Just south of the Earthman Resthaven Funeral Home and Cemetery on I-45 — and just north of Greens Bayou — the Harris County Flood Control District is in the process of digging up more than 2 million cubic feet of soil from the Glen Forest Stormwater Detention Basin-to-be. (That’s the purple shaded area in the map shown here, right upstream from the cluster of bayou-side apartment complexes that flooded on Tax Day and helped spur the pre-dawn conversion of Greenspoint Mall into an emergency shelter.) If the name “Glen Forest” strikes you as a bit mid-century-suburban-neighborhood, that’s because it is: the 160-acre site is named after the sixties-era Glen Forest subdivision formerly constructed on the property. The neighborhood was purchased and demolished as part of HCFCD’s buyout program in the early 2000’s, but the roadways and signs had mostly stuck around, at times serving as a convenient backdrop for unsanctioned motor sports, as demonstrated in the video below:
Most of the square box just left of center in the above photo was officially leased by Amazon yesterday, reports Cara Smith for the HBJ. The deal is for roughly 100,000 sq.ft. in the Beltway Crossing Northwest business park, located on the other side of 249, Greens Bayou, and an AMC Theater from Willowbrook Mall (as seen in the access map and intended eventual site plan from developer Panattoni). The agreement on the park’s Buildnig 5 was reportedly made official within 24 hours of the commissioners court’s Tuesday vote to approve a larger-than-normal tax abatement deal for a different Amazon facility — the proposed 855,000-sq.-ft. warehouse in Pinto Business Park (catty-corner across Beltway 8 and I-45 from Greenspoint Mall). But building permits naming Amazon as the occupant of the Willowbrook site at 11720 N. Gessner Rd. date back to at least 2014.
Here’s a shot of the Pinto site — the park’s 971 acres lie in place next to the Houston National Cemetery (the yet-unoccupied eastern end of which is visible on the far right in the south-facing aerial below):
A set of 4 new FEMA disaster recovery centers opened yesterday, sprinkled around the north and west sides of Houston hit hardest by the Tax Day flooding. The locations include a Greenspoint office building right across Greens Bayou from some of the apartment complexes evacuated during the flooding (including Arbor Court). The other centers opened Monday in Meyerland, Cypress, and Spring, and additional temporary help centers might get set up elsewhere around town.
As of yesterday night, FEMA had already received nearly 12,000 applications for post-flood assistance. Harris County reported last week that more than twice as many homes were damaged by the April floods as reported during last year’s Memorial Day flooding. Farmers Insurance agent Peter Zografos told the Houston Press last week that many of the same houses have filed claims a second time: “Some of these homeowners may have to be insured directly with the National Flood Insurance Program due to repetitive claims, [and] basically will be charged more for too many flood claims.”
From the space between Monday’s rain and today’s, here are some late-evening snaps of the scene around Greenspoint Mall, which became a staging center for flood rescue operations before dawn on Monday morning. Following the middle-of-the-night overflow of Greens Bayou, residents from several flooded apartment complexes nearby headed to the 1970s shopping center at the social media urging of city officials and rapper Bun B; flood victims were later bussed to the Campbell Educational Center on Aldine Bender Rd. west of the Hardy tollway.
The 1.4-million-sq.-ft. mall and surrounding parking lot, just northeast of the intersection of Beltway 8 and I-45, was put up for sale by Triyar Group in February, after nearly a decade of talk about redeveloping the property with the help of the Greenspoint TIRZ. Above is the view from the north on the I-45-facing side of the complex toward Dillard’s and Fitness Connection, currently holding a food and supplies drive and offering free showers to displaced residents. On the west side, here’s the Renaissance 15 Premier Theater, from Greenspoint Dr.:
The Austin-based developer of 3 Houston apartment communities was arrested Saturday in Virginia for his role in a failed coup of the West African nation of Gambia. According to an affidavit prepared by an FBI special agent, Cherno M. Njie provided funds for the ill-fated venture, and was to have been installed as Gambia’s president if it had been successful. Prior to the surprise military venture in his native country, the University of Texas graduate served as the tax credit manager of the Texas department of housing and community affairs, which during his tenure awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax credits to developers of affordable housing. Njie resigned from the agency in 2001 following the bribery conviction of a board member and founded Songhai Development, whose later contributions to the Houston landscape include the Chelsea Senior Community (pictured at the bottom of this story) and the Little York Villas apartments near Acres Homes and the Langwick Senior Residences (pictured at top) near Greenspoint. He also served as president of Songhai’s sister company, CMB Construction.
In 2011, 3.2 acres of land Njie donated next to the Langwick project at Langwick Dr. and W. Hardy Rd. were turned into a park designed for senior citizens — named Ida Gaye Gardens, after Njie’s mother. (The photo at right above, posted on Songhai’s website, shows Njie at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park with Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition’s Regina Lindsey.)
