10/12/17 3:00pm

HOUSING AUTHORITY: OUR FLOODED CLAYTON HOMES DEVELOPMENT WAS GOING TO BE DEMOLISHED ANYWAY A new statement from the Houston Housing Authority provides a little more background on its decision to demolish 112 of the 296 units at the authority’s Clayton Homes low-income housing neighborhood just east of Hwy 59 at the northern tip of EaDo. The homes were deemed “uninhabitable” after flooding from Hurricane Harvey triggered mold and other health concerns: “HHA decided demolition was the best course of action for the damaged units since the entire property is located on land acquired by eminent domain and will face eventual demolition for TxDOT’s I-45 freeway extension. When the remainder of Clayton units are demolished in a few years, the remaining residents will either be relocated to another public housing unit or receive HCVs.” Housing Choice (formerly Section 8) Vouchers — along with moving assistance and payments — are also being provided to residents of 82 out of the 100 units at another Housing Authority development, Forest Green Townhomes at 8945 Forest Hollow St. in northeast Houston, which the authority today announced had also been rendered unlivable by the storm. [Houston Housing Authority; previously on Swamplot] Photo of pre-Harvey Forest Green Townhomes: Forest Green

08/02/16 11:45am

LAND PURCHASES BEGINNING ALONG PROPOSED HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN ROUTE Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo Osaka LineTexas Central Railway’s CEO tells Realty News Report’s Ralph Bivins that owners of some properties in the projected path of the planned Houston-to-Dallas 200mph rail line have already agreed to sell their land to the company, which is hoping to get started on construction of the 90-minute route next year. Tim B. Keith says he’s “encouraged with the progress” of what he refers to as the project’s “voluntary land purchase program.” He notes that “Texas’ Constitution and state statutes have long granted eminent domain authority to railroads such as Texas Central, as well as pipeline companies, electric power companies and other industries,” but calls eminent domain “a last resort.” The line’s Houston station is now planned for “the area along the 610 Loop between 290 and I-10″ after a Federal Railroad Administration review rejected the idea of a Downtown stop because of projected high costs and environmental impacts. [Realty News Report; Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo-Osaka line: Texas Central Railway  

05/13/16 2:30pm

U OF H LAW TAKING ON EMINENT DOMAIN CLASS TO PREP FOR FUTURE AREA LAND GRABS University of Houston Law Center, Third Ward, Houston, 77004An upcoming course at the University of Houston Law Center will focus entirely on eminent domain, in the wake of a similar course now wrapping up its inaugural semester at UT Austin. The law firm Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge, whose partners are teaching both classes, says it believes these to be the first 2 law classes in the nation to focus exclusively on “the law of taking”; the courses have been added with the expectation that continued population growth in Houston and more than half a dozen other major Texas cities will continue to fuel future infrastructure capacity-boosting projects — including new pipelines, highways, and transmission corridors potentially criss-crossing now-private property. [PRNewswire] Photo of University of Houston Law Center: Douglas R.

05/05/15 4:45pm

Woodridge Plaza Shopping Center, 6969 Gulf Fwy., Houston

Woodridge Plaza Shopping Center, 6969 Gulf Fwy., HoustonKing Dollar, Pizza Hut, Sherwin-Williams, Sun Loan, Mini’s Cleaners, Ruchi’s Taqueria, Schlotzky’s, Tiendo Rio Lempa, Denny’s, Hairtex & Nails, Nancy’s Cake Designs, Nationwide Insurance, Edible Arrangements, Todo Jewelry, Video Square, V Star (pictured here), and all of the businesses in the Woodridge Plaza shopping center at 6969 Gulf Fwy. — they’re all going away. The Houston Community College System wants to expand its Southeast College East Side Campus onto the 5.7-acre property to its south, on the north side of I-45 near Gulfgate. A reader who isn’t involved in the legal tussle, but who’s looked through the records on the county clerk’s website, describes the back-and-forth as laid out in the documents: “It looks like the special commissioners valued the shopping center at $12,500,000. Both the landowner, Compass Investors Group LLC, and HCCS objected and are seeking a trial for a higher, and a lower valuation, respectively. Texas Capital Bank is owed about $3.5 million on a mortgage on the property and also intervened. The landowner lawsuit is in Cause number 1043516 in County Court 4. HCCS also filed condemnation actions against all the tenants (cause 1057330 in County Court 4).”

