Sunday, February 17, 2013

Skanska moving forward with site development in Energy Corridor

 By Rusty Graham Original story can be found at

As Skanska clears and readies a 21-acre site for development in the Energy Corridor, the neighborhood next door continues to fight to save what they call Lake Thicket, a water feature that attracts wildlife and that the neighbors consider not only an amenity but an essential part of drainage and flooding control.
It’s a fight that’s taking on more urgency as the draining of the pond becomes imminent. Crews and machines are working inside fences that have been pulled back from water’s edge, and an aerator in the pond has been disconnected.

Referred to as a “foreign developer” on the Save Lake Thicket website, Skanska is in fact a Sweden-based global construction and development company with operations in cities across the United States, including Houston.

According to Mike Mair, executive vice president and regional manager, Skanska USA Commercial Development, Skansa is a global leader in the delivery of construction services — and a leader in building sustainable communities.

“While we’re a global leader,” he said, “we’re very much a local presence. We understand the neighbors’ concerns. (Lake Thicket) has been there since they moved into their homes.”

Skanska bought the property at 15375 Memorial, vacant since 2009, early last year and looked at ways to repurpose the existing building, Mair said, which would have preserved the footprint and perhaps Lake Thicket.

But even though several plans were put forward, Mair said, commercial brokers still wouldn’t accept them and Skanska decided to remove the building because of that obsolesence and for security concerns.

“We met with neighbors to explain that,” Mair said. “That’s when we first heard about Lake Thicket.”
The Memorial Thicket neighborhood organized a committee to take action.

The group got some media coverage last spring, and Skanska at the time said that it couldn’t say if Lake Thicket would remain in place because it wasn’t sure how new construction would use the site.

Now, though, while the actual building footprint remains to be determined and will be based on tenant needs, Mair said that Lake Thicket will be drained, wildlife relocated and a smaller water amenity will be built that will serve as stormwater detention and irrigation for the site, filling naturally and featuring natural vegetation.

Richardson of Save Lake Thicket said that the current pond sits in an area that’s always held water — “probably back when Texas became a state there was water there,” he said.

“(Skanska) claims it doesn’t hold water, but we have pictures that show that it does,” said Richardson, referring to photos taken during the rain event of April 27-28, 2009, that show Lake Thicket with water well beyond it’s concrete-lined sides.

Mair said that the concrete lining and that the pond is filled with groundwater from a pump that also serves as an aerator is evidence that Lake Thicket is man-made.

Richardson said that there “isn’t a natural body of water anywhere” that hasn’t had its banks improved.
Lake Thicket is about 15 feet deep, Richardson said, and connects with the water table.

“Even during the drought (of 2011) the water level went down a foot or so,” he said. Lake Thicket naturally refilled from rainfall during large storms, he said.

Neighborhood associations and super neighborhoods along Buffalo Bayou have written letters of support for Save Lake Thicket, largely expressing concern about additional water storage on the bayou during storms.

Memorial Thicket at one time owned the two-acre pond, but executed a land swap with then-owner Arco for property it could develop and finish out the subdivision. It also transferred maintenance and liability for the pond to Arco.

But ownership “isn’t the issue at all,” said Richardson. “The big issue is, what are they doing for the community.”

Mair said that preliminary plans call for burying utilities along the front of the property, construction of a new six-foot sidewalk along Memorial Drive, the addition of a new right-turn lane on eastbound Memorial, and the extension of a private connector road to South Mayde Drive — all of which improve the property and the area for the neighborhood.

In a Jan. 22 letter to residents, Skanska said that during pond drainage and site adjustment its goal is to “safeguard as much of the wildlife as possible” by using experts to relocate them to a wildlife conservancy.

Skanska also said in the letter that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers it studied the pond and “confirmed that it does not have an impact on wetlands,” and that the new pond will “be used in our environmental plan as water retention, drainage and irrigation.”

Richardson said all the proposed amenities benefit Skanska more than the neighborhood, and that by eliminating access across the property to Terry Hershey Park forces walkers and bikers to the sidewalk along Memorial Drive to deal with the increased traffic the development will bring.

Mair said that while Skanska will have to remove some trees during construction, it plans to replant more trees than it takes out. Richardson said that when Skanska develops the back of the property it won’t be possible to replace all the trees that will have to be cut down.

And while Richardson said Skanska hasn’t responded to the neighborhood’s request for regular meetings, Mair, said Skanska’s goal is to co-exist peacefully with the community.

“We’re really trying to be a good neighbor,” he said. “We want to leave it better than we found it.”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Save Lake Thicket - Nottingham Forest Civic Association

c/o RealManage Houston, LP
2000 S. Dairy Ashford, Suite 120
Houston, Texas 77077

January 10, 2013
Mr. Michael McNally
President and CEO
Skanska USA
350 Fifth Avenue
32nd Floor
New York, NY 10118

Dear Mr. McNally:

      On behalf of the Nottingham Forest Civic Association, Inc., I am writing to urge your company to reconsider its plans regarding Lake Thicket in front of the office building located at 15375 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas.

