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:
DISTRIBUTING DISASTER RELIEF FUNDS THROUGH TIRZ A reader has a question about a particular Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone in Houston: “In this example scenario, the city of Houston is giving [Hurricane Ike] money to a developer for infrastructure improvements on their lot (located in a TIRZ) but the requirement is that the developer must build some affordable homes on that lot.
The twist to this is that the city would give the developer money, but only if it is given through the TIRZ. Speaking with the TIRZ board, they said that they plan to distribute that money around the entire TIRZ and not just to that single development. This of course has the neighboring residents and the developer worried about how the funds will be given.
Is this the normal process for distributing Ike funding? And can a TIRZ take money away from the developing area?” Map of area Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones: City of Houston
The conquest of a long strip of land between Travis and Main known as the Midtown Superblock was completed last month, Shaina Zucker reports in today’s Houston Business Journal. The strip center at the corner of Travis and Anita once known as Liberty Square, and more recently for tenants Escobar and the Thien An sandwich shop, was sold to the Midtown Redevelopment Authority in September. Escobar, Thien An, and a second nightclub in the building will have until the end of the year to scram. The TIRZ plans to swap the land under the strip center with Camden Property Trust, in return for a couple of properties at the northern end of the same superblock.
That’ll give the Midtown authority a tiny bit less than 3 acres of land facing McGowen St., leaving Camden with the superblock’s slightly larger southern portion. The organization plans to build a park on its end — but one that includes 8,500 sq. ft. of retail space and 250 underground parking spaces, according to Zucker:
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.