Images: Moseley Commercial

The Taking of Woodridge Plaza
12/19/14 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY IS ANYONE LIVING THAT CLOSE TO A REFINERY? Refined Homes Near Refinery“Tax policy should probably discourage residential habitation in neighborhoods near the Houston Ship Channel and encourage people to move away from them. As such, giving existing residents or residential property owners a tax cut in order to reward them for residing there or maintaining and leasing housing to other people would be extraordinarily counterproductive and stupid. Manchester in particular is a neighborhood where the City or State government should seriously consider its options with respect to eminent domain. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the region. Even the furthest north residential bits and pieces of Pasadena are better isolated from refinery activities and more integrated into their city than is Manchester.” [TheNiche, commenting on Baytown Buc-ee’s Is Here; Goodbye Mission Burrito, Hello Überrito Mexican Grill] Illustration: Lulu

06/12/13 12:05pm

The 11-year run is coming to an end: According to a letter signed by franchise operator Charles Gibson and posted in the store’s window, June 14 will be the last day for this Webster Chick-Fil-A. The letter explains that TxDOT has purchased the property with plans to expand I-45. Across that freeway from the Baybrook Mall, this Chick-Fil-A is the northernmost chain of that cluster of ’em accessible via the feeder from Bay Area Blvd.

Photo: Panoramio user MrQuick

01/19/11 1:29pm

Segment E of Houston’s new Grand Parkway — more commonly known as the new ring-road highway planned to cut through the Katy Prairie to link the Katy Mills Mall to the Houston Premium Outlets mall in Cypress (and to facilitate cultural exchange programs between those two institutions) — has its first casualty, and it’s not an Attwater prairie chicken. One of Katy’s quirkiest and most beloved attractions, Forbidden Gardens, has announced it will close. The Chinese history and cultural museum’s peculiar but convenient location on a former rice field along Franz Rd. just off the Grand Parkway’s stub end likely wasn’t “just off” enough. Forbidden Gardens’ last day open will be January 30; a note on its website says the closing will “make way for the Grand Parkway expansion.” Forbidden Gardens opened in 1996.

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09/10/10 1:12pm

92 EMINENT DOMAIN CASES ON 3 LINES: METRO’S LIGHT RAIL LAND ACQUISITION SCORECARD Nick Boulos’s former Shell station on the corner of MLK and Old Spanish Trail “is among 133 pieces of property [Metro] has acquired along the Southeast Corridor, including 27 in which Metro invoked eminent domain. Of those, 21 (including Boulos’) were settled by negotiation. Another 7 remain to be mediated or possibly settled in court. In the East End, METRO has obtained 135 parcels, filed 47 eminent domain cases, and settled 33 by negotiation, leaving 14 for mediation or the courtroom. On the Northside, METRO has acquired 113 total pieces of property, filed 18 eminent domain cases, and settled 16 by negotiation, leaving 2 for mediation or the courtroom.” [Fox 26] Rendering of Southeast Line on MLK between Griggs Rd. and OST: Metro

06/01/10 11:43am

The price Missouri City is paying to purchase the former Quail Valley Country Club from golf-course speculator Mark Voltmann’s Renaissance Golf Group was adjusted from $3.1 million up to $7.4 million last week — 2 years after the city acquired the 390-acre property by eminent domain, and one day before a dispute over the price was set to go to trial. Renaissance claimed the property was worth about $14 million, but at the time of the sale it was listed for $6.59 million by the appraisal district.

Renaissance’s plans to rezone a 17.5-acre portion of the site to allow for a development of 54 Ryland Homes homesites were rejected by the city’s planning and zoning commission in 2006.

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05/10/10 10:53am

STUCK IN THOSE NEIGHBORHOOD SAND TRAPS The Ohio investor who bought up 3 Houston community golf courses over the last decade, then sold the one in Quail Valley to Missouri City a couple of years ago, is running into a few obstacles in his attempts to sell the other 2 to developers: “The latest roadblock came with a jury verdict late last year that would prohibit the use of the land that once served as the Inwood Forest Country Club for any purpose other than a golf course. . . . The Harris County jury found that the Inwood Forest golf property contained an ‘implied reciprocal negative easement,’ [Inwood Forest homeowners association member Julie] Grothues said. In plain English, that means that an owner of the course is bound to keep it as a course even though the original deed has no such restrictive covenant. The lawyer for the homeowners association argued that the course was an essential component of the neighborhood, and that allowing it to be cut up for development would irrevocably change the character of the community and the value of the homes.” Is Mark Voltmann’s game going any better at the shuttered Clear Lake Golf Club? “The deed for the Clear Lake property contains a restriction preventing owners from using it for anything but a golf course or recreational facility until 2021. Voltmann has filed suit to try to bust the deed restrictions. In theory, success could translate into a big payday, as a portion of the property has good commercial potential. But the Inwood verdict is looming. If it stands up, homeowners could use the same argument to stymie him again.” [Houston Chronicle; listing]

