The Story of Three 5-Story Townhomes on the Site of One Storied Hyde Park Tree

Sign for Kensington at River Oaks, 1705 Waugh Dr. at Peden, Hyde Park, Montrose, Houston

Former Oak at Future Site of Sign for Kensington at River Oaks, 1705 Waugh Dr. at Peden, Hyde Park, Montrose, Houston

If you’re wondering what horticultural death incident inspired the recent orange graffiti defacing the sign heralding Carnegie Custom Homes‘ townhome project at 1705 Waugh Dr. in Hyde Park (shown in the pic at top), an earlier photo of the site sent to Swamplot (below it) shows the estimated 120-plus-year-old oak tree whose removal sparked a yellow-ribbon-festooning and protest by neighbors back on Pearl Harbor Day. The tree, which stood at the corner of Waugh and Peden, in front of the former Waugh Dr. Baptist Church, was chopped down on December 9th.


The project Carnegie is building on the site consists of 3 townhomes of 5 stories each. The west- east-of-River Oaks project is called Kensington at River Oaks. For another Carnegie Homes site plan less than 2 miles to the southeast in Westmoreland Place, Carnegie had rearranged townhome sites to preserve a 300-year-old oak tree. That tree’s presence is still touted on the company’s website for that development, which is now called Masterson Oaks at Westmoreland.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

Kensington at River Oaks

40 Comment

  • I anticipate that this will be a short, quiet and dispassionate commentary thread.

  • Isn’t this actually east of River Oaks?

    Regardless, the project should definitely be renamed the Kensington at River Oaks Heights.

  • Thanks for the update. If you’re pointing to the develop on Waugh from River Oaks, I think you mean to say east not west.

  • Nice title!

  • this is like a choose your own adventure story, i like. Tree Killer or Taxpayer? Horticultural Foe or City Parks Fund Provider? no way that tree was going to be saved unless another church was moving in though. the existing building was either useless or way too expensive for anyone else to utilize as-is.

  • I sure would like to know who is coming up with the ages of these trees and what their supporting documentation is. Did they take core samples or count the rings of the removed tree?

  • Waugh is East of River Oaks, not West. I hate to be a cardinal direction Nazi, but you guys are pretty bad about it.

  • @Semper Fudge, @GlenW, @I Love Heights Walmart: Thanks for the correction — always happy to take directions from our readers.

  • So they’re building 5-story townhomes now? For cryin’ out loud! Elevator or no, you’d have to be a mountain goat to enjoy living in one.

  • No problemo… according to the LA Live Oak Society:

    To figure the approximate age of a [live oak] tree, measure its girth four feet from the ground, convert that measurement to inches and divide by 1.5. An oak will add an average of 1.5 inches to its girth each year, although the older ones grow at a considerably lesser rate.

    So to get 120 years the ol’ girl would need to be a little less than 5 feet in diameter. That’s about right by my eyes…

  • meh, it’s one thing to get up in arms over trees removed on public property, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to get all moany about someone removing a tree from their land. If someone wanted the tree to stay that badly, someone should have bought the property and sold tickets to passers by who wanted to bask in the shade.

  • I would vote for the Kensington at River Oaks Heights for mayor.

  • It is a shame that someone would resort to graffiti and defamation in such matters.

    It is always a serious consideration for Carnegie Homes on how to best salvage any oak trees or vegetation in a development, while at the same time making a sound decision for the community. Whenever possible, salvaging a tree is given a very high priority with Carnegie Homes. In the case of the tree that was taken down at Waugh, the root system for the tree was so far extended into Peden drive and Waugh, that the drainage system for the City could not be accessed without harming the tree – it had just become so deeply intertwined with the City underground. . It was not possible to dedicate one lot to the tree as we have many times in the past, rather it was debilitating the entire drainage work that was necessary for all the homes. The development is 10 – 4 story homes, and one 5-story home, not just 3, and none of the homes could be properly drained. Our efforts to salvage trees is not only evident by our huge efforts and dedication of a park in our development in the Westmoreland Historic District, which did receive some notice, but, its also evident in our other, smaller developments, where our efforts go unnoticed, but we persevere none the same. Take for instance Dunlavy Court on 2410 Ralph St in Hyde Park. We had to obtain city approval, delay the project by two months, and meet with the City Forester, before we obtained approval to move a driveway 4 feet so we can salvage a tree that was otherwise in the middle of the driveway. This effort is not touted on our website, nor is it mentioned on listings. It is just something we do and is ingrained in the culture of the Company.

    Unfortunately, we cannot always save each and every tree, and in the case of the tree at Waugh, we did not know until the site work was to be done that this was the case. But we will always try our best to do what we can.

