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January 20, 2010 

Texas, like most governments, is broke, but “we gotta get away from property taxes,” State Senator John Whitmore told the crowd at BOMA’s January luncheon yesterday.
State Senator John Whitmore

He elaborated:

  • About half of Texas’s income is sales tax, which has been dropping dramatically, so balancing the budget has become a challenge.

  • The $16B federal stimulus package in March helped but didn’t fix the problem.

  • Current property taxes are high and still not solving budget issues; if they're raised, people won't be able to afford to own buildings.

Will we institute an income tax? Not anytime soon, John promises (especially since it’s prohibited in the state constitution), but he hasn't ruled it out. Doing away with school property tax, lowering sales tax, and implementing a frozen 4% income tax could go a long way toward solving the state budget crisis, he says.

BOMA Houston prez Jen Suddreth (Grubb & Ellis) and BOMA TX immediate past president Clint Harrington with State Senator John Whitmore

BOMA Houston prez Jen Suddreth (Grubb & Ellis) and BOMA TX immediate past president Clint Harrington award John with TX BOMA Legislator of the Year. John graduated from high school and college (UH) in Houston and has been in Texas office for 37 years, making him the longest-serving state senator.

Ziegler Cooper Architects’ Kurt Hull

Ziegler Cooper Architects’ Kurt Hull tells us Five Chasewood in NW Houston will be a new generation in sustainability, but it won’t be constructed until Transwestern locks in tenants. Ziegler created a master plan for the Chasewood complex two years ago at the request of developer GenCap, has redesigned buildings One and Two, developed Four, and it has plans for another 10-story building and a hotel (TW is hunting for a flag). We ran out of fingers, but that sounds like seven buildings total. GenCap got private financial backing from the Netherlands, and Kurt tells us the design of Five Chasewood reflects those European roots.

Five Chasewood will be 10 stories and 250k SF with a 304k SF parking garage. The envelope for the office building responds to the orientation of the site, with the short sides facing east and west, and Kurt says he treats each façade differently and lets science dictate the best method. A feature that seems weird now but which Kurt believes will become commonplace: plug-ins in the garage for electric cars. (Besides upping the property’s sci-fi level, they could allow the building manager to sell back energy.) Kurt informs us Three Chasewood was leased for the highest rental rate in its submarket, and he believes Five will have a strong reception as well. 



Yesterday's focus on West Houston’s growth got us in the mood to dig for more development in the area. Aha! Judwin Realty bought 15.3 acres in Cinco Ranch for a 315-unit apartment complex. Partner René Joubert (here in Oak Park Trails, another Judwin complex) tells us it’s aiming to break ground in Q2 or 3, but acquiring the valuable site was the important part; the market will determine the rest. René says apartments in the Cinco Ranch area are often occupied by families who want a temporary home while they build houses in the Katy school district. Thus, the new facility will have fairly high amenities, including a gymnasium for kids, and will be only 60-65% one-bedroom setups (the average complex has about 80%).  Judwin designs, builds, and manages its properties. René doesn’t just hunt for land: he spent MLK weekend hunting in Alabama.

Send story ideas to Catie Brubaker, catie@bisnow.com
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