04/01/10 10:23am

Houston’s City Council voted 13-2 yesterday to sell the former Compaq Center to the nation’s largest megachurch for a grand total of $7.5 million dollars. Sure, that’s considerably less than the $22.6 million the city would have received for a 30-year extension of Lakewood Church’s current lease on what used to be homecourt of the Houston Rockets. But the city wouldn’t see the beginning of that income stream for 24 years, and it might be a full 54 years before the city could get the building and those 7 acres of Greenway Plaza land back — presuming either is worth anything at all by then. And really, who’s even going to want to be around this city in 2064?

That $7.5 million isn’t exactly chump change, either. If each of the church’s approximately 43,500 weekly visitors throws a dollar into one of those collection buckets, it’ll take them all of 3 and a half years just to pay the darn thing off!

But did the city even have a choice in the matter?

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03/24/10 10:43am

From the Twitter feed of KHOU reporter Alex Sanz, Swamplot hears news that Houston’s city council has postponed a vote on a proposal to sell the former Compaq Center at 3700 Southwest Fwy. in Greenway Plaza to Lakewood Church, for an-appraised-but way-below-assessed-value price of $7.5 million. As Swamplot explained yesterday, the church has more than 20 years left on a prepaid lease for the property and an option to extend the lease for an additional 30 years after that for a little more than $22 million — both of which significantly affect the present value of the property to the city.

Is the postponement of the sale a setback for Lakewood? Why should it be!? Followers of church pastor Joel Osteen, who’s now written 3 books filled with real-estate investment advice, know that he advocates patience — especially in complicated sale or purchase situations. Why wouldn’t he want councilmembers to feel entirely comfortable with the decision they come to?

Here’s how Osteen explains it in a relevant passage from his latest book, It’s Your Time:

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03/23/10 11:47am

You might be thinking, “How can I buy me some prime Greenway Plaza real estate from the city for, say $12.50 a square foot?” If, as expected, city council approves the sale in tomorrow’s meeting, that’s the amount Lakewood Church will pay for the Southwest Freeway building it’s currently leasing.

Lakewood took out a 30-year lease on the property — which formerly served as home court for the Houston Rockets, first as the Houston Summit, and later as the Compaq Center — in 2001. Lakewood prepaid the entire $11.8 million lease amount, then spent more than $80 million to turn the former basketball arena into a proper TV-worthy megachurch. But the key to Lakewood’s current real estate good fortune is the lease extension it negotiated: an option to extend the lease for an additional 30 years for $22.6 million.

Since the city likely won’t receive any income (or tax revenue) from the property until the year 2061, city real estate managers think selling the 606,000-sq.-ft. property on more than 7 acres at 3700 Southwest Fwy. to the church is a good idea. The price? A value only net-present-value adherents, real-estate appraisers, and the Lakewood faithful could love: $7.5 million.

Feeling a little inspired by the church’s ability to swing such a deal? It is yet another testament to the remarkable real-estate skills of Houston’s leading property-investment guru, Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen. In this passage from his latest book, It’s Your Time, Osteen virtually screams, “GET IN FIRST, BUY LATER”:

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02/09/10 11:48am

No, that’s not valet parking being offered along the ramp at the Timmons side of Lakewood Church in Greenway Plaza. It’s a new drive-thru healing service offered by Pastor Joel Osteen’s mother, Dodie Osteen:

She conducts a traditional healing service each month, recently adding one for children with medical issues. The drive[-through] service is for anyone too ill to attend those. . . .

The first drive through service was advertised by word of mouth. Though small by Lakewood standards, it seems small though it will grow. Yet it did what was intended by creating hope where there might have been none. Dodie Osteen will tell you she’s a living example

“You know what, I can come to them. And I’m perfectly willing to do that. If I have to crawl out there to them, I’ll do that,” said Dodie.

Mrs. Osteen plans to schedule more of the drive-through healing services when the weather improves. The cold temperatures and rain aren’t good for people with health issues.

Photo: Paul Duron

12/04/09 1:19pm

City officials are discussing a possible sale of the former basketball stadium now occupied by the nation’s largest megachurch, reports the Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff. When Lakewood Church took over the Compaq Center (formerly the Houston Summit) from the city in 2001, the institution prepayed the entire $12 million rent amount of the 30-year lease, and spent considerably more than that on renovations. The city won’t see any more income from the property for 22 years. According to the agreement, Lakewood has the option of extending its lease for a second 30-year period, for $22.6 million.

How much could the city get for the little church by the Southwest Freeway?

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