Demos appear to be ready to commence on a good-sized swath of Independence Heights surrounding Booker T. Washington High School at 119 East 39th St.
“Seems everything between Yale and Main is about to be bulldozed… an entire neighborhood vanishing,” writes a reader. “It’s really kinda spooky looking — like an abandoned ghost town”:
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SAY SALAAM TO THE SHADY ACRES HOME OF HOUSTON’S FIRST ARABIC IMMERSION SCHOOL Here’s where some of Houston’s future bilingual Arabic-English speakers will learn their two alphabets: HISD’s former Holden Elementary and
the current home of more recently the Energy Institute High School at 812 W. 28th. St., just across N. Durham St. from a ramshackle flower shop just inside the North Loop. An energy school giving way to Arabic-language instruction? Synergy? Arabic trails only Spanish (and English) among languages HISD students speak at home, according to statistics from the district. Interested parents of rising pre-kindergartners and kindergartners were able to start applying last Friday for the magnet program slated to begin next Fall. Two each of pre-K and kindergarten classes will comprise the school’s first classes next year. If the district’s first Arabic immersion school is to operate the same way the existing Spanish- and Mandarin-English HISD schools do, students will be taught half in English and half in Modern Standard Arabic. [HISD] Photo: Swamplot Inbox
Here’s a cutaway view looking into what’s being called the final design of the new Downtown campus for Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Escalating construction costs have spurred HISD to accelerate the 2012 bond program that’s paying for the new HSPVA campus along with rebuilding programs at approximately 40 schools. So construction on the 5-story, 168,000-sq.-ft. building designed by the Houston office of Gensler is expected to begin within a few weeks, and end shortly after the 2017 school year begins.
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Show and Tell
The bids that were submitted to HISD yesterday to buy the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice High School in Magnolia Grove rang up almost $5 million more than those the first time around in July: Neighboring St. Thomas High School is still in the running to purchase the 11-acre campus on Dickson St., just north of Memorial Dr. and Buffalo Bayou; it offered $45 million, compared with the $42 million the private school said it would pay in July. But St. Thomas was again outbid, this time by an entity called Elk Mountain Ltd. — connected, it appears, to the Gordy Oil Company — which submitted a flat $47,927,114.
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We don’t have all that many to spare, but it appears that there will soon be one fewer thin-shell paraboloid roof in Houston: HISD says it plans to demolish the 1958 James M. Delmar Fieldhouse (known now as the Delmar-Tusa Fieldhouse) and build a new facility in its place. According to a press release, the old stadium is “currently in poor condition with major roof leaks, flooding problems in the locker rooms and a sports medicine area that falls short of athletic league standards.”
The 5,000-seat swayback fieldhouse is located at 2020 Mangum Rd., just outside the Loop in Lazybrook and Timbergrove. Designed by Milton McGinty, who also had a hand in the Rice Stadium, the gym served as the home court in the ’60s for UH and the Elvin Hayes-powered Coogs. But it would seem that HISD wants to make haste and move on from that history: “The goal is to have the site ready for construction as soon as possible and complete the replacement facility by late 2016.”
Photo: Houston Daily Photo
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
BIDS TO BUY LAW ENFORCEMENT HS PUNISHED FOR NOT FOLLOWING RULES HISD gave a unanimous no today to those competing bids from nearby St. Thomas High School and developer AV Dickson Street to buy the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice in Magnolia Grove. Apparently, the reason the offers for the 11-acre campus at 4701 Dickson St. were rejected had less to do with the numbers than with HISD’s preferred S.O.P.: ”[T]he board’s attorney, David Thompson, stated immediately afterward that both bidders had violated the district’s ‘code of silence’ policy, which prohibits communication between trustees and those with pending business before them.” Superintendent Terry Grier tells the Houston Chronicle that the building will be going right back on the market: “Hopefully if we do that, the bidders will take our ethics policy seriously.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HISD
HOW ONE BUYER WOULD USE HISD’S LAW ENFORCEMENT HS PROPERTY If the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice is sold to St. Thomas High School competitor AV Dickson Street, the investment company has said it plans to link the 11-acre Magnolia Grove property with the adjacent and recently purchased Bayou Park apartments at 4400 Memorial to create a mixed-use district: Alison Malkhassian of AV Dickson Street tells The Leader‘s Charlotte Aguilar that “the long-term goal . . . could be to create a 26-acre mixed-use luxury retail-office-residential development on the combined properties — a process that would take about a decade.” Yesterday, HISD received the 2nd round of bids: St. Thomas is offering $42 million, about $800,000 more than AV Dickson Street — but Aguilar suggests that the sale might come down to rent: St. Thomas said it would charge the school $225,000 a month to lease the space for the next 5 years, compared with $100,000 a month from AV Dickson Street, a difference of $7.5 million over that time. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HISD
