Sunday, January 24, 2010

What to do with the Gillman Property in Sharpstown

Nancy Sarnoff had two articles yesterday about the Sharpstown Mall. RAIT Financial Trust wants to renovate the mall; and the J.C. Penney Building at the Sharpstown Mall has been sold. I’ve already given my thoughts on the Sharpstown Mall. A gut-renovation would be a great thing, and workable (if it’s done right). But refurbishing the Mall is just one step towards improving the area.

Here’s something else we could do: The City of Houston could buy the Gilman property in Sharpstown, and relocate the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation to that site. The City could then sell the Center’s current campus, on Allen Parkway in River Oaks.

The City estimates the land on Allen Parkway is worth $26 million[i] - compared with HCAD’s assessment of $7.4 million for the Gillman property. They currently collect taxes on the Gillman property, but only get a $1 a year lease for the Allen Parkway site. If the City traded the two, they’d make $18.6 million from the sale and then increase their tax revenue forever.

The Carnival Night Club tried to build on the Gillman property in 2005, but the effort was derailed by neighborhood concerns. They still own the land, but they can’t do anything with it. If the City bought the property, the night club would be a dead issue. And surely what was good for River Oaks, will be good enough for Sharpstown.

Bill White tried to kick the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation off Allen Parkway in 2007. He cited the City charter to terminate their lease. Bill White’s scheme didn’t give them an alternative location, and it would have meant the end of the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation. In this scheme, The Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation could get a brand new campus – paid for by the City. It could be a huge improvement for them: a state of the art facility to replace their old buildings on Allen Parkway.

It would be great to renovate the Sharpstown Mall. But let’s not forget the big, vacant piece of land just down the road. Moving the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation to Sharpstown could free up an ideally located piece of land in River Oaks, and could make the City a ton of money - not to mention improving Sharpstown.

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