Bellaire - Meyerland - West University Edition | Sept. 2021

BELLAIRE MEYERLAND WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 5  SEPT. 430, 2021

ONLINE AT

IMPACTS

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West University tweaks Bualo Speedway plan

TRANSPORTATION

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Transit leaders: Pandemicwill not derail plans As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, public transportation leaders in Houston have continued work to advance a long-term vision for the city they said is more important than ever. CONTINUED ON 16 The Wheeler Transit Center in Midtown sits at the heart of where several modes of transportation intersect. A planned University bus rapid transit route would link in riders from Bellaire, Uptown and Montrose areas. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper) them, METRO CEO Tom Lambert said. “We’ve been carrying about 140,000 riders a day,” Lambert said. “That just really demonstrated the essential service that transit provides to the BY SHAWN ARRAJJ Ridership numbers and revenues are down for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, but the real story that emerged from the pandemic was one of how essential the agency’s services are for people who rely on

GOVERNMENT

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With the city of Bellaire’s scal year 2021-22 budget set to be adopted Sept. 20, Bellaire City Council members have several decision points to consider, including two items they said have big implications for the city’s future. The rst involves recommendations from a recently com- pleted user fee study that was rst approved in December 2019 but delayed multiple times because of the COVID-19 CONTINUED ON 18 Bellaire looks to reclaimmore spending through rate increases BY HUNTER MARROW

The city of Bellaire last increased its water rate Oct. 1, 2019. A 9% water rate increase has been proposed. For the proposed rate, the increase could be spread over multiple years. Rising cost of service

DINING FEATURE

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ASSUME 5,000 GALLONS USED AND A 34INCH WATER METER

MONTHLY WATER CHARGES

$18.50

FY 2018-19 FY 2019-20 FY 2020-21 FY 2021-22*

$19.99 $19.99

$21.79

BUSINESS FEATURE

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*PROPOSED

SOURCE: CITY OF BELLAIRECOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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PEDIATRICS

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BELLAIRE  MEYERLAND  WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • SEPTEMBER 2021

IMPACTS

Businesses that have recently opened or are coming soon, relocating or expanding

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as Medical Center and NRG Stadium. Blossom Hotel Houston , a 16-story hotel with 267 luxury guest rooms, suites, and more than 9,000 square feet of exible meeting and event spaces, opened in late August at 7118 Bertner Ave., Houston. The hotel brings a host of amenities, includ- ing spacious living areas, an abundance of natural light, minimalist decor with lunar-inspired designs, ne dining and an on-site tness center. 832-734-8888. www.blossomhouston.com 6 SkinSpirit , a Botox and ller provider, will open its doors in Rice Village at 2401 Times Blvd., Ste. 110, Houston, in mid-September. This marks the brand’s 18th location nationwide and the third lo- cation in Texas alongside clinics in Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth. Led by Dr. Dean Vistnes, a board-certied plastic surgeon, SkinSpirit will oer Botox wrinkle re- duction, ller volume rejuvenation and a variety of skin care treatments. 346-398-6100. www.skinspirit.com 7 YogaSix , the yoga studio chain locally owned and -operated by franchisees, is bringing a location to Bellaire, 5103 Bel- laire Blvd., Bellaire, in late 2021 or early 2022. The studio oers six dierent core classes that span a range of hot and pow- erful options to slow and mindful classes. The new studio will join a growing list of locations that are dotted across Texas and Oklahoma. www.yogasix.com ANNIVERSARIES 8 Dandelion Cafe celebrated its ve- year anniversary in the Bellaire Triangle Aug. 29. Located at 5405 Bellaire Blvd.,

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MAP NOT TO SCALE N TM; © 2021 COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER CO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

2 Fast-casual eatery ZOA Moroccan Kitchen was set to open in Bellaire on Sept. 1 at 6700 S. Rice Ave., Bellaire. Run by Houston chef Youssef Nafaa—also the creator of Coco Crepes Waes & Coee and Mia Bella Trattoria—the restaurant serves locally sourced food with organic ingredients. www.zoamoroccan.com 3 Pokeworks , the national chain of Hawaii-inspired poke bars, opened a new location in Rice Village at 2514 Rice Blvd., Houston, on Aug. 12. Known for poke bowls that feature responsibly sourced seafood, the new opening marks the eighth Houston location for the eatery. 346-802-2933. www.pokeworks.com

WILLOWBEND BLVD. NOWOPEN 1 Bellagreen opened its sixth Hous- ton-area location in the Galleria area Aug. 2 at 5018 San Felipe St., Houston. The new carryout and delivery prototype uses a limited-footprint model and can accept orders placed directly through the website, by phone and in store. The new restaurant also delivers direct orders during peak lunch and dinner hours with its own drivers. The eatery oers scratch- made appetizers, soups, salads, sandwich- es, tacos, burgers, pasta and desserts. 281-204-4253. www.bellagreen.com

