Metro is purchasing a piece of property between Main and Travis, bordered by Holman and Winbern, to promote transit-friendly development.
Steve Campbell: Chronicle
April 5, 2007, 1:07AM
Metro buys Midtown tract, and developer buys time
By RAD SALLEE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
Metro is buying two blocks along its light-rail line in Midtown from a developer the agency expects will buy the property back and build transit-friendly residential and business space.
In a transaction unprecedented in the agency's history, the Metropolitan Transit Authority board voted March 22 to spend $7.2 million for the blocks bounded by Main, Holman, Travis and Winbern, next to the Ensemble station of Metro's light rail Red line.
The idea is to sell the tract back to developer Robert H. Schultz of RHS Interests for at least the same price after Schultz's partnership is ready to build. Schultz approached Metro with the proposal, he and Metro said.
Agency spokeswoman Raequel Roberts said Metro knows of no other instances in which a transit agency has bought land to hold and sell to a private company for what is known as transit-oriented development.
The board did not discuss the purchase publicly when it voted for the transaction, but Schultz and Todd Mason, Metro's vice president of real estate services, since have outlined the plan for the Houston Chronicle.
Schultz said Metro may join in developing a parking garage on the site that could be used by rail riders but that the agency chose not to invest in other parts of the project.
"They didn't want to extend that kind of money. They wanted to be much more conservative until they could see this thing was going to happen," he said.
Mason agreed, saying, "Metro does not want to be a developer and take on a lot of risk, but we want to be an enabler of projects like this one."
He projected that the development could increase Metro ridership by 1,000 passengers a day at virtually no cost. "By comparison, a typical Park & Ride lot adds 1,500 riders but costs $20 million to $25 million," he said.
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