It kind of blows my mind that something like this could be the case in 2014 in Houston.
Holmes Road in south Houston, for a stretch, feels less like a city street and more like a weathered country road in Central Texas, even though NRG Stadium and the Texas Medical Center shimmer in the distance.
On the surface, there is no reason this accessible area – over 1,400 acres – should be the city’s largest single mass of undeveloped land.
The problem lies underground. Neither the city nor private developers ever extended sewer service to the area, leading developers to skip it in favor of other sites with more infrastructure and lower up-front costs.
Houston and Harris County officials propose to remedy that by burying an $11 million sewer line along Holmes Road.
The project is still being negotiated but is scheduled for 2016, the same year Holmes is slated to be widened and rebuilt and when Buffalo Speedway is to be extended south through the area.
“A lot of migration in terms of development has moved south to the Pearland area, and I don’t think it’s because the developers desire to be in Pearland,” said Houston’s deputy director of development, Gwen Tillotson. “I just think it’s because we did not have the adequate infrastructure. The longer we delay moving forward on this project, the more opportunities for development we stand to lose.”
Linda Scurlock, president of the South Houston Concerned Citizens Coalition, has lived in the area for 37 years. Holmes Road, she said, has been an eyesore for many of those years, so isolated it invites illegal dumping.
“We’re close to the Medical Center, we’re close to Reliant (NRG) Stadium, we’re close to 610, we’re close to the Beltway, we’re close to 288,” Scurlock said. “We see those as pluses, and we can’t see why there has not been development out here. If you have the infrastructure there, then I think development will come.”
You know how I suggested we build more places to live proximate to the Medical Center as a way of coping with its mobility needs? This is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about. I had suggested it for the undeveloped land along Hiram Clark, but if you look at that Google maps image I provided with that post, you can see the gigantic plot of land south of Holmes Road mentioned in this story as well. I didn’t suggest it as a target for development in my post because I figured it had to be a park or something – it was just too big. You know that former KBR site in the East End that everyone was talking about awhile back? It’s 136 acres, which is to say one tenth the size of this plot. If this expanse of land south of Holmes Road were in the process of being developed right now, you think that might have an effect on Houston’s housing shortage? This is a smart move by the city, and I’m glad to see Harris County playing a role in it as well. I look forward to seeing what eventually comes out of this.