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Interview with: Ed Wulfe
Interviewed by: David Goldstein
Date: November 9, 2009
DG: Today is November 9, 2009. We are in the offices of Ed Wulfe who is being interviewed for the Houston Oral History Project. My name is David Goldstein. How are you today, Mr. Wulfe?
EW: Fine, thank you.
DG: Mr. Wulfe, let’s begin where we always begin – at the beginning. Tell us where you were born and your earliest memories.
EW: I was born in San Antonio. I went to Texas A&M and got a mechanical engineering degree. Graduated in 1955. They said Houston was the city of opportunity. In those days, that was the way it was touted and I bought into it and I could not have been more right. I came here in 1956; I have been here ever since and love every minute of it.
DG: Tell us about your childhood. What kind of things were you interested in when you were a kid?
EW: Surviving. I grew up in a very modest home, in a very modest family. I did everything I could, took every odd job I could get to work and make money and put myself through college. Fortunately, it was a lot cheaper then than it is today but I worked pretty much around the clock to go through school and graduate.
DG: What kind of jobs did you have?
EW: I had everything from waiting on tables in the dining hall to school photographer to selling bibles during the Christmas holidays – anything I could to make a buck, to be creative and innovative and still do my school work and graduate.
DG: What did you do for fun?
EW: I have always enjoyed sports in terms of not participating but observing and really becoming knowledgeable about the sports activities. My fun really focuses, as always, on people. I love being around people. I love interacting with people. I love organizing and coordinating and building consensus with people and making things happen.
DG: When you were a kid, do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?
EW: I wanted to be an engineer. I was firmly set in my mind that I wanted to be an engineer with a leaning towards business but my dad was a mechanic, I worked on cars and trucks with him all my life at that age, and loved it.
When I graduated from A&M, I came to Houston, as I said, as a sales engineer with Texaco and spent the first 5 years working for Texaco here in Houston calling on businesses and plants and selling and servicing with consulting engineering as it related to the use of oils. I sat across the desk from the man with Texaco in charge of real estate and became fascinated with his activity and involvement and buying property and selling property for Texaco as it was. So I went to the U of H night school and took every course I could on real estate and jumped in the middle of it. I went to work for Weingarten Realty and spent 17 years there learning the shopping center business, the commercial real estate business and learning Houston. It was a fascinating experience, a tremendous learning experience. Again, it tapped into my innate desire and love of dealing with people because I was talking to stores and retailers to go into shopping centers and participate in the shopping center, I put together a shopping center and my focus was totally and has always been on shopping centers and on retail.
DG: What was Houston like? What are your earliest memories of Houston?
EW: It was very, very, what seemed to be not a big city compared to most large cities but a city on the move and a city growing, and the greatest thing about it was the people. The people made the city. The environment was open. I came from nowhere but if I could do something or produce something or make something happen, I was welcome. It was a very diverse city. It had the opportunity for everybody and anybody to do whatever they were capable of doing. And I guess the greatest thing about it that attracted me and got my enthusiasm for it was the ability to become part of a lot of different things and be welcome to do that.
DG: What year did you come to Houston?
DG: Had you visited before then?
EW: Only on weekends coming back and forth from school as I dated several girls here or somebody fixed me up with several girls here. The important thing is, I think, of all the things that I learned at A&M was their focus and emphasis on leadership and the importance of being an effective leader. At A&M, I was able to be involved in a number of organizations and that has carried me through throughout my life and career in terms of even raising money. I helped raise money for a building at A&M. I was taught by one of the old pros on how to do that and from then on, I am still doing it.
DG: What kind of organizations were you involved in?
EW: At school, I was involved in, there was a group called the Hillel. I was involved in that. I was involved in the YMCA. In those days, you had to be a member of the Corps and so I was involved in a number of military entities within the Corps to learn and deal with people and build teams and make things happen.
DG: Everybody experiences Houston in different ways so spend a little bit more time with what that early Houston experience was like for you. What did you do for fun? Where did you eat? What part of town did you live in?
