Real Estate Round-up
Watching my hometown disappear: Houston's demolition fever spares none — DennisQuaid's old ball field included
The spot where the steel girder has just been erected was Dennis Quaid’s kingdom.
The ball field is being covered up now with glorious new construction. But years ago, it was where Quaid and I practiced.
Quaid is a famous actor now. But back then he played first and I was shortstop. Hundreds of times, in scores of practice sessions, I would scoop ground balls and fire them to Quaid at first. He was good. The spot where Quaid played first base is now supporting a large vertical steel beam where a school is being constructed.
And as the new building rises, I hang on to the memory of our first-place team in the Bellaire Little League.
Quaid wasn’t the only teammate to go on to major success. Rusty Tamlyn went on to become one of Houston’s top commercial real estate brokers, doing high-profile deals including the $80 million sale of Meyerland Plaza. And former teammate Phil Schawe is a Houston architect with a popular music show on KPFT radio.
So our practice field is being covered up permanently as our elementary school in Bellaire is being rebuilt. And the neighborhood around the school has changed too. Most of the homes we lived in have been torn down to make room for million-dollar mansions. Real estate professionals would say those old Bellaire houses we lived in are “obsolete” because many of them had only one bath and a one-car garage.
The new Horn elementary, designed by English & Associates, will be better than the old Horn school I attended.
But every time the wrecking ball does its work, our city changes. Pavement covers up memories. The sanctuaries where we prayed and married are flattened. Bulldozers extract the flavor of another neighborhood as houses are removed. Great buildings are pulverized in downtown.
Most of the time we sit back and do nothing. We call it progress. We call it efficiency.
Not every building is a historic treasure. Some post-war housing stock won’t last 100 years no matter what.
As a native Houstonian, I watch as the memories fade and places change. The hospital where I was born is gone. Hundreds of historic buildings have been flattened. And on a personal level, I’ve watched landmarks and important places from my youth undergo change:
- My middle school, Pershing Junior High, on Stella Link, was recently torn down to make room for a bigger better Pershing on the same acreage.
-The L-shaped wing that was built around Bellaire High School, makes my old school look so different that it’s not recognizable.
- AstroWorld was closed down and flattened. The acreage that was considered to be so valuable is still sitting there vacant years later.
- Felix Mexican Restaurant on Westheimer at Montrose was Houston’s oldest Tex-Mex eatery and the source of the world’s best cheese enchiladas. It’s been vacant for over a year and I worry that something bad is going to happen.
- The city’s Music Hall where I saw Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and the Canned Heat was torn down to make way for Hobby Center, a better performance hall.
- Teas Nursery on Bellaire Boulevard closed down last year after 100 years in operation. We are still waiting to see what will happen to that nice chunk of urban acreage.
And then there’s the Astrodome — our Eighth Wonder of the World that opened in 1965. About a decade ago, we decided it wasn’t worth much anymore so we abandoned it. We spent a billion or so to construct new baseball and football stadiums.
Of all the things that could have been done with a billion dollars, it’s a shame the Astros and the Texans couldn’t have just been satisfied with the Astrodome. On most days, stadiums are vacant anyway. Hopefully, the Astrodome will be preserved.
Saving buildings helps our city retain its identity. Would New Orleans and San Francisco be such popular tourism venues if their old buildings were gone? Would San Antonio’s River Walk be the same if all of the buildings on the water’s edge were new?
Houston has failed to preserve enough of its heritage. Change happens. Buildings will be demolished. But a lot of these buildings could be saved. When a great building is threatened, I wish the protests would be louder. Too often, demolitions occur with barely a whimper.
Houston is a great city and I hate to see parts of my hometown disappear.
Ralph Bivins, former president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors, is editor-in-chief of RealtyNewsReport.com.