The First Ward Fights Off a Recycling Center

Some vocal residents of the First Ward are happy to learn that plans to move a recycling facility to the Harris Moving & Storage location at 1904 Spring St. (pictured above) have apparently been halted. A staff member in the office of newly elected councilmember Ed Gonzalez has indicated to a neighborhood group that Mayor White’s administration has agreed “not to pursue” the relocation.

The 24-hour drop-off recycling center currently operating at at 3602 Center St. (just east of Heights Blvd.) will now apparently stay where it is. Admiral Linen, operators of a facility next door to that location, had wanted to purchase the property from the city.

The Solid Waste department’s plan would have resulted in a recycling center directly adjacent to the not-quite-finished MKT/SP Hike and Bike Trail along Spring St. between Houston Ave. and Taylor. A group of First Ward residents was upset at that plan, and was further angered when the department’s director referred to their neighborhood as “an industrial area” in a neighborhood meeting.


Councilmember Gonzalez’s office reports the that the administration “will continue to investigate alternate recycling locations,” and will “keep the Center Street site in operation pending a review of other options.”

A longer view of the Spring St. location:

Both photos show the scene along Spring St. and the hike-and-bike trail, from Silver St. The Sawyer Heights Village shopping center is in the distance.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

13 Comment

  • The Center Street location is clearly inadequate for the growth in use that has been taking place. The dumpsters are often full, the location is cramped and there is no cover to prevent contamination by rainwater which presumably gives rise to run-off contamination problems. From what I can see the Spring St location addresses all of those issues. I can understand the neighborhood in transition argument but at the same time I can’t see that that is a valid reason not to use an existing industrial facility for an industrial purpose. You can’t prevent use of the existing industrial infrastructure just because you would like to see it replaced by homes. When you move into a mixed use neighborhood you should expect mixed use to take place. JMHO.

  • I can’t imagine how the crazy city got the idea that it was an industrial area, just because of all those warehouses and industrial buildings.

    And, having to ride a bike past a recycling facility? What is this, a city or something?

  • Jimbo: the reason for the proposed move was not b/c the current Center Street location was deemed “inadequate” or due to run-off. It was b/c Admiral Linen wanted to buy the land for expansion.
    John: Whether a recycling drop off is “industrial” is debatable. I’d consider it a trash dump. Nobody would want a trash dump in their neighborhood. I’d take a moving company over a trash dump any day.

    Sounds like you don’t seem to mind. Where do you live? I’ll call the Solid Waste Department and let them know.
    What the article also fails to mention, is that residents were also upset that they found out about the proposed move ONE DAY before the city council vote.
    The “First Wardians” were upset in general about how the city handled the whole thing.

  • Jim, it sounds like you know more about the debate. Can you let us know what the alternative location that the residents identified is? Whilst I can understand the stigma attached to a recycling drop-off I certainly wouldn’t classify it in the same category as a trash dump. What sorts of business would you find acceptable in that location and do you feel that all prospective businesses should have to coordinate with residents before moving in?

  • It wasn’t just the First Ward residents who were strongly opposed to it. There were also developers, large land holders and business owners as well. For instance, Martin Foods who sells their products to restaurants was not thrilled with having a dump right next door. Admiral Linen did a little sabor rattling on moving their business and the COH never did any type of pre-planning. The city was going to have to spend money to make the existing metal structures accommodate the Class B trucks coming to pick up the dumpsters and the increase in traffic was not calculated. I think the city needs to get with the times and give us curb side recyling. Making people drive further to try and be considerate about the planet is not a positive step forward. This issue is far more complicated than just the fact we didn’t want it.

  • Gven that the City’s recycling contractor is in the middle of restructuring I would be interested to know whether any of that recyclable material is being sorted and recycled at all.

    Would the new location have been further for everyone? It would have been closer and more convenient for me. Would traffic impact have been significant. I would imagine Spring is better equipped to handle additional traffic than Center is. Also, whilst I understand the stigma attached to any kind of waste I do think it’s a little extreme to refer to a collection point for recyclables of that size as a dump.

    Of course this is all easy for me to say because I do not have to live with it but then I knew that when I paid more for my home in the knowledge that it wasn’t in neighborhood with mixed inductrial and residential useage.

  • Jimbo: I and many First Wardians would consider it a “trash dump”. If the definition is a PLACE WHERE UNWANTED WASTE IS DROPPED OFF, then yes it is a trash dump(waste that smells and flies out of dumpsters on windy days; I recycle and I’ve seen/smelled/heard it). I have no idea where the alternate site is but I would suggest your front lawn…still wouldn’t have a problem with it?

    Many communities have fought to keep certain things out of their communities. Homeless shelters, topless clubs, the Ashby highrise, Metro light rail etc. This has not been an unreasonable reaction to this project. The residents especially have the right to voice their opinion when A PUBLIC TAXPAYER FUNDED project is placed in the middle of their community. If the city wanted to open a park or a school, I’m sure the locals would not have raised a big stink.

