Kirton tells CM he'll move in himself
The Ashby high rise returns from the dead, but the developer insists it's nomonster
After two quiet years, Buckhead Investment Partners submitted construction documents to the city this week, requesting permission to move forward on the controversial Ashby high rise. With the city's rental market at a high-water mark, the investment group has shifted its focus from high-end condominium owners to high-end renters.
Planned for a site at 1717 Bissonnet near Rice University, the massive 23-story residential building pared down much of its original design to get city approval in August 2009. Over 20 residential units were removed from the plans, as well as portions of the building's retail and office space. The new constuction documents, Buckhead says, are for the same plans approved two years ago.
With support from then-mayor Bill White, the Stop the Ashby High Rise movement took shape in 2007 to attack the building's traffic impact on the two-lane Bissonnet. The organization's website estimates 2,000 cars will come to and from the building each day, stating that even "the developer’s own traffic study indicates a significant worsening of traffic."
"The building's not going to have teeth and arms," says Buckhead CEO Kevin Kirton, referring to the yellow monster signs Stop Ashby High Rise placed throughout the Rice area.
Since filing a federal lawsuit in February 2010 challenging the city's traffic argument, Buckhead has remained virtually silent about the project. The court case attacking a rarely-used driveway ordinance will be reviewed in March of next year.
"Time hasn't healed our wounds," Jim Reeder, co-chair of the Stop Ashby High Rise Taskforce and a law partner at Vinson & Elkins, tells CultureMap. "This is a great neighborhood of single family homes. In our view, the new rental option is worst than the former condominium model, bringing in a more transient population not invested in the area."
Reeder feels Buckhead has done little with the building's design to address the concerns of its neighbors, aside from removing certain elements to simply appease Houston officials. He says his group is evaluating options within the city's permitting process and will consider judicial approaches, if necessary.
"This is an iconic project for them," Reeder notes. "They're not interested in creating something more palatable to the neighborhood."
"The building's not going to have teeth and arms," says Buckhead CEO Kevin Kirton, referring to the yellow monster signs Stop Ashby High Rise placed throughout the Rice area. "I am disappointed to hear that so many people are upset about it. In the history of the city, there's never been such scrutiny over a proposed building site as a result of traffic impact studies.
"In our view, the new rental option is worst than the former condominium model, bringing in a more transient population not invested in the area," Jim Reeder says.
"We ended up removing a public plaza — the one feature that connected the building to the rest of the area."
In spite of scaling down the original design, Kirton still feels 1717 Bissonnet is "a great project," particularly in light of the high-end amenities that include an outdoor pool and putting green.
"I grew up in the neighborhood and can't wait for the building to be complete," Kirton says. "I'm ready to move there myself."