4 A new cafe is now open at the former location of The Sugar Shop Bakery & Gifts. Cedar St. Cafe opened Aug. 30 at 215 Fifth St., Ste. 3336, Bellaire, oering pastries, snacks, coee and prepared meals. The Sugar Shop closed in 2020 after owner Nathan Maynor died after contracting COVID-19, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. 832-752-8146. www.facebook.com/cedarstcafe COMING SOON 5 A new luxury hotel is set to open Sept. 6 that neighbors both the Tex-

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

COMPILED BY SHAWN ARRAJJ & HUNTER MARROW

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BlossomHotel Houston

Texas Orthopedic Hospital

COURTESY BLOSSOM HOTEL HOUSTON

COURTESY TEXAS ORTHOPEDIC HOSPITAL

Texas-based Common Desk has rolled out its exible workspace at The Ion in Midtown.

Bellaire, Dandelion Cafe has been run by Sarah Lieberman since August 2016. The restaurant specializes in locally sourced food and coee and also has a market and grocery store on site. 832-988-9210. www.dandelionhouston.com EXPANSIONS 9 Ocials with the boutique Texas Or- thopedic Hospital embarked on an expan- sion project in August in an eort to meet the growing demand for services, hospital CEO Eric Becker announced Aug. 12. The expansion will include the addition of op- erating rooms, enhanced clinical areas and public spaces. The 295,000-square-foot hospital is located in the Texas Medical Center at 7401 S. Main St., Houston. As part of the expansion, hospital ocials

also purchased the adjacent Greenpark Plaza medical oce building. Improve- ments are slated to be completed around the fourth quarter of 2022. The hospital is an aliate of HCA Houston Healthcare. 713-799-8600. www.texasorthopedic.com CLOSINGS 10 Doodles Baby , the Houston baby/ kids boutique specializing in apparel, personalized gifts, custom furniture, and bedding, will be closing its store at Rice Village at 2504 Rice Boulevard, Houston, on Sept. 30. The store is oering a clos- ing bundle sale where customers get 15% o their rst item, 20% o two items and 25% o three or more in-stock items, and 15% o all special orders and furniture. 713-528-2900. www.doodlesbaby.com

COURTESY THE ION

FEATURED IMPACT NOWOPEN Texas-based exible oce solutions company Common Desk ocially opened Aug. 16, aiming to serve a range of professionals from remote workers to small businesses and established enterprises. The 58,400-square-foot workspace takes up the entire second oor of The Ion, a multiuse building serving as the anchor of a future innovation district in Houston’s Midtown neighborhood, at 4201 Main St., Houston. Common Desk is oering exible oor

plans for up to 30 people, according to a news release. Amenities include bottomless craft coee from local purveyors, unlimited conference room bookings, access to shared areas on the second oor, private chat booths, full kitchens and break areas. 214-609-1571. www.thecommondesk.com

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BELLAIRE  MEYERLAND  WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • SEPTEMBER 2021

TODO LIST

September & October events

COMPILED BY HUNTER MARROW

17 CHECKOUT THE OPENING OF ANART EXHIBIT The Moody Center for the Arts will present a solo exhibition by Paris-based artist Kapwani Kiwanga titled “The Sand Recalls the Moon’s Shadow.” With art that spans installation, photography, video and performance, Kiwanga revisits history, oering new perspectives on the present. The artist will create two site- specic, immersive installations—”Maya- Bantu” and “Dune.” 6-8 p.m. (opening reception). Free. Moody Center for the Arts, 6100 Main St., Houston. 713-348-2787. www.moody.rice.edu OCTOBER 02 WALKON THEWILD SIDEWITH NATURE DISCOVERY CENTER The Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center is oering families the opportunity to sneak up on lizards, peer into the trees for looks at birds, discover the latest blooms and their pollinators, and spy on the secret life of animals that hide under logs with its Walk on the Wild Side event with walks between 45 minutes to one hour. 10 a.m. Free (members), $5 (nonmembers). Nature Discovery Center, 7112 Newcastle St., Bellaire. 713-667-6550. www.naturediscoverycenter.org

features Folk Family Revival performing in the Nature Center Courtyard. With its roots in Magnolia, north of Houston, Folk Family Revival has performed alongside acts such as Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. The Sept. 10 event will mark the band’s rst-ever performance at the arboretum. A second concert is slated for Nov. 12 at the Arboretum featuring Tomar and the FCs. 6-9 p.m. $55 (members), $65 (nonmembers). Houston Arboretum, 4501 Woodway, Drive. 713-861-8433. www.houstonarboretum.org 11 RIDE AROUND DURING A LIMO SCAVENGER HUNT The Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center is inviting the general public to ride around on a limo-driven scavenger hunt that is designed for family and friends. The scavenger hunt marks the rst event of the semester for Houston Connect 68, a community program oered by the Jewish Community Center that brings social opportunities and bridges the gap between pre and post bar/bat mitzvah and high school programs. Masks will be required; social distancing guidelines will be in place; and a COVID-19 health screening will be required. 6:30 p.m. $42.50 (members). Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd., Houston. 713-729-3200. www.erjcchouston.org

