The now-familiar refrain of ‘The Northpark Drive project is moving forward’ was heard again at the March meeting of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Authority/Reinvestment Zone 10.
Chairman Stan Sarman observed that it is “moving forward as rapidly as possible.”
The board heard that acquiring right-of-way is the focus currently, with those costs exceeding initial projections.
“The Exxon station must have two gas tanks moved, which we didn’t expect,” Sarman said, in addition to other small changes that have been noted.
Sarman, TIRZ Project Manager Ralph De Leon and other board members have been meeting with the engineering firm, HNTB, and with Union Pacific Railroad officials as well as Harris County Flood Control administrators in the last month to plan.
The TIRZ held an open house Feb. 6 at the Kingwood Community Center with good results, Sarman said. Elmore Public Relations is documenting all public comments and creating a Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet for the public. The board tabled a discussion on hiring a firm to manage a possible website devoted to the project.
Sarman said a prolonged interaction with New Caney ISD had good results when the district ultimately agreed to build a public road, creating access from a new high school site which grants access to a future Houston Fire Station site.
De Leon led a discussion about the TIRZ finances, including an ongoing need for a line of credit. The good news, he said, is the lower interest rates.
“They are incredible,” he said, adding that as soon as property owners agree to a price, “we need to jump on that and acquire the rights quickly.”
There is a need for additional money, approximately $2 million, due to the right-of-way cost increase as well as the fact that the nearly $10 million in the TIRZ account is encumbered to part of the Northpark project and to projects underway.
These projects, intersection improvements at Kingwood Drive and Woodland Hills, and at Kingwood Drive at Willow Terrace need some redesign due to flooding concerns. De Leon said significant flooding occurs at both during high-water events and the TIRZ wants to build in plans to push that water away.
“We are modifying our plans to drain that water,” he said.
The board set April 9 for the next meeting, although stating aloud that the coronavirus pandemic might preclude meeting.