  • As the greater Washington Ave/Heights area become increasingly the Stuff that White People Like (reference: ), there is a Catch 22, where to put a facility which will see increasing demand without putting it in someone’s backyard (unless, of course that’s the kind of edgy thing for which people are looking).
    Certainly, the capacity of the current facility is taxed. As Jimbo pointed out, the containers are frequently brimful. Traffic is also an issue. I went down there today – a Monday – and it was really busy. I had a tough time dodging Priuses, VW’s, and toad-headed children who were helping the parents dispose of things in a planet-conscious manner. I digress. The facility is in need of needs replacement.
    So where can it go? Perhaps, in the industrial areas off W 11? The owners of those new houses of Maxroy would object. Also, traffic could be a challenge as Lazybrook and Timbergrove don’t like through streets. Sizeable, available spaces are limited in Shady Acres, Garden Oaks, and the Heights. The City probably could not find space near the popular food markets and the restaurants on Airline. There might be a few choice industrial spaces on the east side of 45. However, now that they’re getting rail over there, they’ve become uppity, and they won’t take crap, recyclable or not, from other parts of the City.
    I believe one solution is to put a recycling center under the new Whole Foods at W. Dallas and Waugh. How great would that be? I could load up the Subaru with my glass and bulk paper, drop it off in the vast recycling basement, and then proceed to ground level to buy my organic food! Also, in implementing this, the City would strike a terrific, public-private partnership, and Whole Foods could use it in its worldwide, how-great-we-art marketing.
    Some other ideas that are, perhaps, more viable… The City should grow its automated, curbside recycling program (reference: March 4, 2009 item ) for the inner loop. The City also should provide the same curbside pickup options to townhomes and single family homes. Such efforts would minimize the need for growing such centralized recycling centers, and greatly increase the potential for recycling participation, thereby curbing Houston’s waste output.

  • Jimbo: 2 responses to your last statement:
    1) “I paid more for my home in the knowledge that it wasn’t in neighborhood with mixed inductrial and residential useage.”
    We live in HOUSTON. Unless you live in a neighborhood w/ deed restrictions, you aren’t well protected from unwanted development/projects. Just because you “paid more” doesn’t mean the First Wardians have to give up the right to protect their community.

    2) “there is no cover to prevent contamination by rainwater which presumably gives rise to run-off contamination problems…From what I can see the Spring St location addresses all of those issues…..Would traffic impact have been significant. I would imagine Spring is better equipped to handle additional traffic than Center is.”
    Well first off, let me congratulate you on your DEGREES IN ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES AND TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT that you were able to obtain in the course of one day. I’m sure you have performed thorough studies on both issues and have concluded the First Ward is the best location. Since the First Ward location is closer to Jimbo and the world revolves around him, we should move it there. All you First Wardians need to shut yo mouths since he paid more for his house!!!

  • My point was that to complain that someone called an area full of warehouses and industrial facilities an “industrial area” is moronic. Jim, maybe you could take it down a notch?

  • By the way – I’ve lived in areas much like Spring Street in other cities. There are pros and cons – you’ll probably get a better house for less money. You’ll also have your industrial neighbors, which for certain people and at certain times in peoples’ lives is not a big deal.

    But if you go buy a home in an industrial area because it’s ‘transitioning,’ don’t complain if it gets used for the same thing it’s always been used for. Barring some master plan backed by zoning regulations, ‘transitioning’ is a bet, and you can’t count on it.

    It’s also code for “middle class people live here now, so please stick it next to some poor people who haven’t had the good fortune to have people with money buy up houses in their neighborhood.”

  • Yes, I live in this industrial (gasp) neighborhood where people read blogs like (in a “middle class neighborhood – I have dreams too) and frequently walk my dog on the hike and bike trail. I also have the pleasure of driving down Spring Street everyday for the past 3 years. Let me share some simple facts about this. The reason we got our little first ward industrial panties in a wad can be counted on one hand.

    1. Don’t build a multi-million dollars (+) on a hike and bike trail down a “low level traffic street” and then build a facility where up to 10 times a day garbage trucks must (key word here) CROSS over this bike path.

    2. The city’s Solid Waste Dept, and I loosely quote, said that he believed this area had NO residential all the way to Houston street – which made it obvious he had either never visited the area as there are MANY homes on this street (over 20 with 30 + being built), or that he was extremely uninformed. Either way, you could hear about 20 of those non-existent residents get noticeably frustrated.

    3. While sitting in the meeting, it was mentioned they would have to build a retainer wall to stop wind debris. I love floating trash and that smell of waste on a windy day.

    4. We won! So my middle class self is going to go walk my dog on the hike and bike trail while dreaming of living in a deed restricted neighborhood where they actually pick up my trash with all my middle class tax money. Man – wouldn’t that be amazing. Please tell us more stories so we can dream of spending more money and living in a real neighborhood where I can get upside down in my mortgage and contribute to the global crisis, John!

    Only kidding with you guys…I’m just happy we won!

  • The Harvard @ Center recycle facility, just off Washington Ave & Heights, is in a very convenient and accessible location. It is more central to the drop-off facility’s service area than the proposed location on Spring would have been. In spite of the proposed Spring location’s SWM touted proximity to IH10, actual approach to that site would have been via an assortment of narrow neighborhood streets, across the newly installed hike/bike trail, and with the potential for waits at two railroad crossings. Admiral Linen sought to purchase the city owned property to increase their parking space. A workable and logical alternative, being suggested by Super Neighborhood 22, is that the COH retain the Harvard property and develop structured parking on the site. The recycling drop-off center could remain staffed and sheltered on the ground level, income could be assured through a lease agreement with Admiral to provide for their parking needs, and the remainder of the garage space could generate additional income by making available much needed parking for the popular nearby businesses. If a W/Ave District trolley or circulator service were initiated, a parking garage at this central location could help mitigate parking problems for businesses and residents along the entire corridor.