Dancers perform during Hispanic Heritage month. CELEBRATE HISPANIC HERITAGEMONTH Celebrated from Sept. 15-Oct. 15 in the U.S., Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans to culture and history. SEPT. 15 “Our Music, More Than a Language.” 8 p.m. Free. Institute of Hispanic Culture of Houston, 3315 Sul Ross St., Houston. 713-568-5604. www.hispanichouston.com SEPT. 17 Heritage Society bus tours. 5 p.m. $39.95. The Heritage Society, 1001 Bagby St., Houston. 713-655-1912. www.heritagesociety.org SEPT. 18 The Willow Fork Drainage District Hispanic Heritage Festival. 6-9 p.m. Free. Central Green Park, 23501 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Katy. www.centralgreenpark.com

SEPT. 24

ENJOY A BREW HOUSTON ZOO

SEPTEMBER 10 LISTEN TOA CONCERT IN THE COURTYARD The Houston Arboretum will host the inaugural show of its Concert in the Courtyard live music series when it activities and after-hours animals. No one under age 21 is permitted to attend the event. 6-10 p.m. $45 (Texas Beer Pass), $35 (event pass). Houston Zoo, 6200 Hermann Park Drive, Houston. 713-533-6500. www.houstonzoo.org Visitors can drink craft beer with friends at an event oering live music,

Find more or submit Bellaire-Meyerland-West University events at communityimpact.com/event-calendar. Event organizers can submit local events online to be considered for the print edition. Submitting details for consideration does not guarantee publication.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

TRANSPORTATIONUPDATES West University changes road project timeline The timeline has changed on a $23 million project targeting drainage

COMPILED BY HUNTER MARROW

COMPLETED PROJECTS

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Greenbriar Drive improvement project

improvements and a road surface replacement on Bualo Speedway in West University Place. The project’s fourth phase began Aug. 2 after being designated to start in October 2022, according to the city of West University Place. The city had been making progress on the project’s second phase—which involves road and drainage improve- ments from around Gramercy Street to West Holcombe Boulevard—but it is now on hold as the contractor needs to wait on AT&T to relocate a commu- nication line that runs through the intersection of West Holcombe and Bualo Speedway. The relocation is scheduled to start in November, so the city and contrac- tor SER Construction Partners decided

Houston Public Works looked to rehabilitate a section of road along Greenbriar Drive from Main Street to South Braeswood Boulevard by not only replacing asphalt and concrete pavement sections and base material depending on the street condition, but also replacing damaged curbs, side- walks and storm inlets as necessary along the major roadway within the limits of the project. Public Works also installed new pavement markings. Timeline: April-late July Status: $67,000

Work is underway on a $23 million project by the city of West University Place to improve Bualo Speedway. (Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

to complete work in Phase 4 instead to keep the project moving forward, said Gerardo Barrera, West University Place public works director. On Aug. 30, SER began closing northbound lanes from University Boulevard to Bissonnet Street, diverting trac to a single lane in each direction. This will remain until January 2022. Drivers should expect delays.

Funding source: city of Houston Capital Improvement Program

UNIVERSITY BLVD.

ALL INFORMATION ON THIS PAGE WAS UPDATED AS OF AUG. 26. NEWS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT THESE OR OTHER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS? EMAIL US AT BMWNEWSCOMMUNITYIMPACT.COM.

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The vaccine is safe and is saving lives. We see proof every day. Local hospitals are facing the worst surge in COVID cases to date. More than 95% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. Healthcare workers are struggling to care for anyone who needs hospital care— with or without COVID. Please. Protect yourself and be a champion for your community and those you love. Get vaccinated. To learn how to get vaccinated at one of our locations, visit our website or call 713-526-4243. the vaccine? Should I get Yes.

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BELLAIRE  MEYERLAND  WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • SEPTEMBER 2021

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

GOVERNMENT TIRZ pitched as answer for Meyerland infrastructurewoes

TIRZ

A tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, is a political subdivision that implements tax increment nancing by diverting all future property tax revenue increases from a dened area toward a community’s economic development projects. The 411 on tax increment reinvestment zones

SOURCES: CITY OF HOUSTON, TEXAS TAX CODECOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

BY HUNTER MARROW

There are a few steps an area needs to take before a TIRZ can become a reality.

