Neartown Association Update from RPCA Board Member, Ruth Adams

The following update was written and submitted by Ruth Adams, RPCA Board member after she attended Neartown Association meetings this Summer. Thank you for representing our neighborhood at these meetings, Ruth and for updating us!

Ruth Adams has attended both of the summer meetings for the Neartown Association. The meetings are held monthly at Cherryhurst Park Community Center. With over 60 civic and neighborhood associations represented, Neartown represents all of us as our “super association” improving the quality of life in Houston’s historic neighborhoods. At the monthly meetings the topics covered are those that are important to our collective safety, economics and advancement.

Several recent events discussed include:

• New developments underway in the Montrose area

• The recent closing of the Fiesta store at Dunlavy and Alabama. The store closed 7-15-12 but all employees were offered the opportunity to be re-employed at the other (13) store locations. A residential/retail development is slated to be built at this site

• Introduction to a new Parks Bayou program that is a movement to connecting all 7 bayous, renovation of parks and support of the short-term goal of passing an anticipated $150 million bond initiative in November.

Foremost on the agenda has been discussion and finalized support of a resolution that requests METRORail to begin construction on routes that were originally passed with the General Mobility Program. How the monies have been collected and spent has been divided differently between various cities within the county – pushing project details further out in to communities while not following through with decisions made that would improve our Neartown streets and rail preparation. Population density is heavy in our area and cars/people have a huge impact every day. Sue Lovell, past City Councilperson, is leading the charge to use the Rebuild Houston dollars as promised.

While this presentation to the Metro Board backs up decisions that have already been made, its primary purpose and support of this resolution gives backbone to requesting the progress that citizens within our area require and have expected. Neartown supports having the Board commit to take necessary action to move forward with projects in our area and not move improvements further outside of our area with our dollar.

Please watch for further information on this important November ballot referendum. It will be a good idea to review your voting choices ahead of time as sometimes wording can be difficult to get through. You want to make sure you understand what your “Yes” or “No” vote on this issue really means.

2120 Southwest Freeway Variance Request Information

Please review the following information from the City of Houston Planning department re: a new development proposal along Lexington between Greenbriar and Sandman/S. Shepherd. The proposal is to construct a seven story structure for an Audi dealership on the South side of Lexington and a storage parking structure on the North side. There is a planning commission meeting this Thursday that will include public comment.

Thursday, April 26, 2012, beginning at 2:30 p.m.
City Hall Annex Building, 900 Bagby Street
City Council Chamber, Public Level, Houston, Texas


2012-04-18_2120 Southwest Freeway_Variance Information_DRAFT

2120 Southwest Freeway_Notification Letter

Metro slows rail projects as cash ebbs


Link to Chronicle article regarding funding issues effecting Metro and light rail. Article is also printed below.

Stalled federal grant adds to budget concerns


Aug. 20, 2010, 12:17AM

Facing a $49 million budget shortfall this fiscal year, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has begun to slow construction on two light rail lines and may embrace more drastic measures in the coming months as uncertainty grows over a $800 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

Senior Metro officials emphasized that they did not anticipate any cuts to services due to the financial pressures and expressed confidence the FTA grant needed to pay for an estimated 30 miles of additional rail in Houston is forthcoming. But they nevertheless have begun to weigh the impact of continued delays on construction plans that anticipated completion in 2013.

“There’s going to be some tough choices that we’ll be making here, no doubt,” Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia said.

So far, officials said, the work that has been put off has been minimal on the North line, which is expected to run from north Houston to the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park. Metro has delayed road reconstruction work on Fulton Street and has put off awarding a contract for the expansion and construction of a rail facility on Fannin at the south end of the line near Reliant Park and the 610 Loop.

Those delays could just mark the beginning, Metro’s Acting President and CEO George Greanias said.

Holding the line

Metro’s budget had anticipated that the transit agency this fiscal year would receive some of the $800 million earmarked to expand Houston’s light rail in President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget. The grant money has been delayed amid an FTA investigation into Metro’s compliance with federal procurement rules. Metro also has struggled during the economic slowdown due to lower ridership and sales tax revenues.

“We’re holding the line on operating costs, and we’re going to be watching everything very diligently,” he said. “We have to be prudent in the management of our finances. That’s why all summer long we’ve been looking at scenarios, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about with the board in the coming weeks.”

Garcia and Greanias said the board will hold several meetings in the coming months to discuss contingency plans for next year’s budget. They said those plans will depend on the status of the FTA’s investigation and whether the grant is approved in the coming months.

This year, officials said, although Metro took in more than $260 million less than anticipated in sales tax revenues, grant funding, ridership fees and debt issuance, the agency expects to have a $49 million shortfall at the end of its fiscal year Sept. 30 due to lower spending. That shortfall will be closed using cash surpluses.

Wednesday’s board meeting also showcased the findings of a private law firm that faulted the manner in which Metro conducted board meetings in the past and made more than a dozen recommendations about how the agency can improve its compliance with state laws regarding transparency.

Neil Thomas, a partner at Fulbright and Jaworski, said the firm had been unable to assess how decisions were made at Metro board committee meetings due to insufficient records.

“That lack of transparency bothered us,” he said.