     Our city - and especially west Houston - has been fortunate to enjoy a robust economy, even during the worst of the recent economic downtum. While we certainly welcome increased business development in our area, we must also be diligent in ensuring the growth accompanying such development enhances, rather than harms, our existing community. I understand Skanska intends to drain and fill Lake Thicket and the surrounding wetlands. This action would, undoubtedly, negatively affect Nottingham Forest and neighborhoods located all along the Memorial Drive/Buffalo Bayou corridor.

     Portions of Nottingham Forest, which lies downstream of Lake Thicket, are already subject to flooding, and filling in this natural wetland would only exacerbate the problem. Furthennore, altering the wetland would harm the beautiful natural environment that makes west Houston such an attractive area for homes and businesses. In short, filling in Lake Thicket would contribute to the already disturbing destruction of wildlife in the area, as well as negatively impacting storm water quality.

     Nottingham Forest welcomes business neighbors who recognize our area's attributes and will ensure west Houston remains a special place to work and live. I look forward to discussing with you how Skanska might work with the communities in west Houston to develop a new plan for Lake Thicket that will benefit our area. Please feel free to have someone contact me by email xxxxxxxxxxxx or telephone at 713-XXX-XXXX to further discuss this matter.


Jonathan D. Polley
Nottingham Forest Civic Association, Inc.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Brittwood Homeowners Association

Brittwood Homeowners Association   
10823 Pepper Lane
Houston, Texas, 77079

Mr. Michael McNally
President and CEO
Skanska USA
350 Fifth Avenue, 32nd Floor
New York, NY 10118

Dear Mr. McNally,

As president of Brittwood Homeowners Association, I write to express the concern of all 15 homeowners in our association regarding the future of Lake Thicket and the commercial development your company is contemplating.  We add our feelings to the many other homeowner associations in the Memorial Area, and urge you not to drain and fill in the lake, but work it into the architectural design of whatever will be built on the property. You have a great opportunity to prove that you intend to be a positive influence on the larger Memorial neighborhood, and we urge you to show us you care about flooding concerns as well as the maintenance of wildlife in our area.


Toby Mattox, President
Brittwood Homeowners Association

Friday, November 30, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Briarhills Homeowners Association

C/O RealManage – Houston
2000 S. Dairy Ashford #120
Houston, Texas 77077
Tel: 866-473-2573 or Fax: 281-582-6400

Michael McNally
President & CEO
Skanska USA, Inc.
350 Fifth Avenue 32nd Floor
New York, NY 10118
Dear Mr. McNally,

The Board of Directors of the Briarhills’ HOA is writing to you as concerned neighbors about Skanska’s commercial development at 15375 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas. We seek your immediate attention because we are concerned about the report that you plan to fill in Lake Thicket, which will have a negative impact on both flooding and wildlife in our area.

As I'm sure you are aware, flooding is a major concern of the HOAs in West Houston. Since Lake Thicket already acts as a detention pond during periods of heavy rain, its removal will have a negative impact on solving the flooding problems in our area. Flooding due to unchecked commercial development is damaging individual properties and is a detriment to our West Houston community.

The wild undisturbed area in and around Lake Thicket is also home to many species of animals and contributes to the quality of life in the area. Our wetland areas provide sanctuary for wildlife and helps to mitigate flooding and by leaving this land intact and unaltered preserves the quality of life for residents in the area.

We have requested the support of local regulators and elected officials as well, all who will be receiving copies of the petition as well:

  • Colonel Christopher Sallese – Commanding Officer, USACE Galveston District
  • Congressman John Culberson – US House of Representatives
  • Commissioner Steve Radack – Harris County
  • Councilman Oliver Pennington – City of Houston
  • Richard Smith – City Engineer, City of Houston
  • Moni Belton - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Sharon Parrish - Wetlands Section, Region 6, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Charles Maguire – Water Quality Section, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Mark Fisher, 401 Coordinator, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Rebecca Hensley – Ecosystem Resources Program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

We ask that you consider Lake Thicket as a positive feature of the property, worthy of keeping intact, because of its history, its role in addressing our flooding issues, and because it is a natural harbor for wildlife.

Thank you for your attention in this matter. On Behalf of Briarhills’ Home Owner’s Association,

Brian Heil, Vice President Briarhills’ HOA
Ken Fickes, President
Martha Whitton, Treasurer
Mark Penick, Director at Large
Jeff Kollar, Secretary


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Preservation of Natural Lake Thicket

Dear Mr. McNally,

As  President of Cove Creek Corporation, a neighborhood homeowners association in Houston along the southern banks of Buffalo Bayou between Wilcrest and Beltway 8, I am writing to express our concerns about flooding along Buffalo Bayou as well as the preservation of wildlife and the wildlife habitat in this area.  We would specifically would like to encourage you to abandon any plans to fill Lake Thicket or destroy any of the natural habitat in the surrounding area you are developing.  Such action threatens to cause irreversibly damage to the environment and increase flooding along Buffalo Bayou.   Buffalo Bayou already has inadequate detention capacity for flood waters during rain events. 

