The red, white and blue post with “METRO” at the top has not been removed. Neither has the adjacent pavilion nor the “Pinemont Park & Ride” sign sitting next to an entrance gate that has long been locked.
There still is a spacious slab of concrete inside the fence surrounding the property, although in some spots grass and weeds are sprouting up through cracks in the pavement.
“It’s the same as it was when they closed it down,” said Sandra Cirone, president of the homeowners association for the nearby Pinemont Park neighborhood. “It looks exactly the same. They haven’t done anything with it.”
The lack of activity at the old park-and-ride location at the corner of Pinemont Drive and Federal Plaza, which closed in 2013 and was sold to Harris County two years later, has sparked speculation among nearby homeowners. Some have worried the land will be used for a low-incoming housing project, even after they helped to thwart such a plan in 2015.
METRO was persuaded to back out of an initial agreement with the Houston Housing Authority and sell the property to the county for the purposes of constructing an office building. That plan remains in place, with the county having hired a new architectural firm for the project in August.
Still, there have been recent discussions within the homeowners associations for Pinemont Park and Forest West that an apartment building was in the works instead.
“That’s a rumor,” said Wayne Norden, president of the Near Northwest Management District.
Dimetra Hamilton, a spokesperson for the Harris County Engineering Department, said the project for a multi-purpose county annex building remains in the design phase with no timeline for the start of construction or completion. She attributed the three-year delay to multiple factors, including changes in contractors and county staff, prioritizing within the county government and the effects of Hurricane Harvey.
The county initially hired Joiner Partnerships, Inc., to design the project. According to Harris County Commissioners Court records, Joiner was awarded contracts of $250,000 in July 2015 and $220,000 in September 2016.
Hamilton said the county subsequently severed its agreement with Joiner, adding that she did not know when or why. Court records show the county entered into a one-year, $429,790 agreement with a new design contractor, PGAL, Inc., on Aug. 14.
“The process is in place and being worked on,” Hamilton said. “But because there’s a new consultant, that’s basically starting the process of design work over.”
Norden, whose district helps facilitate developments such as the county annex building, said switching contractors is not unusual. He also said it is typical for governmental construction projects to be drawn out over multiple years.
The idle time has nonetheless caused restlessness among nearby homeowners who are concerned about their property values. Along with Forest West and Pinemont Park, nearby subdivisions include Forest Pines, Mangum Manor and Oak Forest.
Kirk Waldron, vice president of the Forest West homeowners association, said residents were “alarmed” by rumors that another apartment complex was in the works. There already are a few on Pinemont Drive east of the former park-and-ride location.
“Either there’s something going on,” Waldron said of the county’s construction plan, “or they’re all liars. I don’t know which one to think.”
After the county purchased the property from METRO, Hamilton said she heard about a potential housing project on nearby land. But that appears to have been a rumor as well.
Donna Dixon of the Houston Housing Authority and Horace Allison of the Harris County Housing Authority said they know of no such plans for the area near the old park-and-ride site. Neither does John Werner, a longtime property owner and developer in the area who sold the park-and-ride land to METRO.
After METRO sold the land to Harris County, Werner said he sold an additional five acres of adjoining property to the county for its upcoming annex building. He doesn’t foresee another apartment complex being constructed in the area.
“I don’t know where they’d put it,” he said.