The Canadian developers behind an on-again-off-again 84-unit condo project planned for a 1.4-acre wooded property at the end of E. 5th St. adjacent to the Heights hike-and-bike trail have withdrawn their variance request to build a private street for a new Emes Place subdivision. But neighborhood opponents of the project, called Viewpoint at the Heights, may like Group LSR’s newest plans less than the ones they had been fighting against. The Planning Department’s Suzy Hartgrove tells the Leader’s Charlotte Aguilar that the developers of the Serento and Piedmont at River Oaks now plan to construct a public street over a bridge and build their own cul de sac. The latest plans make no mention of the size of condo the company is proposing. And if the new design meets city standards, the city’s planning commission wouldn’t have an opportunity to require any site changes on the project when it comes up for approval this Thursday.
Photos: Swamplot inbox (site and trail); Charlotte Aguilar/The Leader (variance sign)
Update, 1/5: Unless, of course, city council decides to shrink a few of them anyway.
The results are in, and it looks like the great campaign to dissolve Houston’s historic districts has been a bit of a bust. Houston planning director Marlene Gafrick reports that the “survey period” for Heights East, Heights West, Heights South, Boulevard Oaks, and Avondale West historic districts has closed and that the planning department has determined that “none of the districts achieved the 51% threshold that requires the Planning Director to recommend repeal of the designation or, in the case of Heights South, recommend denying the designation.” Neighborhood meetings and subsequent “surveys” for 2 more districts — Norhill and First Montrose Commons — haven’t taken place yet (the meetings are scheduled for January 8th and 18th, respectively). That’s it for the 7 districts where petitions from owners triggered the “reconsideration” provisions of the preservation ordinance changes city council approved last fall. According to the new ordinance, if owners of 51 percent of the lots in any of the districts had returned notices sent to them by the city, the districts might have been dissolved — or, more likely, had their boundaries adjusted.
Opponents of the preservation-ordinance changes had focused their dissolution campaign on the Heights historic districts. But if the 51 percent threshold wasn’t attainable in those districts, it seems less likely their efforts will succeed in Norhill and First Montrose Commons. Meanwhile, the city’s planning commission and archeological and historic commission have both recommended that city council approve 2 additional pending historic districts, in Woodland Heights and Glenbrook Valley.
Note: Planning and development weighs in. See update below.
Tonight’s 6:30 meeting at the George R. Brown is the only public meeting scheduled to discuss the latest round of proposed changes to Houston’s preservation ordinance, dubbed the “final draft” in some documents. The planning department came out with this revised set of proposed amendments last week, but figuring out what’s in them isn’t so easy. The department hasn’t created any summaries of the new proposal — thought it did for the last round — and it hasn’t specified what’s different from the earlier proposed amendments either. Even more fun: The new amendments have only been released as image scans, making text searching — and what should be the simple task of comparing one set of amendments to the other — a not-so-simple task.
So what’s in the latest round of proposed changes? Swamplot outlined the new proposed method for existing historic districts to “reconsider” — and possibly shed — their historic designation last week. But since then, the department has only released a presentation given by the planning director. Working from that, here’s the best summary of the rest of the provisions we can piece together:
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Neighbors in the Freeland Historic District who imagined the nationwide economic downturn and neighborhood protests a few years ago would have been enough to kill a threatened 65-70-condo development on a wooded tract next to the new Heights hike-and-bike trail have been buzzing about the project’s apparent reappearance. On the agenda for this week’s planning commission meeting: the Emes Place Subdivision, which will give the long-landlocked site access by connecting Frasier St. and E. 5th St. across the trail, just north of White Oak Bayou. The subdivision plat is listed as a “consent item,” meaning its approval is not scheduled to be put up for a separate vote.
Viewpoint at the Heights, slated for that subdivision, is a project of Canada’s Group LSR, which goes by the name Inner Loop Condos in Houston. The company developed the Serento Condominium near the Med Center and the Piedmont sorta near River Oaks. Freeland residents have heard the building being proposed for the 1-acre site will be 4 or 5 stories tall.
Calling it “perhaps the most elegant and beloved in the entire neighborhood,” some saddened neighbors send in a deathbed photo shoot featuring the former Southgate home of retired Rice University architecture professor Elinor Evans. Evans sold the home at 2202 Addison in January.
Lovett Homes plans to build a new house on the property. (HCAD lists the new owner as “5177 Builders Ltd.”) In June, the Planning Commission granted a variance allowing the new garage to maintain the existing 10-ft. setback along Montclair Dr. — in order to preserve a large live oak tree in the back yard. In applying for the variance, Lovett promised to maintain the existing home’s footprint.
After the jump: highlights from the photo shoot, plus a link to the riveting, tree-saving Planning Commission hearing video!
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