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More questions for sale of Lakewood property

Monday, March 29, 2010

Houston City Council raised many more questions about the proposed sale of the old Compaq Center to Lakewood Church.

The city's real estate director sat with the council Monday and told them about the deal. When he was done, the council was still not convinced it is the best deal for Houston.

"It appears to be a fire sale. That we are a distressed owner selling to an indifferent buyer," said City Council Member Stephen Costello.

City council members Monday grilled City of Houston Real Estate Director Bob Christy.

"Every single person I've talked to this whole week including my parents want to understand why we're giving away the Compaq Center," said City Council Member Melissa Noriega.

The council's biggest concern centered on the fact that the city wants to sell the Compaq Center property for $7.5 million instead of the $35 million value assessed by the county. Two independent firms said the land is worth a lot less.

"The numbers just don't make sense when you go through all of that," said Council Member Costello.

Christy told the council the city will not make any money off the land until 2034 because Lakewood pre-paid more than $11 million dollars in rent. Council Member Noriega also asked what would stop Lakewood from selling the property at a later date. Christy said stringent lease restrictions would make that less appealing for Lakewood.

"Not restrictions of selling per se," said City of Houston Real Estate Director Bob Christy. "I can't sit here and say that there's nobody on god's green earth that wouldn't buy this property, but I can't imagine who it would be with this 20 some odd year lease remaining."

Other council members want more time to look at all the paperwork connected to the deal and to ask to the appraisers how they came up with a value for the land much less than what the county has. One council man said if the deal is not what the city wants, then don't sell.

"If we don't want to sell this property right now we don't have to," said City Council Member Ed Gonzalez.

The council members suggested another meeting to discuss the sale, but that meeting has not been scheduled.

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