No zoning blues

Ashby redux? Well-heeled neighborhood battles iconic Houston developer over San Felipe high-rise

Asbhy redux? Neighborhood battles developer over San Felipe high rise

Stop San Felipe Skyscraper 2229 San Felipe sign October 2013
Like the Stop Ashby High Rise group, opponents to the new office tower have made yard signs. Stop San Felipe Skyscraper/Facebook
Hines proposed tower for River Oaks neighborhood 2229 San Felipe between Kirby and Shepherd June 2013
Hines' proposed office tower at 2229 San Felipe continues to face neighborhood push-back. Construction is slated to begin later this year. Hines
San Felipe Skyscraper 2229 San Felipe map
Countering claims that the neighborhood is essentially residential, Hines shows its office building (in red) among other commercial lots (in purple). Courtesy of Hines
Stop San Felipe Skyscraper 2229 San Felipe based on dimensions, the building would look like this October 2013
The office building in a rendering by the Stop San Felipe Group Stop San Felipe Skyscraper/Facebook
Stop San Felipe Skyscraper 2229 San Felipe sign October 2013
Hines proposed tower for River Oaks neighborhood 2229 San Felipe between Kirby and Shepherd June 2013
San Felipe Skyscraper 2229 San Felipe map
Stop San Felipe Skyscraper 2229 San Felipe based on dimensions, the building would look like this October 2013

With a lawsuit against the Ashby High Rise successfully heading to court in November, a River Oaks-area group is mounting a battle of its own against one of the city's most revered developers.

Since spring, a group of residents along San Felipe between Kirby and Shepherd have been taking on the mighty Hines firm with letters, lawn signs and traffic studies, all to thwart the construction of a 17-story boutique office complex at 2229 San Felipe. The building, designed by local architects Ziegler Cooper with an aim of LEED Gold certification, is slated to break ground later this year.

While echoes of the Ashby situation are undeniable — well-heeled community fights large new building — the Stop San Filipe Skyscraper group swears on its website that any comparison is "an apples vs. oranges issue," a residential tower as opposed to a commercial one.

"I'm a fan of Hines' work, but they're putting up a commercial building in a residential area, plain and simple," area resident Jack Ogg, a spokesperson for the campaign, tells CultureMap. "Just because there are a few small businesses on San Felipe doesn't mean this is a commercial district . . . I'm not against development. It just feels like they're throwing us under the bus."

"I'm not against development. It just feels like they're throwing us under the bus." 

In early October, the group organized a public petition politely asking Hines to build a three- to six-story residential development instead of the office tower.

Representatives with Hines — known for legendary Houston buildings like The Galleria, Pennzoil Place and Williams Tower — declined to comment on 2229 San Felipe. The company, however, is maintaining a detailed website to promote the project and address any concerns.

The site features updated renderings and a detailed map highlighting large concentrations of existing commercial blocks below San Felipe and near Shepherd and Kirby. The developer compares its forthcoming office complex to the nearby River Oaks Bank building, which has slightly more square footage. Also included is a comprehensive traffic study still largely contested by the Stop San Felipe group.

Ogg, an attorney and former member of both the Texas House and Senate, says that the neighborhood's two-lane streets can barely handle traffic as it is, let alone when the office tower opens with its 400 parking spaces. The Stop San Felipe group funded its own traffic study, which did not contain enough evidence to be considered by city officials, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Another traffic study is on the way, Ogg adds, stressing that he's prepared to take legal action if current administrative pressure fails to block construction.

Meanwhile, Hines' San Felipe website claims to have tenant proposals for nearly two-thirds of the building even without advertising the project.

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