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Rick Hughes: Carly Simon and LBJ Construction

Rick Hughes

The other day while driving around in my car, I heard the old Carly Simon song, “Anticipation.” I usually don’t listen to pop music (at all, really!); I was just surfing to find some good ol’ ’70s classic hard rock when I came across the song.

Anticipation! Boy that works both ways, both excitement and dread. I can remember the anticipation of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. My little brother, Terry, would wake me up at 2 a.m. and, with his purloined flashlight, we would creep into the living room and with awe, find all of the little goodies left by Santa. The noise created by our discovery awoke Santa, (er …. my parents).

My mom and dad weren’t big on wrapping gifts, so Santa brought everything. (As I soon came to know in later years, there is an offset to not wrapping presents, and that is tending to the “some assembly required” items. After a bit—or a lot—of eggnog, “some assembly required” absolutely demolishes the Christmas spirit!. But, I digress.)

After a few years, our parents demanded that we stay in our rooms until 7 a.m. before getting them up. Nonetheless, in the early hours after our being sequestered to our rooms we learned to do our exploration “quietly.” We always met Christmas morning with high anticipation.

But anticipation has a negative side, too. As a young kid, I was constantly sneezing from hay fever and allergies. I remember being tested for 200 plants; as it turned out, I was allergic to 199 of them. I can’t remember what the one plant that I could tolerate, but it was likely something akin to the East African water lily. So, due to the prognoses, it was determined that I must take shots every other day for two months, then twice a week for four months, then once a week for a year, and so on.

I hated the shots. No matter how often I received them, I dreaded with all my soul going into the doctor to get those shots. My anxiety rose, my hands would become clammy, I would sweat and worry right up until the violent stabbing! But after it occurred and I stuck the little dab of cotton over the puncture wound my anxiety began to abate, my hands went back to normal and all was good with the world until two days later when it all began again.

Anticipation ruined my childhood during these times. Even today, I hate shots, and as a middle aged adult (by the way, just how long do you stay “middle aged” before you become an old codger?), when I have to get a shot, my anxiety rises, my hands get clammy … you get the picture.

I think the “anticipation” of the LBJ reconstruction has some of the same negative aspects as my shots. Thinking back, when the Central Expressway construction started in 1992, traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. Oh, wait; that was before construction started! During much of the construction, it continued at a snail’s pace but was never worse than what it was before it started.

Long before the end of construction in 1999, the “new Central Expressway” was flowing much better. Yet right before construction started, real estate brokers were pounding the service roads, telling all that would listen, that Armageddon is upon us and you better move now! Vacancy soared, rates fell through the floor, and Armageddon … well, Armageddon never occurred. It took years to recover some of the effects of the actions “anticipated” for the Central Expressway construction.

Fast forward to 2002 and the High Five construction. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” was the cry of the day for Park Central buildings. Prior to construction, Park City had the worst ingress/egress of any office park in the city. In “anticipation,” vacancy soared, rates fell, and, well, access and ingress almost immediately improved! Park Central properties are still recovering—or are they being tarred and feathered with the anticipated LBJ problem?

According to Cushman & Wakefield market research, the LBJ corridor was the only submarket in the city to get worse during 2011. (Well, actually, the Stemmon’s corridor got worse too, but that’s a whole separate blog.) One of our historic high-end office markets is headed in the opposite direction than the overall Dallas Fort Worth market. I believe this is largely  a result of “anticipation.” Our statistics show the exact same thing happened around the NCX and High Five construction periods. Go figure!

Today, the art of constructing highways is so scientific and well orchestrated; the disruption to businesses is minor. Trust me, I live about a half-mile north of LBJ and am fascinated with watching the process unfold. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, how they move traffic around.
Let’s face it, LBJ hasn’t moved well in years. And the fact is, almost all of the big, disruptive parts of construction is being done at night. Unless you are trying to find your way home after closing time, you really aren’t going to be majorly affected. (Don’t ask me how I know this salient fact!)

So what’s the bottom line on the LBJ construction? It’s like those darn shots! It won’t hurt as bad as you think it will, and in a fairly short time, it really won’t hurt at all. On LBJ, vacancy is headed up, rates are headed down; as Carly Simon sings, it’s time to leverage the LBJ office rental rates due to that “anticipation.”

Rick Hughes is an executive director within Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc.’s brokerage services group. Contact him at [email protected]

  • Mike Kennedy

    Great perspective, Rick. As I sit here in my offices in the Park Lane mixed use development, I see Central Expressway, and remember that “endless” construction project. Hugely benificial to to Uptown, the Northpark district, etc.

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