Two Home Demos Mark Rice University’s Continuing March into Rice Village

5606 Chaucer Dr., Rice Village, Houston

5606 Chaucer Dr., Rice Village, HoustonIs it Rice’s manifest destiny to extend its land holdings all the way from the Texas Medical Center to West U? The university already owns a bit of frontage on Kirby Dr., on West U’s eastern border, between University Dr. and Amherst St., but the holdings between that far outpost of the Village Arcade and the main campus are a little spotty. Two recent purchases — and accompanying demolitions — appear poised to make the swath more continuous, however.

This week occasioned the demolition of the house at 5606 Chaucer Dr., 2 blocks west of Rice Stadium, directly over the back fence from Little Woodrow’s on Morningside Dr. The home appeared in this morning’s demo report — along with a neighbor at 5608 Chaucer St. (at center left and left in the top photo). County tax records show that an entity connected to Rice purchased both houses late last year. (The second house is listed as 5612 Chaucer St. on the tax rolls).


The map below showing Rice’s Village holdings, assembled last year by the firm marketing the Rice-owned Village Arcade, is now slightly out of date: Earlier this year, the university picked up the retail block at the corner of Times Blvd. and Kelvin Dr.

Map Showing Rice University Property Holdings in and Around the Rice Village, Houston

5606 Chaucer Dr., Rice Village, Houston

Photos: Swamplot inbox. Map: Trademark Property

Tales of Chaucer

22 Comment

  • Rice has 4000 students and 250 acres, why do they need more land. The back half of the campus is wasted on that massive, needless, stadium and miles of asphalt. Here’s an idea: rebuild the stadium like Ford@SMU, build a Byzantine style parking garage and make the rest into the Persian Garden that was in the design of the original Cram Master Plan. Use some of that 4.5 Billion dollar endowment.

  • I was just on that block a few weeks back for Centerproint’s tree giveaway pickup and I was happy to see how many of the Chaucer houses remained. I housesat for a family on that block for several years back in the early 90s and walked the area every day. Sad to see it demo’d one by one.

    Are there precedents in other cities for private universities taking over adjacent shopping centers? I’ve not heard of that before. Encroaching on private homes, sure, but not actually acquiring significant parcels of active retail-occupied real estate.

  • Shannon: The miles of asphalt are where students, faculty and staff park. We all pay to park there and either walk to our respective buildings or take the shuttle buses. Every time Rice is mentioned you have something negative to say about it. You didn’t go to school here or work here so please feel free to stay off of the campus if it offends you so much. I have worked here for many decades and my children both went to school here. I am sick of all your negativity and hateful remarks.

  • FDM, nobody ever earns the right to be immune to criticism however unwarranted/baseless or not. we don’t stifle dissent around here because it’s against our values and that entails laughing off a lot of needless comments or taking many others with a gran of salt.
    however, i share the same concerns as Shannon in seeing huge parcels of desperately needed inner city land being continually gobbled up by large entities with beneficial tax treatments. Rice and the other inner city private schools do not and will never have rapidly growing student bases in comparison to the larger public shools in the same area or the general population growth. having large parcels of high demand property being reserved for low-density uses should obviously be a public concern and fully commented on and discussed.

  • Purchasing adjacent properties decreases the likelihood that the university will develop more of the extensive green spaces that make the campus such a desirable place to be. You won’t find much support for building anything atop the Beer Bike track, either; maybe they’ll put a parking structure next to the new Continuing Studies and future Arts building, or maybe over by the new tennis complex. I just hope it isn’t a cheap prefab structure with no embellishment, that would be a real shame.

  • I went to Rice as a grad student, and I share many of Shannon’s concerns. Rice, with a $4.5 billion endowment and way more impervious cover than it should have on it’s campus, is exempt from the drainage fee. Someone please explain to me how that’s fair!
    And now, Instead if trying to cut down on impervious cover on their campus, and be good stewards of the environment and our drainage facilities, they’re off buying land in Rice Village. It doesn’t give me the warm and fuzzies.

  • I person on the Midtown District board told me that Rice Univ. also owns some land in Midtown. Specifically they own around 40% of the block bound by Main, Gray, Travis, and McGowen (next to the Greyhound station and 2016 Main Condos).

  • Walker: They also own the parcel of land on Wheeler where the old Sears department store is. Lucky Sears renewed their 20yr lease.

  • Excuse me FDM are you William March Rice? My grandfather went to Rice as did my Father and Aunt, but they doesn’t matter, you don’t have to go to Rice to have an opinion. I grew up and live in the neighborhood north of the campus, so what the school does effects me as well as everyone else who lives around here. You do Rice no service by stifling decent. I went to UT and I don’t care who critiques it. I love Rice, it’s a stellar university and I’m very proud to have it in my neighborhood, but no university is perfect nor immune from criticism…I learned that….UT.

