COMMENT OF THE DAY: BROADACRES’ LONG HISTORY OF PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS “In a way, this is just the latest battle in a hundred year old fight. On a Preservation Houston tour of Broadacres (where we trespassed all over the esplanades), it was pointed out that the neighborhood was originally designed as a closed loop with the only access to the city via Parkway to the east. Houston, however, viewed the streets as public and forced the developers to cede ROW through the lots on the western side of the loop to connect North and South Blvds to their counterparts in the west. This is why North and South Blvds pinch weirdly right around West Blvd. — when you’re ceding expensive land, you only give the minimum required. . . .” [Cactus, commenting on Who Owns the Esplanades on North and South Boulevards?] Photo of Broadacres assessor’s map: HCAD
CITY: WE OWN THE BROADACRES ESPLANADES; HOA PREZ: NEIGHBORHOOD TRUST OWNS THE GRASS
The Houston Public Works department confirms in a press release that the esplanades and streets on North, South, and West boulevards in Broadacres are in the public right-of-way. But lookie here what Diane Cowen at the Chronicle reports: “Cece Fowler, president of the Broadacres HOA, said that it’s been determined that while the city owns the streets on North, South and West boulevards as well as the brick sidewalks that run down the middle of the esplanades, the Broadacres Trust owns the grass.” Also, according to Cowen, the park along Parkway Dr. is owned by the trust. The HOA placed NO PHOTO SHOOTS signs along the esplanades and in the park last Thursday, but removed some of them over the weekend. The rest were taken down on Monday, ahead of the city’s statement that “The public ROW is available for anyone in the community to use for legal activities, including personal photography. Signs and blocking the public ROW are not allowed without specific permission from the City of Houston.” The signs — 13 total according to Cowen — cost the HOA $1,300. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
BROADACRES HOA TAKES DOWN ITS ESPLANADE NO-PHOTOSHOOT SIGNS
The Broadacres Homeowners Association has removed all signs posted on the esplanades along North, South, and West boulevards welcoming visitors and telling them photoshoots are prohibited. As to whether the esplanades are public or private property — that’s still up in the air: “The homeowners association said the property was deeded to the group in the 1920s, and is looking for the documentation to enforce its ban.” The HOA initially placed the 11 signs on the esplanades last Thursday. [abc13; Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
WHO OWNS THE ESPLANADES ON NORTH AND SOUTH BOULEVARDS? The president of the Broadacres Homeowners Association, Cece Fowler, tells the Houston Chronicle’s Diane Cowen last weekend that the neighborhood’s esplanades, as well as the park along Parkway Dr., are owned by the HOA. However, Cowen says that according to the City of Houston, the esplanades are part of the city’s Adopt-An-Esplanade program, making them public right-of-way. The dispute continues: “Fowler said that she and her board are conducting a title search to prove their ownership. She said the neighborhood has maintained and financed the esplanades and green space from the beginning.” That maintenance took a new turn last Thursday when 11 signs prohibiting photoshoots were erected on the esplanades. According to Fowler, the gatherings had become more than a nuisance: “up to 40 to 50” were occurring per week beneath the canopies of oaks that line the boulevards between Mandel St. and Parkway Dr. The 26 homeowners that make up the community discussed mitigation strategies like putting in speed bumps, adding a gate to the neighborhood, or hiring full-time security personnel before settling on the signs as a more cordial means of discouraging shutter-happy visitors. Now that they’re up, residents hope they’ll keep out flashbulbs as well as the props that sometimes come with them: “Fowler said some have brought in sofas and bookcases and one group drove a Jeep onto the esplanade, damaging the grass, brick sidewalk and sprinkler system. They throw confetti onto the ground and release Mylar balloons into the trees. And all bring photography equipment and crews that hang around for hours.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NORTH AND SOUTH BLVD. PHOTOSHOOT BATTLE IS JUST WARMING UP “As a close relative of a Broadacres resident I will report what I know. Yes, the esplanades are privately owned and maintained by the homeowners and the signs are legal. The reason for the signs was the volume of people taking pictures. I have lived there for 15+ years and it has never been this bad. In the evenings you will have 2, 3, or 4 groups of people on each block taking pictures and it’s not just people that are the problem, it’s all of the props (sofa, chairs, tables, GLITTER, lighting) that they bring with them too. As some commenters have pointed out, some homeowners have approached those taking pictures and gotten back a lot of attitude and some form of “This is public property.” Err, well, no it isn’t actually. The signs were a compromise to discourage further pictures and serve as an initial educational campaign. If it backfires or the signs are ignored there will most likely be some sort of security enforced permitting in place or, the nuclear option, buying out the streets from the city and gating the neighborhood.” [BroadAcres Brat, commenting on New Signs Declare Photo Shoots Will No Longer Be Allowed on North and South Boulevards] Photo: Swamplot inbox
Quick, name your Top 10 quintessential images of Houston. The Water Wall, maybe? Buffalo Bayou Park looking toward downtown? And how about one of those aerial views of flooded neighborhoods? But what about a view more likely to spur real estate sales, like the double rows of coastal live oaks lining North and South boulevards in Broadacres?
