Onward and upward

Here is how Houston will fare after the infamous Amazon snub, says expert

Houston's moving on from one of 2018's biggest let downs. Photo by Tim Leviston/Getty Images

Who needs Amazon.com Inc.'s second headquarters? That's the sentiment of the head honcho of The Woodlands master-planned community, who believes Houston represents a "great financial opportunity."

"Houston still has a great run ahead of us," the executive, says Paul Layne, at a luncheon hosted by the Houston chapter of the Urban Land Institute (ULI). "Generally speaking, Houston is in good shape for next year."

"We have not done a fantastic job of attracting major corporations moving here, for a whole host of reasons," Layne notes. "We had hurricanes and we've had a number of issues that kind of scare people off."

"But generally speaking," he adds, "we are a low-priced, fantastic community, a great place to raise a family — probably the most friendly city in the country. Companies love that. We don't have to get the Amazons, we don't have to get the major corporations. We're doing great with internal [job] growth."

Layne is Central Region president of The Howard Hughes Corp., a Dallas-based real estate developer that owns The Woodlands, a 28,000-acre, master-planned community. Layne, a longtime commercial real estate executive in Houston, joined Howard Hughes in 2012. Aside from The Woodlands, he oversees Bridgeland, an 11,400-acre, master-planned community in Cypress, as well as developments in Maryland and Nevada.

While Houston needs to improve its education and transportation systems, it offers the ability to develop high-density real estate at a reasonable cost "with a great quality of life," Layne notes.

Speaking as part of a ULI panel at the Junior League of Houston, Layne emphasized the Houston area's healthy job growth. In October, the region added 117,800 jobs, up 3.9 percent from the same period last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In October, a daily average of 4,188 job openings were listed in Houston — more than any other place in Texas. That's according to a review by data-mining company Thinkum of online job postings at thousands of companies.

Among the country's 12 largest metro areas, Houston ranked first for both the number of jobs added in one year and the annual rate of job growth, the bureau reported November 23.

Those figures show the Houston area has rebounded from Hurricane Harvey and the energy slump, both of which depressed the region's job growth.

Houston was one of 238 communities that bid on the second headquarters of Amazon, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant. Houston failed to make Amazon's list of 20 finalists for what's known as Amazon HQ2. Austin and Dallas were the only Texas contenders among the 20 finalists. Amazon decided last month to split HQ2 — and its 50,000 jobs — between Northern Virginia and Long Island City, New York.

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This story originally appeared on CultureMap.

As the city grows, Houston faces more and more challenges from transportation and infrastructure to gentrification and climate change. Getty Images

As technology and infrastructure evolves, Houston is growing and evolving with it — in both good ways and bad.

On October 30, Gensler hosted its annual Evolution Houston forum that brings together various personalities and industries to discuss the future of the city of Houston. The panelists discussed gentrification, climate change, mobility, smart cities, and so many other hot topics Houstonians hear or think about on a regular basis.

Missed the event? Here are some powerful quotes from the discussion.

“I like to think of Houston as an adolescent city, struggling for its identity.”

Peter Merwin, design principal at Gensler, who adds, "If you look at places like New York, London, Paris — those are all luxury cities. They are fully formed, and a consequence of that is that they become unaffordable. It's something that we have to be careful about in Houston."

“One of the things that has been echoed by many of the artists and many of the poor people over the last few years is, [people] ‘want the culture but they don’t want us.’ It’s very reflective when you go [into the communities.]”

Kam Franklin, activist and singer-songwriter of The Suffers. Franklin described how she would move from the various neighborhoods she's lived in after they've grown in culture. She would see such a huge increase in her rent as people were more willing to pay the premium to live in these newly desirable neighborhoods because of the culture, but its pricing out the original inhabitants. Franklin added, "I'm not going to tell any of y'all where I moved."

“We have to continue to support the diversification of mobility options.”

Abbey Roberson, vice president of planning at the Texas Medical Center. Roberson says transportation is something she particularly focuses on considering how many people filter in and out of the TMC on a daily basis. The medical center wouldn't be able to support the traffic with out various modes of transportation — busses, light rails, etc. Roberson adds that this translates to the rest of the city. "We can't just be doing one thing or the other."

“We’re creating this great culture of trail activation.”

Steve Radom, founder & managing principal at Radom Capital LLC, which developed Heights Mercantile off a bike path and is now building out The MKT, which is also along the same bike path. Radom notes that the city has seen a 300 percent year over year in walkability and a 70 percent increase in bike traffic.

“Climate change is not something the city of Houston can change alone.”

Lara Cottingham, chief of staff & chief sustainability officer at the city of Houston. The city's climate action plan is a result of the devastating floods has seen almost annually. The plan is still being drafted but a version is expected to be released before the end of the year. Every city is facing sustainability challenges, and partnerships are what's going to drive change. "In Houston success means partnership," Cottingham adds.

“How do you talk about a city this big and diverse — every neighborhood has its own identity.”

Jon Nordby, managing director of MassChallenge in Houston, discussed how Houston functions differently from other cities in that it its various neighborhoods — the Heights, Montrose, downtown — are different from each other.