  • @Arpan Gupta-I love, “..ingrained in the culture of the Company.” If I were you, I too wood tout how ingrained my company culture is in regard to trees.

  • Mr Gupta-

    Get real. The tree came down because it stood in the way of profits. Carnegie Homes doesn’t care about neighbors or the community. It cares about profits. There’s no shame in that in our culture but their should still be shame in blowing some up our a$$e$.

  • Aarpan: You’re so full of it. Look, I get it. You’re out to make as much money as you can for your company. I know people get upset about that since they feel your tree is a community tree. But hey, I know it’s your land to do with what you please, and I’m cool with that.
    HOWEVER, don’t give us all some bullcrap about how you “want to save the tress and you work really hard to.. blah blah blah”. You don’t. You might make some minimum motion to a group to keep them on your side. Your Westmoreland example is terrible. The tree saving was done ONLY to get the people on your side so you could get your variance (with the threat “if you don’t sign, we’d have to do something bad to the one remaining tree!”). You didn’t save the tree because you ‘wanted to’, you did it because not doing so would result in no variance, which result in less money due to less homes. So saving it was a good business decision (and congrats on getting them all to sign. The threat worked. Bravo).
    If any other trees on other projects were saved, it was done because the resulting value from leaving them exceeded the cost of leaving them. And that’s a smart business decision. But it’s a decision based on smart business, not some do-good-by-the-community culture. (and again, I don’t grudge you doing what’s best business wise, I just hate when it’s cloaked as done for the community. Common, we’re not [all] idiots…)

  • Arpan is right and that should be the main priority of any developer, saving trees where value can be added to the future homeowners or removing them when it will detract from the same. developers are in the business of adding value to property and I would hate (“fear”) to see them trying to do anything otherwise.

  • @Arpan…Peden was entirely rebuilt with new water lines, storm sewers and sanitary sewer lines between Waugh and Montrose in 2007. That work should easily accommodate your project’s addition to the grid.

  • It’s possible that “Tree Killer” is just the name of some new graffiti artist in the neighborhood.

  • LOL. I appreciate the cynicism. However, I/We actually truly do spend good amounts of time and money trying to work trees in to the development if it makes sense and is feasible, but of course also profitable. We by no means are a non profit nor do we purport to be so. But if the tree at Waugh (that our arborist says more close to being 30-40 years old) could have been saved with sacrificing one or two homes, we would have done so. as we have in the past. But in this case, it effected the ability of all 11 homes because of its location in the corner. And you are correct, we could not work within those parameters.

    Its about balance. Just as not everyone that buys a Hybrid vehicle is doing it because it saves them money in the long run, the truth is most don’t. But if a balance can be achieved and serve parallel purposes, then I strive for that balance.

  • I’m apalled by the lack of depth and commitment to city heritage. This city is so plastic and self seving.there is no commitment to retaing neighborhood heritage. This crap doesn’t happen inDenver, Santa Monica or even Brooklyn. This can not be a world class city if it just keeps vomiting up Condos and Cement Cellblocks. Houston is losing what little charachter it has. I is matching it’s Millenial Brats that are moving here. Even Detroit is trying to move forward by preserving it’s Architecture. Get with it Anise!!! It’s time to start posing some building/zoning limitations!!!

  • Want to preserve a tree? Buy the lot yourself.

    Don’t like that idea? Get the law changed. Then get ready for someone else to decide that it’s not enough to save every 100-year-old tree from being cut down, that we should save every 75-year-old tree, then every 50-year-old tree.

    Then watch the resale value of your lot plummet when developers figure they can’t take a chance on buying your lot because they can’t figure out exactly how old your trees are. 48? 49? What if some NIMBY in the neighborhood wants to block development on your lot by claiming your trees are actually 50 years old?

    Then watch a whole lot of 45-year-old oak trees get cut down because it’s too risky to keep them around.

  • 1) Peden and Waugh is still Montrose, not River Oaks.

    2) the sign in question was illegally posted on city property, so it’s fair game for whatever happens to it.

  • The builder is less than impressive. I live near their lanark site. They have sat almost unfinished for a year. We do get to pick up trash that blows over from the site on a regular basis. So we got that going for us. Of course, anytime I observe a person looking at the two partial properties, I make sure to point out that for a bit more they can get a real home from a reputable builder over on bellaire and edloe plus they don’t need to have to climb 57 stairs because the builder is so greedy they have to jam 4 homes that are 4 stories high on a piece of land that used to have a single family house.

  • Arpan, seriously, do you believe the bs from your arborist stating that the oak tree was only 30-40 years old? What a joke. Don’t know who’s the dumbest…the arborist or the builder that believes this arborist.

