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HOUSTON-The inner city push for office and residential space may be choked due to suburban growth, particularly around Beltway 8, says Dr. Barton A. Smith, senior economist for the Institute for Regional Forecasting. Smith cites transportation problems, skyrocketing residential real estate prices, parking shortages and prices and increasing CBD office market rents as reasons suburban growth will outpace the CBD revitalization. “The only relief to businesses is to move out to the people,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “I believe it is virtually certain that the CBD will continue to lose office market share to the suburbs.”

Many people’s expectations for the CBD may never be realized although Downtown certainly has turned the corner on the road to revitalization and expansion, Smith concludes. The Beltway 8 area is the best magnet for new job growth in the future.

In his recently issued report, Smith points out, “the explosion in growth in the distant suburbs is as strong as ever. Ft. Bend and Montgomery counties both grew about 60% in the last decade.”

Smith says urban mobility is the key to maintaining the strength of the city as a whole as well as the CBD. His report predicts that, “failure to make significant mobility progress will keep the accessibility premiums high, but they, in turn, will thwart the movement back to the inner city as prices become progressively out of reach for most Houstonians.” The light-rail project alone will not solve the at-large problem. Toll roads, he says, carry lower development, construction and management costs and come to fruition in quicker fashion.

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