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Progress for the West 11th Street Park

Since I last blogged about the West 11th Street Park, they have taken an important step forward in their quest to preserve the place: The City of Houston has agreed to put up $4 million towards its purchase.

The Houston City Council on Wednesday approved an agreement expected to result in the city purchasing the 20-acre property from the Houston Independent School District for $9 million, averting the prospect of a sale to private interests that likely would replace the pines and oaks with townhomes or condominiums.

The city has provided $4 million toward the purchase price. The Parks Board and the Friends of West 11th Street Park, a neighborhood group headed by Cherry, have raised an additional $1.6 million, leaving a shortfall of more than $3 million.

The city’s option to buy the property expires Jan. 5. Private fundraising is unlikely to raise the needed amount in that time, so the Parks Board, for the first time in its 30-year history, will seek a loan for the balance.

If necessary, the city will sell up to 5 acres of the property to pay off the loan.

The Parks Board was willing to take the risk because of the unique value of the property, said Roksan Okan-Vick, the board’s director.

“It’s a fantastic bird habitat, and it’s one of the tallest stands of pines inside Loop 610,” Okan-Vick said.

She said the Parks Board has spoken to potential lenders. But Chris Ehlinger, a banker who chairs the civic club for the Timbergrove Manor subdivision near the park, said it is far from certain that the board will obtain the loan.

“I’d say we’re on first base rather than third base” in the effort to preserve the park, Ehlinger said.

The ins and outs of the deal are covered in their FAQ. Ideally, a millionaire in shining armor will come along and give the remainder of the purchase price to the Friends of the West 11th Street Park so that the whole thing can be bought and preserved. Putting up 5 acres as collateral for the full 21 is certainly better than risking the loss of them all, however. You can still help them if you want to by contacting them at [email protected] In the meantime, hope for a sugar daddy or at least a benevolent loan officer.

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One Comment

  1. Jeff says:

    My aunt is one of the people working with the Friends of the Park and, while this is certainly good news, it isn’t over yet. There is still significant debate over whether this arrangement will work. Bottom line: there is still work to do.