First Ward neighbors can't agree on historic designation

Effort underway to preserve homes in Houston's First Ward causes a debate to heat up among neighbors
February 12, 2014 4:25:09 PM PST
An effort is underway to designate a section of Houston's First Ward as a historic district, and with less than two weeks left to collect the votes, the debate is heating up between neighbors.

Soong Tam bought loves his new townhome in First Ward, an area just northwest of downtown.

"I love it and I'm waiting for everything to boom," he said. "Houston's booming young people are moving in. Young people are moving towards the city."

But a proposal to turn part of First Ward into a historic district has him worried.

"We've spent several hundred thousand dollars here and as a result of a historic district which would prevent us from creating and erecting all these new homes here, my property value will drop," Tam said.

Marianela Cruz lives right across the street and wants the designation.

"I think the historic buildings and houses are so beautiful," she said.

But 67 percent of property owners must agree before the historic designation could be approved by city council. Property owner Evan Michaelides says it will preserve the look of the area.

"Any property that's historic, that means over 50 years old, can't be demolished," he said. "We think that provides an opportunity for the area to grow and through renovation through restoration as opposed to demolition and all new construction."

Developer Mark Kinley can't do a thing to another piece of property until there's a decision.

"I have spent a lot of money to tear down an old house that was all boarded up," Kinley said. "It certainly wasn't historic preservation by any means. I hired an architect and an engineer. Thousands and thousands of dollars have been spent and I'm on hold."

Once the ballots are collected February 24, there will be public hearings. City council has the final say in this, and their vote isn't expected to happen until June.

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