EW: The priority – where do you eat? Highest priorities were finding good restaurants and there was an abundance of them, moderately priced because that is all I could afford. We lived in the southwest part of Houston, a small home as we grew and progressed, and basically grew up in southwest Houston, and taking advantage of all the things that you could do in Houston, whether it was going down to Galveston, whether it was experiencing any of the cultural opportunities, and certainly all the restaurants and civic activities.
DG: Could you remember some of the names of those restaurants that you went to back then?
EW: There used to be San Jacinto Inn which was in Pasadena off of the Ship Channel. That was the place to go. There was a restaurant called Green Parrot. Most of these restaurants served a lot of good food cheap and we took advantage of that.
The interesting thing though was that there were choices and a lot of opportunities and they were reasonable and for somebody just getting started, you could certainly have your choice of about a lot of different opportunities in terms of food. Mexican restaurants were abundant and there was a pretty good choice of food places. There was one on South Main called the Red Lion. There was another one called Ye Olde College Inn. Then, Bill Williams had his seafood place. So there were a lot of opportunities which really made for an active life.
Of course, my favorite experience and favorite activity was always shopping in stores. And so, there were a lot of stores to be looked at, thought about, and as I was building shopping centers, finding new tenants and new stores to go in them and to try to envision the success that could come from creating that shopping center, it made it very challenging and very exciting.
DG: What were the limits of Houston when you first came here?
EW: Certainly, southwest, probably Sharpstown, West Memorial. Nothing went to The Woodlands. Nothing went to Kingwood. Nothing went to Clearlake. Nothing went to Pearland. We were basically pretty much, I would say, within Loop 610 or maybe just outside of Loop 610, and growing in every direction which is the phenomenal growth that Houston went through in the 1950s and the 1960s really set the pace for the rest of the country because we were growing in every direction, we had a low cost of living and the jobs were being created primarily in the energy business, and it was a vibrant time for the city.
DG: The 1960s were a time of a lot of upheaval in a lot of other cities. What do you remember about that period in Houston?
EW: It did not seem to affect Houston as much. Houston was probably more effective in the 1980s when all of the savings and loans got into trouble and also the energy business was in really bad shape in the 1980s. And you saw major projects, major commercial real estate projects, be foreclosed on and taken over. There was a government-sponsored group called the RTC which took over from the failed savings and loans a lot of the properties and remarketed them. That is how we bought our first major project, Meyerland. Meyerland was the result of 4 savings and loans that had failed. It was described as early Beirut in terms of the condition it had deteriorated into. The 4 savings and loans had failed. There were a few stores still trying to survive: Palais Royal and Penney’s and Walter Pye. And so, we were able to put it all back together because I knew that: 1) it was a great location; 2) the market was great. The real estate people used to say when they were showing houses in Meyerland, they would go around the old Meyerland Center so their prospects did not see it. But we knew how good it would be. I lived in Meyerland at that time. We did a very interesting thing is that we sent surveys out to all the people in the area asking them what would they like to see in a revitalized and a new Meyerland? Several things happened. We got phenomenal response from people who all had their opinions on what stores they wanted and who they wanted to be there, and it was suddenly their center. And as we put those tenants in there or some close to them, it took off and was very successful from day one. We bought it in the late 1980s and that really materialized. It took us about 5 years to do it and to this day, it is a very vibrant hub of that part of town.
DG: And you said that was one of your first major ones or your first major one? What was your earliest deal? What was your earliest real estate transaction?
EW: Probably a shopping center that we bought when I was with Weingarten’s at Westheimer and Hillcroft, Westheimer and Voss. I remember we bought the land for, I think, $1.50 a foot and I leased it to the supermarket and I leased it to Walgreens and the smallest tenants in between, and it was one of the, really, first projects that I put together from the beginning to end. And it is still there. It is still doing well. Now, the tenants have changed and the markets have changed but it is still very vibrant and very important.
DG: It is not $1.50 a foot anymore, is it?
