Harris County commissioners unanimously voted this morning to move forward with the design phase of the Astrodome repurposing plan proposed earlier this year. The structure will be converted into an events venue with additional parking and storage space.
The county will spend $10.5 million for Phase One, which includes the engineering and architectural work. The entire plan is estimated to cost $105 million. The plan, which does not call for a bond or an increase of the tax rate, does not need voter approval to move forward.
"Harris County's most recognized building will again be proud and useful as host to thousands of area residents attending a variety of business and community events," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said. "Hundreds of people worked very hard to see that happen, and I'm proud that this day has finally arrived."
According to county officials, the plan involves raising the Astrodome's floor 30 feet to ground level, which would provide easier access for vehicles. The raised floor would also provide 8 acres of open space for events such as the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Two levels of underground parking would be installed to provide roughly 1,400 spaces. The 500,000 square feet of space available in the Astrodome's upper levels could be used for leasing office, restaurant and retail space, officials said.
Money for the project would come evenly from three sources: the county's general fund, hotel occupancy tax funds and parking enterprise funds. Each source would be used to provide $35 million.
In November 2013, Harris County voters rejected a bond proposal to repurpose the Astrodome, which would have allowed the county to issue up to $217 million in bonds and required a tax increase. A public speaker at this morning's meeting urged commissioners to let the new proposal go to the voters for a referendum.
The plan still has to be approved by the Texas Historical Commission. THC voted to postpone its vote on the application at its quarterly meeting in July. The date of the next meeting has not been set.
Phase One is expected to last 12-18 months, officials said. If approved by THC, Phase Two—which involves construction—would require 2-3 years.
Emmett said the Astrodome’s demolition would cost $30 million.