Loss Of Tree Due To Ike Results In New Designs For Rec. Center Property
The loss of a large tree on the West U. Recreation Center property due to Hurricane Ike opened up the lot for different design options for the new Rec. Center, and architects PGAL have taken advantage of it.
The original design was mapped out similarly to the current layout – the pool closer to Bellaire Boulevard, the building closer to the back of the property and the parking lot traveling up the east side of the property and widening near the back.
The new design, approved by council contingent on the recommendation of the Parks Board, has parking located on the south end of the property, along Bellaire Boulevard, with the building and pool side-by-side, east to west, closer to the back of the lot. The ball fields remain on the west side of the lot, with two baseball diamonds, one in the northwest corner, one in the southeast.
A “buffer-like” zone of trees has been placed between the pool and building and the rear of the property, which backs up to Ruskin. PGAL representatives say this option not only helps reduce noise and light spilling into the neighborhood, but also retains a “Colonial Park” atmosphere, with greenspace available for picnics and swim team gatherings.
Councilman Michael Talianchich suggested building part of the Rec. Center on top of the covered pool. Councilwoman Phyllis Cohen expressed concern that the pool would be too dark if that option were pursued.
A negative aspect of this design, according to PGAL, is that unless the city purchases the two properties on Westpoint leading into the Rec. Center property, the only entrance and exit to the new facility would be located off of Bellaire Boulevard.
Council approved a motion stating that the designs should include the ultimate purchase of the two residential properties. The city has shown interest in the 6728 Westpoint Street and 4204 Cason St. properties since purchasing the old YMCA for use as a recreation center. The two homes are on either side of the section of road leading to the driveway into the Rec. Center parking lot from Westpoint.
According to city officials, the owners of the Westpoint property have indicated a willingness to sell the property to the city. The Harris County Appraisal District lists the 2008 appraised value of the property as $281,383 for the land and $161,539 for the improvement, for a total of $442,922.
The owner of the Cason Street property told city officials he wanted to remain in West U., and would consider exchanging his land for another city-owned property. The city owns a property at 3501 Corondo Court, which was purchased about a year ago for open space. The city hoped to eventually purchase the land adjacent to the property, with the possibility of the land becoming a pocket park. The Corondo property was bought with money from the general fund reserve, at a cost of $420,000.
The Cason Street property’s HCAD value for 2008 was $194,481 for the land and $10,957 for the improvements, for a total of $205,438.
Asbestos abatement is currently under way on the current building, which should be demolished sometime in February.