Harris County Commissioners Court moves forward with Astrodome revitalization project and 4 other things to know from Tuesday’s meeting

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Construction on the Houston Astrodome could begin as early as October, said Joe Stinebaker, director of communications for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett’s office. Harris County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to proceed with Phase One of the Astrodome revitalization project, which renovates the building into an events venue and parking area.

“We’re not converting the dome. All we’re doing is building a new floor,” Emmett said. “Since we’re building a new floor, we might as well put parking underneath. That generates revenue also.”

The total cost of the project will not exceed $105 million, county officials said. Additionally, no property tax increase is necessary to fund the project, Emmett said.

Funds for the project will stem from general fund revenue, hotel occupancy tax revenue and the county’s parking enterprise fund, county officials said. Each source would fund $35 million. The Astrodome—formally called the Harris County Domed Stadium—costs $170,000 to maintain each year, according to county information.

“This is just another building, and [we’re putting] it into a revenue-generating situation as opposed to it just sitting out there and rusting or tearing it down,” Emmett said.

Construction on the Astrodome is expected to take about 17 months once it begins, Stinebaker said.

When completed, the structure will feature nearly 9 acres of climate-controlled, covered, column-free event space and 1,400 underground parking spaces. The revitalization project raises the floor of the Astrodome to ground level.

Located within NRG Park, revitalizing the Astrodome would provide additional funds to update the rest of the park, Emmett said.

“As attention-grabbing as the Astrodome is, it’s just a building,” Emmett said. “To me, it’s a revenue source in NRG Park and something we have to use. It’s fully paid for by the taxpayers of Harris County, and it doesn’t make any sense to tear it down—and we can’t anyway—nor does it make any sense to leave it sitting there. We need to generate revenue.”

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 property tax increase. The revitalization plan considered Tuesday requires no property tax increase for Harris County residents, Emmett said.

As the Astrodome was designated as a state antiquities landmark in January 2017, Harris County must receive permission from the Texas Historical Commission before significantly altering the Astrodome, Emmett said.

According to county officials, demolition of the Astrodome was never considered.

Last fall, commissioners approved moving forward with the design phase of the revitalization project.

“Now, it’s actually time to go out and hire somebody to build it,” Emmett said.

Items of note

Commissioners also voted Tuesday on several items regarding infrastructure improvements and county financials.

  • Commissioners voted to proceed with the final design and construction of a stormwater detention basin in Precinct 4 for flood damage reduction in the Addicks Reservoir watershed.
  • Commissioners approved paying $702,000 to Landtech Inc. for water detention, roadway drainage and storm water pollution prevention plan services for four direct connectors between the Grand Parkway and Tomball Tollway in Tomball.
  • Commissioners approved the 2018-19 budget, which takes effect March 1.
  • Harris County Commissioners took no action Tuesday to call a bond election ahead of the May 5 general election. County officials previously said a bond referendum could total $1 billion to fund flood mitigation projects. Friday, Feb. 16, is the last day to order an election on an item, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s website.

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Anna Dembowski
Anna joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. In July 2017, she transitioned to editor. Anna covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in the Tomball and Magnolia communities. Prior to CI, Anna served as editor-in-chief of Cedars, interned with the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., and spent time writing for the Springfield News-Sun and Xenia Daily Gazette.
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