EW: No, it is a $1.50 a foot a month for the tenants. As I said, I spent 17 years at Weingarten Realty and we did a number of neighborhood shopping centers all over the city. Again, focusing on these new suburban markets that were developing and really providing the services and the retail services. I must have made 15 or 20 Walgreens stores, a number of restaurants; obviously, the supermarket. In all of those projects, I would say all are vibrant today primarily because of establishing a very critical location in the selection process. And the markets may change, some get better, some get worse but if you hold to the paramount principle of location, location, location, it is always proven right.
DG: Did you try to anticipate where the growth was going or did you wait until people got there to go in?
EW: No. In those days, you tried to anticipate where the growth was: what part of town was growing, what area of town, what were the demographics of the people, what was the growth in jobs, and so you anticipated the future. You cannot do that anymore. You used to be able to bet on the future and buy land for $1.50 a foot or whatever and know that, you know, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 5 years, it would be ready. Now, today, you cannot do that. You have to have a proven market established before you even do it. So the criteria has changed a lot basically because of the economics.
Simultaneously with my real estate activities, I have always, from really my first arrival here, operated on the basis that one should have 2 careers, a dual career: a career focused on your profession to where you try to be the best you can in that profession, and a dual second career focused on civic and volunteer work. And I think that is critical and beneficial to everybody involved, particularly a person like me. You learn, you meet, you network, you learn from other organizations, you learn the people, you establish relationships – all of the benefits that you gain personally are easily well worth the effort and most importantly, you are able to do good. Early on, I have chaired the building of the first Allen’s Landing Park at the foot of Main Street and have progressed since then through a whole range of activities, from president of the Congregation of Emanu El and all of their building projects, to the building committee that built the Holocaust Museum to Main Street Coalition which is involved in the redevelopment of Main Street to chairing the rail referendum to get light rail on Main Street to being involved in the quality of life issues which is signage, quality of parks, green space, and the last 4-5 years, I have been involved with the . I was called in by Mayor Brown at the time when the Symphony went out on strike, he said, “You are supposed to be able to build consensus – go settle the strike.” I said, “Thanks a lot. I do not know anything about a symphony.” He said, “That’s O.K., you will get there. So, after I dealt with the contentious feelings of both the orchestra and the board, I finally got everybody and I said, “O.K., we are going to the Woodlands, rented a bunch of rooms, went up there on a Saturday morning and negotiated until 10 o’clock Sunday night to resolve the strike, and got it working and got everybody back on the playing field. And then he said, “O.K., for doing that, we are going to make you president.” So I soon became president of the Symphony and have loved and enjoyed every minute of it. We were able to build a relationship between the orchestra, the board and the staff all working on the same wavelength, the same team approach to rebuild and reestablish the Symphony as an important part of our quality of life and our ability for our city’s cultural array to be full and include the many things that we have but the Symphony is an integral part of that which is very important when you are trying to bring people to Houston, it is very important when you are trying to attract intellectual capital. It is an important ingredient to have in your bailiwick of materials and opportunities to serve and offer the Houstonians.
DG : And a lot of people who have found their success in Houston have this sense of wanting to improve the lot of the average citizens as you describe it. Where does that come from for you?
EW: Well, I think it comes really from my background. I came from a very modest background and a very modest beginning and it seems to me I learned early on the importance of education and the importance of giving everybody a fair chance to achieve their abilities and their goals and maximize their potential which is why I think Houston has been so great because it has an attitude – a can-do attitude, a spirit, if you will, that, “let’s find a way to help each other and do things together and if you’ve got an idea or if you have a problem, let’s see how we can focus on it to make it better.” Whether it is building parks. I mean, I chaired the committee that got the Search Building; Search is for the homeless – again, helping create a facility and a building where they could operate and do a better job of serving their clientele. So a city as diverse as Houston is, which should be a strength and it is a strength, you need to try to be sure that you take care of everybody and everybody has an equal opportunity to succeed and to do their thing.
DG: Let’s go back and get a little bit more detail because it is fascinating anticipating growth as you needed to do. And, of course, you were here during an explosive growth period for the city. Can you give us the chronology of those major projects? You mentioned Meyerland. Was Gulfgate next?