2,300 homes in Meyerland constitute a tax base of more than $1 billion. “We have a great opportunity to tap into possibly hundreds of mil- lions of dollars a year,” he said. “That will go a long way towards alleviating the burden on the county, the city, the state, and the feds in coming in and doing these projects or coming in and telling us they’re gonna do these projects, and have them delayed for decades.” To be eligible to be designated as a reinvestment zone, an area must “substantially arrest or impair the sound growth of the municipality or county creating the zone,” according to the city of Houston’s website. One of several conditions must be met to be eligible, and the area must show a substantial number of substandard, slum, deteriorated, or deteriorating structures, defective or inadequate sidewalk or street layout, or condi- tions that endanger life or property. The Meyerland area meets several of those criteria, Goforth said. However, moving forward, Goforth made certain to emphasize in his presentation that the TIRZ would not be a management district, with associated fees, nor would it increase taxes for residents. To make the idea a reality, Goforth has been in conversations with residents, has pitched the idea to neighborhood groups like the Greater Meyerland Super Neighborhood, and has had conversations with Houston Vice Mayor Pro TemMartha Castex- Tatum, who serves as chairwoman

How to create a TIRZ

It was on July 14 during the Brays Bayou Association’s monthly meeting that its president, Charles Goforth, presented to the neighborhood group an option for revitalizing the Meyer- land area’s aging infrastructure: a tax increment reinvestment zone. “I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Goforth said in an interview with Community Impact Newspaper . “Being somebody that is born and raised here in the community ... I keep looking at the state of the infrastructure, especially in the older parts of Meyerland.” For example, one of the oldest sections in Meyerland lies around the current Meyerland Plaza, which opened in 1957, closed in 1987, and was reopened as a big-box center in 1995. Yet the infrastructure around that area has remained, Goforth said. Goforth’s vision for a TIRZ comes mainly because projects through both a Harris County Flood Control District bond program and those under the ongoing $480 million Project Brays ood damage reduction initiative have not been enough, Goforth said. Tapping into neighborhood tax bases along the Brays Bayou watershed, like Meyerland, is key to making signicant headway on those projects, he said. “If we can somehow recoup some of that revenue, and spend it on our infrastructure improvements, like improving our drainage, improving the streets, sidewalks, and all the things that go along with those types of endeavors, then it would unques- tionably ease the perception of the greater Meyerland area being an area that oods,” Goforth said. Moving forward A TIRZ serves as a political subdi- vision that implements tax incre- ment nancing by diverting future property tax revenue increases from a dened area toward an economic development project in the commu- nity, according to information from the city of Houston. Goforth, a realtor in the Meyerland area, estimates that the more than

Eligibility criteria

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Property owners making up 50% or more of the appraised value of an area submit a petition.

An area considered for a TIRZ must have at least one of the following conditions: • substantial number of deteriorated or deteriorating structures • predominance of defective or inadequate sidewalk or street layout • unsanitary or unsafe conditions • conditions that endanger life or property by re or other cause

TIRZ is determined. 2

A specic lifetime for the

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Tax-collecting entities freeze the assessed values of properties within the new TIRZ. If participating, taxing entities negotiate how much tax increment they will donate. 4

5 The city or county approves a TIRZ governing board and establishes the zone as a legal entity.

zone and establishes the projects. 6

The board creates a budget for the

Some infrastructure built in Houston’s Meyerland neighborhood, like Meyerland Plaza, dates back to the 1950s and 1960s.

HUNTER MARROWCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

of the city’s Economic Development Committee. “I am encouraged with the way everything is going right now,” Goforth said. Further considerations Getting a TIRZ fully set up, vetted, and with a board ready to vote on projects, typically takes between a year to a year and a half, said Russell Yeager, director of civil engineering with design and professional services rmWGI. And while grassroots eorts and community support are very important to the success of any TIRZ, at some point, a team of specialists will be needed for proper economic planning, Yeager said. “You’ll likely need a good attor- ney who understands how to put things together and keep the wheels moving, you’re likely going to need an economic manager that’s going to be able to tell you what areas are the most important or where the economics of the neighborhood are

going, and somebody like me who can identify the cost and the value associated with the project that you want to do,” he said. With a team on hand, and a plan in place with a geographical area selected and a list of projects, taxing entities for the Meyerland area like Harris County and the Houston ISD could choose to pay into the TIRZ any of its tax increment, though they would not be required to do so, according to Texas tax law. After the reinvestment zone is greenlit, a board would then be created that is responsible to the community by shepherding those funds, Yeager said. Typical board members include taxing entities that opted to pay into the TIRZ, as well as community members. “So those are the next steps,” Yeager said. “There’s a lot of legal work that goes into identifying the area, the amount of money that’s going to be held, and how to ensure that the board is accountable to the neighborhoods in that community.”

