Fourth Ward residents object to street closures

The Chronicle's Cindy Horswell reports that some Fourth Ward residents aren't happy about street closures that are being pushed by real-estate developers in the neighborhood:

[Mount Horeb Missionary Baptist Church] on West Gray is located across from two vacant lots destined to be the site of new high rises similar to the upscale projects, bistros and shops adjacent to it. The developer of the two lots wants the city to close the block of Cushing Street that bisects his property as well as a section of O'Neil that cuts through another corner, records show.

In 1999, the same closures were requested by Post Uptown LLC, and tentatively approved by the City Council if the developer met certain conditions, including rerouting waterlines and constructing curbs and a barricade across the closed street.

The conditions were not met and the closure proposal lay dormant for seven years, but it was recently reactivated.

Signs were posted last week to let area residents know that the City Council was again reviewing the possible closures.

The high-rise project is called "Midtown Square Phase III" and is being handled for the developer by Mary Lou Henry and Vernon G. Henry & Associates. No one from the company could be reached for comment. [bH note: Imagine that over a weekend!]

With television stations showing some interest in the story, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) was sure to make an appearance:

Nearby is an abandoned, boarded-up brick building, the Gregory School, which was the first public school for blacks in Houston in 1870. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said federal money has been appropriated to turn the building into a museum to document the area's black history.

Jackson Lee and Smith, the pastor, plan to meet with the developer today to discuss their concerns. Smith also wants his parishioners to have easy access to the church, founded in the 1940s and rebuilt in the 1980s after the original structure was gutted by fire.

"We don't want to be seen as stopping progress," said Jackson Lee.

"We all need to work in harmony, both old and new."

It would be great if the Congresswoman could secure federal funding for the African-American museum Mayor White continues to tout. It would be harmonious even.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 02/06/06 11:15 PM | Print |

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