Saturday, June 26, 2010

An Open Letter to Apartment Developers

It has been a bad week for Houston’s apartments.

On Sunday morning, a man was found fatally shot at the Tall Timbers Apartments, in east Houston. On Tuesday, a man shot his wife while his daughter watched in front of a small apartment complex at 910 Adele in north Houston. On Thursday, a man was shot just steps from his home at the Arbor Ridge Apartments in north Houston; and another man was found dead at the City Parc II at West Oaks in southwest Harris County. On Friday, two separate apartment complexes caught fire – one in Northwest Houston, and another near The Galleria.

As if this week’s mayhem weren’t enough, the news also reported two stories from earlier this year. Joshua Leon Marshall is still on the run for his role in the May 9 shooting of Reginald King at the Pine Ridge Place Apartments in northwest Houston; and in the most tragic of stories, a 14 year old girl is in jail after she gave birth and killed her baby at the Greyfield Apartment Homes in southwest Houston.

Horror stories like these drive a wedge between neighborhoods and apartments. Nobody wants to live next door to a complex that’s notorious for crime. And the stories sit in the back of neighbors’ minds when a developer plans to build apartments near them, too – but developers don’t always listen.

A few months ago, I came across this post on the blog. Caution – it’s not fun to read. The author spares no effort in insulting the valid concerns of neighbors. Traffic, flooding – he laughs at those. Public hearings are “kangaroo courts,” and developers are constantly having their ‘perfect’ projects shot down by little old ‘Aunt Sally’s.

The developer who wrote the post might have good reasons to be frustrated. Maybe he missed the required drainage and traffic studies on a project, and a neighborhood group called him on it. Or maybe he’s just venting after being on the wrong side of one too many canceled projects. I actually agree with what he wrote about meeting with neighbors – even if he suggested it for all the wrong reasons.

The vast majority of apartments in Houston are fine places to live. Most development is good. But we constantly hear about the bad apples: the developers who are at war with neighborhood groups; the apartments where people are getting shot. Developers would be wise to read these stories carefully, and work with neighborhood groups (not against them) to do projects that benefit everyone.

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