Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rally - Memorial Thicket Guardhouse, Jun 28, 8:00 am


we will be moving towards Terry Hershey Park closer to the construction site

IT IS HOT, but we need to keep putting pressure on SKANSKA until our demands are met.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lake Thicket Rally Photos - June 12th

 Eggs from the Lake Thicket Area that didn't make it maturity

Some of the Rally Attendees on June 12th who handed out informational flyers

 All Ages Attended the Rally
TV Interview at the Rally

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rally - June 12, 7:30 am

We Are Not Giving Up!!!!!!!
 Join Us
Tuesday - June 12 - 7:30 AM
for a RALLY
 The More that Come = More Impact
See: saveLakeThicket.org for details*

*details originally posted on home page are now being directed to posts within the blog

Lake Thicket Birds

Saturday, June 9, 2012


Tuesday, June 12th at 7:30 a.m.

Bring your signs and meet at the Memorial Thicket Guardhouse. We will have flyers to pass out.  You can also watch for postings at the Guardhouse about upcoming events.

There continues to be ongoing talks with Skanska, but no commitment has been reached to save Lake Thicket thus far. Until there is a written agreement, our efforts will continue to do all we can to preserve Lake Thicket and the wildlife. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A History of Lake Thicket

Lake Thicket is not just some nice man-made water feature.  It is the historical confluence of Buffalo Bayou (the banks of which the City of Houston was founded on in 1836) and Langham Creek until about 70 years ago.  At that time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers channelized both of these waterways while concurrently building Addicks and Barker Dams to help protect the City of Houston from flooding.

With Memorial Drive being extended in the 1950’s out to its present terminus at what is now SH6, the area became positioned for development.  Memorial Thicket began in 1979 with the initial plan to not only develop the current neighborhood, but to also develop around Lake Thicket.

With the downturn in the Houston economy for new residential housing in the 1980’s, the developer of Memorial Thicket sold to the Atlantic Richfield Co. (“Arco”) in 1984 over 20 acres that had not been developed.  This sale included the undeveloped residential lots on the east side of Windbreak Trail.  In 1985 Arco finished construction of a building with approximately 350,000 sq. ft. and 600 parking spaces.  It was also that year when control of Memorial Thicket Homeowners Association (“MTHA”) passed from the developer to the residents.

Shortly thereafter an opportunity presented itself for MTHA to acquire additional property for housing development, ensure that the Memorial Drive frontage would not be owned by third parties who might commercially develop it, and acquire cash in the process.  In exchange, ownership of Lake Thicket would be given up, but since the lake was separated from the rest of Memorial Thicket by the property Arco had purchased from the developer, it was not as critical as the other properties for the future development of Memorial Thicket.

So in 1987 MTHA exchanged Lake Thicket for Arco’s land at the south end of its property.  This newly acquired property was then exchanged with a housing developer for the approximately two acres of undeveloped land fronting Memorial Drive on both sides of Memorial Thicket's entrance and cash.  The developer then built 10 homes, which helped spread out MTHA’s fixed costs, at what is now the southern end of Plainwood Dr.  A portion of the cash received from the developer was used to construct the current guard house and the metal decorative fence on the newly acquired frontage and the remainder was placed in reserves.

As part of the foregoing transactions, MTHA negotiated an easement with Arco for use of the lake for a minimum of 15 years and certain rights thereafter.  MTHA agreed to and to date has kept an insurance liability policy on the property for the benefit of the property’s owner.

Arco undertook adding filtration, pumps for circulation and water jets to the lake.  Arco stocked the lake in the 1980's with striped bass, perch, bluegill, and catfish, some of which reached quite a large size.  The caretaker often fed the catfish by hand and could even pet them.

All of the animals on the property have been cared for seven days a week for many years (holidays included) by the building’s tenants and by people in the neighborhood and community.  Even now, the ducks are fed by three community residents seven days a week.  In fact, during the years between 2002 and 2009, a duck rescuer/rehabilitator who lives in Magnolia was allowed to use the property to place some of the ducks in the Houston area that were in need of a good home.  Today care of the ducks is problematic since, for the first time in memory, public access to the lake has been restricted, even though site construction does not affect the lake area.

