Gramercy Gets Fingered

Some Museum District residents rally against plans for razing quaint apartments

Fox blames Houston's lack of zoning and lack of a commitment to historic preservation for the devastation of such legacies from the past. "In other cities, city staff is budgeted to propose structures for the National Register," Fox says.

In fact, the city employee administering the historic preservation ordinance, Randy Pace of the Planning Department, says he is not allowed to talk to the media. A departmental spokeswoman did not return calls from the Houston Press.

While the city's record in historic preservation is by no means enviable, Fox says there are more properties on the National Register here than in Galveston, a city that sells its history as a tourist attraction. "But there is just so much more of Houston that it isn't that evident," he says.

The Gramercy is just whistling distance from the new Audrey Jones Beck addition to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, in an area considered by developers and speculators to be a hot market.

The 1.8-acre site is owned by Greeley, Colorado-based contractor Hensel Phelps. Finger is slated to close its deal on the property in August. It was purchased two years ago as the site for a project called the Muse'o Lofts. That project has been abandoned and the sign taken down.

Last August a family bought some of the adjacent apartments and has been restoring them as Gramery Place apartments.

Houston City Councilwoman Annise Parker doesn't hold out much hope for saving the Gramercy, noting there are no ordinances applicable to stopping development.

"Good luck," she says of the neighborhood preservation effort. "This is a city that keeps voting down zoning and historic preservation," she says. "There are few tools to stop that. End of sentence."

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