Riverside Terrace homeowners divided over intent, impact of proposed historic designation

Here's what we know

HOUSTON – A process to officially declare Riverside Terrace a historic neighborhood that began quietly last summer is now causing an uproar and tensions among longtime property owners.

The neighborhood is bounded by state highway 288, North MacGregor Way, Blodgett Street and the Columbia Tap biking trail.

Along Rosedale Street, where homeowners who initially requested the historic designation live, large, distinctive two-story brick homes that were built in the 1930s and 1940s are the norm, and residents in support of the proposal want to keep it that way.

“There’s an empty lot next to me, and purely selfishly, I don’t want a suburban home built there. I don’t want to live in Sugar Land,” said Jack May.

But what some call an effort to preserve this area, others call another attempt at gentrification.

“I say no! Absolutely no! It would push a lot of people out and bring more people in that are waiting to get over here,” said Ronald C. Thornton.

Thornton and others in opposition to the historic designation say it would create new regulations and restrictions on maintenance and upkeep that would be a financial burden on some homeowners.

But the city of Houston Planning and Development department says it will establish standards to protect property from unwanted development and give property owners “another level of control and input...to protect the neighborhood and their property.”

The city said it received an application for the creation of a historic district in fall 2021.

After public notification in December 2021, a meeting was held in January 2022.

Of 51 property owners initially included in the outreach for the proposed historic district, 15 were later notified their properties would be excluded.

The 36 remaining property owners were then surveyed about their inclusion, and the city says 13 were in favor, 12 opposed and 11 did not respond, which was counted as opposition.

Not having the 2/3 majority or 67% needed to create the district, planning director Margaret Brown Wallace said she acted according to code and her authority to adjust the boundaries of the proposed district and reduce the size of the district to reach the necessary favorable numbers.

“The map did change. It’s our responsibility to honor the constituents who are asking for this district,” Wallace told KPRC 2 News.

The process is now under scrutiny by homeowners who say their desires were overruled by a minority in favor of the historic district.

“They redrew the map. Gerrymandering. It’s very unfair. To overrule our vote, that is just beyond what the law should support,” said homeowner Elizabeth Smith.

In April, the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission voted to recommend the proposed historic district to Houston City Council for approval.

Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday, June 8 at 9 a.m.

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