At the November meeting of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority and Tax Increment Zone No. 10 (TIRZ), Houston Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin made it clear he is fed up with waiting forever for the long ago approved Northpark Drive reconstruction to begin.
He sees no reason for further delay due to a few remaining land condemnation acquisitions that have no impact on starting the work and which are going to be resolved long before construction reaches those properties. Having already raised his frustrations, demanding answers at the September meeting, Martin recommended the board authorize the start of construction immediately, even if that means rearranging the various phases of the two project construction timelines.
“I had breakfast about a week and a half ago with the head of HNTB (the overall project coordinating company) and I asked him: Do we need to have this thing 100% tied down before we put a shovel in the ground because I have been sitting here for eight years talking about a Northpark Project and as I look over there, nothing is done,” Martin said. He explained HNTB is now working on a concept where they could start the construction phases of the project and be moving dirt in the first or second quarter of next year, without having the few remaining land acquisitions and related requirements officially completed.
“I know it’s a little bit risky. I get it; but at the same time I think we need to get moving on this. I’m tired of coming to these meetings to talk about Northpark and just waiting, waiting and waiting for something to start. Let’s get it going. We don’t have to have everything tied up in a bow. Let’s get ramped up to start while we are working on the last acquisitions. That’s my opinion. It’s the board’s decision. I get it,” Martin said.
Board Chairman Stan Sarman responded by saying “OK” and pointed out that, yes, there was risk in Martin’s suggestion.
“There is a little bit of a gamble if we do that because of the fact that we don’t know exactly what the final bottom line cost is on some of these parcels. So, we are trying to work through all of those,” Sarman said. He summarized the status of the 26 originally identified parcels of land that needed to be acquired. Sixteen have been acquired and four more are close to being closed and completed in December.
“The remaining six are in different stages of condemnation,” he said and pointed out that the Whataburger owners are willing to negotiate. Sarman expects that property to be settled around mid-December.
Ralph De Leon, the administrator for TIRZ 10, outlined the possible financial risks and how they might play out once construction was to begin. No action was formally taken by the board. The issue will be decided by the directors at a later meeting along with input from HNTB.
Martin thanked the board for listening and highlighted all the positive work the directors and all involved in these two massive projects have already done. However, he remained adamant that he wants to see progress sooner than later rather than just more “talk, talk, talk” with no visible progress.