EW: First we did a project called Shepherd Square which is the corner of Shepherd and Westheimer with a Randalls. We did that as a joint venture with Exxon as our financial partner and took and old Jimmy Green Chevrolet automobile dealership and blocked up the land and assembled it and put together this Randalls-operated shopping center. From there, we moved onto Meyerland and we did the Meyerland project which took about 5 years. After that, Mayor Lanier said, “I need you to show me how we can save Gulfgate. It has been really going downhill. The neighborhood has deteriorated. The buildings are abandoned. Figure out what you can do there.” And so we went . . . well, we think we can do this, we think we can do that but we’ve got to do this and we are going to need some infrastructure so he helped us out with infrastructure, utilities, demolition and we put together a partnership between us and the city to redevelop Gulfgate, and it has been a homerun. It really has served to change the neighborhood in terms of what it was. It used to be abandoned car lots and deteriorated buildings. We have revitalized the area. It has served as a catalyst for the revitalization of the east end. It has created a lot of jobs. It has served the people of that area and when we were working on it, one of the things . . . the people, as we went around to the city clubs and talked to people, one of the things that they emphasize is, “We want a center like Meyerland. We want that in this neighborhood.” And so, we did our best to bring in some major tenants like HEB and Lowes and Marshalls and Old Navy and Ross and really help create that facility and that capability to serve that whole market. And it was a different market. The average income of the people around Gulfgate was about half of what it was around Meyerland so, in effect, we had 2 things working for us. We needed more people and we needed less competition, all of which played into making it work and make sense.
DG: I understand. And then, what happened after Gulfgate?
EW: After Gulfgate, we had been doing a lot of projects as third parties for other developers – helping them lease it, manage it. We represented retailers like Best Buy. Probably there are 10-15 Best Buy stores around the city. I did the Carrabbas Restaurant on Kirby and then did the one on Voss, so we worked at that stage more for the retailers than we did our own projects. We did the Meyer Park Project on Braeswood and 610. We did a project in the Woodlands, we did a project at Deerbrook, and we did another project at Clearlake. So, we were working for third party people in those other markets while we were doing our own thing separately. We then assembled land here on Post Oak and San Felipe. It took us about 3 or 4 years to assemble 22 acres right in the heart of the Galleria/Post Oak area and are now developing a mixed use project.
DG: Now, that has been a period of explosive growth for the city so beyond your own business, share some of that experience with the people who will watch this interview. What did you experience, what did the city experience during that time through your perspective?
EW: Well, the city grew up and really matured. Whether it was the medical facilities and the Texas Medical Center as it really blossomed and became really one of the world’s greatest medical centers. The transportation and the freeways and roads obviously interested in rail. All that began to mature as we needed to move more people by but probably the biggest thing that happened is that there was explosive growth in almost every direction. You had the Woodlands happening, one of the finest mixed use planned communities ever developed in the country on 26,000 acres booming out to the north. You had the Clearlake area to the southeast, again all booming around the NASA and the Clearlake market. You had Sugarland and First Colony and that whole area booming and you just about went in any direction and the city was really going through just phenomenal growth. The suburbs were totally activated and energized at that same time. Simultaneously, one of the most phenomenal things that happened is we had two superb real estate developers -- Gerald Hines and Kenneth Schnitzer -- and they caught on very quick that if they built a building that was better designed by a well-known architect, that it would market and sell and rent easier than the conventional plain vanilla building. And so, we were blessed to have them bring in all of the great architects of the world to do the buildings across the entire downtown market surrounded by really first class, highly well-conceived and planned buildings to create really top drawer architecture to make the city even more noticeable and more successful. Likewise, there was a movement to begin to take seriously our environment, not only air but more the living environment – focus on trees, focus on green space, focus on signage controls, as we begin to be more concerned about what is important in terms of the quality of life that we live and our children live. And that became another focal point.