  • Shannon –Why don’t you just post a #%>!?€ autobiography so you can finally disclose every last boring nuance of your oh so fabled life?
    A great title could be “I Me My”.

  • CLK (whatever the hell that means), why do you care? Just skip my comments if they upset you so. Seriously, ridiculous to troll my every comment. So silly.

  • My great-great grandparents purchased the land mentioned in the above article when there were just a few houses on the street, and the street was not yet paved. They built this house and 3 generations of my family lived together under it’s roof at one time. My grandparent’s met working at the movie theater that used to stand in the Village Arcade. My grandfather was an usher and my grandmother was a concession girl. He used to sneak her out of her bedroom window for dates when she was 15 and he was 16, a few years before he joined the Navy to fight in WWII. My great-grandfather planted rose bushes in front of his daughter’s bedroom window to stop her from climbing out. When my grandparents were first married, they lived in the house with her parents and grandparents. My parent’s lived in the house after they got married, and I lived my whole life on Chaucer until I got married. My grandfather remained in the house long after his wife passed, and himself lived there until he passed away early last year. All of my best memories were set within those walls, all the family meals, holidays and birthdays.
    Driving past the muddy, empty lot felt like looking at someone’s usual armchair after they’ve passed away and expecting to see them sitting there, right as rain. Seeing those beautiful bone-colored porcelain bricks trampled under tire tracks… It took the air out of me. I hope that by sharing this history, people will understand that sometimes, a house is more than just 4 walls and a roof; this house was more than just a location and a parcel of land. Sometimes, it is the root that anchors us to our past, to our identity, to our origin.

  • B Ferguson – thank you for sharing. I hope your grandparents’ house is not featured in any of the demolition photos above- I can only imagine how hard that would be to see.

  • It seems worth mentioning that Rice is raising its tuition 4% as it continues its land-buying and building spree. I hate the direction it’s going. I am an alum who used to give the old alma mater a yearly gift, but have held off given their increasingly bloated budgets and building programs.

  • i have no problem with the university buying property immediately surrounding the university. most schools do. i do, however, have an issue with the stadium and huge parking lot. if you want to keep the ugly stadium, fine, but they really need a garage. every other top private college has a parking deck for this very reason. what a selling point it could be to students to have more green space instead of black asphalt and a derelict stadium.

    i’m also not wild with them just making empty lots of their purchases. we now have these two empty lots, the huge lot across the street, and numerous large empty lots along University. It’s their property, so they can do as they please, but the university is not being a good neighbor.

  • B Ferguson – That sounds like a beautiful life, and one in a spectacular place in Houston. Hope the house survives.

  • Mel and James, unfortunately, my house is the house that is featured in the photos above; the white brick home that has a bulldozer tearing through it in the article. Thanks for the kind words, all.

  • I’m an Aggiebut I love Rice and love living near a major learning institution but they are not being a good neighbor–first, ktru was nixed, then the parking lot on Greenbriar started charging for parking ( though I hear it’s a dollar), now lots of property acquisition in Rice Village. And they have all this money already. I’m not liking the direction I see Rice moving towards.

  • Rice’s purchase of land in and around the Village is an incredibly smart move in a city that has no zoning. As an urban university, it is very important for it to maintain an decent area surrounding its borders for students, employees and visitors. You only need look at Yale and the University of Chicago and USC to understand what urban decay can do to a university’s general well-being. Houston is a city where you can put up a crematorium next to residential property. With Houston’s summer weather and general lack of scenery, Rice needs to make sure that its campus remains an attractive, safe place to work and study. Better that Rice becomes a landlord to restaurants and clothing stores than someone who could care less about the property. All it takes is a strip club or a “massage parlor.”

    I agree that the parking lots are less than scenic (they are parking lots) but they do keep nice landscaping around them and the soft sidewalk is a wonderful feature used by hundreds of people daily. Bicyclists use one of the parking lots for racing. Is a buck really too much to pay to help maintain the water fountain, a good running surface, and parking lot security? How much will it cost to park at and run in the Astrodome?

    Having lived near and visited a number of universities, I can say that Rice is a very good neighbor. Certainly better than the Wendy’s owner on Kirby who chopped down the city trees.

    I really liked the house they tore down and am sorry to see it go. But better to tear it down than have it become a crime location because it is no longer a feasible as a residential property.

  • Greenbriar lot was gated and changed to a dollar because of concerns about drive-by car break ins in that remote lot. They added the gates and that pretty much stopped. They’re not making any money on Greenbriar lot — probably barely breaking even.

  • I can’t believe those houses weren’t salvaged.