It’s been a whirlwind few days for the Astrodome, but Kiah Collier at the Houston Chronicle appeared to sum up the entire story remarkably well. In short, the Houston Historical Commissioner (HAHC) voted to deem the Astrodome a protected historical site, though the action only places a 90 day hold on renovation or demolition — a relatively minor hurdle– without further steps taken by the City Council. Mayor Parker has unequivocally ruled out such action.
About a month ago, this idea was first proposed by Maverick Welsh, a Historical Commissioner. Welsh also serves as the Vice President of the local GLBT Caucus (and is, by many accounts, next in line for the Presidency) and he was a candidate for the City Council back in 2009. For those who do not remember, the Astrodome has been basically a shoe-in for demolition ever since Harris County voters rejected a bond measure seeking to turn the dome into a convention center last month.
Accordingly, at the meeting yesterday, Collier reports that the commissioners voted 9-1 to impose this landmark status on the Astrodome. What this does is prevents any action affecting the exterior of the building –up to and including demolition– from taking place without the express approval of the City. However, this hold is only applicable for 90 days, making it less than effective.
This issue had the capacity to launch a battle royale between the City of Houston, which oversees the Historical Commission, and Harris County, which actually owns the Astrodome (which also sits on city property). However, Mayor Parker coldly denied any and all requests to move this proposal forward to the full City Council. Since the Mayor controls the entire agenda, this is bad news for supporters of the dome.
Collier wrote more about Parker’s nay-saying yesterday, but what specifically stood out to me was a concurrent distinction being fought for, one of Federal importance. The Chronicle article noted a similar ongoing battle for the dome to be “designated a National Historic Landmark,” one of just a few thousand places around the country protected from demolition by Federal Law. A less reputable distinction, being approved by the Texas Historical Commission, occurred in October; the dome has also applied to the National Register of Historic Places. The NRHP, however, is far less impressive. It includes over 1,000,000 designations and does not protect whatsoever against demolition.
When the Historical Commission first proposed this, I was skeptical, and I still am. The people have spoken on the issue, perhaps it is time to listen.
Off the Kuff has more.