If you don’t know the name, Ralph Bivins, then you’ve likely been insulated from Houston’s real estate scene. Bivins is Houston’s most enduring and prolific real estate observer, reporter, champion, and now, author.
Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up is the rookie author’s new book in which he does a deep dive into one of the nation’s fastest-growing and most remarkable cities. Bivins explores not just the projects and the people that mastermind this massive city but its global impact. He doesn’t hold back and explores the good, the bad, and the ugly of Houston.
Houston 2020 is a must read– even for those who have never been to Houston or have no connection to its the area whatsoever. I will tell you why.
Write What You Know
When it comes to Houston and its real estate markets (there are many), probably no one knows them better than Bivins. His resume proves it- he has been covering Houston since the 1980s. He wrote about real estate for the Houston Chronicle for 16 years before becoming an early digital pioneer and creating the Houston-based Realty News Report nearly 15 years ago.
Bivins was a frequent contributor to United Press International (UPI) and is a former president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE). NAREE has recognized his talents as he has won numerous awards from the nation’s oldest real estate journalists association, including most recently a Gold Winner for “Best Column.”
Ralph Bivins has always been a talented and insightful writer. As a result, his new book is an excellent read that draws you in from the first chapter. One hundred and fifty-nine pages later, you’ll understand the past and present of America’s most sprawling city, as well as get a glance into its future. More generally, Bivins covers major booms and busts that can catapult or bury everyone who is invested in any major metropolitan area.
To Know Houston is to Know American Real Estate
In his opening chapter, he immediately makes us realize why Houston is worth getting to know better. He writes, “Houston is speeding toward a turning point. The population of Greater Houston is expected to hit 10 million by 2040. No one expects growth to come easy. Some expect the growing pains to be excruciating, even deadly.”
Houston is on a path to replace Chicago as the nation’s third-largest city. It’s growth, Bivins notes, comes at a cost. The city struggles with a plethora of economic and social challenges, from transportation woes and unfettered zoning laws to chronic flooding, unremitting sprawl, and an immense impact on global warming. Bivins explores it all.
We Are What We Were
Every major city ultimately is a result of its checkered history and Bivins does a superb job of diving into Houston’s account, including the players behind its most noteworthy projects. Names that have helped define the city’s landscape– Richard Campo, Gerald Hines, Roy Hofheinz, and David Weekley add depth to this tale.
Houston’s history encompasses the building of the Astrodome – America’s first domed stadium – in 1965 (promoted at the time the “8th Wonder of the World”). It also includes the nation’s largest highway loop (under construction), the Grand Parkway, the reclamation of downtown with Discovery Green, and new urban residential.
Bivins also writes the hard stuff: he wrote about Hurricane Harvey with great empathy and respect to those who have bounced back, as well as those who continue to endure painful struggles.
Perhaps no other seasoned real estate writer has a better pulse of Houston, including its peculiarities and eccentricities, than Bivins. That is precisely what makes Houston 2020 both engaging and compelling. Bivins does a great service by doing what Mark Twain suggested, in writing about what he knows best. When you read Houston 2020, you will be a beneficiary of his excellent work.
Note: Houston 2020: America’s Boom Town – An Extreme Close Up is available online from Amazon. Bivins will be in Austin this week at the National Association of Real Estate Editor’s spring conference, where our own Marilyn Wilson will be speaking on a panel about disruption. More info is at naree.org.
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