- 2810 Ellington St. [HAR]
LIFE IN ARBOR OAKS, AFTER MOST OF THE NEIGHBORS HAVE MOVED AWAY “It’s almost like living in the country,“HOA president and longtime Arbor Oaks resident Gwen Boucher tells Mike Morris. Her home has flooded 9 times in 42 years. A total of 207 properties in her neighborhood, near the intersection of Antoine and W. Little York, have been bought out and torn down since Tropical Storm Allison 16 years ago, at a cost of $36 million. Arbor Oaks is now down to just 13 homes, all of which flooded after Hurricane Harvey. “Though much of the neighborhood has returned to nature, it can feel unnatural. Yellow street signs and speed bumps caution cars that never come. Deep-green hostas still circle clumps of oak trees on vacant Gum Grove, exactly as their long-gone gardeners intended,” Morris writes. “Though some holdouts live within their original fences, others take a less literal approach. Two families have turned adjacent lots into volleyball courts. A handful of the houses sport basketball hoops, which is common enough, except that they are planted, in cement, on vacant lots across the street. Eugene Cox parks spare vehicles on the nearby grass, and is keeping two antique chassis on the street for a friend. Another neighbor, a truck driver, parks his cab on the street.” [Houston Chronicle ($)] Photo of park carved from former Arbor Oaks homesites: Near Northwest Management District
INWOOD FOREST GOLF COURSE NEXT IN LINE FOR STORMWATER DETENTION BASIN TREATMENT One of the next spots up for retrofitting as a series of flood detention ponds: the rest of the Inwood Forest Golf Course, which the city bought in 2011 after that lawsuit over whether it could be developed as anything else. The Chronicle’s Mike Morris reports that a set of 10 new ponds were approved by city council on Wednesday for the former fairways, which sprawl on either side of Antoine Rd. between Victory Dr. and W. Gulf Bank Rd. interspersed with bits of residential neighborhood. (A pair of basins was previously dug out on the site; the new project could increase the course’s water feature storage volume from 56 to more than 1000 acre-feet, potentially.) The former clubhouse for the course, at 7603 Antoine Dr., has also found new employment as the White Oak Conference Center, and currently houses some operations of the Near Northwest Management District. Inwood Forest isn’t the first golf course in Houston being put to new flood-conscious uses — across town, an ongoing project in Clear Lake has been converting the former Clear Lake City Golf Course into a series of detention basins and park spaces going by the name Exploration Green. It potentially isn’t the last, either — the Sims-Bayou-side Glenbrook Park Golf Course may eventually be converted into the Houston Botanic Garden, the Seussical early renderings of which include large sections designed to flood. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of former Inwood Forest Golf Course green near White Oak Conference Center: White Oak Conference Center
Plans are in the works to give the shopping center at the southwest corner of Antoine Dr. and W. Little York Rd. a thorough redesign and rebranding as White Oak Bayou Village. A spokesperson for Nankani Development tells Swamplot that the group is seeking both tenants and ideas for the center’s redevelopment, which will be geared toward drawing bicycle traffic. So far, plans include an about-face for the bayou-side building in the back of the shopping center (labeled Building B above) by way of new glassy storefronts opening toward the White Oak Bayou greenway now running behind it; the developers claim the center would become the first private development to cater explicitly to the expanding bayou trail system.
Per preliminary plans, car access to the back of the shopping center would be blocked off. Former parking spaces along the back Building B (currently home to Northwest Beauty School) would be made over into a covered patio leading to the bayou trail. For the pad site of the burned-down former restaurant next door, the development group is considering a park-like events plaza that could host a bi-monthly farmer’s market — along with a giant chess board, maybe, or even a bayou-side zip lining station. “We are open to anything at this point,” writes the Nankani rep.
Hoped-for tenants for the center currently include a coffee shop-slash-electric bike rental joint, an ice house-style music venue, and an outdoor obstacle course and adult gym — possibly from Sam Sann of American Ninja Warrior fame, who trains contestants at his Iron Sports gym in Cypress.
YOUR UPGRADE FROM SHEPHERD DR. TO THE NORTH FWY. WILL BE MUCH SMOOTHER STARTING TODAY Today at noon TxDOT opened the brand new connector ramp pictured here, which has been under construction since December 2013. It links northbound traffic at the northern end of Shepherd Dr. to northbound I-45. Wasn’t there a way to get from Shepherd to I-45 already? Yes, but it brought cars into the freeway’s left lane. The new flyover crosses over the freeway to bring drivers onto I-45’s right lane; it hops over the Little York, Victory Blvd., and Veterans Memorial intersections on the way. A separate connector from I-45 south to Shepherd is scheduled to open later this summer. [TxDOT] Photo: TxDOT
One of the Inwood Forest properties near the neighborhood’s former golf course and clubhouse seems to have split personality. A stately late seventies contemporary — tiers of windows in a variety of sizes and groupings finish out an assortment of bump-outs (and bump-ups) — opts for some How the West Was Fun flourishes inside (top). The property, located on Antoine Dr. north of W. Little York, faces a side street but takes its address from the thoroughfare. In its relisting over the weekend, the 1979 custom home’s asking price is set at $214K. A previous listing by the same agent had sought $242K in June 2014, with a reduction to $222K in August.
The Austin-based developer of 3 Houston apartment communities was arrested Saturday in Virginia for his role in a failed coup of the West African nation of Gambia. According to an affidavit prepared by an FBI special agent, Cherno M. Njie provided funds for the ill-fated venture, and was to have been installed as Gambia’s president if it had been successful. Prior to the surprise military venture in his native country, the University of Texas graduate served as the tax credit manager of the Texas department of housing and community affairs, which during his tenure awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax credits to developers of affordable housing. Njie resigned from the agency in 2001 following the bribery conviction of a board member and founded Songhai Development, whose later contributions to the Houston landscape include the Chelsea Senior Community (pictured at the bottom of this story) and the Little York Villas apartments near Acres Homes and the Langwick Senior Residences (pictured at top) near Greenspoint. He also served as president of Songhai’s sister company, CMB Construction.
In 2011, 3.2 acres of land Njie donated next to the Langwick project at Langwick Dr. and W. Hardy Rd. were turned into a park designed for senior citizens — named Ida Gaye Gardens, after Njie’s mother. (The photo at right above, posted on Songhai’s website, shows Njie at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park with Greens Bayou Corridor Coalition’s Regina Lindsey.)
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]
Video: Jason Witmer