Tang City Plaza does not look like much these days: a wide tract of land stretching nine and a half acres overgrown with weeds and leveled off buildings. However, this particular patch of soil and pavement has a history.
The property, which is at 1000 Hwy. 90, looked a lot different in the early 1930s. In 1932, a boat racing course was constructed by Missouri City townsman Roland Mason, featuring a 500-person grandstand and an artesian well—a kind of pressurized natural water system—that filled the course.
According to “Fort Bend County, Texas: A Pictorial History” by Sharon Wallingford, Mason’s boat racing course was successful in the bustling oil town of Missouri City until the Freeport Hurricane of 1932 destroyed the course. In the following years, Mason built a two-story clubhouse on the property and held horse racing at the old track.
In 1985, the property became home to a 120,000-square-foot shopping center, featuring Asian shops and markets, but it closed after a few years of operation, Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen said.
“It was to be the new China Town,” he said. “[Tang City Plaza] had some beautiful Chinese shops and a great restaurant, but that was prior to Beltway 8 being built and was just ahead of its time. It just never made it and eventually was vacated, and the place went downhill in a hurry.”
About 15 years later, the property was purchased by former Houston Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon in November 2000. He presented an elaborate proposal in June 2000 to build a mosque along with a private school, library, landscaped gardens and a 35-foot-high dome, keeping with traditional Islamic architecture, Olajuwon’s contractor, Thomas Cloninger said. His plan was met with unanimous approval from the Missouri City City Council and with much community support, according to City Council records.
Plans for the mosque never made it off the ground. In an article published by the Houston Chronicle in 2004, Missouri City’s former code enforcement division supervisor Mike Fogarty said that when he last met with Olajuwon, the basketball star had said that he was not going to pursue developing the Missouri City Islamic complex after completing the Hakeem Islamic Da’wah Center in downtown Houston in November 2002.
Fogarty said that Olajuwon told him he felt the success of the Hakeem Islamic Da’wah Center downtown would potentially detract from the center he planned to build in Missouri City, so he scrapped the plans to build.
Later, the existing structures were leveled to satisfy city building code violations, including broken windows, high weeds, debris and graffiti.
As of 2011, the property was still owned by Tang City Community Village and managed by Olajuwon, according to records provided by the Missouri City Economic Development Division. The property was valued at $870,000 in 2004, according to the Fort Bend County Appraisal District.
In 2012, the Missouri City City Council approved a request by Chad Millis of Bomar Properties to re-zone about five acres for development of a mixed use complex. Millis said he was committed to “changing the image” of the area within the Tang City Plaza subdivision.