As previously reported by Community Impact Newspaper, the vacant office building, located at 4702 FM 1960 W., Houston, has been in decline for roughly eight years, attracting graffiti, trash and the local homeless population. In that time, the building has been a location of concern for law enforcement and public health officials.
In late 2019, the local community drafted a petition calling for improvements at the location. Likewise, the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce has been in the process of creating a management district that could have the power to regulate nuisance buildings along the corridor.
According to Bethany Dwyer, an assistant county attorney with the Harris County Attorney's Office, the Harris County Fire Marshal's Office has had ongoing concerns with the property with regard to its risk of catching fire, as the local homeless population often uses the building as shelter. Dwyer said the fire marshal's office referred the case to the attorney's office for safety violations, and the attorney's office then filed a lawsuit, which Dwyer took over in May.
"I met with the attorney for the property owner, and we worked out a plan to do a kind of phased demolition," Dwyer said. "But then, we went out [to the property] with the fire marshal's office on June 25, and when we got there, there was actually somebody sleeping in the building—so that was a good reminder of why this building really isn't safe. We saw there's still a lot of drywall, still a lot of flammable material left in the building, and so after we walked through it, the attorney went back to his client, and they agreed to do a complete, immediate demolition as opposed to a phased demolition."
Dwyer said the demolition, which is being conducted by RC Demolition Inc., is expected to be completed by Sept. 10 and will leave only a concrete slab behind.
"Currently, it's still the same property owner," Dwyer said. "They had hopes, I think, to sell [the building], but with COVID[-19], things have changed. People aren't buying as much real estate, especially office real estate, so they're really just hoping this takes care of any of the safety issues and nuisance issues, and post-COVID[-19], they'll probably decide what they want to do with the property. The plan is to leave a slab; that way, if somebody does buy the property, they've already got a slab, and hopefully, it's a little bit more appealing to build something new on there."
Local business owner Larry Lipton, who owns an Allstate Insurance Agency on FM 1960, said he was excited about the building's demolition and what it means for the entire commercial corridor.
"Every eyesore, nuisance—especially something that enormous—hurts the future of our area," Lipton said. "The owner of that building has been absolutely irresponsible in not working with the community and helping get rid of it. This demolition should have been done ages ago. It's been an eyesore; it's been dangerous; it's attracted the homeless; it's the worst. And every business owner in the area is happy to see it go."
Likewise, Bobby Lieb, president of the Houston Northwest Chamber of Commerce, said he too was confident the change would have a positive impact on the entire area.
"Whatever the reason, this building coming down is only a positive step toward improving the condition of [FM 1960]," Lieb said. "Not only did that building drag down the aesthetics and value of real estate around it, it also was a magnet for crime, [the] homeless and vandalism."
Video courtesy RC Demolition Inc.