43ºF

Once popular Houston shopping destination now riddled with violations

Channel 2 Investigates finds people living inside the crumbling Westbury Square

HOUSTON – It was once a Houston shopper’s dream. Now, southwest Houston’s Westbury Square is dilapidated and some said a collection of dangerous buildings.

Westbury Square in its Heyday

“It was very exotic, the Chinese shop, the glassblowers and the candle shop,” said Cathy Miles, a longtime resident of the Westbury neighborhood.

It was a retail marvel -- known for its European design and unconventional shops.

“Freddy Fender used to play at the Village Inn,” Miles said.

But, the buzz of activity these days is different.

“The community feels this is the biggest scar in the area,” said neighborhood resident Bill Burhans.

There is no masking the fact that Westbury Square has seen better days. The property features dilapidated buildings, massive holes in roofs, crumbling facades, busted windows, exposed electrical sockets and plenty of chipped paint. Its vibrant color lost.

"I think it's very painful," said resident Howard Sacks.

“This property is a great opportunity for the right team,” said Heywood, a man that actually lives at Westbury Square.

Heywood only goes by one name and he invited KPRC 2 Investigates into his home.

“Personally, I like the old architecture,” Heywood said.

He sees much value in Westbury Square.

“I don’t know much about real estate, but I do know location, location, location and this is a great location,” he said.

Inspections

City of Houston inspectors from code enforcement showed up as we were touring the grounds. After the inspection, the city sent a letter to Square’s longtime owner, Alfred Antonini, requiring repairs to electrical sockets, stairs and even potential demo work.

The investigators took photos of the property, but they were now allowed to go much past the fence line because of “No Trespassing” signs.

Records that KPRC 2 Investigates reviewed showed the city didn’t know anyone was living at Westbury Square.

Photos taken by the city of Houston of Westbury Square.
Photos taken by the city of Houston of Westbury Square. (City of Houston)
Photos taken by the city of Houston of Westbury Square.
Photos taken by the city of Houston of Westbury Square. (City of Houston)
photo

Locating the Owner

Inspectors ordered Antonini to “apply or make available the Certificate of Occupancy,” and to obtain an electrical permit and remove all trash from the property.

KPRC 2 Investigates obtained over 20 city records documenting problems at Westbury Square. They reveal a “notice of deficiencies” with various violations.

Sacks said he blames the issues on Antonini, “unmitigated greed. G-R-double E-D.”

Westbury Square has been on the real estate market for years.

KPRC 2 Investigates called the number listed on the “for sale sign” at Westbury Square. A representative for Antonini said he would be flying into Houston the following day.

The next day, KPRC 2 Investigates went to Antonini’s office in northwest Houston to see if we could get some answers. It was a mostly vacant building with a damaged ceiling.

Our knocks went unanswered.

Westbury residents also have a hard time finding Antonini.

“The place has continually gone down to the point now where it’s falling in on itself,” Burhans said.

The city of Houston officials told Channel 2 Investigates it will conduct more inspections of the property.

The City of Houston released this written statement:

“The Houston Permitting Center continues to follow-up with the property owner at 600 Westbury. The property owner was able to provide a Certificate of Occupancy. The owner also purchased permits to make immediate repairs to the stairwell until permanent repairs can be completed. Our Habitability Inspectors walked the property with the manager and found a few broken windows. The owner plans to board them up. Houston Permitting plans to conduct a full inspection of the property in March.”

If you’re having a problem with a building or a property where you live, you can report code violations to the city. Call 311 (713) 837-0311 or email 311@houstontx.gov.