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Developers rule

Exasperated residents get no satisfaction after meeting with Mayor Parker about Ashby high rise settlement

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An attendee wearing a protest sign Photo by Katie Oxford
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Mayor Annise Parker told the crowd there was nothing the city can do to stop the project. Photo by Katie Oxford
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David Feldman at the podium, with Councilmember Ellen Cohen, left, and Mayor Annise Parker seated to the left of him Photo by Katie Oxford
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Patricia Casey asks the panel about the “enforcement mechanism for traffic.” Photo by Katie Oxford
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Concerned citizens filing in at the meeting Photo by Katie Oxford
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Editors note: Katie Oxford lives in the neighborhood where the planned Ashby high rise recently received the go-ahead from Mayor Annise Parker. She attended a meeting at Congregation Emanu El Monday night where Parker heard concerns about the project and filed this report.

The Ashby high rise project has brought much angst to the neighborhood near Rice University. The issues involved are complex, chock full of legalities, politics, egos and more. I still don’t grasp it all but one thing has seemed clear from the get-go. If these guys build the Ashby, it’s because they can! In Houston developers rule.     

In courts and conversations, the Ashby debate has been grinding along for five years until Mayor Annise Parker sent neighbors a letter late last month, saying that the city had decided to settle a $40 million suit with developers Buckhead Investment Partners to allow the project to proceed. 
 "No matter what happens here, I can assure you, it ain't over," Jim Reeder, co-chair of the Stop Ashby High Rise Task Force, said as the crowd applauded.
 
 
At a neighborhood meeting Monday night, Parker emphasized concessions that the developers had made, including lowering the size of the building from 23 to 21 floors, altering traffic patterns around the proposed high rise at 1717 Bissonnet (at Ashby) and offering shuttle service to and from the Texas Medical Center.
 
But the settlement didn't placate a crowd of around 500 (and an ample representation of the Houston Police Department who were there to ward off any trouble). Residents stood in long lines waiting to have their say.
 
"No matter what happens here, I can assure you, it ain't over," Jim Reeder, co-chair of the Stop Ashby High Rise Task Force, said as the crowd applauded.
 
But there appear to be few options for neighborhood residents, who before the meeting stood outside the synagogue and held signs emblazoned with the words, "Litigate Don't Mitigate" and "Don't Sell Us Out."
 
Parker told the audience that the city had exhausted every legal means and that basically it has no tools to stop such projects.  “If anyone here has a silver bullet, I’ll be happy to hear it,” she said.
 
At one point, Parker reminded everyone that, “We’re here to discuss what we can do going forward,” and city attorney David Feldman urged residents to form a committee to work with the developer "to ease the pain."
 
But that didn’t seem to be what they wanted to hear.
 
Camille Murphy, who opposes the project, told Channel 13 that residents left feeling angrier because the city response is always "there's nothing we can do about it."
 
"That's how the city starts everything," she said.
 
See the Channel 13 report on the meeting:

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