The decision has been delayed until there can be a meeting to discuss it in Houston.
Honoring a request by Harris County officials to table the vote and meet much closer to Houston, the Texas Historical Commission voted Wednesday at a meeting in far West Texas to postpone designating the iconic Astrodome a so-called “state antiquities landmark.”
The designation would not outright save the world’s first domed stadium from demolition, but would make the possibility of it more difficult. That’s because the county would have to get permission from the state before tearing it down or making any other substantial changes to the long-vacant stadium’s exterior.
After nearly 45 minutes of public testimony, and a motion made to approve the designation application, Chairman Matthew Kreisle said he was concerned that designation could make it more difficult for the county to strike a deal with a developer to renovate the structure.
But Kreisle, an architect, said he wanted to see local officials make a concerted effort to do so, and also try to make use of a new historic state tax credit as leverage.
Kreisle described the 25 percent tax credit, approved last year by the Legislature, as a “deal changer,” and said it poses “an opportunity to possibly look at this deal in a new light.”
“I am concerned, in my mind, if we get the designation put on it today that we may possibly make that deal harder to happen at this time,” he said before making a motion to table the item, which was seconded and approved by the commission.
Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who has opposed designation for the same reasons the chairman moved to table it, said the move will create more time for him to devise yet another redevelopment plan.
“It does continue the protection but it doesn’t lock in a decision at this point,” he said.
Kreisle said he planned to reach out to Emmett to arrange some kind of meeting in Houston “where we can hear from the judge” and others.
See here, here, and here for the background. The Dome is also on the National Register of Historic Places, which is a nice honor but not much more from a practical perspective. I’m basically ambivalent about historic designation – it feels more like a gesture than anything else to me – but I will say that it would be greatly ironic if such a designation made it less likely that the Dome could be repurposed by a private investor, as that would surely increase its odds of being demolished. Finding a private investor to Do Something with the Dome is clearly Judge Emmett’s preferred outcome, so one would think he and the Commission will have some incentive to work out the kinks on this. The Commission’s website is here and their calendar of events is here, and I figure we’ll hear about the planned Houston meeting soon enough. CultureMap has more.