  • “It is always a serious consideration for Carnegie Homes on how to best salvage any oak trees or vegetation in a development, while at the same time making a sound decision for the community. ”

    You mean a sound decision for the bottom line….

  • But there is a tree in their picture, so it all evens out, right?

    “Starting at $1 million.” Wow…

  • “It is a shame that someone would resort to graffiti and defamation in such matters.”

    Arpan: Something you don’t want to see over something I don’t want to see.

  • I find it more disturbing that they’re building *5* story townhomes.

  • Google Earth maps show the tree was not there in 1953 and then skips to 1978 when it was very apparent.
    Yes trees are great but it isn’t like they can’t grow back–it isn’t exactly a desert here. I don’t know why Arpan Gupta would even attempt to rationalize anything with all of these froth at the mouth tree lovers. As for this being a “community tree” has anyone seen that butt ugly corner? It faces the back of a dentist’s office building and a traffic triangle with some high tension power lines overhead –I hardly imagine anyone seeking to have a picnic under that tree. The church building itself is an eyesore. Rather than blame the developer for changing the landscape of the community why don’t you gho over Waugh Baptist Church for daring to put their property up for sale?

  • Who cares about trees when we get even more stucco delta bravos (read: douchebags)?!?

  • the tree is obviously more than 30 to 40 years old, but who cares. It’s his tree and his property. I think it’s great they tried to save it, but if it can’t be done for a reasonable price (here it sounds like he would have to scrap the whole development), then it can’t be done. Now if only it was possible to regrow a tree . . . .

  • Surely no trees were cut down to make way for the vandal’s dwelling. Freaking hypocrites.

  • The kid — I wondered what the story was on those. Every time I leave the Y across the way I just shake my head that they’re unfinished, and that the sign is still up to sell the remaining two slots. It mystifies me that the two end units were (partially) built first, and if the remaining two sell, you have a postage stamp’s worth of room to haul in all the supplies and actually do the construction.

  • @Heather, i have no idea why they did that. it is odd. for the longest time, those two just sat exposed to the elements before they even put the tyvek on the outside. having gone inside, you realize how cheap the builder is when you realize that you have four stories with a large number of stairs and they offer the “option” of an elevator. i think after 3 stories, an elevator is almost needed.

    besides that, i think they missed the boat. the neighborhood has experienced a price run up but now with the construction at the old shell facility, why would you purchase some supertall yet narrow building when you can get something like an actual house in a gated community in southside place. i think they started out asking 699k and dropped to 629k. even at that price point, i don’t think they will move.

    if they had been less greedy and built two quality homes on the lot, they would have been snatched up. using the development on weslayan by the bike barn as examples of the demand for multilevel small footprint houses, those aren’t moving and they look nicer.

    i have no idea how they are going to build the other two if they manage to sell the first two. there is no parking at the intersection as well as a no parking sign (i have seen them moved mysteriously around when the construction workers are there, very odd) and the neighbors are going to make certain that area stays clear as it is used by the fire station for their trucks. it seems foresight and planning are not strong suits of this wanna-be builder/medical physician investor.

  • I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that a company is in business to make money.
    As a very few other saner heads have mentioned, if you like the tree, buy the land yourself.
    Being of practical mind, I can understand the limitation behind that recommendation, but you can always petition the company to donate to the arbor day foundation.

  • as I revisit this I can’t believe the author of the title passed up the opportunity to call it snide park, rather than hyde park.

  • Tree was planted in the 1960s, not 120 years ago. My dad wove two saplings together, hence the additional girth. Although I have personal history with this tree, I actually would have preferred to see every vestige of this church removed from the face of the earth. Lots of harm and pain carried out inside its four walls. My family escaped. It was a homophobic, racist, misogynist cult.

    Re the tree, I have photographs of them (plural, entertwined) being planted if anyone is interested.

    Now, I will be extremely pissed if the trees along LaRue Street are ever cut down. My grandmother and ggf planted those in 1920 when she was 8.

  • @ Denise, I’m sorry to hear that history regarding the church but very much appreciate learning more about the tree and our city’s history. It seems the church/cult still persists albeit in Cypress.

  • i would be more concerned if they built their homes correctly. i live near 4 that were built. they did such a poor job that the new owners who thought they bought a home with a two car garage were greatly disappointed to learn that math is too hard for the builders and ended up with a garage that can’t support two cars (well maybe two smart cars or cooper minis) as they are too narrow.

    this builder is just a mess. they let the skeleton of two of the homes sit out exposed to the elements for over a year and one of the people who bought one of the houses said they have insect infestation they can’t get rid of (same people who can’t get two cars, not suv or anything larger).

    i would avoid or really do my homework if dealing with these folks.