Proposed condos stir up controversy in the Heights

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by Gabe Gutierrez / 11 News

khou.com

Posted on September 23, 2010 at 7:00 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 24 at 1:28 AM

HOUSTON – As a long-debated condo development appears to be moving forward in the Heights, residents are already collecting petition signatures to stop it.

A 65-unit condo complex has been discussed for a 1.3 acre site next to White Oaks Bayou. It sits right next to the Freeland Historic District near the corner of East 5 ½ and Frasier streets.

"We're trying to protect our neighborhood," said Michael Jungnickle, who claims to have collected 800 petition signatures to stop the development. "It's a battle. It's an ongoing battle."

There’s been talk of the project for much of the past decade – but the nation’s economic downtown had seemed to stop it.

In the past month, however, Houston’s planning commission approved some early plans that suggest the project is being reconsidered.

The development has been known as “Viewpoint at the Heights,” although the most recent plans refer to it as the “Emes Place Subdivision.”

The developer is Canada’s Group LSR, which is called Inner Loop Condos in Houston. The company has developed condos near the Medical Center and River Oaks.

"Our goal is to work with the community we're developing in,” said Chris Treleaven, the organization’s marketing director. "We applied to have the plat recorded, which is something you tie as a loose end so that in the future, when we are ready to develop, that part will be complete."

Treleaven added that there are no plans to start building right away, but that construction could begin within the next few years.

But Heights residents have heard the proposed building will be four or five stories tall with an additional two stories for parking.

"They would pretty much turn our neighborhood into their driveway," Jungnickle said.

What worries many of them is the increased traffic that the area would see.

"I've never lived in a place as neighborly," resident Chris Hutchison said. "I love it so much and I would really be heartbroken to see it change."

The development would force Frasier Street to be widened by at least 10 feet and would cause a popular biking trail to be rerouted.

"You know, people are not against development,” Hutchison said. “It's just that it has to be development that is sustainable and in keeping with the character of the neighborhood."

The debate over the condo complex comes a day after city council members approved incentives for the developer of a controversial Walmart near the Heights.

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