Community activists in Houston are protesting a Texas Department of Transportation plan to demolish an apartment complex for a $9 billion freeway expansion in the heart of downtown Houston, despite the project being put on hold for a federal review.
Community activists claim TxDOT acted in bad faith when it said it would remove 165 apartment units from Houston’s housing market with its expansion of Interstate 45, then increased the number to 375 units – the entire Lofts at the Ballpark Apartments complex, according to a KHOU 11 report.
The U.S. Federal Highway Administration is reviewing the project for potential civil rights and environmental violations because the freeway expansion project would heavily impact Black and Hispanic communities.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents the Congressional district where the apartments are located, is in Washington lobbying federal officials to keep the complex from being torn down, according to the report.
On Tuesday, protestors were lined up outside of the vacant apartment complex, with a big sign that read “Don’t Pave Over Us!!”
The buildings were barricaded by fences and looked ready for demolition.
When the Lofts at the Ballpark Apartments were completed in the early 2000s, the complex was touted as a symbol of Houston’s commitment to urban inner city renewal. The lofts were built within walking distance of the Astros’ ballpark and were located near multiple bus lines and the city’s new light rail.
Los Angeles-based Banyan Residential sold the three-building complex to TxDOT in 2021 for its plans to widen I-45 through downtown.
Banyan Residential is active in the Texas real estate market and has an office in Houston.
The Lofts at the Ballpark Apartments was the company’s first Houston multifamily purchase.
The complex’s total appraised value came in at $68 million, according to records from the Harris County Appraisal District. The land was appraised at $11.2 million and $56.7 million in improvements was reportedly made to the property in 2021.
Houston’s hot multifamily market is drawing a multitude of investors and over the past decade the market has been one of the top five in the U.S.
[KHOU CBS 11] – Karn Dhingra