April 21, 2007
The Sixth Ward and the Planning Commission

This article is about the Mayor's belief that the recent proposal to make permanent the ban on demolitions in the Old Sixth Ward would have widespread support, but what really interests me is the quote from the opposition:

The Old Sixth Ward Neighborhood Association has led the effort to strengthen protections for the estimated 300 houses built between 1854 and 1935.

Another group, the Sixth Ward Property Owners Association, opposes the ban.

Janice Jamail-Garvis, a Realtor who leads the property owners' group, said the mayor's proposals amount to "an invasion of private property rights" that would lead to blight in the Old Sixth Ward by leaving dilapidated structures in place.

Most potential investors in the Old Sixth Ward want new homes, Jamail-Garvis said, and the neighborhood's main appeal lies in its location near downtown rather than its stock of Victorian-era houses.

Really? You're saying that if we bulldozed the whole place and replaced it all with Perry townhomes, it would enhance property values there? I realize the world is full of philistines, but I find that hard to believe.

I mean, if proximity to downtown is more attractive to potential buyers than the architecture, then why isn't there more of a boom along Houston Avenue and points east? That's plenty close to downtown, too, and there's not all those annoying preservationists to deal with. Or, speaking of points east, there's the area just east of downtown, on the other side of 59. A lot of that area comes pre-bulldozed, too. And it's more easily walkable to downtown than the Old Sixth is.

Call me crazy, but I think that the neighborhood's history and charm might just be a driver of its desirability. I'm sure you could still make a living as a realtor there if it were nothing but cookie-cutter houses, but there's more to what makes a neighborhood special than location.

In other news, the This Week section has a long story about the proposed width and setback requirements that I blogged about earlier. It's a pretty good overview of the options that the Planning Commission subcommittee is considering. Check it out.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 21, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston

If you have any question about whether property owners in the Old Sixth Ward support the Protected Neighborhood ordinance, I encourage all of you to bike ride (or drive) through the Old Sixth Ward.

The Neighborhood Association & a few financial supporters have provided "I Support a Protected Historic District" green and white signs (200 of them) for property owners to display in their yards.

At a recent meeting, neighbors expressed their desire to show not only visible support for preservation to the City, but also show positive, visual support for Mayor White's preservation initiatives. We were happy to comply.

Clearly, the neighbors love the historic nature of the homes, the proximity to downtown is a side benefit.

And also note - in an effort to be Earth Day friendly, they are not specific to the OSW. They could be recycled & reused for other neighborhoods in the future.

Posted by: Larissa Lindsay on April 21, 2007 7:23 PM

I came here many years ago--for the old houses. Where else can you have a 100 year old house, and in a neighborhood full of them? Old Sixth Ward is a real community. People know each other and care about each other here. I think that would be lost if we turned into wall to wall townhouses.

Posted by: OSW Resident on April 22, 2007 7:08 AM