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Bellaire looks at building 9/11 memorial

October 9, 2018

Bellaire is making plans to use a large piece of steel that came from the World Trade Center to construct a 9/11 memorial behind the new police station.

At a meeting Oct. 1, Michelle Jordan, project manager for Bellaire’s parks, recreation and facilities department, presented the city council with three preliminary concepts for the steel section.

Jordan said the Rubenstein family originally hauled the 10- to 12-foot piece along with others and delivered them to The Houston Fire Museum. It was then donated to Bellaire in June 2016.

The Bellaire Southwest Rotary Club gave $7,500 to Bellaire, which was used to draw up some conceptual planning studies.

Jordan said several design considerations were taken into account such as having a contemplative and reflective nature, honoring all the parties that were affected by the 9/11 attacks and having the steel displayed vertically.

“The steel itself was actually a column in the building, so one of the things we really want to try to focus on if we move forward is installing the steel in a vertical orientation that mimics how it was actually in place in the building,” Jordan said.

Jordan showed the council members examples of how other cities have used remnants from the towers to memorialize the attacks. Some of the memorials were smaller in scale, and others were more substantial and incorporated a lot of elements.

According to Jordan, the monument would be built in a clearing of trees behind the new police station, off of the main section of the Great Lawn.

The first design would lead people down a boardwalk element to the steel, and Jordan said the focus would really be that journey. She said a second design would be more about the ending point of the steel, and a third design would create sort of an outdoor room to think and contemplate.

The project is to be funded using private funds, without taxpayer dollars. Jordan said the budgets for the concepts range from $413,000 to $601,000 and are “incredibly preliminary” because there are many decisions currently unmade.

The next step for the memorial is approaching groups including Patrons for Bellaire Parks, the Bellaire Historical Society, the Bellaire Southwest Houston Rotary Club, the Rubenstein Foundation, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Cultural Arts Board to build a group of stakeholders. After that, once plans like a schedule and a fundraising strategy have been established, the project will go back before council.

Jordan said no fundraising will begin until after council’s approval and that no construction will begin until the fundraising efforts have had some success. She said the original $7,500 donated has been exhausted.

Council Member Gus Pappas commented that the concept drawings for the design presented were larger in scale than some of the examples of monuments in other cities and voiced concerns of costs and what was actually realistic.

“I don’t know that it necessarily helps for us to say, ‘Geez, I like all three,’ but they’re all unrealistic in the sense that — I mean they all look very substantial, and I think they’re wonderful,” Pappas said. “But, you know, it is a lot of money, and it takes a great deal of time and effort to do that, as opposed to something, perhaps with just the structure itself, a certain base that allows for it and some sort of a storyboard, which would be far more limited in terms of the cost, etc. etc.”

Jordan said that each of the three concepts could be scaled down from the original plans.

The project is in the preliminary stages. A lot of questions would still need to be answered before any building begins. Jordan said a main one is how Bellaire would tell a story of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

“That’s one of the things we’ll need to think about eventually is what we choose to tell about 9/11 — are we narrating the story of the events, are we talking about a sense of healing and closure after the fact? There’s a lot of different ways that we could talk about it in the actual memorial area,” she said.

tracy.maness@hcnonline.com

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