During a Feb. 27 Conroe City Council special meeting, Interim City Attorney Mike Garner read a letter from Overland Property Group’s Director of Development April Engstrom, in which she announced the company has rescinded its request for a resolution of support from Conroe City Council, which essentially pulls the company out of the sale process.

“We wish the community the best of luck in the uphill battle that repurposing and preserving vacant historic schools entail,” Engstrom said in her letter. “And we hope that the undertaking is fully realized by whoever is able to secure the funding required.”

Overland Property Group was planning to build income-based housing at the property, which was previously planned to be a performing arts venue, Community Impact previously reported. With the rescindment, the sale process has stopped, and the Sam Houston Elementary School building will remain owned by the city of Conroe.

How we got here

Conroe City Council approved the contract to sell the Sam Houston Elementary during its Dec. 14 regular meeting, according to prior reporting. The building was previously anticipated to be redeveloped by the city into a new performing arts venue.

Conroe local arts officials expressed surprise at the sale and spoke about the need for a new performing arts venue in an interview with Community Impact.

What else?

During the Feb. 27 special meeting, council member Harry Hardman said getting the Sam Houston Elementary School operational is going to be an “extremely sizeable investment.”

“We’re talking ... a couple million dollars to get it up to code,” Hardman said. “If everyone could walk in and use it, it would be ideal. But unfortunately, once somebody steps in and uses it, we have to do everything to get it up to the current codes.”

Hardman also spoke briefly about the Hyatt Regency Conroe, a project he said was “financially the worst mistake that we’ve made as a city.” Before opening, the hotel required a $5.1 million cash infusion from the city and has a projected deficit budget for fiscal year 2023-24.

“Our credit cards are pretty much maxed out, to put it in that way,” Hardman said. “So I’m tired of harping on it. But that is the reality. The most expensive part of that hotel project is the opportunity cost. And this is a prime example of the opportunity that we’re missing today. We don’t have the opportunity to do the things we would like to do because of the commitments that we’ve already made.”

Hardman also said turning the Sam Houston Elementary School into a performing arts venue would require a public-private partnership.

“That’s the only way it’s going to work because we can’t do this on our own,” Hardman said. “It’s got to be all of us working together.”

What they’re saying

  • “What I’m asking for is that we pump the brakes,” council member Howard Wood said. “Obviously, we need to take a different look at this approach.”
  • “By taking your time and letting us move forward in getting the right people in place, this will and can happen someday,” said Annette Spikes, who serves on Conroe Symphony Orchestra’s board.

The takeaway

The Sam Houston Elementary School property will remain owned by the city and not sold.

View the letter from Overland Property Group’s Director of Development April Engstrom below.