August 01, 2007
Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation update

At last report, the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation had signed a letter of intent to buy the land they now lease from the city. That agreement was contingent on City Council approval of the deal, which should be forthcoming soon.

The Houston City Council is expected to vote as early as next week to sell the 6.7-acre tract where the center is to the facility's Foundation for the Retarded. The center offers an array of services to about 600 mentally retarded people, including 200 who live in a six-story dormitory.

The vote would all but cap the center's hard-fought battle to remain on the land it has occupied for more than 40 years under a 99-year lease that city attorneys recently declared invalid.

Officials with the center said they are looking forward to closing on the property, which could occur within weeks.

"Everybody at the center will be thrilled to be focusing on our clients and adding value to our services instead of worrying about our survival," said David Baldwin, president of the Foundation for the Retarded.


Under the agreement, the center's foundation will buy the land near Shepherd, West Dallas and Allen Parkway for $6 million, due in 15 years.

The city has agreed to finance the purchase at a 5 percent annual interest rate after three years interest-free. The center will pay $300,000 annually in interest for the remaining 12 years, with the principal.

"I think it's fair terms by the city to allow them to get their fundraising efforts off the ground," City Attorney Arturo Michel said.

Baldwin said the structure of the loan gives center officials the flexibility to raise money initially for operations and much-needed building improvements before worrying about the $6 million. Many of the buildings, constructed soon after the center began leasing the land in 1963, are seriously outdated.


Eva Aguirre, its executive director, said that for the first time the center is in a position to make plans for growth.

"Because it will be our land, we can actually do something with it," she said. "It is a good time for the center."

That was one of the main reasons why the folks at the Center were so happy with this deal - it meant they had control over their destiny. I've got a call in to David Baldwin to ask him a few questions about where they stand right now. I'll post an update after I've had a chance to talk to him.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 01, 2007 to Elsewhere in Houston