Gary Mosley has slept a little easier the last few months.
The Heights resident and restaurateur no longer has to worry about a road running alongside his backyard or a condominium complex within earshot of his property. All he hears are birds chirping and trees rustling, which is exactly the way he likes it.
Mosley spent 15 years fighting a proposed condo development immediately southeast of his home on East 5th Street, which dead-ends at a gully that feeds into nearby White Oak Bayou. On the other side of the gully is a wooded, 1.4-acre tract of land that a Canada-based developer bought in 2004 and made several attempts to turn into condos.
Having had its plans repeatedly thwarted – largely because there is no road leading to the property – the developer sold the land in October to the Houston Parks Board and Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD). It is owned by the HCFCD and will be used in perpetuity for floodplain preservation and green space.
“For the whole community, it was a relief,” Mosley said. “We fought for many years for this.”
Chip Place, managing director of capital programs for the Houston Parks Board, said the nonprofit bought the 60,000 square foot property that sits along the Heights Hike and Bike Trail in a joint venture with the flood control district. He said the HCFCD put up $900,000 of the $1.5 million purchase price, with the parks board using privately donated funds to cover the remaining $600,000.
Surge Homes president Louis Conrad, whose real estate development firm is affiliated with the previous land owner, Viewpoint at the Heights LP, said the sale amounted to a loss for the developer and its investors because they had spent a significant amount of money on architectural designs, engineering and attorney’s fees. The developer’s attempts to create access points by extending 5th Street and Frasier Street, which is north of the hike and bike trail, were denied by the Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Houston, which received multiple variance requests over the last 15 years.
According to the city’s Planning and Development Department, the developer had at least one opportunity to construct an access point but let an approved plat expire. The developer’s desire to build a condo complex, instead of residences on a smaller scale, also inhibited its plan.
Ultimately, Conrad said the developer decided to sell to remain harmonious with the city and its neighbors in the Heights. He also said the developer’s success with other projects in Houston helped to absorb the loss.
“Getting along with the city, getting along with the neighborhood, does not bring you monetary value to your pocket. But it brings value to our culture (as a company),” Conrad said. “Overall, we’re happy.”
Adrin Biagas, senior land acquisition manager for the Houston Parks Board, said it had been eyeing the property for a while. Place said it was purchased as part of the Bayou Greenways 2020 initiative, which aims to transform 3,000 acres of underutilized land along Houston’s nine major waterways and create a 150-mile network of connected parks and trails.
On the other side of White Oak Bayou, where the hike and bike trail crosses Studemont Street, is where Bayou Greenways Park will be located. Place said a specific use for the more recently acquired property has yet to be determined.
It will remain green space for the time being, which is ideal for Mosley and his neighbors on East 5th Street.
“It turned out to be just the right resolution at the end of the day,” Place said. “Developing this property was always going to be difficult. … Everything worked out for the best.”