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Houston, famed for sprawl, bets on growing up

Apartments and walkable urbanism are finding more favor in the Texan metro

Developer Jacob Sudhoff remembers when Houston had a much different profile, when the Texas metropolis was considered just a “cow and oil town” built around sprawl, suburbs, and anything-goes zoning.

But in the last few years, Houston has seen a boom in high-rise, multifamily living that’s transforming neighborhoods around the famously decentralized city with numerous new 40-story towers taking root. Walkable neighborhoods, and the condos and apartments drawing residents to these areas, are revitalizing the Heights, Midtown, downtown, the Outer Loop, and the forthcoming McKinley Memorial City, as well as the neighborhoods near the new Buffalo Bayou Park and the Allen Parkway.

Houston is projected to add roughly 16,000 units this year alone, according to a report from commercial real estate firm JLL, with another 23,000 in the pipeline. As prices have crept up to historic heights—$1,050 a month on average, making Houston one of the nation’s best rental bargains among big cities—occupancy remains at 90 percent, leading to strong rental demand and a positive outlook for the future. For the first time this year, according to the long-running Kinder Houston Area Survey administered by Rice University, a majority or near majority of local respondents wanted to live in denser, mixed-use neighborhoods.

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