Veterans’ housing project planned for Atascocita
- Written by Kathy Parks
Project in preliminary stage The Harris County Housing Authority has plans on the drawing board for a one-of-a-kind, master planned, waterfront community built on 91 acres on West Lake Houston Parkway north of Summerwood and south of Atascocita. The project will be dedicated to veterans and called Patriots by the Lake. “We hope this will serve as a national model of how we treat those who have given so much for their country,” said Marvalette Hunter, chief operating officer. “The time has passed for empty words of appreciation. This development will be tangible evidence of our gratitude.” State law states housing authorities are “to provide decent, safe, and sanitary urban or rural housing for persons of low income.” Housing projects can include buildings, land, equipment, facilities, streets, sewers, water services, parks, and gardening, administrative, community, health, recreational, educational or welfare purposes. The development planned will include all of this. It consists of home sites, condominiums and multifamily residences. It will target veterans, but leases will be open to the general public, in hopes this move will create a mixed income community that is both desirable and sustainable. The program will also help underwrite costs for low-income families who need affordable housing. The space will include a 120-bed assisted living center; a 40-bed domiciliary; 60-bed courtesy quarters for short-stay military personnel with business in the area; a 10-bed hospice unit; a 55-plus, senior-living development; a medical clinic; a training center; and a 75,000-square-foot administrative office building. “It will also offer five distinguished visitors quarters for high-ranking officers who come to the Houston area on military business,” said Hunter. It will be developed as a destination place with a hotel, marina, amphitheater, boardwalk, restaurants, shops and scenic views. Military-themed parks will spotlight 44 monuments honoring soldiers. The Wall of Heroes, for example, will commemorate those who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project has a price tag of approximately $165 million and would take five years to build according to the proposed timeline. Dollars from private corporations and foundations or public and private partnerships will help to fund the build-out. Market-value rentals will help subsidize low-income rentals and private citizens will be encouraged to support veterans with their donations through a Web site scheduled to be in place some time this month. One of the major components of the project is a lease to be signed by the Veterans Administration. It is hoped the VA will sign a 20-year lease with a 20-year option. “We are still in negotiation,” said Hunter. “We expect to know something in 90 days.” She said although the contract was not a make-it-or-break-it deal, it was certainly one of the major components. She said HCHA felt good about the project and it has received a great deal of support from those who have been approached about the plans, but reinforced it is still very early. HCHA has a timeline of a 12-month Phase I, which includes: design and development, preliminary plat approval, final plat approval, construction documents and permitting, co-developer selection, financing and funding approval, infrastructure development and construction. “We are currently between item one and two,” said Hunter. “The preliminary plat was submitted on Monday and we expect the final plat within 30 days.” At this point, none of the partner-developers have been chosen; the first press conference has not been held; no elected officials have been briefed; no restaurants or hotels developers are on board. Gen. Colin Powell has been invited to serve as keynote speaker to launch their corporate giving campaign in June 2009. HCHA will be targeting the top 25 corporations in Houston as recognized by the Greater Houston Partnership. Hunter said as more is known, residents will be advised through local media. “This attractive community development that will increase the tax base, attract new residents to the area, and make the area a destination for visitors. It will be a positive addition,” said Hunter. Photo: Artist’s rendition of the proposed development in Atascocita, Patriots by the Lake.