Having completed demolitions of facilities it owned on the property, including its fleet maintenance facility at 801 Gillette St., a couple of public works buildings at 812 Gillette, and a former HPD SWAT substation at 1500 W. Dallas, the city has now listed for sale the 10-1/2-acre swath of land along Allen Pkwy between the Federal Reserve building and Allen Parkway Village. The land includes San Felipe Park at 1717 Allen Pkwy., which fronts Houston’s premiere waterfront roadway opposite Buffalo Bayou Park. Also included, apparently: Land underneath 3 streets that extend into the property: Hopson St., Bailey St., and Golf Link Pl. The listing from Cushman & Wakefield says bids are due March 14th.
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San Felipe Park and All
IN PRAISE OF CARNEGIE VANGUARD’S MIXED-USE PARKING GARAGE What does HISD have to show for that $805 million approved in 2007 for new school construction and renovation? MaryScott Hagle reviews the results at Lockhart, Herod, and Peck elementaries and gives props to RdlR Architects for the design of Carnegie Vanguard High School at 1501 Taft — though she seems most taken with the parking garage, which was, she writes, “originally planned for one story that grew to two when the City of Houston offered to pitch in, in exchange for community access to the school’s ball fields on the weekends. . . . Furthermore, the garage itself is dual-purpose: when the academic day is over and the students who park on the garage roof go home, the Carnegie tennis team takes over for practice.” [OffCite] Photo: HISD
Here’s a pair of renderings of 4 new townhomes about to be built in the Fourth Ward. The site is 2 blocks south of W. Gray, near those side-by-side lots where that 5-story apartment complex Dolce Living has been proposed to go in beside a row of vacant shotgun houses.
If you look closely at these renderings, you can see at least one more remnant of the past: The remains of the brick storefront of a dry cleaner’s that opened here on the corner of Genesee and W. Webster in the 1930s; it appears that what was the store’s main entrance has been incorporated into the design and widened into a 1-car garage. Says Tim Cisneros, whose firm worked on the townhomes: “[The storefront is] being left as a part of the neighborhood ‘commercial archeology.’”
Renderings: Cisneros Design Studio
Maybe they’re not ready for tenants to move in, but these Fourth Ward shotgun houses seem to have avoided demolition and potential displacement to find a new home in Freedman’s Town. Originally located on Victor St., just a few blocks south of this formerly vacant lot at 1414 Robin St., the 3 houses weren’t doing much at the rear of the site of the proposed 5-story mixed-use Dolce Living development. A rep from the Fourth Ward Redevelopment Authority says that the houses were donated to the authority by the owners and will be preserved and renovated into low-income housing; designs for the new bathrooms and porches are already underway, the rep says.
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A City of Houston rep tells Swamplot that 3 of the 10 Freedman’s Town shotgun houses on Victor St. between Gillette and Bailey will be relocated in the Fourth Ward. (The photo shows a shingle-stripped one up on a trailer and ready to go.) A permit to demolish them was granted in 2011, but the city rep says that the owners have since agreed to donate some of the houses to the Fourth Ward Redevelopment Authority, which says it has plans to move them to a lot they own at 1414 Robin and rehab them into low-income housing. Swamplot reported this morning that the West Gray lot where the rowhouses are now located has been pegged for a 5-story mixed-use midrise called Dolce Living.
Photo: Chris C
A pair of West Gray lots — nearly vacant save their seen-better-days Freedman’s Town rowhouses in the back — have been put on notice as the proposed site for Dolce Living: that’s 5 stories and 176,344 sq. ft. of 1- and 2-bedroom apartments, with some street-level retail to sweeten the deal.
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: THOSE KIDS “. . . Let me be clear. I know exactly where I live and knew where I was moving to 8 years ago. And contrary to what assumptions have been made, I love where I live and am proud of where I live. I love the history behind it. There are great people who live in all parts of this neighborhood all the way down the street to where crack is being sold. When I read this article the first thing that pops into my head is ‘park=kids=hangout.’ I am actually glad that they’re doing what they’re doing instead of putting up yet another apartment complex. The more green and conservation and beautification, the better. A park is a park, meaning where people will congregate which also means kids. Understand that when I posted this comment, I was fresh off of witnessing kids stealing a man’s phone and he being helpless to get it back. And the kids live in this neighborhood. Which just refreshed my memory of my neighbor getting his windows busted out while driving to his house by kids that live in this neighborhood who thought it would be fun to throw rocks at cars driving down the street. I think to when I was riding my scooter and kids that live in this neighborhood thought it would be fun to throw rocks at me while I was driving down the street almost causing me to wreck.
