What’s Going On at Montrose and Allen Pkwy.?

A reader sends this photo of the site prep going on at the fenced-in empty lot that made a recent cameo in that Montrose Dancing Rollerblader featurette. Owned since 2006 by the Aga Khan Foundation, which has said it planned to build an Ismaili Center here on the flood-prone makeshift dog park on Montrose between W. Dallas and Allen Pkwy., the property hasn’t seen much activity — other than the dancing, of course — for awhile.

Until this week, that is. And now the reader wants to know what the deal might be: “Looks like a lot of development is happening in this block. I read . . . about the development on the AIG side [of Montrose], but now the other side, next to those Amli apartments, seems to be breaking ground on something large. Any idea what’s gonna be placed there?”

Photo: Swamplot inbox

27 Comment

  • can’t wait for the renderings. the pictures of their Toronto development posted over on HAIF look nice. hoping this will be a nice addition to our modern landscape similar to the Asia Society center in the museum district.

  • It’s going to be soccer fields.

  • Probably a staging site for the road construction that’s about to occur on W Dallas. If not I’ll have a mosque down the street from my house, next to the douchey AMLI apartments. Bet those apartment dwellers are upset they no longer have an open fields for their frou frou dogs to defecate in..

  • I wouldn’t put much into whatever is going on until the Aga Khan announces something. And so far he hasn’t. He may be waiting until we have a new governor. And a new mayor.

  • Whatever it is, I imagine it’s something major. I don’t suspect there are many pieces of property of this size and premium location around. My first guess is another big apartment complex — the West Dallas corridor seems to have become the big blog apartment area of choice. But who knows? Could be a big retail plaza. Could be a big office tower.

  • I’d be shocked if it was anything but more apartments

  • I seem to recall that the property was going to be developed into a Mosque…

  • I think they’re forced to do something/anything on that property or face losing their tax exempt status on it since there’s time limit.

  • “Four other Ismaili Centres, in various stages of planning and development, are currently being established in Toronto, Houston, Los Angeles and Paris.”


  • @commonsense Tell me more about this tax exempt time limit. Is this why so many Houston landowners let properties sit vacant for years?

  • The property is currently taxed as a “Other Exempt (Charitable)” similar to a church. When you look at their HCAD information they don’t pay property tax on the land. In order to claim this though they need to actually build something otherwise they will be back assess taxes based on its actual appraisal value.

    One way to get around this would be to build something on the land such as a soccer fields as a place holder while they save the money for their primary project.

    In order to do any work on the site wouldn’t they need some sort of building\site permit? Aren’t all approved permits though the city public information and you could enquire with COH permits in order to acquire it?

    On a side note the site is currently about 20% in the floodplain, if an apartment complex builder was going to develop the land, wouldn’t they try to maximize it and get a lomr to remove them from the floodplain?

  • @Densify, it applies to religious and I believe non-profit organizations. The land is tax free as long as it’s used for it’s “intended purpose” within a reasonable amount of time. If I recall correctly it’s something like 5 years.

  • Tax exemption for religious organizations, though I too heard it was past the 5 year limit or something (I’m not clear on the specifics). So it may have been a put something up or pay the taxes on a very expensive and large plot of land..

  • Ooohh… I’ll become a devotee of Aga Khan the IVth شاه کریم حسینی، آقاخان چهارم‎ if he builds lighted soccer fields on this lot…

  • I’m just pleased they’re building something. It looks awful in it’s current dirt pile state, the worlds most expensive Dog Park. This is such a focal piece of land, it’s annoying the Aga let it rot like this, thus is why tax except status for religious organizations should be recended (yeah, right, I know) so we have this colosselly expensive piece of real estate off the tax rolls–oh, goody

  • The magic number was three years IIRC, but Aga Khan was unaware of this fact. There was a big lawsuit over the taxes owed; Aga Khan lost and repaid their back taxes, including penalties. Then they re-applied for the exemption, got it, and have a new deadline to complete the religious facility.

    @ Densify: Although I would wholeheartedly agree that the number of property tax exemptions is excessive, this isn’t an example of a loophole that commercial developers can routinely use to get out of their obligations. They’d have to do something convoluted like sell their property to METRO (tax exempt, although it collects no property taxes) along with an agreement for METRO to sell it back to them at a future date at the same price. That’s been done before, but stuff like that is still very uncommon.

    @ Kokatat: The floodplain issue isn’t that problematic. They can change the topography, build the first floor higher, or simply not build in low-lying areas. Areas impacted by a flood plain can still be used for parking or landscaping, that sort of thing.

  • How many “Houstonians” remember this as the Robinson Warehouse? It was a 1900’s era art deco structure that was the original, and first in the southeast region, Sears Roebuck & Co. catalog distribution facility…

    Oops! Guess that knowledge disappeared when the building was razed…ehhh?

  • After that it was a dairy product distribution facility for many a year. Oak farms I believe… this would have made AWESOME live/work studios similar to those at Spring and Winter streets!

  • @Patrick #14: KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!

  • > @Patrick #14: KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!

    I’m just glad I got the chance to be the first person ever to use an Arabic font on Swamplot. Score!

    > How many “Houstonians” remember this as
    > the Robinson Warehouse?

    How many Houstonians? A few. How many Swamplotters? All of them! Obscure building knowledge is why we’re all here (also to annoy the libertoonians out there).

    I spend most days trying to convince the missus that we should buy the abandoned Yale St / White Oak bayou railroad bridge and build a house on top of it.

  • It was also the first site of the Baylor College of Medicine too; after Sears split post the flood in the 1930’s.

  • Patrick #20 FTW on Comment of the Day.

  • The tax exemption thing explains the community garden on Kipling and Stanford in Montrose. I just couldn’t imagine that guy building the garden on that very expensive and desirable lot just out of altuism and love of gardening. I always thought it was just a place holder for something else and the garden had some kind of tax benefit.

  • > The tax exemption thing explains the
    > community garden on Kipling and Stanford
    > in Montrose.

    There may be an ulterior motive. Texas law says that registered sex offenders cannot live within 1000 feet of a “place where children gather”, which includes parks. So a network of pocket parks can serve to push offenders out of a community.

  • Bulldozers are gone, as of yesterday. Nothing is going on, no equipment on site. What was a field is leveled, but not a lot more.

  • This is going to be cricket fields of all things.