The Ashby High Rise, as its called in the community, is one of the most talked about and contested development plans in the city.
The 23-story tower would include 231 apartments, along with retail and office space.
Kevin Kirton is the owner of Buckhead Development, the group that wants to build the tower on the corner of Bissonnet and Ashby.
His company is suing the City of Houston for the right to build under their original plans, or get damages for money lost by having to modify the development.
“That’s as it relates specifically to us. But we are also — filed this lawsuit because we’re concerned about the future of development in the city of Houston.”
The city used a 1968 driveway ordinance to stop the development, saying traffic entering and exiting the parking lot will create a backlog in the surrounding neighborhood.
Kirton says he believes a handful of people used political clout to target the project and convince the city to put up obscure legal road blocks.
“It’s simply not right to be treated the way we’ve been treated. This is exactly the kind of development that Houston needs, that our leaders are clamoring for and that will serve the city and must happen in order for the city to continue to grow and urbanize. I mean this location is the best residential redevelopment location in the city of Houston.”
But opponents of the development say this isn’t about politics, but about what’s right for the neighborhood.
“The neighborhood is very unexcited about having a 23-story building.”
That’s Chris Amandes, the co-chair of the Stop Ashby High Rise Task Force. His group isn’t involved in the lawsuit, but was instrumental in fighting against the development.
“We’re not opposed to densification — I love what’s going on around the city. I love what the city has done with the traffic corridor ordinance to try and encourage pedestrian-related development. The objection to Ashby really was this is exactly the wrong location for that sort of thing. I mean the proposed project is surrounded by, for the most part, deed-restricted single-family properties.”
But Kirton says that’s a common attitude people have toward new development.
“I don’t like change, I’m a creature of habit and people are entitled to that concern. But the reality is it needs to happen and if it’s done the right way, and ours will be, then it’s a great benefit.”
There’s no way to tell whether the Ashby High Rise will ever be built — but opponent Amandes says…
“They may decide they want to try again someday and when that happens we’ll be ready for them.”
As for where things stand in the lawsuit, last week, the presiding judge, Nancy Atlas, recused herself from the case. She’s married to Scott Atlas, the campaign finance chair for former Houston Mayor Bill White. A new judge has taken on the suit and depositions are underway.
Laurie Johnson, KUHF News.