Meet the developer behind Houston’s ubiquitous 3-story urban townhomes

Frank Liu had an opportunity in 2001 to buy 109 acres in a working-class section of Spring Branch for an enviable price: just over $1 per square foot. Yet he wasn’t immediately convinced the then-rough-and-tumble neighborhood — far off the radar of most Houston builders — would be the right spot for an upscale residential development. So he got in his car, day after day, and drove the area, passing overgrown lots and rusty warehouses. “At first I just didn’t quite fully get it,” Liu said on a recent tour of the property. “But then all of a sudden I realized when you have 109 acres it helps create that sense of community — even in a transitional area.” He bought the land, waited several years, and started developing it slowly and in phases. He hired a prominent architect to design a plan for the property and a “modern farmhouse” aesthetic for the homes, which have porches in the front and garages in the back, accessible by alleys. The first homes there sold for around $200,000 less than a decade ago. There are about 190 homes on the site today, selling for as much as $600,000 in the newest phase of the project. Liu, 63, has repeated this formula in other parts of town. He’s focused on neighborhoods in and around the 610 Loop where he could buy large enough parcels, by urban standards at least, to fashion miniature master-planned communities complete with dog parks, jogging trails and swimming pools. Click to read more at