I don’t write many editorials for The Leader. Only when the spirit – or the publisher – calls. The first one I did in 2012 was about a subject I felt very passionate about. Called ‘Imagining commercial potential in her little corner of the world’, the article still lives online. Interestingly, it’s the first thing that comes up under a Google search for my name.
As a near neighbor to the corner of 43rd and Rosslyn since 2004, I was continually bummed to see that nothing ever really took off at that corner. As I mentioned in my first piece, I was optimistic when a Super Cuts moved in at 4301 Rosslyn Road. Any tenant was going to get my business. Then after about a week, there was a fire. Then nothing for 13 years.
I wasn’t exactly young when I started writing for The Leader but I was somewhat green in the ways of the newspaper world. I thought I was going to write this piece, and then someone would read it and buy the building on Rosslyn and then of course, there’d be a neighborhood diner or some such awesomeness that my family and I could walk to for breakfast.
Because a number of people told me they’d expressed an interest in the property. Back in 2012, local realtor Stacy Mathews said that the asking price to buy ‘as is’ was $695,000. He said it was also available ‘as is’ for lease with some flexibility on the price if the person who leases makes improvements.
But nothing happened. My editorial got a good bit of e-mail comments but no action. Since then there have been a couple other real estate agents attached to the property but with each new sign I schooled myself not to get my hopes up. Which turned out to be a good course of action because the 2017 corner looks a lot like the 2004 corner, give or take the months out of the year where the trash piles up because of illegal dumping.
There are valued businesses near the corner too that give the area its life. The Book Scene, Salon Studio Dean McNeely and Ryden Architecture lease from Hudson Chiropractic center in an adjacent building on 43rd.
MANNA leases another building next to 4301 Rosslyn and does a lot to help the underserved in our area. With building improvements and more welcoming surroundings – MANNA could be more like the highly reviewed Guild Shop on Dunlavy whose resale store proceeds go to St. James House. In the same complex is the Dollar Store and a vacant space which owner Fouad Mekdessi told me he’s hoping to have a tenant for soon. But he told me that five years ago too.
It’s the thoroughly vacant building though that looms large in my dreams. I wish I could get in my time machine and go to the early 2000s when the current owner purchased it – and tell some investor what Oak Forest would look like in 15 years. Ironically though – although the asking price of this building has no doubt gone up – the values keep going down. In 2009 the property was valued by HCAD at $350,000. In 2016, it’s $250,500 with almost $190,000 of that the land value.
One person who pays attention to the corner more than me is Greg Ryden of Ryden Architecture who is happy to have an office lease so close to his home. He says that people have contacted him to draw up plans – for, be still my heart, a coffee shop at the 4301 Rosslyn site – but that he cautions them not to get too excited.
Ryden looks to the example of what the rehabbed Harold’s development did for 19th Street and notes that while 19th Street didn’t need nearly as big a jump start as the Rosslyn corner, one cool thing begets another.
He thinks it’s ironic that a city that says it wants density won’t work with property developers more on variance requests. At 4300 Rosslyn, now owned by Light Hill Partners, Fisher Homes wanted to put in high end condos and wasn’t planning to go too vertical – they just wanted to raise the second story by a few feet and add a new roof. They were denied. Now the Light Hill project seems to have stalled too.
“It’s going to take somebody with a lot of cash and a lot of patience,” Ryden said about a turnaround at the corner.
Maybe someday an intrepid developer will put together all the parcels that exist. This includes the building owned by Fouad Mekdessi, the 4301 building owned by Susana Z. Zarazua, the building owned by Hudson Chiropractic center, the air conditioning repair business and the storage facility. That’s a whopping 5.8 acres in an area that still is clamoring for goods and services.
In the meantime though, it looks like things won’t change much. Council Member Ellen Cohen told me that while she wished there was a city recourse available to compel development, there is none. Or as a developer friend said: “The right to exclude others is one of the fundamental rights in the bundle of property rights. As long as he or she wants. Indefinitely.”
Cohen said that it would be a different matter if the property wasn’t being kept up or if there was a health hazard, like the condemned Oakbrook Apartments that were recently purchased and then razed by the city.
What is important is for property owners to know that residents are watching, and that we care about blight. Once Mr. Mekdessi was given 24 hours’ notice to clean up the trash last week at Rosslyn, he did so.
“If you see something that’s happening report it, and keep reporting it,” said Cohen, who noted that if blight becomes pervasive, people don’t ‘see’ it anymore. “Don’t assume someone else will.”
That I can do. And I can still dream…