05/03/10 9:37am

CASH FOR KASHMERE GARDENS A few residents of Kashmere Gardens are fighting Harris County Flood Control District plans to buy and demolish 40 homes in the upper Fifth Ward neighborhood: “The $175 million Project Hunting will widen and deepen a half-mile stretch of the bayou and create a 75-acre stormwater detention basin. The district plan purports to remove 5,000 homes from a 100-year flood plain. The engineer-speak means those homes currently face a 1 percent chance of flooding each year. The 1 percent happened to at least some neighborhood homes during Allison and Hurricane Ike. It also happened, according to district information, in 1979. And 1980. Again in 1983. And again in 1989, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2006 and 2007. But a group of holdouts does not believe that. Their homes flooded only during Allison, they said. The real numbers the district is acting on have dollar signs in front of them, residents said. Houses in their neighborhood can sell for as little as $30,000. ‘(The district) wants to go cheap because they consider Kashmere Gardens as poor, poor people,’ neighborhood resident Deborah Butler said. District officials insist the buyouts are about protecting residents, not cutting corners.” [Houston Chronicle; map]

01/21/10 4:28pm

Did 3.2 acres of acquisitions along Post Oak Blvd. for the new Uptown Line sound like a lot to you? Then look at this: The Final Environmental Impact Statement for the new University Line says Metro’s “locally preferred alternative” route will need to acquire 23 acres of land from approximately 212 separate parcels on that route, most of it along Richmond Ave. (Only 7 of those parcels will need to be acquired in full, according to the report.) Plus: 100 businesses, 30 residences, and 38 mixed-use structures will need to be relocated.

Potential acquisitions and displacement are expected at signalized intersections and at some transit stations. Every transit station located on the street will have a traffic signal. Additional right of way will be needed to accommodate left-turn lanes at key signalized intersections.

You can find the complete list of affected properties beginning on page 146 of this document. Maps of the targeted properties along the entire route — similar to the bit along Richmond Ave. at Montrose Blvd. shown above — are in the engineering drawings section.

Find anything interesting in there? Let us know in the comments!

Map: Metro Solutions (PDF)

01/20/10 4:13pm

Metro’s most recent street reclassification plan indicates that the transit authority will need a grand total of about 3.2 acres of land on Post Oak Blvd. to squeeze in its new Uptown rail line, reports the River Oaks Examiner‘s Mike Reed.

The most notable target of Metro acquisition efforts will likely be a roughly 14-ft.-wide swath of tree-lined land along the Post Oak edge of the newly minted Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, pictured above. The Williams Tower immediately to the north is due the same sort of trim, because the Hampton at Post Oak assisted living facility across the street is located much closer to Post Oak.

An even bigger bite would be taken out of the west side of Dillard’s if the current design goes forward: a 29,476-sq.-ft. strip that “would appear to include the ramp leading to the second-story of the garage,” Reed reports. The Galleria itself would lose only 1,019 sq. ft.

There’s a whole lot more in the plan. In all, pieces of 48 separate parcels are on Metro’s Post Oak shopping list so far:

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12/15/09 4:22pm

GALLERIA POCKET PARK FIGHT ENDS WITH TIRZ REACHING INTO POCKET Twin septuagenerian veterinarians Jock and James Collins, whose property on the corner of San Felipe and Post Oak Ln. adjacent to BLVD Place was taken by eminent domain 2 years ago, settled their dispute with the city this past August after receiving a $990,000 payment from the Uptown TIRZ, reports Mike Snyder: “The amount of the settlement is less than the $1.4 million Wulfe offered the brothers for the property in 2006, an offer they refused because they wanted a lump sum rather than payments over several years. However, it’s more than twice the $433,800 that the city asserted the land was worth in December 2006, the agreed-upon date for settlement discussions, [the Collins brothers’ attorney, J. Cary] Gray said. The brothers contended the land was worth $1,012,000, Gray said. The Collins brothers, along with leaders of some government watchdog groups, contended the park was a pretext for providing a landscaped entrance to [Ed] Wulfe’s [Blvd Place] development at public expense. Documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle last year showed that the condemnation helped Wulfe close a $12.5 million land deal for a planned residential tower within the development, although plans for that project have been delayed because of the recession. [Mayor] White repeatedly denied that political considerations were a factor. The need for land to widen San Felipe wasn’t disputed, and White said it was a better deal for taxpayers for the city to take the entire parcel.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]

02/24/09 10:02am

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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