Of course, education is a story in itself as we went through both the growth and development of the Houston Community College, U of H and all the activities that were taking place in HISD; again, to deal with integration, to deal with those issues, became an important aspect and occurrence during the 1970s and 1980s. Again, a well-educated population is critical to its future success
I would say another thing that really occurred is Houston became more sophisticated in terms of the kind of shopping that was available, the kind of wants and desires and interests and levels of all kinds of shopping – the evolution of the discount store, for example, the evolution of the malls. We built in the 1970s and 1980s, probably 7 or 8 or 10 malls surrounding the city with Galleria, of course, being the kingpin but it is now the 5th largest mall in the country. But The Woodlands Mall, the Willowbrook Mall, Memorial City Mall, Clearlake Mall, Baybrook and Deerbrook Mall – you can just circle the city and these malls were developed and became focal points of activity centers of those markets, again, serving the suburban growth that was taking place in those areas.
DG: Houston is noticeable to a lot of people for better or worse because of the absence of zoning that is used to control development in other cities. What is your view on the role that the absence of zoning laws has played in the growth of Houston?
EW: Well, I think Houston has always led the rest of the world in being anti-zoning. It has come up, I believe, 4 times and failed as a resolution those 4 times. Houston has been blessed with developers who take pride in their projects and have learned that planned communities can control neighborhoods and deed restrictions can control neighborhoods. And the free spirit of the Houstonian developer, real estate personnel and people for that matter in not relinquishing all that power to a bureaucracy but making it happen on their own and being responsible for what they do has encouraged really the orderly growth. It is not perfect, neither is zoning, but if you drive around this town and then go to a zoned city, you will not see much difference and in many cases, we are better off. Free enterprise works. It needs controls. We are getting more and more all the time but it has allowed for the really active development of a city in terms of the parameters of the economics have to make sense.
DG: You mentioned the 1980s which was a difficult time for people in the real estate business. Can you tell us in more detail what that was like, just for the history of the city? What happened, when did it happen and how were people forced to cope?
EW: Well, during the 1980s, the biggest driving force behind the failures was the failures of the savings and loan industry. They were financing projects at 100% to 104% or 10% of what they cost without any requirements for tenants and we saw all over town vacant office buildings, vacant shopping centers that should never have been built and were financed by the savings and loans because the savings and loans were able to make points on making those big loans which fueled their stock. But suddenly when there wasn’t any cash flow and there weren’t any tenants, it all came crashing down, the savings and loans failed and this RTC Corporation came in and took over the savings and loans, took over the properties and remarketed them, and it was a period of about 5-7 years before the economy was able to absorb those buildings and recycle them. It was a “see-through era” if you will, when you could look through buildings and see right through them even though they were there. Many of them should never have been built and they were being built because they had 100% financing, and that was the driving force. It took 8-10 years to really make that come back to reality but we were able to do it and it was fueled and helped by the growth of the city.
DG: Interesting. The revitalization of the different shopping centers that you described – Gulfgate and Meyerland – it really is about the revitalization of those neighborhoods. Houston is a big city but really it is a city of neighborhoods. Can you talk about the neighborhoods again for the historical record of it?
EW: Well, probably the most important part of any city is its neighborhoods and how those neighborhoods evolved and are developed and materialize and mature are critical to the success of those neighborhoods and critical to the success of the city. They are our urban core of where people live and work and shop and so their vitality is critical. You’ve got to go in and really be sure, and every politician has advocated this all along – improve the neighborhoods and improving the neighborhoods means sidewalks, it means more parks, it is all about the quality of life that you can bring to those neighborhoods. It means getting rid of abandoned buildings. It means taking pride in those neighborhoods. Giving the people that live there the opportunity to grow and develop and improve their statue and that neighborhood statue. And it is a primary responsibility of good city government to take care of their neighborhoods and take care of our neighborhoods because that is where the people are, that is what is important to the people, that is what makes the fiber of a city successful and healthy. In a city like Houston with such diversity, you have to be careful on how we work in the various neighborhoods. I mean, the churches are important, the schools are important, all of the ingredients of a city really revolve around neighborhoods and the success of those neighborhoods. And so, there always needs to be a focus whether it is flooding, whatever, to improve the quality of those neighborhoods to make them as close as you can to the ideal situation for the people that live there to survive and prosper and their children grow up and take advantage of the many opportunities that the neighborhood can foster. And there is revitalization going on all over the city now – whether it is the east end, whether it is Midtown, we are seeing major redevelopment throughout the urban center of the cit which is within 610 going on even today in this economy in a big way.