The building became the headquarters for Vastar Resources Inc.  As part of a restructuring in 1993, Arco formed Vastar, which was its natural gas exploration and production subsidiary.  Vastar went public in 1994, but Arco retained over 80% ownership.  BP Amoco purchased Arco in 2000 and the remaining public ownership of Vastar that same year.

BP Amoco subsequently leased the property to Global Marine, Inc.  Global Marine and Santa Fe International Corporation merged in November 2001 to form GlobalSantaFe Corporation with the property being its headquarters.  In 2007, GlobalSantaFe was merged with Transocean Ltd., which was the name of the merged company.

In the interim, Lexington Realty Trust, a REIT, acquired the property in a sale-leaseback arrangement with BP Amoco.  Lexington took out a mortgage with an affiliate of Allstate Insurance Company.  The Transocean lease ended in September 2009, and the property has remained vacant since.  The maturity date of the mortgage was October 2009.  With no tenant and no cash flow, Allstate took over the property from Lexington.

On February 24, 2012, SCD Memorial Lakes I, LLC (an affiliate of Skanska) purchased the approximately 21 acres at 15375 Memorial Drive on which Lake Thicket is located with plans to demolish the building and replace it with Class A office space and perhaps multifamily housing.

On just the other side of Memorial Drive from Lake Thicket, ExxonMobil Chemical enhanced the portion of Langham Creek that flowed across its property.  The two resulting lakes were stocked with fish and aerated to prevent algae growth.  In addition, the wildlife on the site has been protected and added to over the years.  Most recently, the site became home for baby screech owls that were abandoned by their parents during the 2011 drought.  The entire 35 acre site was made a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the Wildlife Habitat Council in 2010.  This required researching and documenting the site history and developing wildlife projects that included ExxonMobil employees and other members of the Houston community.

Lake Thicket in turn serves as a wildlife habitat and shares wildlife with the ExxonMobil Chemical site and with Terry Hershey Park.  Approximately 60 animal species have been identified in the Lake Thicket habitat in the past few years.  These include migratory birds as well as permanent wildlife residents near the lake.

The lake has a surface area of approximately two acres and has provided the surrounding community with a buffer from flooding.  For example, in the April 2009 rain event, only a few homes in the neighborhood experienced structural flooding.  Lake Thicket and the building’s below-grade garage retained many acre feet of water that Buffalo Bayou could not handle at that point.  Without that retention, flooding might have been more severe.

To call Lake Thicket a “retention basin” is a pejorative.  The “pond” as Skanska is wont to call it has a name and that name is and has been “Lake Thicket” for decades.  We hope that the new owner will not dismiss years of history for self-serving reasons.  That is not conducive to becoming a part of the Memorial community.

Dear Neighbors,

The good news is that the draining of Lake Thicket and the removal of any additional wildlife has been postponed by Skanska.  Though our team was ready, willing and able to meet, the full management meeting did not occur on Tuesday. Skanska opted instead at the last minute to have what was billed as a one-on-one meeting (but to which the Skanska representative brought his outside PR firm representative).  The primary outcomes of that meeting were that a full management meeting would be rescheduled for sometime next week and, until that meeting occurs, Skanska will not remove any more wildlife or drain the lake. 

In addition, late Wednesday Skanska decided to begin cleaning up the lake rather than draining it as earlier planned.  On Thursday morning a generator was brought on site to power the lake equipment since site power has been disconnected. One aerator already is running and some lake debris will be removed.  The uncertainty is that this equipment has not been run for a long time and it would not start or will fail.  We are encouraged by this action taken by Skanska.

Memorial Thicket and other neighborhood representatives had a successful rally on Monday which was covered by Channel 26-FoxNews on Monday night.  

There was more picketing along Memorial Drive on Tuesday, during the 8AM rush hour and again during lunch hour rush, and much attention was received. Posters and signs remain along Memorial and we have posters in several businesses along Memorial Drive.

Donna Paredes is serving as our Rally and Picketing chair; she plans to be getting more posters out and has handouts available to distribute. Please volunteer to assist, if you can.  
Bob Batten has agreed to be our WebMaster for the new webpage:   www.SaveLakeThicket.org

Houston Chronicle reporter Patti Hart met with Phil Richardson, Rachel El-Saleh, Kyna Agerton and Geralyn Cornelius on Wednesday and is expected to run an article with our story in this Sunday’s Chronicle. 