Stoked by the success of the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate Park on Sabine St., the City of Houston earlier this week broke ground that’ll soon be smoothed over by 72,000 sq. ft. of concrete; the 10-acre Spring Recreational Area in Greenspoint will feature what’s being billed as the largest skate park in the U.S.
Something like the rendering above is planned for the site on Kuykendahl, just west of I-45 and north of Beltway 8. It’s projected to cost $5.5 million. That cost includes the construction of “speed hips” and “flow bowls” and “a couple of backyard-style pools,” the Greenspoint District says — things any park worth its vert ramps needs to attract national competitions.
Skateboarders will share the acreage with Dylan’s Park, a “Park Without Limits” that will include equipment and implements designed for children with disabilities. Greenspoint District says the designs are done; the whole thing’s going to be ready in Spring 2014.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT I LEARNED EARLY IN THE HOUSTON REAL ESTATE BIZ “In 1993, I was with a firm that looked at buying many of the run down apartment complexes in Greenspoint. Our intent was to renovate them, thinking that the many class A office buildings contained many potential residents. Greenspoint was an enigma: awful multi-family and beautiful office development. You don’t often see the two side by side like this. When we got into town and started touring the area, we immediately saw the two critical falacies of our plan: 1. we needed to own and renovate all of the multi-family to turn the neighborhood. One holdout property would serve as a sanctuary for all that was bad about Greenspoint. Unfortunately, not every property was available for purchase. 2. Some of the properties, in particular those developed by Fred Rizk, were functionally obsolete. For example, sliding glass doors opening directly into parking lots–no way to easily dress this up. We never spent much time on the deals after that. On a more positive note, my boss at the time corrupted my by taking me to the St. James Club, and since that time I have considered it the best strip club ever.” [LandMan, commenting on Waiting for the Renaissance: What Could $32 Million Buy at Greenspoint Mall?]
The Triyar Cannon Group has been threatening to give shopworn Greenspoint Mall a $32 million makeover since 2006. Most of what appears to be planned shows up in this knock-’em-down video: a new outdoor plaza at the mall’s east entrance, and a connected 22-story office building off Greenspoint Dr., designed by Ziegler Cooper. Just last week, demolition began on the vacant JCPenney building, site of a proposed Premiere Cinema multiplex that’s supposed to share a new parking garage with the tower. Not in the plans, but already happened anyway: the closing of Sears.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE REPORT FROM GREENSPOINT MALL “. . . A huge swath of it is basically closed (the part near Dillards)– storefronts with lots of signs letting you know they are available. There are still quite a few mall staples, as well as an unusual number of mom-and-pop operations. I was there today just after 1 pm. There were people around, including folks apparently from nearby offices doing some lunch shopping or eating in the food court. But the number of people seemed sparse.
That said, it is a long haul to any other movie theater from there, and there are a lot of people who live and work in the area. And I’m fairly sure the mall is one of the safest places around–it has a large Harris County Sheriff/HPD station in the mall! The parking lot is full of police cars.” [RWB, commenting on Before the Movies Start: What’s Eating JCPenney at the Greenspoint Mall]
A new Premiere Cinemas multiplex is now under construction at Greenspoint Mall — if, that is, you count demolition as part of the construction process. Early this morning, demolition crews began their assault on the long-vacant JCPenney building standing rudely in the way of the new theater.
The new theater is expected to be part of a $32 million facelift for the mall. The Greenspoint District Facebook page reports that the original plans for the theater called for a total of 20 screens.
“The former six-screen AMC movie theater at 1100 Greens Parkway” just north of Beltway 8 at Ella, reports Nancy Sarnoff, “is becoming convention space that will house the International Faith Based Business Expo and the Vision Changers Performing Arts Christian Center.”
Globe St.’s Amy Wolff Sorter says the buyer of the foreclosed Greenbriar Park North apartments near Greenspoint has “a strong track record” of rehabbing complexes. That should help:
Wade Schmitz with Hendricks & Partners’ Houston office tells GlobeSt.com that CNC Investments was the former owner and like many owners during the mid-2000s, had bought too much with too much debt that couldn’t be refinanced. Schmitz, who marketed the asset for Bank of America adds that the 1980s complex at 818 Richcrest Dr. attracted a great deal of interest. . . .
“There were down units that needed to be brought back online,” Schmitz says. “The property had been neglected, and needed someone to take care of it.”
How neglected? Of 400 units in the complex, only around 60 are occupied.
Don’t want to miss out on all the foreclosed-apartment-complex rehab fun? Be patient, more is coming:
Diehard Modernist architect Charles Gwathmey, dubbed one of the “New York Five” (along with Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Richard Meier, and John Hejduk) in the early 1970s, passed away yesterday in Manhattan of esophageal cancer. Gwathmey, who was 71, was probably most famous for his addition to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, which his firm, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, completed in 1992.
Gwathmey-Siegel was no stranger to Houston. In the late seventies and early eighties, the firm designed a series of 4 spec office buildings that line the south side of this city’s North Belt, just southeast of the Greenspoint Mall.