“WE HAVE AGREAT OPPORTUNITY TO TAP INTOPOSSIBLY HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS A YEAR." CHARLES GOFORTH, DOLLARS A

BRAYS BAYOU ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT

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BELLAIRE  MEYERLAND  WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • SEPTEMBER 2021

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

CITY NOTES

News from Bellaire, Houston & West University Place

COMPILED BY HUNTER MARROW& EMMA WHALEN

Bellaire City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Sept. 13 at 7008 S. Rice Ave., Bellaire. Meetings are streamed at www.bellairetx.gov. West University Place City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at 3800 University Blvd., Houston. Meetings are available via teleconference. Find details at www.westutx.gov. Houston City Council will meet at 9 a.m. Sept. 8 for regular business at 901 Bagby St., Houston. Meetings are streamed at www.houstontx.gov/htv. Harris County Commissioners Court will meet at 10 a.m. Sept. 14 at 1001 Preston St., Ste. 934, Houston. MEETINGSWE COVER OTHER HIGHLIGHTS WEST UNIVERSITY PLACE Three intersections on Bualo Speedway will receive some enhancements in West University Place. The City Council gave the nod Aug. 23 for adding the city logo to intersections at University, Rice and Sunset boulevards. The cost will be a $150,000 addition to the $30.5 million Bualo Speedway drainage and road reconstruction project. HOUSTON In an Aug. 11 vote, Houston City Council voted to place a proposed amendment on the November 2023 ballot that aims to alter the charter so any City Council member can place an item on the City Council’s weekly agenda as long as two other council members back the eort. Several council members voted in favor of placing the item on the November 2021 ballot, citing a preference for getting the amendment before voters as soon as possible, but they were outvoted. A separate charter amendment petition was circulated by the Houston reghters union; however, the city secretary has not yet completed counting its signatures. BELLAIRE The deadline for candidates for Bellaire City Council to le for places on the November ballot was Aug. 16. Two candidates each have led to run for places 1 and 3 on the council, while three candidates have led for Place 5. Mayor Andrew Friedberg will run for re-election unopposed. More information on each candidate will appear in the Voter Guide of the Oct. 1 edition of Community Impact Newspaper. NUMBER TOKNOW the city of Bellaire that will lose eligibility for a 15% ood insurance discount starting Oct. 1 5,400 Number of parcels of land within

Lopez sworn in as Bellaire’s new police chief BELLAIRE Onesimo Lopez, or “Mo,” as he is commonly known, was formally sworn in as Bellaire’s chief of police Aug. 2, surrounded by family, friends and colleagues within the Bellaire Police Department. Lopez said he ocially took the reins of the department ahead of the Aug. 2 ceremony, hosting a depart- mentwide meeting to set his expecta- tions for how the department will run. “It is in our name: public service. That’s who we are,” Lopez said during the ceremony. “As we look forward to the future, we do so with clear eyes and to our purpose with service to BELLAIRE A specic-use permit allowing Bellaire Church of Christ to construct additional parking on the northern portion of 8001 South Rice Ave., Bellaire, was unanimously approved by the Bellaire City Council at an Aug. 16 meeting. The church will now be able to expand its parking from 70 spaces to 102 spaces, a necessity to meet a 100-space minimum required by the city’s zoning ordinances. Bellaire approves church parking lot

Onesimo Lopez ocially receives his badge from his wife, Faby Lopez, to mark his promotion as Bellaire’s new chief of police during an Aug. 2 swearing-in ceremony.

HUNTER MARROWCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

since January 2019 as its assistant police chief. He was selected through a nationwide search for a candidate who would not only serve in the assistant chief role, but also transition to police chief after Holloway’s retirement.

this community.” Lopez took over for Bryon Holloway, who retired at the end of July after a decadeslong career in the Bellaire Police Department. Lopez had served with Bellaire

West University proposesmaximumtax rate

WEST UNIVERSITY PLACE When the West University Place City Council considers approving the scal year 2021-22 budget Sept. 27, the maximum tax rate it will be able to approve will be $0.278522 per $100 of assessed value. City Council unanimously approved proposing that rate, called the not-to-exceed tax rate, and will use it to prepare the required notice and subsequent hearing publications. The resolution approved by City Council does not mean the 2021 tax rate is adopted; that consideration and adoption will come later during the Sept. 27 meeting. The City Council’s approved and proposed rate matches the city’s voter-approval tax rate and is also

IMPORTANT DATES TOKNOW

lower than the no-new-revenue tax rate, calculated at $0.285941 per $100 of assessed value by the Harris County tax assessor-collector. The main cause is a decrease in debt for the city year over year of $912,000, said Katherine DuBose, West University Place’s nance director. SEPT. 13 Budget workshop SEPT. 20 Budget and tax rate public hearings SEPT. 27 Budget and tax rate adoption SOURCE: CITY OF WEST UNIVERSITY PLACE COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

LOT TO BE REMOVED

EXPANSION

EXISTING LOT

HOLLY ST.

