In the Chops

A master of self-defense thrived downtown for 33 years. Can he hold his own against the city's arena machine?

That doesn't bode especially well for Kim, says Ken Cunningham. An Arizona investor who owns several tracts near Enron Field, Cunningham is still in litigation over a plot abutting the ballpark's east side that the city took through condemnation in 1999. He and other landowners were offered $12 a square foot for the property, even though nearby land was going for $35 or $40 a foot at the time. "They had a budget," Cunningham says. "Rather than offering fair market value, they massaged us into their budget."

Eventually all the property holders but Cunningham gave up the fight. "The Sports Authority was very aggressive on lowballing the prices on the Enron Field condemnation," Cunningham says. "I'm the only one that's left. Everyone else got worn down."

The city recently sent attorney Klitsas an improved offer: $90 a square foot, with nothing additional for moving expenses -- still less than half of what Kim hopes to receive. "It's getting better," Kim says, "but I need more than that to relocate."

Before the skyline: Kim and his school, 1968.
Courtesy of Kim Soo
Before the skyline: Kim and his school, 1968.
Before the skyline: Kim and his school, 1968.
Courtesy of Kim Soo
Before the skyline: Kim and his school, 1968.
Before the skyline: Kim and his school, 1968.
Courtesy of Kim Soo
Before the skyline: Kim and his school, 1968.
Before the skyline: Kim and his school, 1968.
Courtesy of Kim Soo
Before the skyline: Kim and his school, 1968.

Erin Rogers, a graphic artist and Web designer who has studied with the grandmaster for three years, laments the inevitable passing of Kim's personal field of dreams. "It will destroy a piece of history," Rogers says. "As a student, I can appreciate the contributions he's made to the people of Houston. Knowing where he came from and the hardships he had to overcome to get here, it's hard to see it being torn down.

"There's going to be a sense of loss."

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