Eyesore could be torn down to expand HS

December 16, 2009 3:52:51 PM PST
It's been a battle in one neighborhood for years. Now apartment buildings that are rundown could soon be torn down. People who live near the apartments on Gasmer Drive have been trying to get something done about the eyesore for years. HISD wants to buy the property to expand Westbury High School. Supporters say it's about time something positive is done with this property that for years has been such a negative in this area.

For years the Lapeak apartments here have stood vacant. Cyclone fencing and razor wire surround the dilapidated buildings.

"This is a bad influence on this part of town," said neighbor Mitzi Zamora.

Those living nearby say the buildings at one time attracted significant crime. For years different Westbury civic groups have been trying to do something about it.

"Which is just slum apartments even when it was occupied," explained Kathleen Ownby, president of the Westbury High Foundation. "It has not been occupied for several years."

Ownby graduated from WHS years ago and helped push for HISD board president Larry Marshall's support of the purchase. HISD's vote appropriates $3.3 million for the purchase of the property. About $800,000 of that money will be used for demolition.

The deal would expand the size of Westbury High School's campus. That's significant, supporters say, because the campus currently is about half as large as the average HISD high school.

Built on the property could be a ninth grade academy, a sports complex and parking for the nearby Willow Waterhole Greenway. It's an area which has become a haven for nature which students could use for research and study.

"It would be better to have this as part of the school," Zamora said. "So the kids have somewhere to go for after school, have something to do during the school hours instead of just sitting here looking like this."

HISD still must negotiate a sale and purchase price with the property's current owner. Supporters do hope to have construction underway sometime next year.


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