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Bellaire rating downgraded in ood insurance program BELLAIRE Under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Rating System, the city of Bellaire recently lost its ood insurance rating, which will tempo- rarily eliminate ood insurance discounts for residents. The city will be downgraded from Class 7 to 10 begin- ning Oct. 1, which will eliminate a 15% discount in ood insurance for over 5,400 Bellaire parcels of land as well as

a 5% discount for another 1,100 parcels. The downgrade in that system came after the Insurance Services Organization, which audits communities that participate in the CRS program, set a deadline for the city that was not met, a city spokesperson conrmed. The new premiums will be eective for policies that are renewed through March 31, 2022. City ocials anticipate to shift from a Class 10 to a 9 beginning April 1, 2022, which will deliver a 5% discount on premiums. FEMA’s Risk Rating 2.0 will also go into eect Oct. 1 for new policies, which the agency said will calculate premi- ums more equitably.

Meetings are streamed at www.harriscountytx.gov.

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BELLAIRE  MEYERLAND  WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • SEPTEMBER 2021

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INSIDE INFORMATION

In Texas’ 86th Legislature in 2019, lawmakers approved House Bill 3, a comprehensive school nance reform that went into eect Sept. 1, 2019. Among HB 3’s changes was a compression on property tax rates: If property values rise statewide or locally, districts must reduce their tax rate to help ease the burden on local property owners. EXPLAINING SCHOOL FINANCES

STATEWIDE PROPERTY TAX CALCULATIONS

Local property taxes are composed of an interest and sinking tax rate, or I&S, and a maintenance and operations rate, or M&O.

The I&S is used for a district’s debt service on voter- approved bonds for facilities.

The M&O includes districts’ basic level of funding and its enrichment fund, which are used for regular school operations, such as teacher salaries.

District’s total property tax rate

+

=

COMPILED BY SHAWN ARRAJJ & SAVANNAH KUCHAR

SOURCES: RAISE YOUR HAND TEXAS, EVERY TEXAN, TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY, LEGISLATIVE BUDGET BOARDCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

COMPONENTS OF HOUSE BILL 3

M&0 property tax rates (per $100 valuation), scal year 2021-22

In its rst two years, HB 3 invested $11.5 billion into public school nance reform.

$1.0671 Statewide maximum for most districts with voter approval $1.0354 Statewide maximum without voter approval

$5 billion went to property tax relief by subsidizing decreases in local revenue following statewide compressions on local districts’ property tax rates.

If statewide property value growth exceeds 2.5% in a year, the tax rate for districts will be compressed. If a district’s growth is higher than the state’s growth, the district’s rate will be furthered compressed. Districts can add a maximum of roughly $0.13 to their compressed rate before seeking voter approval.

$6.5 billion was used to bolster school funding by increasing the basic allotment, in turn raising the majority of districts’ entitlements. A portion of this increase was specically meant for raising teachers’ and other sta’s salaries.

$ 11.5 B total invested

$0.8971 Statewide compressed rate

$0.8074 Statewide minimum

STATE VS. LOCAL SHARE

Texas’ public school system is funded largely by state aid and local property tax revenue. Prior to HB 3, the local share grew as property values increased statewide, but with the legislation, the state now takes on a larger portion year over year.

$60B $50B $40B $30B $20B $10B $0

HOUSTON ISD PROPERTY TAX RATES

Prior to House Bill 3, the maintenance and operations property tax rate for Houston ISD consistently hovered at just over $1 per $100 of valuation. After the passage of HB 3, the district’s M&O tax rate dropped several cents to $0.97 per $100 of valuation in the 2019-20 school year, a rate that remained at the next year.

*2019 IS ESTIMATED, WHILE 2020 AND 2021 IS PROJECTED. State share Local share

M&O rate I&S rate HB 3

“IT’SREALLYNOTPROPERTY TAXRELIEF; IT’STAXRATE COMPRESSION. THESTATE JUSTKEEPSBUYINGDOWN THATTAXRATE, ANDTHE TAXPAYERENDSUPPAYINGON AVERAGEABOUTTHESAME IN TAXESTHATTHEYHAVEBEEN.” BOB POPINSKI, DIRECTOR OF POLICY AT RAISE YOUR HAND TEXAS

$0 $0.20 $0.40 $0.60 $0.80 $1.00 $1.20

COVID19'S EFFECT ON SCHOOL FUNDING

$1.01

$0.97

Most districts were held harmless by the state for any enrollment changes during the pandemic, so funding entitlements were not negatively aected by attendance changes. Federal funding gave three rounds of aid to address pandemic-related disruptions. The packages amounted to $19.2 billion , of which:

$0.17

$0.15

$ 1.91 B will be reserved by the state for statewide programs.

$ 2.15 B was used by the state for the hold-harmless program.

$ 15.14 B will be distributed back out to districts.

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BELLAIRE  MEYERLAND  WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • SEPTEMBER 2021

DINING FEATURE

BY HUNTER MARROW

Meet the owner Ana Soria helmed Momma’s Tamales as a tribute to her mother, Leonor Arenas, who

died over six years ago.

