Tag Archive for: apartments

Why We Fail to Learn the Lessons of History: Money Has a Short Memory

It was a cosmic coincidence. Last week, I was downloading pictures of townhomes devastated by Harvey in Forest Cove, when I received an email by a Kings Harbor resident. She was worried about identical townhomes now under construction in Kings Harbor.

The Kings Harbor townhomes under construction are about four miles downstream from Forest Cove, where many people barely escaped Harvey with their lives.

According to former Forest Cove townhome resident Jennifer Parks, Harvey swept five of those buildings into the West Fork. Yet the new Kings Harbor townhomes are up to FIVE times closer to the river.

Here We Go Again

The new townhomes are going up less than 200 feet from a river that destroyed everything in its path less than three years ago with 240,000 raging cubic feet per second.

Five of the Forest Cove townhomes were swept into the river during Harvey. Harris County Flood Control is buying out and tearing down the rest which have become uninhabitable.

Now we have new townhomes going up in Kings Harbor – based on an identical design.

New townhome construction near the Kings Harbor parking garage.
That’s the West Fork and the West Lake Houston Parkway bridge in the background.
Every apartment building, townhome and business within two miles north of this location flooded during Harvey. Twelve seniors died at Kingwood Village Estates 1.2 miles north of here as a result of injuries sustained during Harvey evacuations or the heartbreak of losing their homes.
Some new construction has been elevated to the 500-year flood plain (brown). But many new units are in the 100-year flood plain (aqua), about 190 feet from the floodway (cross-hatched). Source: FEMA national flood hazard layer viewer.

Cautionary Tale Just Upriver

The Forest Cove townhomes you see below were the lucky ones. Harvey’s floodwaters swept five off their foundations and into the river, according to former resident Jennifer Parks, who flooded eight times in five years.

Almost three years after Harvey, many Forest Cove townhomes have yet to be bought out and demolished, including those that subsequently burned.
Floodwaters reportedly reached 17 to 22 feet into these townhomes, to the second, and in some cases the third floor.
They left little but mold and reminders of a distant past.
Today, the units that remain have become dumping grounds that the City cannot keep up with.
Is this the future of Kings Harbor after the next big flood?

Chinese-Controlled Company Behind New Kings Harbor Townhomes

A company called Wan Bridge is developing the new townhomes in the Kings Harbor area.

Wan Bridge has also announced plans to build 400-600 sf studio “lakeside” units priced from $190,000 in this area.

According to current residents, the Chinese-controlled company brought in vans and limos full of Chinese investors to tour the area every weekend for a year.

Foreign investors may be unfamiliar with the flooding history of such properties and even less familiar with the resources to investigate flooding history. Therefore, they may be especially vulnerable. Current residents have heard that the investors likely have no intent to live here and that they will rent the properties out.

The Trick to Permitting

After Harvey, how can owners possibly get permits to construct such properties? Turns out it’s simple. Even under the City’s new “stringent” Chapter 19 regulations. People will not live on the ground floor; that space is reserved only for vehicles.

Entire ground floor taken up by garages.

A spokesperson for the City of Houston said that, to get permitted, the first living floor needs to be at least two feet above the 500 year flood plain. Putting cars on the ground floor evidently creates the elevation needed.

Ironically, the people in Forest Cove thought that living one floor up made them safe, too.

Tangled Web of Chinese-Controlled Companies Behind New Construction

Wan Bridge is part of a tangled web of Chinese-controlled companies

Source: Texas Secretary of State Direct.

Harris County Appraisal District shows that another company called Forney 56 LLC owns some of the property above (where the concrete will soon be poured). Jackson Su is the registered agent for Forney 56 and also a managing partner of Wan Bridge. Forney is a city outside of Dallas where Wan Bridge has another development.

The reference to “Wan” in the name likely stems from Bin Wan, the company’s CFO.

From CorporationWiki.com

Another man listed on the Wan Bridge website, Ting Qiao, holds the title of President and CEO of Wan Bridge. He’s also listed as manager of Ting Qiao Capital Management LLC.

Interestingly, Wan Bridge Group also has an interest in The Villas At Kings Harbor – just a block away from the townhomes shown above. There, Wan Bridge urges prospective tenants to Tour the Property Virtually AND Sign a Contract Virtually. That’s a convenient way to avoid answering difficult questions.

New Wan Bridge construction at Villas at Kings Harbor. Note elevation relative to street.

I spent half a day trying to untangle this web of companies and feel as though I just scratched the surface. More to follow.

Only one thing is certain at this point. If floodwaters ever ravage these townhomes and apartments the way they did in Forest Cove, the people responsible for constructing them will be well insulated. From a legal point of view, at least.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 7/11/2020

1047 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.