Tag Archive for: Up the down escalator

Going Up the Down Escalator – As HCFCD Demolishes West Fork Townhomes, Developer Builds More

Have you ever walked up a down escalator? I’m sure that’s what it must feel like to work for the Harris County Flood Control District at times. As you work to improve public safety, you sometimes fight others eroding it in the process of making a buck. Consider this comparison.

Forest Cove Buyouts V. Wanbridge New Construction

Flood Control just bought out and demolished a six-townhome complex on Timberline Drive in Forest Cove. It was the culmination of a three-year process.

Meanwhile, a short distance downstream, Wanbridge is building 14 more – even closer to the same river that destroyed the Forest Cove Townhomes. Wanbridge even designed its townhomes on the same principles used in Forest Cove (garage and storage on ground floor/living space two stories up). Let’s see how that worked out for Forest Cove property owners.

Forest Cove Complex Torn Down after Floods and Fire

Here’s what the Forest Cove complex looked like before being demolished recently.

Part of six-unit Forest Cove Townhome flooded by Harvey and then burned on July 4th, 2019. Photo taken July 11, 2020.
Here’s what that site looks like today, 1100 days after Harvey FIRST destroyed the complex.

Finally, a vacant lot that can return to nature!

Six Down, But Fourteen Up

Meanwhile Wanbridge is building six new units in Kings Harbor even closer to the river. That is in addition to three units just completed in the upper left, and five just completed in the lower left (some of which are out of frame).

Forest Cove Townhome Buyouts Part of a Much Larger Project

The six-unit building recently demolished in Forest Cove is part of much larger buyout project. It comprises approximately 80 homes. So far, HCFCD has demolished the following Forest Cove townhome buildings:

  • 1030 Marina Dr.
  • 1040 Marina Dr.
  • 1050 Marina Dr.
  • 1060 Marina Dr.
  • 1102 Marina Dr.
  • 803/805 Timberline Ct.
  • 707 Timberline
  • 930 Aqua Vista  

However, the following buildings still have privately-owned units that HCFCD is trying to purchase ASAP:

  • 1106 Marina Dr.
  • 1110 Marina Dr.
  • 1020 Marina Dr.
  • 960 Marina Dr.
  • 980 Aqua Vista (mostly destroyed)

HCFCD has now bought out and demolished eight out of 14 buildings (see map below).

Map to Forest Cove Townhome buyouts. This once-thriving complex housed approximately 80 families before Harvey.

Five Buildings Still Left Standing…Kinda

Building sheared in half by 240,000 cubic feet per second at peak of Harvey. Residents reported feeling lucky to escape with their lives.
How Harvey chewed up the inside of Forest Cove Townhomes
Floodwaters reached well into the second stories of these units.
Note how the water pressure destroyed garage doors. Also note abandoned scooter.

As I edited pictures from this morning’s photoshoot, I noticed the little girl’s scooter perched precariously on the collapsing porch. A child lived here! It was her family’s home. Their dream. And I’m sure the scooter was the girl’s cherished possession. Perhaps a birthday or Christmas present.

For whatever reason, that scooter got to me. It made me realize the futility and danger of going up the down escalator.

Public Policy Implications

From a public policy point of view, it seems like it would be safer and cheaper to buy up properties near rivers and turn them into parkland – before people build on them.

Parks generally improve the value of surrounding properties. In contrast, the inevitable eyesores created by repeat flooding cost us all. Consider:

  • Taxpayer subsidies for flood insurance.
  • Multiple payouts on insurance claims, also subsidized by taxpayers.
  • Eventual buyouts, paid for by taxpayers.
  • Demolition, paid for by taxpayers.
  • Eventual restoration of the green space, at taxpayer expense.
  • Salaries of public employees to manage this process in Washington, Austin and Houston.

Leaving these spaces green would have cost little compared to the ultimate financial and emotional costs of repeat flooding. But some people like going up that down escalator.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 9/2/2020

1100 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.