Letter to Mayor and members of City Council, March 3, 2022

Dear Mayor and members of City Council,

Please consider reducing the size and scope of the proposed Planned Developments at 5901 South Rice Avenue and 4800 Fournace Place.  Putting aside for now the concerns of the Bellaire residents who live in close proximity to this development, what about the actual plans for the structures?

Currently there are two office buildings on that site that contain over a half-million square feet of office space.  Have you visited either building?  Do you have any idea what the current occupancy rate is for those buildings? Have you driven through the site during the week?  Did you check to see how many vehicles are parked in the new garage? I understood HarrisHealth made a temporary move to that site during the renovation of another building.  Is that correct, or is the move permanent?

Didn’t the developer state that he has no tenants lined up for the new buildings?  What happens if he builds this and no one shows up?  Empty office buildings, vacant retail spaces, what does that look like?

What about the developer’s assurance of a redesigned South Rice Avenue?  Have you studied the design that is in the agenda packet, proposed not by the City of Houston but by Tetra Land Services?  Does Tetra Land Services speak for the City of Houston?  Does HISD have a say in any of this?  Please, do not allow ingress or egress for South Rice Avenue at the west end of this site unless this design is approved and constructed by the City of Houston.

Then there’s this “pedestrian friendly” aspect of these planned developments.  That was the sales pitch for the streetscape along Spruce and Fifth around H-E-B, but that hasn’t gone so well, has it?  No cafes or boutiques have popped up.  Just how is this development supposed to be any friendlier to pedestrians?  Drive there, park somewhere, then wander through the area?  No problems with rain or heat or cold?  Maybe all those possible office workers are expected to spend money in the proposed restaurants.  But most office buildings I’ve visited have in-house eating areas.

Finally, I want to address the form letters included in the last agenda packet.  Are you folks taking these seriously?  I certainly hope not.  I’d expect you to give much more weight to actual correspondence and personal comments from concerned residents.  

Whatever you approve will impact a large number of residents, and once approved it will be very difficult to effect a change in the zoning in this district.  What’s the rush?  Please, ask questions and expect answers, study these plans, set a sensible limit on space, usage, and height that can accommodate the residents and preserve their quality of life.

Thank you,

Jane McNeel