COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ABSURDIST EVERYMAN’S VISIT TO HIS LOCAL MANAGEMENT DISTRICT BOARD “If you attend a TIRZ meeting at 8:00 AM on a Friday morning, you will realize the distrust and dissent that the TIRZ has created in a once cohesive community. As the meeting convenes, you can hear the roar of the cement truck in the background, covering every square foot of the TIRZ district with parking garages and multistory apartments. And where is the detention for all this impervious surface? The storm water runoff is detained in the residential streets and private homes of the surrounding neighborhoods. Just try signing up for the Public Comment period. Your 2 minutes disappear as the Chair detects an speaker unsympathetic to the TIRZ and cuts the mike. Your questions are not answered, so you try again, this time with an Open Records Request. Now you meet the TIRZ lawyers, plural, a sassy bunch, who can look you in the face and say with impunity that the record does not exist. It was just a typo.” [Long Time Houstonian, commenting on State Bill Would Call for TIRZ Elections in Certain Cities That End in ‑OUSTON] Illustration: Lulu
A bill filed Monday in Austin would mandate that more than half of the folks running each of Houston’s often opaque but increasingly well-heeled tax increment reinvestment zones be elected for 2-year terms by nearby residents of the zones, as opposed to the current system of city council appointments. The bill, proposed by west Houston rep Dwayne Bohac, employs the same handy Houston-targeting filter trick as that other recently filed state bill calling for a vote on what Harris County wants to do to the Astrodome: the bill’s language pinpoints only cities with a population of more than 2 million (of which Texas has exactly 1). If the measure makes it through all the necessary committees and passes, elections for board members would need to be held in 2018.
A new lawsuit was filed yesterday against TIRZ 16, the Uptown Development Authority, and the city, alleging that the creation of the reinvestment zone in the Galleria area was in violation of Texas law, since the zone can’t reasonably be considered “unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted.” Rather, the filing claims, the city ordinance that originally created the TIRZ used the justification that the Uptown area needed traffic decongestion to avoid losing its status as one of the wealthiest districts in the city, and to avoid draining business to the city’s ever-expanding suburban fringe. A hearing is going on today over a possible injunction on further spending or work on Uptown projects, and Mike Morris says that city council delayed a vote yesterday on allowing Uptown an additional $65 million in debt.
Where exactly, these days, does Fourth Ward end and Midtown begin? That may be a little bit clearer before long (depending on how you define the 2) — a reader notes that someone looks to be getting ready to stake a visible claim for Midtown on the narrow strip of land at the crotch of Webster and W. Gray streets, just west of Matthews St. and the latest add-on to the Post Midtown Square development. (The yellow signage of that recently scorched Fuzzy’s is visible on the left.)
The silt fencing rimming the median segment as of late comes with a construction sign calling the spot “Midtown Entry Portal — Site 3.” That grassy sliver does sit at the end of a short but pointy finger of land jutting out of the northwestern boundary of the area’s tax increment reinvestment zone, which as of 2009 is shaped about like this:
Some Memorial-area residents (mostly under the banner of uncontroversially-named Residents Against Flooding) filed a previously-threatenedlawsuit this morning requesting that the city of Houston and TIRZ 17 be barred from using the reinvestment district’s funds for private development projects until more drainage projects have been implemented in the nearby neighborhoods. The lawsuit alleges that the Memorial City Redevelopment Authority and the city have been increasing runoff from the zone (inside Beltway 8 at I-10, shown above in green) into the nearby neighborhoods without adding enough new drainage projects to compensate for it; residential flooding in 2009, last Memorial Day, and this Tax Day are cited as the outcome.
The group filing the suit says it doesn’t want money — so what is the suit asking for?
From the space between Monday’s rain and today’s, here are some late-evening snaps of the scene around Greenspoint Mall, which became a staging center for flood rescue operations before dawn on Monday morning. Following the middle-of-the-night overflow of Greens Bayou, residents from several flooded apartment complexes nearby headed to the 1970s shopping center at the social media urging of city officials and rapper Bun B; flood victims were later bussed to the Campbell Educational Center on Aldine Bender Rd. west of the Hardy tollway.
The 1.4-million-sq.-ft. mall and surrounding parking lot, just northeast of the intersection of Beltway 8 and I-45, was put up for sale by Triyar Group in February, after nearly a decade of talk about redeveloping the property with the help of the Greenspoint TIRZ. Above is the view from the north on the I-45-facing side of the complex toward Dillard’s and Fitness Connection, currently holding a food and supplies drive and offering free showers to displaced residents. On the west side, here’s the Renaissance 15 Premier Theater, from Greenspoint Dr.:
The metal arm of a future traffic signal is now reaching out of the ground across a few westbound lanes of Allen Pkwy. at the intersection with Dunlavy St. The new crosswalk will protect foot traffic on the way to bayou-side party-venue The Dunlavy and to the Adath Yeshurun Cemetery next door.
No fewer than 11 pairs of scissors reached to cut the ribbon in front of Fifth Ward’s DeLuxe Theater at 3303 Lyons Ave. as it formally reopened yesterday. The 1941 movie-theater-briefly-turned-art-gallery, which has sat empty since 1973, will now host plays, classes, and other community and art events put on by Texas Southern University; TSU jazz students performed at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The original facade and marquee have been restored and updated:
A couple of simulatedfly-overs of a portion of a revamped Allen Pkwy., put together by consulting engineering firm Walter P Moore, show how the signature River Oaks-to-Downtown sorta-highway will look after a park-centered makeover is completed next summer. The projected $10 million redo partially answers the question popping up in many people’s minds after seeing all the new trails and structures and amenities and dogs going in along the bayou it lines: How are car-bound Houstonians supposed to get to the new Buffalo Bayou Park?
Part of the answer, of course, is by using 175 new angled parking spaces, most of them lining a new separate parking access lane lining the north side of Allen Pkwy. between Rochow St. and Eleanor Tinsley Park. As the video above (showing the journey eastbound from Montrose Blvd. to Park Vista Dr.) indicates, if you’re headed into Downtown, you’ll need to turn around and head in the opposite direction somewhere to park in one of them. Here’s a video view of the journey westward from Park Vista (across from Eleanor Tinsley Park) back to Montrose Blvd., along which the spots are angled for easy entry: