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January 3, 2011 
 
 
YOUR NEXT CLIENT: HOUSTON GOV'T

Have big news? Big stories? Let us know what you are up to in Houston by sending us an e-mail.

 

If your New Year’s resolution is to do more work with the City, you’re in luck.

 
City of Houston director of planning and development Marlene Gafrick, City of Houston legal department division land chief Deborah McAbee, Transwestern’s David Schwarz III, and Wilson Cribbs & Goren’s Reid Wilson

We found City of Houston director of planning and development Marlene Gafrick, City legal department division land chief Deborah McAbee, Transwestern’s David Schwarz III, and Wilson Cribbs & Goren’s Reid Wilson at a ULI luncheon on working with the City. Marlene says there are some new land use regs, and seven of 19 historic districts are undergoing the reconsideration process. The parking ordinance, which hasn’t had a wholesale look since it was written in ’89, is being reviewed now. Most ratios won’t change, but she says shared parking isn’t working, so it’ll be broken down to create more opportunities. She wants smaller parking management groups so areas can be handled individually. And look for opportunities around Beltway 8 soon—the City’s about to amend Chapter 42 of the City code to expand to the area.

Andy Icken, Reid Wilson, Ann Taylor, Marlene Gafrick, Jim Noteware

Reid and Marlene joined City chief development officer Andy Icken, ULI executive director Ann Taylor, and the City director of housing and community development Jim Noteware. Andy says the City doesn’t have much money to incentivize development, but he will chat with any developer willing to invest in the city (no official forms required; the process is informal). As for upcoming projects, he says the City’s looking at updating its aging facilities, and the jail and crime lab need work. And he says there’ve been discussions about building some museums in the East End.

Andy Icken, Marlene Gafrick, Jim Noteware

Jim says his division’s portfolio of activities is changing: Mayor Parker wants to do more multifamily projects and focus on community development. He plans to use development to meet that end. Jim says one-third of Houston’s communities are fiscally supporting the rest, so he’s working on stabilizing neighborhoods. And if you’re a shopping center developer (especially grocery-anchored space), pick up your phone—or just get on the store's public address system—because Jim wants to hear from you.


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WELCOME SERVCORP
 
ServCorp's

The new year is a good time to welcome new neighbors, so we'd like to introduce you to our new friends and sponsor ServCorp. Above, its Jessica Rios, Taeisha Castex, and Keisha Ellis showing off one of the firm’s available executive suites on the 41st floor of Williams Tower. The Australian company, which provides both serviced and virtual offices, opened its first US branch in March. It now has 21 US offices, including two in Houston (in November, it opened 15 suites in the Bank of America building and 21 in Williams Tower). ServCorp only occupies Class A buildings, and the CEO handpicks everything, down to the 100% wool carpets made in New Zealand. Each office has a virtual lounge—any user of this service can use any lounge worldwide. Although we only fit three in our photo, ServCorp offices fit up to five people.


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ALL EYES ARE ON US
 
AFIRES' Jim Fetgatter

72% of Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate members, who hold a total of $627B of CRE—$265B of that in the US—plan to invest more capital in here in 2011 than they did in 2010. The James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate (Wisconsin School of Business) survey found that investors are narrowly targeting NY and then DC, among global cities, says AFIRE chief Jim Fetgatter. Houston’s seventh on the list of US cities, with less than 5% of projected investment. The US ranked four times as high as second-ranked UK as an investment target (perhaps we should host the royal wedding, too), and 60% of respondents called the US the best potential for capital appreciation (54% over China). Multifamily remains the primary target, hotel and retail moved up to second and third, and office and industrial dropped to fourth and fifth.

 
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