While we welcome Skanska to the neighborhood, we would ask that you not take any action in developing this property that would reduce detention capacity further and exacerbate an already challenging situation.  I have explained our position in further detail in the attached letter.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


George E. Crosby
President, Cove Creek Corporation

__________ Letter Below Sent With Email ___________

Cove Creek Corporation
106 Cove Creek Lane
Houston, Texas 77042

November 13, 2012

Mr. Michael McNally
President & CEO
Skanska USA, Inc.
350 Fifth Avenue
32nd Floor
New York, NY 10118

Dear Mr. McNally,

I am writing as President of Cove Creek Corporation, a neighborhood association on the southern banks of Buffalo Bayou between Wilcrest and Beltway 8. Our association is very concerned about flooding along Buffalo Bayou during rain events and the need for more detention of flood waters, not less. We are also concerned about the preservation of the wildlife and the wildlife habitat along Buffalo Bayou. Skanska's high rise office building development underway at 15375 Memorial Drive in Houston, Texas threatens to irreversibly damage the environment and increase flooding along Buffalo Bayou.

I am sure Skanska wants to be a good corporate citizen and a good neighbor. Accordingly, we are urging you to abandon any plans to fill Lake Thicket or any plan to remove any of the natural habit in the surrounding area you control. Such action would not only destroy a natural environment valued by the citizens in West Houston and a habit necessary to support native wildlife but it would also eliminate an important source of natural detention and thereby increase flooding in adjacent properties as well as communities such as ours downstream.

Your June 20 letter to the neighbors of Lake Thicket was inaccurate when it stated that Lake Thicket "has no impact on neighborhood drainage." I can send you pictures taken during the 2009 flood that show quite the contrary. The fact is that this natural "drainage system," which includes Lake Thicket and the course of the original Buffalo Bayou on the West side of Skanska's property, stores significant volumes of floodwater during flood events above and beyond the normal levels of the lake and bayou. If you reduce this capacity, it is at the peril of many surrounding communities as well as communities downstream.

During the 2009 flood, many homes within our homeowners association flooded. One of the reasons was that Buffalo Bayou does not have the capacity to handle serious rain events. The other reason is the lack of adequate retention or detention basins along Buffalo Bayou to accommodate the increased impervious surfaces resulting from developments in West Houston that did not provide for adequate detention as part of their developments plans.

While we welcome Skanska to the neighborhood, we certainly hope that this mistake won't be repeated. Preservation of the natural Lake Thicket not only enhances the beauty of the Memorial neighborhood but it also makes your development more attractive to future tenants.

Please join us in protecting this natural environment and helping us to eliminate costly flooding along Buffalo Bayou.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


George E. Crosby
President, Cove Creek Corporation

A.J. Restum, Skanska
Greg Mondshine, Skanska
Mike Nair, Skanska
Joel Ambre, Skanska
Bill Fleming, Skanska
Mats Johansson, Skanska
Shawn Hurley, Skanska
Thomas Hendriksson, Skanska
Catherine Dannenbring, Skanska
Johan Karlstrom, Skanska
Karin Lepasoon, Skanska
John Culberson, U.S. House of Representatives
Councilman Oliver Pennington, City of Houston
Mayor Annise Parker, City of Houston
Richard Smith, Chief Engineer, City of Houston
Colonel Sallese, Commanding Officer, US Army Corps of Engineers
Elizabeth Shelton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston Office
John Davidson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston Office, Enforcement Section
Phil Richardson, Save Lake Thicket Coalition
Creek Corporation Board

Monday, November 12, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Parkhollow Homeowners Association, Inc.

Parkhollow Homeowners Association, Inc.
3000 Armenia Dr. Houston, TX  77082

November 12, 2012

Mr. Michael McNally
President and CEO
Skanska USA
350 Fifth Avenue
32nd Floor
New York, NY  10118

Dear Mr. McNally:
The Board of Directors of Parkhollow Homeowners Association is writing to you as concerned neighbors regarding Skanska’s commercial development at 15375 Memorial Drive in the west part of Houston, Texas.  Our community of 550 homes is located just south of this property.  Many of our residents are concerned with the plan to drain and fill Lake Thicket.  This lake has served as a detention pond for many years and helped prevent homes in our area from flooding.   We have already lost much of the wildlife in this part of Houston due to all the growth and draining the lake would lead to more loss of wildlife.  The HOAs in the surrounding communities have worked hard over the years to maintain a desirable quality of life for their residents.  Draining and filling the Lake would certainly cause an irreversible, major loss of our area wildlife and would flood more of our homes.

     Parkhollow Homeowners Association welcomes Skanska to the area as we do all commercial developments.    We realize some of our residents will be employed by businesses in this development and that’s a positive thing for us.  However, the Lake is very important to us and we want to keep it as part of our community.  Therefore, we ask that you not drain and fill the lake, but work it into the architectural design of this property.   


Amanda Sherard, Vice President
Parkhollow Homeowners Association 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Save Lake Thicket - Frostwood Community Improvement Association, Inc

Letter sent to Skanska from Christopher Jones, President of Frostwood Community Improvement Association Inc. regarding potential flooding along Buffalo Bayou.

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