I am aware that crime happens in every neighborhood. And despite the 3 instances I just wrote about I have no desire to move. I am happy to see historical sites preserved. In fact there were plans to pave some of the streets here, including mine. As many broken peices of brick there that makes it a pain on any car to drive over, the bricks are staying and will be preserved and I’m so glad! . . .” [Holly, commenting on New Fourth Ward Park of the Open Church]
Friday is the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Fourth Ward’s new Bethel Church Park — though an eagle-eyed Swamplot reader noted workers from contractor JE Dunn getting a jump on things at the site of the former Bethel Missionary Baptist Church at Andrews St. and Crosby earlier this month. The Freedman’s Town church in the shadows of Downtown, portions of which date from 1923, was largely destroyed by fire in January 2005 after several years of sitting vacant. Its shored-up walls have stood mostly undisturbed since then.
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Some sort of work has begun on the remains of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on the corner of Andrews St. and Crosby in the Fourth Ward, a reader reports: “About a week ago someone put up new fencing around it, and in the past few days construction crews have started doing something to it (not sure what). . . . It used to be that the church itself was fenced off and the grassy area behind it (where the trucks are now) was open (lots of people . . . used it as an impromptu dog park). Then they pushed the fence back to cover the whole block and the trucks came in. Most mornings this week workers are dumping a bunch of stone into a waste bin that’s hauled off. I can only assume the stone is coming from the church (I don’t see where else its coming from), but I couldn’t swear to it.”
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT PEOPLE DO IN HOUSTON “The reason that the 4th Ward shotguns were ‘shit,’ in my view, is that the marketplace decreed them as such. If they were valuable and well-liked, people would’ve bid up the price and competed to live in them. If the building materials were so fantastic, then there would’ve been an active salvage market on the parts. To my knowledge, that did not occur.
Sure, what replaced these homes will have a shorter physical shelf life…but as demonstrated by the demolition of these sturdy homes, the economic shelf life is the deciding factor.
As I stated previously, ‘People did what people do, and they did it in that location; that’s all!’ By building townhomes destined to become shit, people are doing what people do, and they’re doing it in that location; that’s all. Thereby, history is made…and I don’t care.” [TheNiche, commenting on Comment of the Day: Ballad of the Fourth Ward]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: FREEDMANSTOWNLAND ON THE GRAND PARKWAY “. . . We’re always talking about historical preservation, but I think it’s also important to preserve the ability for citizens to make the best use of the cities existing infrastructure and resources. Preserving swathes of near-town land precisely because we know it’s in high demand and primed for further development in the coming years seems a bit counterproductive to me.
Freedmans town has not existed in a form that accurately reflects it’s origins, original community, or the trials and travails of initially settling the area that forms it’s importance in a very very long time. Why not set up a TIRZ in the area for future development to fund the relocation and rebuilding of a scale model freedmans town on the grand parkway that would allow a fuller and more beneficial teaching of the importance of the area and the people that settled it?” [joel, commenting on Comment of the Day: Ballad of the Fourth Ward]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: BALLAD OF THE FOURTH WARD “Freedman’s town is not a historic district under the City’s historic preservation ordinance. In fact, it is an excellent example of why historic districts are needed. Freedman’s town was where freed slaves settled after emancipation. The land was crap due to the flooding from the bayous. The residents built roads out of brick made by hand and constructed utilities. They basically built a thriving community out of swampland with their own hands. The area decayed and turned into crack town in the 1980s. In the late 1980s, Residents and activists were able to put over 500 buildings on the national register of historic places. Today, less than 30 of those buildings remain. And the effort to preserve the shot gun shacks was based on the historic and cultural value of the buildings, not just for the architecture. Had Freedman’s town had the protection of the current historic ordinance and a fraction of the kind of tax assistance that goes to stadiums, grand parkways and Walmarts, a significant piece of American history could have been saved and become a national tourist destination along the lines of Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. . . .” [Old School, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Dixie Chuck]
Atlanta’s Post Properties has announced that it’s ready to get started with a third phase of its Midtown Square mixed use development, notes Houston’s InnerLooped blog. A rendering of the project on the front cover of a recent company financial report (above) may not be the latest, though — that looks like a 2005 date scribbled in the bottom right corner. The $21.8 million development will include 124 apartments and 10,864 sq. ft. of street-level retail and should begin opening mid-to-late next year, the company says. The apartment units should run a little smaller on average than those in the existing Post Midtown Square complex at 302 Gray St. Post Properties hasn’t responded to our request for details about the development’s exact location, but the rendering appears to show the view looking east from the narrow corner of West Gray and Webster in the Fourth Ward, a few blocks west of Post’s existing outpost of street activity.
Rendering: Post Properties
THIS TIME, FOR THE DEVELOPERS Two proposals out of Mayor White’s office earlier this year — one to pay down the consumer debt of homebuyers, the other to give $5,000 bonuses to Realtors representing buyers in 8 revitalization areas — didn’t get very far. But City Council approved the latest version yesterday: $620,000 in construction subsidies from the TIRZ Affordable Housing Fund for 10 homes — 4 in Trinity Gardens and 6 in the Fourth Ward. The participating builders and CDCs are to be chosen by the city’s Housing and Community Development Director. “The developers may sell the homes after they are used for at least a year as models, but the net proceeds must be reinvested in the same community.” [Houston Chronicle, via Swamplot inbox; details on page 200 here (PDF)]