January 10, 2007
City buys West 11th Street Park

Great news.

The city of Houston formally agreed Monday to purchase and preserve the West 11th Street Park, a 20-acre wooded enclave in northwest Houston coveted by developers, but the park may lose as much as a fourth of its area as part of the deal.

The city will buy the site for $9.2 million from the Houston Independent School District, which declared the property surplus in 2004. Residents of the surrounding Timbergove Manor subdivision have used the site as a park since the 1950s, and it has become an important habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.


"It's a big step," said Roksan Okan-Vick, director of the nonprofit Houston Parks Board, which helps the city acquire land for parks.

The city donated $4 million, and the parks board and other groups raised an additional $1.7 million, leaving the board $3.5 million short of its goal.

Amegy Bank has agreed to lend the board up to this amount, secured by five acres on the southwest part of the site that would be sold, if necessary, to repay the loan, Okan-Vick said. It's the first time in its 30-year history that the board has sought a loan to obtain park land.

"It's a creative way to get around what could have been a great loss," Okan-Vick said.

The portion designated as collateral for the loan has fewer trees than the rest of the property, she said, and development there would have less impact on wildlife.

Being in a position to have to sell off five acres is vastly preferable to being forced to sell all 20. Getting the loan means there's now more time to raise the funds to stave off even that possible outcome. All in all, this is as good a result as one could have hoped for. Kudos all around.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 10, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack

Just a note that the folks who have been working to preserve the park are still VERY concerned that any part of the park could be handed over to developers. Since the kind of development is virtually unrestricted, it is likely that development of a percentage of the park will destroy the sensitive habitat of many of the species of birds and butterflies that call that park home.

They are still working very hard to come up with the remainder of the money to keep the entire park intact.

If you've never been there, the park is essentiall one block of tall trees. Any portion of it handed over to developers would likely result in a convenience store or something of that nature given the size of the land, which would be devastating to the park.

Posted by: Jeff on January 10, 2007 7:21 PM