Tamales are sold for $14 per dozen, $15 per mixed dozen and $8 per half dozen.

Momma’s Tamales got its start selling at farmers markets. Even after opening its storefront, the shop’s tamales can be found on sale at various local markets. Urban Harvest Farmers Market Every Saturday, 8 a.m.-noon 2752 Bualo Speedway, Houston Braeswood Farmers Market Every Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., and every Wednesday, 3-7 p.m. 5401 S. Braeswood Blvd., Houston Eleanora’s Market Every Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Tamales at themarket

Tamale options include pork, chicken, spinach and cheese, jalapeno and cheese, black bean and cheese, and black bean and spinach. (Photos by Hunter Marrow/Community Impact Newspaper)

Momma’s Tamales Family tamale shop traces inspiration back to its matriarch A bout six years ago, on Aug. 4, 2015, Leonor Arenas died unexpectedly. The mother on a good day, could make about 20 dozen an hour. Up to a year before her mother’s

2120 Ella Blvd., Houston Houston Heights Market Every Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 2706 White Oak Drive, Houston

Tamales was born, named after Arenas, who would always go by “Momma.” The venture started with farmers market stalls in Braeswood and the Sienna community. The startup saw huge successes early on with a good weekend netting 250 dozen sold. The sales were enough to fund a move to a 1,200-square-foot storefront in Bellaire within a year. All of the hard work put into the business and the success the shop has seen so far were inspired by Are- nas, said Nicole Rico, a lifetime friend and Momma’s Tamales manager. “She was just so loving,” she said. “It didn’t matter if you were a family member or outside of the family, she was never ugly to anybody.”

of eight left behind a legacy of busi- ness smarts and culinary expertise honed over decades of experience. Arenas never obtained her longtime dream of opening her own tamale shop. What she did do, how- ever, was pass along to her daughter what she knew of making tamales. Immediately after Arenas’ death, that daughter, Ana Soria, took her mother’s dream and made it a reality. “It was my therapy, I’d call it, because she loved to make tamales,” Soria said. “After she passed away, it denitely felt like she was with me when I was making tamales.” Arenas made tamales by hand and,

death, Soria had never made tamales before. However, Arenas eventually taught her daughter the craft. “When we tried to help her before, she would say, ‘You’re just wasting my time. You’re not good,’” Soria said with a smile. “Now I catch myself being just as picky as she was with the particular masa, the avors and the washing of the corn husk.” Although the decision to start up her own tamale business was still a gamble, Soria said she had the conviction she would nd success based on the popularity of her mother’s tamale recipe. In December 2019, Momma’s

Momma’s Tamales 5214 Cedar St., Bellaire 832-752-8146 www.eattamales.com Hours: Tue.-Sun. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Mon.

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COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM

The likeness Dewi Sri, a goddess of fertility and rice, has been fashioned into a mobile.

BUSINESS FEATURE

Maryvone Shawhas run The Blue Hand for over 47 years. (Photos by Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

Shaw said Day of the Dead art and gures are among her favorites.

The BlueHand Label-defying shop specializes in handmade cultural gifts M aryvone Shaw, owner of The Blue Hand in Rice Village, said it can be hard to come up with a description that eec- BY SHAWN ARRAJJ

The Blue Hand gets its name from the Middle Eastern symbol called the hamsa, often depicted as a blue hand with an eye at the center of its palm. The hamsa is believed to be a universal sign of protection. WHAT IS THE BLUE HAND?

overwhelmed,” Shaw said. “But it’s pretty orga- nized if you know how to look.” Items in the shop come from everywhere, from Africa to the Middle East to South America and the far East, said Shaw, who was born in France and has lived in Morocco and Sudan. All items the store stocks are selected based exclusively on her own personal taste, she said. “If I like it, it comes here,” she said. “I’ve never bought anything because it might sell.” Shaw has also run a booth at the Texas Renais- sance Festival for the past 20 years. Over time, Renaissance gear, such as clothing and chimes, have worked their way into the shop as well. After closing for ve months during the coronavi- rus pandemic, Shaw reopened her shop last August. Customer trac varies from day to day, but Shaw said those who nd her store and share her sense of curiosity always come back for more. “I want people to look, to touch, to ask ques- tions,” Shaw said. “There aren’t many stores like this around anymore.”

tively summarizes all the art and oddities that can be found throughout shop. In fact, trying to do so misses the point, she said. “One thing I don’t like is labels and being stuck in one corner,” she said. “I am open to everything.” Shaw rst opened The Blue Hand in 1974, making it one of the oldest businesses in Rice Village. Over the years, her product line has evolved from plants and baskets to a wide range of cultural items, unusual musical instruments, lucky charms and decorative crosses from around the world. Although not obvious at rst sight to some, Shaw said the items in the shop are organized in small vignettes, sorted by country or style. One corner may stock Day of the Dead-themed items while another has African art or Tibetan spiritual items. “People who don’t know how to look, people who are not curious, come in and are totally

The BlueHand 2323 University Blvd., Houston 713-666-2583 www.facebook.com/thebluehandhouston Hours: Mon.-Tue. by appointment, Wed.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., closed Sun.

