With Inner Loop housing becoming increasingly scarce and pricey, developers are exploring fertile territory farther afield. What does that mean? The next 30- story condo building might just go up in The Woodlands.
I … IS FOR iFLY
The indoor skydiving facility plans two locations in Houston. iFly perfectly replicates the adrenaline inducing experience of skydiving free-fall without the daunting thought of jumping out of a plane. Following a brief training, fliers are outfitted in a flight suit, helmet and goggles before entering the wind tunnel. Basically, you lean into a cushion of air and the rushing air allows you to float. www.iflyworld.com