Our momentum is building.  While we are pleased with the recent change of Skanska’s plans, there is much work still to be done.  We must not only continue to build additional awareness of the potential loss of Lake Thicket and the wildlife habitat it has provided for many decades, but also update all of our contacts of these recent positive actions by Skanska.

We continue gathering facts, researching the history of the area and determining what steps are required to strongly discourage draining Lake Thicket.  Wildlife habitat, storm water drainage and runoff and Buffalo Bayou preservation are among the areas we need more expertise.  If you are aware of anything that can help us with the foregoing or know someone who may be able to help, then PLEASE contact one of the committee members right away.

Next Door Committee;
Phil Richardson, Chairman; philrichardson@pdq.net
Geralyn Cornelius; corneliusrg@earthlink.net
Simon Kanaan; slkanaan@sigmamarble.com

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Defenders of Lake Thicket worried

By Patricia Kilday Hart , Chron.com

"As his lunchtime crowd filtered in last Wednesday, Vahid Navissi, owner of the CafĂ© Benedicte on Memorial Drive, nodded to the wooden deck of his charming restaurant overlooking Lake Thicket. "The Chronicle named it one of the top five patios in Houston for dining out," he boasted of the shaded space overlooking a two-acre pond flush with wildlife.

Naturally, he's been disheartened to hear that the commercial property developer, Skanska, which recently bought the adjacent building, was considering draining the lake ...."    . Read the entire article

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rally - Terry Hershey Park, Jun 2, 9:00 am

Join us to pass brochures to raise public awareness of the importance of
9:00 AM
Contact Donna Paredes

Lake Thicket - Do a Good Job

From: Pierre Latour
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2012 11:37 AM
To: Jessica Murray, Skanska
Subject:  Lake Thicket - Do a Good Job

Thank you for this prompt, thoughtful reply to my text to Skanska, Matt Daniel, below. I particularly noted your fourth bullet.

Since I walked your property 2x/week for 30 years, I am well aware of the deterioration after Transocean moved out, Ike hit and summer 2011 drought damaged flora. I welcomed your purchase to fix up the place.

Like most MTHA residents and neighbors, I want your investment to succeed long term, enhance my property value if you can. Be proud to have an attractive and profitable development next door.

One rule 101 of real estate investing is check the neighborhood, talk to people, confer with them about your plans that could affect them, allay fears, convince them you know what you are doing. Many big developers offer a rendering and model of their proposed project, to win buy-in and enthusiasm from those interested and affected. So I encourage you to communicate with Phil Richardson and MTHA representatives.

I am not your adversary, I wish you well and success. I help finance keeping Memorial Thicket and my own yard in pretty good condition to attract corporate developers like Skanska. So does BP-Amoco and the Energy Corridor.

Our area is known as Westlake for a reason; nature gave us lakes and natural wildlife. This was once a giant thicket. You are surrounded by creeks, bayous, drainage ditches, natural and manmade ponds and Harris County park. Make the most of it.

You should take comfort that your new MT neighbors care so much about what you plan to do next door. You know retirees and families will pass by your property walking, jogging and riding bikes to Terry Hershey County Park, Langham Creek and Buffalo Bayou, with lots of wildlife. Surely you can understand the affection for Muscovy Ducks that hatch up to 24 ducklings annually, only to lose half within three months to natural predators (hawks, raccoons) who have a natural right to be predators. Those Texas Vultures may not be Endangered, but they are Protected Species. I saw a big flat turtle in Exxon-Mobil’s lovely lake on 26May12; Lake Thicket used to have them too. Look at those brown tree ducks standing like soldiers at attention, attached 16TreeDucks.

Besides preserving Lake Thicket to delight your future tenants and support premium rents, be sure your engineers know about the 12 inches in 4 hours rains your property has experienced every decade or so for thousands of years (that would be 100/millennium). Water drains off in several directions, hopefully to Langham Creek across the street. Some does flow through Memorial Thicket and a big pipe under my back yard. I have seen it at capacity 3x since I invested in MT. I advise you not to increase drainage flow to Memorial Thicket, to avoid damage and anger from MT property owners. But of course you already knew that and would never do such a thing. Elementary.

Seems reasonable for neighbors to expect Skanska to be a quality outfit, creating a first class development next door. Hope you find this helpful.

Pierre R Latour
Memorial Thicket Homeowner Since 1982