While you take a break from your social media feeds, where all your friends have checked in at some trendy gym that uses boulders repurposed from the 12th century to shed pounds, let me throw out a few ideas about the year to come.
There aren’t many news sources like The Leader left anymore, and one of the things we can do best is take the information we’ve reported in the past year to make some educated guesses about what will happen in the next 12 months.
So with that, I’ll offer my 2019 Predictions, which will be about as accurate as the health benefits of lifting 12th century boulders:
Prediction 1: Development will slow down in the Heights, Garden Oaks and Oak Forest this year.
I know, you think I’m writing this in some mind-fogged, New Year’s Eve haze. Nope, I’m clear-eyed and serious.
Development will slow in our area because there’s too much work left unfinished as it is. Ride down Shepherd or across 34th Street and tell me what you see. Open plots of land with nothing happening.
In other spots, where you have foundations and steel beams ready to host the next chic shop, work progresses at a deliberate pace.
While I don’t have a degree in economics, here’s what I’ve noticed in my two decades of reporting on this sort of thing:
We go in stages. A ton of land is bought (see the past 12 months), and then those projects get completed. Then, the actual retailers who take up those newly designed stores have to prove they can make it for more than 18 months.
If developers keep throwing up foundations, they won’t have any retailers left to take the space. So my guess is you’ll see the land already purchased developed, but you won’t see any major new projects start this year. Well, unless the land around the new Heights H-E-B is sold. In that case, you could see an entire Highland Village pop up on old car lots.
Prediction 2: The Shepherd wave will be real.
Speaking of H-E-B and its projected opening in a matter of weeks, the No. 1 issue for our readers in the Heights will be what happens when cars start pulling out of that parking deck.
If you’ve haven’t done so, take a drive out I-10, exit Bunker Hill and try to pull into the H-E-B there. For starters, they have a full-time police officer trying to herd carts through that parking lot. The service road along I-10 is nightmarish, and the ability to get in and out of that store isn’t worth the battle.
Can you imagine how Shepherd will look between 19th Street and 26th? Can you imagine a quick stop at the grocery store before getting home? You aren’t starting dinner until 7:30.
Here’s what I think will happen, and where this becomes an issue larger than even bad traffic on Shepherd. When people leave H-E-B’s new store, they aren’t even going to bother with Shepherd. They’re going to take the back roads – Lawrence, Nicholson, Ashland – to get out of Dodge. Just behind H-E-B, you have a slew of new condos and apartments.
The people leaving those places won’t want to wait for the police officer working the exit at H-E-B. Instead, they’ll begin a route through residential streets, where cars already line those roads. And at some point, homeowners are going to get fiery about all the traffic, and they’re going to start demanding something be done.
Don’t get me wrong: H-E-B in the Heights is wonderful for our area. But in 2019, we’ll have to figure out new solutions to new problems.
Prediction 3: Our local government will look a lot different.
In case you don’t know – and most of you don’t – 2019 is an election year in the city of Houston. And thanks to some changes in the charter, we now have city council representatives who are term-limited after two terms.
In our case, that means both Brenda Stardig (District A) and Ellen Cohen (District C) can’t run for re-election and we’ll need new representatives. Karla Cisneros, District H, has only served one term, and my assumption is she’ll run again.
Stardig and Cohen represent most of The Leader’s readership, and having a change in representation is a big deal for our community. It’s my guess that a whole lot of people will run for Cohen’s seat – we could have 12-15 candidates – and it will be interesting to see if anyone who lives in our area will win. I don’t have any major qualms with Cohen’s representation, but I hope we elect someone who lives here, rather than someone who lives near the South Loop.
While nothing replaces the emotion of national politics, I hope this year’s local elections are rowdy and prove to benefit our neighborhoods.
Prediction 4: We’ll lose more memories.
I’ve got to type fast because I’m running out of room. I don’t know which will be the next to go, but I’m guessing Sears finally closes in 2019. I also won’t be surprised if some of the businesses and restaurants of your childhood don’t close.
There are too many new places fighting for dollars, and each time a new store opens, an old one will be forced to find new tricks or close the doors.
Prediction 5: Our local schools will have a banner year.
For almost a decade now, our neighborhoods have been the beneficiaries of reinvestment. And when new people move in, and home prices increase, the amount of ownership local parents take in local institutions increases dramatically.
Schools like Oak Forest and Harvard have known it for a while. But those schools are almost completely neighborhood schools now. By next year, I’m not sure Oak Forest will have any students other than the ones who live in the school’s zone.
That means we’ll see a movement of those students to schools like Travis, Stevens and Durham. And I think those elementary schools will continue to improve with parents who continue to support local education.
Now, go lift another boulder. That’s all I’ve got.