Timeline of Salient Events
October 2005– Humphreys & Partners engaged to perform several preliminary site and landplaning concepts for future redevelopment.
June 2006 - Water & wastewater capacity reservation letters issued by City for 255 apartment units, 30,000 s.f. office, 30,000 s.f. retail and 5,000 s.f. restaurant; (updated Dec. 2006).
August 2006– Site acquired.
February 2007– EDI International engaged as project design architect.
June 2007 – New public sanitary sewer completed by developer as required by City-approved water and wastewater capacity letters for approximately $450,000. $216,000 in impact fees are paid by developer to City.
July 2007 – Plat recorded.
July 30, 2007– Foundation permit application submitted to City for a 236 residential unit, 23-story mixed use project with 9,582 s.f. ground floor retail and 6,712 s.f. executive office suites. Letters detailing 23-story mixed-use project design sent to Mayor Bill White and CMs Peter Brown and Ann Clutterbuck, requesting personal meetings with each to discuss plans. Site plan approved by City Planning Dept.
August 2007– Mayor directs developer to meet with Public Works Department and Planning Department personnel. Meeting occurred 8/21/07 with Deputy Director of Public Works, Andy Icken; Deputy Director of Planning and Development, Leah Hayes (representing Director Marlene Gafrick); and other City representatives, where the project was fully discussed and no City concerns mentioned. Developer meets with CMs Brown and Clutterbuck (both 8/31/07).
September 2007– Traffic Impact Analysis ("TIA”) approved by Director of Traffic, Ray Chong (9/4/07). Developer meets with civic club presidents and executive directors (9/7/07). Joint town hall meeting is convened by area residents with extensive media coverage (9/20/07). The next day, the Director of Traffic rescinds his Traffic Impact Analysis approval (9/21/07). Southampton & Boulevard Oaks civic clubs coin the name "Ashby Highrise” for the Project and form an organization called "StopAshbyHighRise.org” to oppose it.
October 2007– Mayor White directs staff to draft "emergency” high-density ordinance specifically targeted at 1717 Bissonnet.
November 2007 – March 2008 – Developer agrees to 90-day permitting hiatus at City’s request to allow development of a more fully considered ordinance. The hiatus is extended for two 2-week periods at the City’s request. Mayor White declines additional requests for personal meeting with developer.
January 2008– 195-unit, 20-story compromise proposal presented by developer to Mayor White in writing, and rejected (1/16/08). Revised 195 or 110-unit, 19-story and alternative 160-unit, 6-story compromise proposals presented by developer to Mayor White in writing, and rejected (1/23/08). Mayor White declines additional requests by developer for personal meeting.
February 2008– Mayor White acknowledges during City Council public session that developer has vested rights which preclude application of new regulation to the project, places "emergency” high-density ordinance on hold (not subsequently revisited), states that the City does not and will not regulate height, then announces he has personally issued new interpretations of the Driveway Permit Ordinance (Code Sec. 40-86) [last revised 1968] and that its application alone stops the project (2/13/08). Developer meets with Deputy Director of Public Works, Andy Icken and CM Brown with a 4th, 134-unit, compromise proposal (22-story building with reduced footprint including a donated park, landscape buffers and detached townhomes) (2/22/08). Proposal submitted in writing to Mayor White on 2/25/08 with request for personal meeting, both of which are denied.
March 2008 – Several meetings with neighboring residents are held to discuss the project and alternatives that have been presented to the Mayor’s Office. None of the options achieve consensus with the neighbors. Consequently, developer moves forward with original permit application.
March - July 2009 – Permit application, including a second Level III TIA (a copy of which may be found here, is submitted and rejected 10 times for various reasons; only Sec. 40-86, the "Driveway Ordinance”, remains as a claimed basis for denial (City Engineer is "concerned” about possible 4.3-second additional delay at a single intersection ½-mile away, notwithstanding that the intersection in question remains at Level of Service "E”, which is acceptable without mitigation according to the City’s own written policy). All required approvals (i.e. Planning (site plan), Water/Sewer, Electrical, Plumbing, Storm Drainage and Structural) EXCEPT Traffic have been received. Developer is unable to find other developments stopped by a Driveway Permit denial. The City’s most recent denial states that the project will create an "extraordinary traffic hazard” and "excessively interfere with the normal use of the street right-of-way” (directly quoted from Sec. 40-86).
