Kingwood Docks Development Submerged

During Imelda, most of the new Kingwood Docks development in Town Center went underwater and stayed that way for days. Much of it is still underwater. Many people have expressed concerns about the development of this area in recent months. It frequently floods. They worry about the potential for the development to increase flood risk for surrounding homes and businesses.

Let’s look at this property, its history, and the plans for it.

Repetitive Flooding

When the site was apartments for the first 30 years of Kingwood, it had a history of flooding repeatedly. It still does. It went underwater during Harvey, May 7th, and Imelda – three times in the last two years.

Here’s what the site looked like before redevelopment into commercial space. Note the triangular area at the far right.
Here’s what it looked like a couple years ago. Lovett started clearing the land on the end.

Entire Property in Flood Plain

FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Layer Viewer shows the entire development is in the 100 year flood plain (aqua). Brown areas represent the 500 year flood plain. Unshaded areas (top right) are not in a known flood hazard zone.

Restaurants with a River View

Since 1998, this site went through a series of five owners. All chose not to develop it once they discovered the site’s problems … until now.

Lovett Commercial bought this property in 2014 under the name Kingwood Retail Partners LTD. They intend to develop this area into a strip of restaurants. During heavy rains, those restaurants will have a river view. Except no one will be able to park by them.

Here’s what the area looked like from Kingwood Drive on 9/19 as rains for Imelda receded. Photo courtesy of Josh Alberson.

How High the Water Got

The debris on this sign shows how high the water got in what will become the parking lot/entry area. Docks! A prophetic name if ever there was one. Perhaps someone was trying to turn a negative into a positive.
What the parking area looked like the day after the storm. Water stayed like this for days. Part of it is still under water a week after Imelda.
Photo taken 9/21/19 shows erosion to pad site. The restaurants themselves will be built up 6-7 feet. Get out your climbing gear. That’s going to be one hell of an ADA ramp.

More Restaurants Planned

Lovett will build twin 14,000 sf structures on that elevated portion (right). They hope to squeeze five restaurants into them. Each structure will measure 200 ft x 70 ft according to their plans.

This shows part of what will become a detention pond around the eastern perimeter of the site. Note how it’s much lower than the creek next to it.
Another view of the “mitigation” area. Photo taken Saturday 9/21/2019. Two days after Imelda, it still had not drained.

The parking will be underwater when it rains. So think seafood restaurants. (Sorry.) Crawfish anyone?

Lessons of History

The current owners bought this property in 2014, about the time that the adjacent apartments were cleared to make way for the HEB center. Lovett began clearing its land in 2016, as HEB and Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center began construction. By Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, they knew something was terribly wrong.

Lovett knew that its land was lower than the adjacent shopping center as you can clearly see from this Google Earth photo dated 8/30/2017, one of the last days of Harvey. Look where all the water ponds!

Lovett clearly saw the catastrophic flooding during Harvey. Torchy’s, adjacent to them, flooded to the rafters during Harvey. So did every other building in the center.

Despite all that, Lovett started developing the property in earnest this year. Their sign promised that retail space would be available by Fall of 2019. It’s now Fall, and from the photos above, I doubt the owners will have it ready in the next three months.

Ain’t No Arguing with Mother Nature

I spent the last two years writing about flooding. One thing has become perfectly clear to me. We have flooding because people don’t respect the power of water. They think they can win arguments with Mother Nature. So in the name of science, engineering, free enterprise and private property rights, they build in areas where they should not. Confident that they will have the National Flood Insurance Program to bail them out when Mother Nature puts her foot down.

The Simple Solution to Flooding

If we want to stop flooding, we have to stop pushing the envelope into questionable areas. We pay lip service to that idea, but, here we go again. It’s death by a thousand cuts. One parcel at a time.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/26/2019

758 Days after Hurricane Harvey

All thoughts in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP statute of the Great State of Texas.