DG: You mentioned Mayor Lanier calling you about Gulfgate. Has the city been an active partner with the business community I revitalizing neighborhoods often as a rule?
EW: Not usually. The city really has taken a very back seat to the role of the developer in trying to revitalize neighborhoods and revitalize areas. Mayor Lanier’s administration probably did more than most because he did it with the Rice Hotel, he did it with Gulfgate, he did it with a number of other buildings to where he saw with his real estate mentality, he saw the need to make these existing properties really . . . give them the potential. They created a thing called the Tax Increment Redevelopment Zones. I think there are 16 or 18 of them now, where the tax increment is used . . . tax increment means the difference between what he taxes are today and what they might be in the future . . . the increment is used to improve the neighborhood and improve the area. And that has proved to be very, very successful. It created and really fostered the development of Midtown. The entire Midtown, which is one of our most successful redevelopment activities, the entire Midtown area came to fruition because of the fact that a tax increment redevelopment zone was created there which allowed for the increment to pay for sidewalks, utilities, curbs, streets, all of those necessary ingredients to make the projects a success. And so, it can be a great incentive to encourage redevelopment and it has in various parts of the city.
DG: I would like to get a little bit more specific about some of your civic endeavors. You mentioned the Symphony and your role in settling a strike and leading the Symphony for a while. Tell us about your experience at the Holocaust Museum. You were instrumental in getting that building built? You served as chairman of the Museum?
DG: For people who might not be familiar with the Museum, tell us how that came to be and the role that it has played.
EW: The Holocaust Museum is located right in the heart of the Houston Museum District. Seven of us went together and put up $3,500 to buy an old medical clinic to create the site for the Holocaust Museum. We bought the land, bought the clinic, proceeded to work on plans to remodel it and we brought in this architect, I believe from New York, who told us, “You guys are thinking too small. You are spending $2 million when you need to spend $5 million and make a statement and here is what it ought to look like.” So I went back to the board and I said, “I have good news and I have bad news. I got support, easy, for the $2 million project but we need to do a $5 million project.” We convinced them that we should do it which is what you see there today. Subsequently, we bought a large lot to the south of it. Houston is blessed with a museum district that . . . it is very rare throughout the country to have 16 or 17 institutions all in the same basic area that allows for great synergism, great cooperation, great opportunities for people to visit, whatever. I am acting now in the formation of the African American Museum. We have just acquired a site on Caroline. The Asian Museum has a site and they are working on plans and a fundraising effort. And so, it has become a real focal point not only for Houstonians but for visitors. And we also see that in the Theater District downtown. Over the years, the worst of the 1980s . . . one of the most impressive things that happened during the 1980s is Wortham Center was built with privately raised money for $70 million or $75 million in the 1980s, built, paid for and operated. And since then obviously Hobby Center has been added and an improved Alley Theater. We are working on remodeling of Jones Hall. It was done so that the Theater District is another important ingredient in the cultural life of the city and the role that those organizations play in everyone’s life is so important, is adding to their experiencing a broader and more complete lifestyle. And then recently in the last few years, you have seen the addition of Discovery Green Park downtown which is, again, another activity center that has really materialized and become very, very successful and very popular. And we are working now on a way to make our bayous into linear parks so that we will have a park following the length of the bayous where there are trails, park light settings, all kinds of experiences to be enjoyed and appreciated by Houstonians of all sizes, shapes and forms.
DG: You know, you have the good fortune of doing work that can be seen by everybody. When you get done with a project, there is visible evidence of the work that has been done. Of the projects you have been involved with, of what are you most proud?
