These understated “Stop the San Felipe Skyscraper” signs started going up about knee-high this weekend in River Oaks and Vermont Commons to protest that shiny 17-story office tower that Hines is proposing to build nearby. Though these signs — spotted at the corner of Spann and Welch and San Felipe and Spann, catty-corner from the proposed site — might be lacking the services of an imaginative cartoonist like their yellow precursors across town in Boulevard Oaks, their message still comes through, directing the onlooker as well to a recently launched website for all things skyscraper-stopping:
Of course, Hines continues to say through PR man George Lancaster that the company plans to build something “upscale and handsome, befitting its River Oaks address.” The rendering shown here is the most recent version of that; it differs a bit from the one Swamplot published in May that seems to have sparked much of the ire — and which boiled over in what the new website describes as a “heated” and “tense” community meeting last night with reps from Public Works and city council member Oliver Pennington: “Many participants came away from the meeting with the idea that the only way to stop the project will be through immediate legal action.”
And why do they want to stop the project? Among concerns about property values, noise, light pollution, and obstructed views, the website lays out the anti-‘scrapers’ case:
1. Traffic and safety issues. . . . During the construction phase, the neighborhood will be filled with construction workers and heavy trucks for well over a year. Once the tower is built, the presence of hundreds of new office workers will create a strain on the entire neighborhood, added to the existing congestion we already have along Shepherd Street and Kirby Drive. Traffic and speeders cutting through back streets will create safety issues for our children playing in nearby yards and at nearby River Oaks Elementary.
2. Inappropriate non-conforming use. . . . There are a few small businesses and offices along San Felipe, typically in one-story buildings, which are fully appropriate to the scale of the surroundings and compatible with the low-key nature of this neighborhood.
3. The potential for unrestricted ‘breakout’ development and a ‘River Oaks Skyline.’ The developers are taking advantage of the unrestricted property and Houston’s ‘no zoning’ philosophy to build their tower here. If this project is allowed to succeed, it will only encourage other developers to come in and build similar buildings, so that River Oaks could become the next ‘Greenway Plaza’ with a series of office towers along its southern edge.
4. Effect on neighborhood cohesion. River Oaks has a long history of gentility and is built on a foundation of solid trust and cooperation between the residents. This issue will create the potential for significant discord and infighting. . . .
- What is it? [Stop the San Felipe Skyscraper]
- Previously on Swamplot: A Look Around San Felipe at the Randall Davis Condos and Planned Hines Office Building Site, Hines Plans a Shiny New 18-Story Office Building Across San Felipe from River Oaks
Images: Hines (rendering); Allyn West (signs)