A new set of signs erected this week in the boulevards’ iconic esplanades have something to say about that often seen scene: “WELCOME TO BROADACRES,” they read, “NO PHOTO SHOOTS.” The signs go on to describe other local menaces such as unleashed dogs and their residue, and note that the esplanades as well as the park on the east side of Parkway Dr. are privately owned.
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Brides Be Gone
HOW THAT NEW HOUSTON LOOK KEPT MAKING ITS WAY FROM OLD EUROPE “I have always felt that this North Boulevard house was the one that changed the way Houston looked at decor and antiques,” writes West U design blogger Joni Webb about a stucco mansion in Broadacres by Rice University architect William Ward Watkin, who designed it in 1923 for a drug-company executive after a 4-month inspirational European tour. The property at 1318 North Blvd. later served for more than a decade as the home of Tootsie’s founder Micky Rosmarin, who died after a heart attack last month; it’s now up for sale for $4.75 million. “Back in 1995,” Webb writes, “it was featured on the cover of Veranda and I think it was this house that marked the true beginning of the Houston Look — the white slipcover, seagrass, antique filled aesthetic whose origins I attribute to designer Babs Cooper Watkins . . . it launched Watkins into prominence.” Watkins, Webb explains, “used antiques in a casual way, her interiors were never about a hands-off approach. She mixed in religious relics and priceless antiques with vintage chairs slipcovered in inexpensive plain linen. She repurposed outside garden elements to be used inside the house. And Babs was one of the first ones who favored dramatic paint treatments that turned ordinary sheetrock into centuries old grottos.” Watkins passed away in February of last year. But Webb recalls how the home launched a store — and a whole new Old World orientation for Houston interiors: “The Veranda photoshoot not only created a new aesthetic, it also created a new partnership and the Watkins Schatte antique shop on Bissonnet was born.” The shop (still at 2308 Bissonnet, but now known as Watkins-Culver Antiques) “was an instant hit and during those days, lines would form when a new shipment was unveiled. Everyone wanted to see what Babs and Bill [Gardner] and Annette [Schatte] had bought in Europe.” [Cote de Texas; previously on Swamplot]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: MOVIN’ ON UP! “The Upper East Side of Manhattan was once all single family mansions and townhouses (after it was farmland). Most of them are now gone, replaced with highrises; some of the most expensive on Earth. I’m sure most people in West U, Southampton, Broad Acres, etc . can’t imagine Bissonnet, North, South, or Sunset being lined with highrises some day, but I’m equally sure that the residents of Fifth, Park, and Madison didn’t imagine it either.” [John, commenting on Ashby Highrise: The 9th Is the Time for Charm]
This time, the folks selling the home at 3740 Willowick in River Oaks are really going all out.
Maybe last November they hoped that the release of Stephen Fox’s The Country Houses of John F. Staub would unleash a new era of interest in the Houston architect — and result in a recordbreaking price for the 1955 Staub-designed ranch-like mansion backing up to Buffalo Bayou, across from Memorial Park.
The book did fine, but Staubmania never really took off. Now, almost five months later, the sellers can’t harbor any illusions.
This time, the John Staub marketing machine kicks into full gear:
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