EW: I would say Gulfgate because we took something that was really as low on the totem pole as you could get in an environment that was very, very, very shaky, in a deplorable condition; I guess as I said earlier, abandoned buildings, vacant cars, and we were able to put it all together and create a vibrant hub of activity that really affected the east end and probably that was more meaningful in terms of personal satisfaction to be able to take something from absolute below nothing into something.
DG: How about your civic and charitable endeavors? What has given you the most satisfaction?
EW: Whenever I have been involved in a building campaign. I am a builder. I like to build. I like to see things happen. I like to improve things. I am constantly striving on how can we do it better? An old saying, “When you stop getting better, you stop being good.” You’ve got to keep finding ways to make things better and more effective and more successful all along the way in whatever activity. Probably civic-wise, I would say the ability to build consensus within the community on various issues. We fought and really tackled the light rail line on the Main Street Coalition and that referendum was very contentious. We won by a landslide, 50.5%. It was very tough but I think it was so important for Houston, to take Houston to the next level in terms of mass transportation and as we mature as a city, an alternate to the car, an alternate to the public to move around and that was just the beginning. Now, we are going to have 4 other lines. But we are way behind, have been way behind, and we need to step it up to really become the kind of city . . . a world class city, if you will.
DG: Can you state for the record what the opposition position was to light rail?
EW: Well, the opposition primarily was we did not need it, it wasn’t going anywhere, it didn’t serve any purpose, and it was costing $325 million of which we did not have any money. Normally, light rail and rail transportation is financed 50% by government. We did not have any government sponsor because the elected officials in Congress were pro-road and not rail. And so, we had to use Metro funds to allocate them all to doing that and we had to get it open as it worked out for the Superbowl. And so, the only way it could happen was to tear it up all at once which was bad but we got it built and got it in place and the ridership has been far in excess of our original projections. And it has served to be a connector – whether people are going from downtown to the Medical Center or people parking in downtown or parking Midtown and going downtown for the sports venues or going out to Reliant Stadium or the students along the 3 colleges - Rice, Houston Community College, downtown Houston – all interacting, going to the Theater District, going to the performing arts events . . . it has become a very meaningful people mover to take people up and down the Corridor and it is only the beginning.
DG: It was part of your professional skill set to be able to predict the future for a while. What do you see in the future for our city?
EW: Well, again, I still believe, as I did 50 years ago, that the future is unlimited in terms of Houston’s growth. I think we will be much more densely populated. I think we will see a stronger emphasis on quality of life issues, whether it is green space or visual environment or streetscape – we’ve got to become more pedestrian friendly and do the kinds of projects that really react to the things that the people want. They have to be welcoming, inviting, enjoyable. We are seeing more of these mixed use complexes where you can shop, eat, work, live, visit in one major concentrated area. I think our focus has always been on quality, quality projects architecturally and the way it is built and I think that will continue. I think Houston has a very bright future and will continue to be a city of opportunity for the young people that come here, for anybody else if you are willing to work, get involved and make things happen.
DG: You know, this oral history archive which you are becoming a part, is a way to present lessons from our past to people in the future. From your time here in Houston, from the early 1950s, mid-1950s to the present, what were the lessons that you would want people to take from your experience? What are the experiences we should take to heart?
EW: I think one of the major lessons to learn is the importance of education, knowledge and attitude -- an attitude that is positive, an attitude that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and go to work and to make things happen, I think so much evolves around the mentality of the city and of its people. It is diverse. Welcoming diversity. Welcoming the cooperation between the different facets or factions or whatever it may be, to sit down and hammer out the differences, resolve the issues and come up with a workable plan. Obviously, there are many problems and those problems, we are not immune to them, but if you approach them with the attitude of how can we make this work, or how can we figure out a solution to this problem, or what can we do about it, that open attitude, that willingness to sit down across the table next to them and hammer out and build consensus to do what needs to be done is so critical and that is our strength. We’ve got that prevalent attitude and spirit that says we can figure it out – let’s just go do it!
DG: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about today that we did not get to?
EW: I think that is pretty good.
DG: Well, I thank you very much for your time, Mr. Wulfe.
EW: Thank you.