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George, Barbara Bush highlight busy year

January 1, 2019

There were a lot of events encompassing the area in 2018, from controversy to accomplishments, renovations to reopenings and many things in between.

The big news in the Examiner area for 2018 were the deaths of two high-profile residents.

Former President George H.W. Bush died Nov. 30 at the age of 94. His wife, Barbara, preceded him in death at the age of 92 earlier in the year on April 17.

The Bushes lived in the Tanglewood area.

Both their funerals were held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church at 717 Sage Road, north of Uptown and east of Hunter’s Creek Village. They were buried on the grounds of the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station.

Village Fire Department

Controversy over the Village Fire Department is expected to last into 2019.

After Bunker Hill Village failed to fully fund its portion of the VFD budget, the village essentially made it known it would no longer be part of the department after 2019.

At a Village Fire Department Commission meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19, Bunker Hill Village officials presented a plan for the city to re-enter the Village Fire Department and suggested building a second station at a later point.

The Village Fire Department serves six villages, located primarily along I-10 between IH-610 and the Sam Houston Tollway.

Bellaire City Hall

Following years of planning, Bellaire opened its new City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7008 S. Rice. The new building is located next to the old city hall and houses city council meetings and several city departments.

The new city hall was part of an approximately $20.3-million plan, including the City Hall ($8.3 million); Police Department and Court ($9.3 million); temporary facilities ($700,000); design cost ($1.1 million); and miscellaneous costs ($900,000).

Houston Arboretum renovations

In June, the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center completed its new Woodway Drive entrance and parking area, a significant phase of their restoration efforts.

The Arboretum, located within Memorial Park, now has two large parking loops, one off of I-610, and now one off of Woodway Drive. The original, smaller and only entrance, was off of Woodway. These two loops have tripled the amount of parking that the Arboretum used to have.

Other major phases of the center’s master plan include building a new administrative building. That will open up a whole portion of the current Arboretum building, which houses the offices, Nature Shop and Discovery room, to have more educational classrooms.

Houston Zoo campaign

The Houston Zoo is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2022. In anticipation of that celebration, the zoo launched a $150 million centennial fundraising campaign, called Keeping Our World Wild.

The campaign features plans for several new multi-species habitats, the first of which are already under construction.

Phase one of the campaign — called the Heart of the Zoo — celebrates the biodiversity of Texas and will feature a Texas Wetlands habitat featuring alligators, bald eagles, whooping cranes, turtles and waterfowl.

Cypress Circle Café will also be transformed into a signature gathering place, and the orangutan and bear habitats will be enhanced. This is all projected to be completed by 2019.

West U. named best city to live

West University Place was named the number one best city to live in a USA Today article, published on Oct. 22.

To formulate its list of 50 cities, 24/7 Wall Street looked at 25 measures that fall into four categories: affordability, economy, quality of life and community.

West University Place Mayor Susan Sample said she was pleased by the national recognition, but the new moniker did not come as a surprise.

“West U. is a wonderful place to live and raise a family, and just as good a community to age in place. We offer safe and quiet tree-lined streets, neighborhood parks and a quality of life not expected from less than 15 minutes from downtown. A combination of things make West University stand out as a great place to live — quality of life, location, and focused leadership combine to make our city the real thing,” Sample said.

Menil reopens

The Menil Collection main building reopened to the public on Saturday, Sept. 22, after seven months of subtle updates and a reimagining of the gallery spaces.

Rebecca Rabinow, director of the Menil Collection, noted that the closure of the Menil originated because the fire detection system needed to be updated.

In doing that update, the staff had to take the art out of the individual galleries. This led to opportunities to redo the flooring, as well as enhance the light in some galleries.

The museum’s on-display collection of modern and contemporary art has been expanded, as well as the surrealist collection.

The Menil is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.menil.org.

Houston Fire Department celebrates 180 years

The Houston Fire Department celebrated its 180th year of service in 2018.

The Houston Fire Department was founded on Aug. 14, 1838. The department partnered with Mister McKinney’s Historic Houston and the Fire Museum of Houston to celebrate the anniversary.

The Fire Museum of Houston is located in historic Station No. 7, the first station built after the Houston Fire Department members were paid in 1895, and the oldest standing fire station in Houston and Harris County. It was active as a station from its opening in 1899 until a new Station No. 7 was built at Elgin and Austin in 1969.

Fire Museum of Houston tells the story of the Houston fire service from 1838 to present through a number of permanent and rotating exhibits.

For more information, visit www.houstonfiremuseum.org.

Bellaire High School construction

First phase construction for the new Bellaire High School started in 2018. The construction, part of Houston ISD’s voter-approved 2012 Bond Program, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020, with students moving into the new building in early 2021.

The new facility will be built on the existing campus at 5100 Maple St., but will be built in a way that allows the existing facility to stay in operation during construction. Everything except for the existing science building will be rebuilt, and that building will be connected to the new facilities.

According to houstonisd.org, “The $137 million project allows the district to maximize space on the 18-acre campus by relocating baseball and softball practice fields to a site about two miles away. The move provides architects with more space to work with and allows them to design a building that better meets the needs of the school and the neighbors, improves traffic flow around the school, and moves all parking onto campus via a garage and surface lot.”

Ronald McDonald House expansion

Ronald McDonald House Houston held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 27, for the expansion of its original 50-bedroom facility, Holcombe House.

Holcombe House provides a place for families to stay, a home away from home, while their children are being treated at the Texas Medical Center. The expansion project consisted of three phases: construction of a new 20 bedroom tower adjacent to the current Holcombe House, the renovation of the first floor of Holcombe House, and the renovation of the original 50 bedrooms.

Renovations also included updates to all infrastructure, including HVAC, mechanical, electrical and plumbing, an additional area dedicated to serving meals for families and their guests, updates to the kitchen, and new walk-in showers with wheelchair accessibility.

A year after Harvey

More than 230 infrastructure projects are part of the $2.5 billion bond passed by Harris County voters a year to the day after Hurricane Harvey dumped 27 trillion gallons of water on southeast Texas — killing 50 people in the area and swamping more than 200,000 homes.

The list won’t be completed anytime soon, then-Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.

Some of the effort, like buying out homes in the flood plain, are already ongoing while other flood control projects, such as widening Brays Bayou, are more of a challenge, Emmett said.

The plan for the $2.5 billion bond began after Emmett saw piles of debris on the streets in front of homes gutted by Hurricane Harvey.

Memorial soccer

The Memorial girls soccer team won the state championship in April with a 3-0 victory over Lewisville Marcus in Georgetown.

The Mustangs got two goals from Grace Collins and a third from Grace Yochum. Bella Killgore recorded the victory in the goal, recording three saves.

Memorial finished the season 28-0-1.

rkent@hcnonline.com

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