This Blows!

Houston has a national rep for taking down buildings. So why are these eyesores still standing?

"We're concerned because the Maharishi has done very little to show us that he's interested in actively trying to sell it or develop it himself," Palmieri told me. "Typically...states empower redevelopment agencies or development authorities with certain powers that would permit a city or the agency...to take a property through eminent domain, through condemnation. A property that might be current in its taxes, a property that may be sound and secure but nevertheless a blight."

Palmieri wanted to make it clear that the city's not a land-hungry bully, and that the most important thing is to try to reach an agreement with the owner.

"It's the action of last resort," he said. "But if nothing else works...it's a legitimate means to an important public end."

The Cenikor Building on Texas Avenue, the King George Hotel on Preston Avenue and the Savoy Hotel on Main Street also are being considered as future single-room occupancy sites in the downtown area. Come back in 15 years, [Mayor Bob] Lanier suggested, and Houston will be a national leader in helping homeless residents keep from living on street corners and get their lives back on track.

--Houston Chronicle, 1995

So, what do you folks say? Are these not the sweetest pieces of property you've seen in some time? What's that? You're going to sleep on it? Oh, okay. But you better not sleep too long. But I have a saying: "You snooze, you lose the opportunity to talk to a levitating transcendental meditator about buying an old Holiday Inn with eight-foot ceilings for $10 million."

Before I forget, I had one last thing to talk about, vis-á-vis the Central Square building. See, our friend Sean squatted there for a while, too, after he grew restless at the Savoy. And I think his experience there might make you a lot more interested in writing that $12 million check. Sean and some of his homeless buds were walking down the street and, well, I'll let him take it from here:

"Again, we're just walking by the building, looking up, [and] 'Oh my gosh, it's another [tall] building, completely empty.' That place was incredibly easy to get into...After the first few nights of sleeping there, I was hearing noises at night, and thinking it was raccoons or something. And I went upstairs and scared the shit out of two guys that were ripping out the plumbing and copper and whatnot."

Sean said they turned out to be pretty good guys. And he got a kick out of exploring the place. Up in the remains of the old Cork Club, he found some sweet black leather couches and a few massage tables.

As for the latter, he chuckled, "I don't know if that was a later-on thing, or if that fit in the club somehow."

He said there was a huge leak from about the third floor down, and he discovered two or three feet of water in the basement. Of course, Sean's a clever dude, so he said he fashioned a raft out of some spare boards and a few 2.5-gallon cooking oil jugs.

"Pretty standard flotation device," he said.

So he paddled around the basement of the old Central Bank, seeing what treasures were hidden there. Nothing turned up. He had more luck rummaging around in a small office near the basement staircase. He crawled over a graveyard of old election signs to get to an exercise bike, which he hoped had usable parts for his bike. That's when he hit the jackpot.

"The cognac was up on a shelf out of sight," he told me in an e-mail. "I only saw it because I was about four feet taller, due to the election signs. I believe the brand was RŽmy Martin. I shared it with the guys stripping the copper, Larry and Liberty. Nicest crackheads I ever met."

If you're really interested in this building, I bet we could get the owner to throw another bottle in, gratis.

All right, folks. You have a safe trip back.

I'll be waiting for your call.

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