A STANDOFF TO BUY HISD’S LAW ENFORCEMENT HS CAMPUS The 11-acre parcel for sale in Magnolia Grove where the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice stands has been the object of some poker-faced one-upmanship between two interested contenders: In one corner, you’ve got St. Thomas High School, whose campus is immediately south of here, and in the other you’ve got AV Dickson Street, a recently formed LLC named for the street the HISD magnet school stands on. The first round, reports the Leader’s Charlotte Aguilar, yielded a $40 million offer from little-known AV Dickson, with St. Thomas countering and raising it by $100. The next round will go off early next week. Aguilar adds that whoever buys the campus will be required to lease it back to HISD for the next 5 years, while a new spot is sought: “In keeping with a move by HISD to relocate its specialty high schools close to beneficial community resources –– the DeBakey High School for the Health Professions to the Texas Medical Center, the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts to the Theater District downtown –– a downtown location near police and sheriff’s headquarters and courthouses is being scouted.” [The Leader] Photo: HISD
IS HISD KEEPING REBUILDING JOBS FROM MINORITY-OWNED FIRMS? That’s what the Houston chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (or HNOMA) seems to suspect, having sent a letter to HISD superintendent Terry Grier alleging “disenfranchisement” and wanting to know why so few jobs funded by last year’s $1.89 billion bond to rebuild 40 schools have been awarded to African-American-owned firms, reports Hair Balls: “Only two percent of the monies assigned have gone to the six [Houston-area] architectural firms run solely by African-American owners,” says Jeff Balke. “According to the letter, it appears that none of the six firms in question were even interviewed for projects pertaining to the four traditionally African-American high schools being rebuilt,” one of which is Yates High School, shown here. Adds HNOMA veep Anzilla Gilmore: “In the 2007 Bond, all of these firms got work, so we assumed that with a Bond this big, these guys shouldn’t have any issues. . . . They just need the chance, and if they don’t get the chance, they should be told why.” [HISD; Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HISD
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON FIRST SKIPS THE BULLY SALES BLOCK “Instead of ‘hoping’ to get residential/retail development on the site, why not REQUIRE such development on the site via deed restrictions or other contractual agreements with the buyer?
This is how HISD screwed themselves on the sale of their old administration building. They sold to the highest bidder and ‘hoped’ they would build something like the fancy mixed use rendering they were passing around. Instead we got a Costco and an LA Fitness.
When you consider that HISD pockets more than 50 percent of every tax dollar paid by the property, they might have made more money in the long run by GIVING AWAY their land to someone who would have developed it more intensely.” [Bernard, commenting on Headlines: Downtown Block for Sale; Accessing Remote Hermann Park]
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DEMOLISHINGS AND CLOSINGS HISD plans to begin demolishing the old Bastian Elementary School on Calhoun Rd. just south of the South Loop within the next few weeks, in an effort to make the 6-acre property more appealing to possible buyers. The South Park campus has been vacant since 2007, when a new Bastian Elementary was built a mile south on Bellfort. At one point, Lynn Walsh reports, “the property was listed for sale for $825,000, according to an online multiple listings service search, or slightly more than a third of the county’s appraised value for it.” Meanwhile, the HISD board voted this evening to close Grimes, Rhoads, McDade, and Stevenson elementary schools. Some students from Stevenson Elementary will begin classes next year at Love Elementary in the Heights, which had previously been threatened with closure. [Texas Watchdog] Photo of Bastian Elementary: Dikombi Gite
Who’s gonna decide whether First Montrose Commons gets its historic designation? HISD. At least that’s what FMC Neighborhood Association president Jason Ginsburg says in a letter he sent out earlier this week to HISD board trustees:
Without HISD’s participation, the resulting shortfall in committed land area would require our Association to gain the consent of a vast majority of the other FMC property owners, which is a practically impossible burden that goes far beyond the original intent of the historic district ordinance. But, with HISD’s participation, our Association will be able to fulfill all of the requirements necessary to achieve a historic district designation. Simply put, HISD’s decision with regard to our Association’s petition will either make or break FMC’s proposed historic district. [Italics in original]
To become eligible for historic designation, a district only needs the signatures of property owners representing 51 percent of its land area. More than 50 percent of First Montrose Commons landowners have already signed on to become a historic district. But the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (!) takes up a huge chunk of First Montrose Commons, skewing those numbers.
Map of proposed FMC Historic District: First Montrose Commons
In a letter demonstrating the virtues of direct and forthright language, HISD has notified the owners of 8 homes on Glenloch St. in Glenbrook Valley that the new Lewis Elementary School will eat up their property:
This letter is to inform you that growth in Houston has created a serious shortage of permanent space within the Houston Independent School District (“HISD”). In a response to this need for space necessary to provide the best education for our children in your area, HISD will be replacing the Lewis Elementary School facility and it will be necessary to expand the existing school site.
The Superintendent of Schools has recommended, and the HISD Board of Education has designated, a tract of land for this expansion. This tract includes property you may own (see attached map).
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