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BELLAIRE  MEYERLAND  WEST UNIVERSITY EDITION • SEPTEMBER 2021

Rapid and reliable The METRONext plan hits on vari- ous methods of improving the public transit system in Houston, including light-rail extensions, local bus route additions, the development of new park and ride infrastructure, and systemwide improvements to bring every METRO facility in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act. About $3.5 billion will be funded through the 2019 bond referendum, Lambert said. Another $500 million will come from METRO’s budget, and the agency is seeking roughly $3 billion in matching funding from the federal government. Some of the rst large-scale projects to move forward involve connecting existing transit centers with light rail hubs through the use of bus rapid transit routes, a type of dedicated bus service ocials have described as “light rail on rubber tires.”

voters approved a $3.5 billion bond referendum for METRO in Novem- ber 2019 to support METRONext, the agency’s 20-year vision plan. The bond was designed around a long- term plan to execute more than 500 miles of improvements through 2040, including several new routes that will complete connections in the Bellaire, Meyerland and West University areas. Even with the pandemic-spurred ridership decline, local transpor- tation experts said fullling those plans remains critical for the future of Houston’s transportation network. “This is not the time to be question- ing whether or not we move forward with things,” said Andrea French, executive director of the Transporta- tion Advocacy Group Houston. “This is a time to denitely move swiftly and make sure that we’re staying con- nected for our economy and for our quality of life.”

CONTINUED FROM 1

WE KNOWTHE UNIVERSITY CORRIDOR IS GOING TO TIE INA LOT OF COMMUNITIES. IT’S GOT A LOT OF RIDERSHIP POTENTIAL; IT’S GOT A LOT OF COMMUNITY SUPPORT POTENTIAL. TOM LAMBERT, CEO OF THE METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY OF HARRIS COUNTY

broader community. That’s some- thing that I think we always knew but has now clearly been demonstrated.” METRO ridership reports show monthly local bus ridership fell by 40% between June 2019 and June 2021, a loss of roughly 1.9 million rid- ers. Light-rail ridership is proportion- ally down even more over that same time frame, over which ridership reports note a 47% drop. Meanwhile, revenue from ridership was cut by more than half between scal years 2019 and 2021 from $61.5 million to $23.4 million. However, most of METRO’s revenue comes from sales taxes—more than 75% in the agency’s scal year 2021-22 bud- get. The agency’s revenue from fed- eral grants also increased between 2019 and 2020. The pandemic began soon after

The rst of several planned rapid lines began prior to the 2019 bond referendum and was completed in August 2020. Known as the Silver Line, the service connects the Lower Uptown Transit Center—near the city of Bellaire—to the Northwest Transit Center through the Galleria area. A proposed University Corridor bus rapid transit line will intersect with the Silver Line along a pathway that will also connect with multiple tran- sit centers; Park & Ride facilities; local bus routes; and METRO’s red, green and purple light rail lines. Riders from communities such as Gulfton, Sharpstown and Bellaire will have close access to the line, which will have stops in Montrose, near the University of Houston and at the Wheeler Transit Center in Midtown, which is located within Houston’s burgeoning Innovation Corridor, a 4-mile strip that could develop into a future jobs hub. “The way that it can transform how people make trips in the region is going to be mind boggling,” said Priya Zachariah, METRO’s project manager on the University Corridor project, at a July 27 presentation. The METRO board of directors identied the University Corridor as a project to accelerate, meaning a lot of the planning and design is being advanced in an eort to prepare the project for the federal grant process, METRO ocials said. An environmen- tal study could kick o later this year or early next year, and construction could start around 2025. Ocials with LINK Houston, an advocacy group promoting equity in transportation, said projects like the University Corridor can work along- side local bus service. Ines Sigel, LINK’s interim executive director, said it can be especially benecial for residents in neighborhoods like Gulf- ton, which are densely populated and where many people do not own cars.

Completing

Several high-priority projects in the 2040 METRONext plan involve connecting existing modes of transportation, such as transit centers and light-rail lines. connections Planned bus rapid transit Light-rail route Future light-rail line extension

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InnerKatyCorridor

1

Northwest Transit Center to Downtown Transit Center

Connections to the theater district, central station and the convention district

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1

90

10

10

Construction could start in 2023

610

90

2

3

UniversityCorridor 2 Westchase

Light rail extension

3

90

Connections to light rail in Midtown area and University area

area to Tidwell Transit Center

East End to Hobby Airport

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Environmental study could begin in 2022

Construction could start in 2025

Timeline to be determined

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SOURCE: METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY OF HARRIS COUNTYCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER

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