August 2009– Eleventh (11th) revised permit application is approved by the City. The approved documents confirm the completely arbitrary manner in which the City chose to apply an old and arcane ordinance designed to govern driveway locations (Sec. 40-86). To achieve this permit approval, modifications were required eliminating amenities designed to foster pedestrian, not vehicular, traffic in the area and to integrate our project into the surrounding pedestrian neighborhood. Developer required to agree to commence project by September 2013 or submit a new traffic study for re-evaluation of approval. Changes included: elimination of a small retail store, a wellness spa as well as a handful of private offices. Also, a pedestrian plaza in front of the residences was replaced with a driveway. Developer reserved the right to challenge and appeal these important losses to the original design.
October – December 2009 – Developer exhausts its appeals of City’s denial of tenth (10th) permit application submission rejected by City in April, 2009, first to the City of Houston General Appeals Board (October 2009) and then to Houston City Council (December 2009). The GAB denies the appeal by a 3-2 vote and the decision is upheld by City Council.
February - July 2010 – Developer files suit against the City of Houston in Harris County Civil Court claiming State Constitutional and common law violations (February 2010), and Federal Constitutional violations (as amended). Suit subsequently re-filed in State District Court (April 2010) and removed by City to U.S. District Court (May 2010). United States Judge Nancy Atlas recuses herself from the case (July 2010).
November 2011- The concept architect, whose services were terminated in 2006, files suit against the developer and Project architect alleging copyright infringement related to the current plans. The case is settled and all claims released (May 2012).
March 2012 – Case is settled against City. Developer agrees to reduce height of building to 21 stories, limit maximum of net traffic trips, restrict driveway usage, provide resident shuttle service and make various design changes to the Project. Conditional Dismissal allows for reinstatement of lawsuit should City fail to abide by the terms of the Settlement Agreement. This conditional nature of the Dismissal expires on March 31, 2013 if the suit is not reinstated before this date.
May 2012 - City establishes the Construction Issues Committee to meet monthly before and during construction of the Project as a forum for sharing information between the neighborhood, the opposition group, the City and the Project team, and addressing any related neighborhood concerns.The CIC, chaired by the District Councilmember and moderated by the City Attorney, begins work on a special City-sponsored and publicly funded complaint investigation process unique to the Project that will allocate dedicated City staff accessible via its 24/7 "311” telephone system to address neighborhood complaints during Project construction. This process does not exist for any other construction project in Houston.
August 2012– An affiliate of The Hunt Companies of El Paso, Texas acquires a majority equity interest in the Project.Property is conveyed to new joint venture development company formed between Project developer and the Hunt affiliate. Foundation & Site Work Permit Application revised to comport with Settlement Agreement submitted to City.
September 2012– The Linbeck Group, a highly regarded locally-based national construction company with extensive experience in technically complex high-rise construction is named as general contractor for the Project.
January 2013– Foundation & Site Work Permit Application approved (January 16, 2013) after requiring five submissions over five months.Remaining Building Permit Application for core/shell/buildout submitted to City (January 28, 2013).
March 2013 – Core/Shell/Buildout Building Permit Application approved by City (March 27, 2013). All required building permit approvals issued by City as of this date.
April 2013 – All residents vacate existing 67-unit Maryland Manor Apartments in anticipation of demolition and start of construction. Abatement and demolition of existing apartments commences (April 29, 2013).
May 2013 – A group of residents from the adjacent neighborhoods files suit against Developer claiming that the future existence of the fully entitled and lawfully permitted to-be-built Project will constitute a nuisance by damaging their foundations, creating too much traffic, and depriving them of sun and rain. The lawsuit seeks both damages against the Developer and to permanently enjoin the Project from being constructed.
July 2013 – Foundation and Site Work Permit issued by City (July 11, 2013).