Low and Outside

Welcome to the ballpark. And brown fields and barren expanses of a still-not-rejuvenated section of downtown.

We look forward to doing business with you.

Sincerely,

etc., etc.


That firm was not the only one heard from, of course. Another bid memo came from a group that ridiculed the Hey What Problem solution, calling it "a discredited notion that was still resting on the laurels of having worked once for then-councilman Michael Yarbrough."

Their memo outlined what they termed a much more aggressive approach to dealing with ballpark blight:

Sirs, or Madams, or Whatevers:

You got a problem. You can ignore it and hope that people will settle for a bunch of "Development Coming Soon!" signs in lieu of actual places to eat or drink, but that's not quite what they expected for their tax dollars. When these burb brains roll in with their SUVs, they're gonna want two things: 1) a parking space that wasn't designed for a Toyota Corolla (not our problem, thankfully), and 2) downtown development.

They've been promised it. They want that promise to be delivered on.

Now you could go ahead and claim there is no problem, and what these newcomers are seeing actually is rejuvenated downtown development, and that we just do things a little differently downtown.

But we think it's better if you act like you got a pair and attack the issue. Take some proactive steps, for crying out loud.

We have, luckily, a few suggestions that will set spinning the heads of all those moms and dads and their 2.5 kids. By the time they're sitting in traffic trying desperately to get back to Katy before midnight, we'll have them convinced that they actually spent an evening in the hippest urban area this side of the Upper West Side. It'll take hiring a few minimum-wage workers and buying some props, but we think you'll agree it'll be money well spent.

1) Put muscle-bound bouncers in front of every abandoned doorway. Throw a velvet rope and stanchions in front of the door. For God's sake, make sure you can't see through the windows.

2) Have speakers blast Sting's latest CD (whatever the hell it's called; it probably won a Grammy, so you can look up the name there) from random windows of the Ben Milam Hotel. Stack some empty IKEA boxes on the curb.

3) Hire a few UH drama students to walk into building lobbies (past "security guards," who'll keep everyone else out). Dress 'em "boho" style and give 'em all Starbucks cups to walk around with. They'll have one line that they will keep muttering sotto voce to each other: "Gawd, I wish these breeders would head back to wherever it is they come from and leave us alone."

4) The King George Hotel? Rent a couple of rotating searchlights and two limos. Park the limos in front and flip on the lights. A couple of police barricades will keep the gawkers far enough away; the lines for the drama students playing the cops will be: "Jay-sus, didya see what Madonna's wearin'?" (an Irish accent lends atmosphere) and "Better call for backup, Puff Daddy's here."

5) As we all know, just a few yards from the right-field fence sits the Fiesta Ballroom, an "after-hours" club that won't open until long after the crowds are gone each night. Hire a middle-aged white couple to stand in front of the club every few minutes, stare at the locked door and say loudly enough for everyone to hear: "Gosh, they don't even open until after Jay Leno's done. Imagine that!" This will reinforce the feeling that visitors are truly in an otherworldly Land of Hip.

6) Let's take advantage of some other buildings that are already in place. Directly across from the main home-plate entrance of the ballpark is Surveyors Instrument Company, which, if the impressively large hand-painted sign out front is to be believed, is the place to go if you're looking to buy the "Schonsteldt Heliflux Magnetic Locator." Try finding one of those at the Katy Mills mall. There's also an abandoned warehouse prominently advertising itself as "Houston Gasket - The Rubber House." Blast the dance mix of Celine Dion's "That's the Way It Is" out of its darkened windows, and you'll have the out-of-towners convinced they actually walked by an honest-to-God kinky gay bar.

We got plenty of other ideas, but you gotta pay to play. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

etc., etc.

There were other memos, naturally -- a business group called Rejuvenation Now! said that with the right amount of tax incentives, and a few waivers on building and fire codes, they could open up enough restaurants and bars to satisfy any visitor on opening day. The idea looked promising, but negotiations broke down when building and fire inspectors said the concept would wreak havoc on their plans to discreetly finance their summer vacations.


So much for memos that may or may not be real. What is real is that developers moving into the area around Enron Field are absolutely confident that the neighborhood is about to take off.

"I've seen Denver develop out of absolutely nothing, an area that was just filled with depleted warehouses, and after [Coors Field] opened it became the place to go to hang out," says bar owner Evans.

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