Improved minutes, files

Thomas praised Metro’s efforts to improve how it retains documents after an open records lawsuit and complaints from a terminated employee embroiled the agency in scandal earlier this year. Still, he said cultural transformation would be more important than implementing a new policy.

“Those cultural changes will ultimately make things work,” he said.

Board members pledged to keep better minutes and comply with the recommendations.

“We just want to make sure we’re following the rules,” Garcia said.

Daphne Scarbrough, a longtime Metro critic who owns a business on Richmond where the University Line would run, said the agency is being forced to comply with state law and deserves no credit for the changes it has implemented to bring it in line with what is expected of all government entities.

She praised Thomas’ report and said she and other Metro critics have experienced similar problems with previous committee meetings.

“They have the appearance of a public meeting, but in reality decisions are made behind closed doors,” she said. “It’s because of their policies that Houston does not have light rail.”


// <![CDATA[
/* //

April Updates

I have consolidated a few updates into a single post below:

  • I will attend the Neartown Montly Meeting tomorrow, April 27, at 7pm at the Cherryhurst Park Community Center, 1700 Missouri St, Houston, TX 77006.  The meeting agenda will include an update on the University Rail Line and the latest on the HEB Development.  Please feel free to attend as well.
  • A gentle reminder that the next Richwood Place Civic Association general meeting will be held Tuesday, May 11, at 7pm at Zoe’s restaurant on Shephard and Portsmouth.  Please plan to attend.
  • The next Neartown Development Forum will be held Saturday May 15th, 9 a.m – 1 p.m. at St. Stephen’s church Pecore Hall.  I will post the agenda when it becomes available.
  • Swamplot recently posted a HEB development update, including information about the variance application submitted by the new owners.
  • recently published the METRO operations review findings from Mayor Parker’s transition team task force, which includes some commentary about the University Line as well as a link to a HoustonTomorrow article that provides a summary of the reports.
  • The examiner reports Buffalo Bayou could soon be named a National Heritage Area.  If approved, Buffalo Bayou will be the first National Heritage Area in the State of Texas and the Buffalo Bayou National Heritage Area can receive up to $1 million annually for 10 years.
  • KTRK posted an article about the recent city council vote to raise water and sewer rates.

Tuesday Night out for Richmond Rail – Marie Selma

The many wonderful restaurants along Richmond Avenue play a big part in making Neartown, Upper Kirby, and Greenway Plaza vital places to live and work. Studies show that restaurants are often the first businesses to benefit when rail service begins — rail transit brings hungry customers! But many Richmond restaurant owners are fearful of the disruption created during rail construction.

It’s in our interest to ensure Richmond businesses survive and thrive. Tuesday Nights Out are our way of showing Richmond business owners that RichmondRail supporters are their customers today and will continue to support them throughout construction. When we show up as a group of customers sporting green and white RichmondRail buttons and t-shirts, it sends a powerful message that we support rail and we support their businesses.

This month’s Night Out will be held at Marie Selma – 1617 Richmond Avenue.

Mayor doubts funding for Uptown, University rail lines

From The Houston Chronicle

Mayor Annise Parker cast doubt Wednesday on whether the Metropolitan Transit Authority has the money to pay for two planned light-rail lines that proponents say are critical to the success of the agency’s plans.

Parker said members of her transition team have “drilled down” into Metro’s finances and she now feels comfortable only with the funding plans of three rail lines: the East End, North and Southeast. Construction on those lines is under way.

The University Line would run on Richmond Avenue, just North of Richwood place.

Rail update from METRO

Work on Metro’s University Corridor rail project is underway.   Once constructed, the line will run directly North of our neighborhood, with the closest stations at Richmond & Shephard and Richmond & Dunlavy.

My wife, Jennifer, spoke with Monique Ward at METRO to see what this means for our neighborhood.  Monique first pointed out that METRO received some great news in December 2009.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved the University Corridor Light Rail Transit Project advancement to Preliminary Engineering Phase (the Federal Project Development Process is: DEIS, Designation of Locally Preferred Alternative, FEIS, Preliminary Engineering Phase <where we are now>, Final Design, Construction, Operation).  That means the project is moving forward, the line is set and engineering activities are in progress.  As a next step, METRO has posted the Final Environmental Impact Statement on its website for any interested parties to review (you can review the first chapter for an overview).  METRO anticipates receiving a record of decision in early April.  Once this is received, METRO can move forward in the process to seek federal funding and engineers can proceed with design work. 

To sum up current activities, METRO resources are currently working to complete all the necessary steps to get federal funding so that construction can begin.

If all goes as planned, METRO is expected to break ground on the line some time in 2011.  Construction is expected to take four years to complete, however, METRO plans to break up the construction into small segments to minimize impact to businesses and residents in the area.  METRO doesn’t expect to have anymore large scale community meetings, but they do expect to provide regular updates (ground breaking, status, etc) once the record of decision and funding are received.  Monique wanted to assure any home or business owners who would be impacted by the line that METRO will contact them directly.  She said they will provide ample time for these individuals to work with the METRO real-estate department.

The Richwood Place Board will continue to follow METRO’s announcements and let you know when more information is available. If you have questions or if you would like the METRO contact information we gathered, please email me at

Construction of the North and Southeast LRT lines is already taking place.