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The Water Wall -- Finally Out Of The Hands of the Kuwaiti Government

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The Water Wall. Scene of countless wedding proposals and photos. Houston landmark. Who knew that up until recently, the majority of the Wall was owned by a group of Kuwaiti investors? Or, as John Breeding, the president of Uptown Houston District, tells Hair Balls, "Literally, the Kuwaiti government." But "99 percent of the people in the world assumed it was public. It was one of the most visited spaces and it turns out it was private."

At any time, the Philip Johnson-designed landmark could have been sold and turned into another apartment building or a parking lot for adjacent Williams Tower.

But it's finally in the hands of the public. Last summer, the Kuwaitis put the property up for sale and developer Hines bought it. Then last fall, negotiations began in earnest for the Uptown Development Authority to purchase the Water Wall and the surrounding 2.77 acres from Hines. The $8.5 million deal was approved by City Council on December 30.

It's a steal, according to a statement by Mayor Bill White: "This is a bargain for the public, with a below-market price, maintenance responsibilities by the seller, and $2.5 million in private funds to be raised."

Breeding says there won't be many noticeable changes at the Water Wall. For now, it will probably be known simply as Water Wall Park, but they might name it for someone in the future. The most important thing, says Breeding, is that "We've preserved this for Houstonians from now on."

- Cathy Matusow

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