Friday, January 27, 2006

The Blues Had a Baby and They Called it “Destination Entertainment”

We heard one of the developers of Houston Pavilions saying on TV earlier this week that the House of Blues slated for his planned downtown mega-development will be the only House of Blues in the Houston area.

Our very own House of Blues. And the only one in town! Just like the dozen or so other towns that have House of Blues franchises (Myrtle Beach, for instance). According to an approving correspondent on the Houston Architecture Info Forum, Houston Pavilions is “the exact same thing as the one in Denver.” That one's called Denver Pavilions.

Then we read in the Chronicle that one of the Los Angeles-based developers of the project had declared that Houston Pavilions will be the “focus of downtown.” We must have missed it when this was decided---that the focus of downtown will be a so-very-distinctive retail/residential development whose big tenants thus far are a franchised music venue and, in a particularly Houstonesque touch, a “minor emergency center and wellness clinic” (in case you get a hold of a bad baloney sandwich at the House of Blues, we suppose.)

If we’re lucky we won’t have reason to visit either venue, although we realize this is a free country and the developers can pretty much do whatever the hell they please with their property. Yet Houston Pavilions isn’t exactly a triumph of free enterprise---according to the Chronicle and the Houston Business Journal, the developers have received “assistance” in the form of $8.8 million in infrastructure development grants from the city of Houston and “$4.4 million from Harris County” (in addition to a $1 million grant from the quasi-governmental Downtown Management District). Y’know, to make it work. So, even though we won’t be darkening its door, as a payer of federal, city and county taxes we feel like we have at least a wee ownership stake in Houston Pavilions, and as a part-owner we demand that we be consulted before any more tenants are recruited (it appears the development would be the perfect location for a new Harrah’s, once we get casino gambling here in Texas).

In the meantime, we have questions, such as why, when there’s so much concern in the air about “affordable housing,” local governments are using tax dollars (yeah, the ones from the federal government come from taxes, too) to subsidize a development that will offer what we heard described on TV as “luxury condos” in its 12-story residential tower. (Yes, we know the canned answer: The development is supposed to be a “catalyst” for further nearby development---the usual vague and unquantifiable justification that’s tossed out when public money is funneled to splashy private projects [if a “minor emergency center” can be considered “splashy”].)

Slampo's English-As-A-Second-Language Weekend Special: Sign on the windshield of an older model auto in the greater Alief area: "Sail 4." We think they meant "For Sale," but we're not positive of that.

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