AP NEWS

Future of Memorial Bend Club uncertain

May 17, 2019

Memorial Bend was ravaged by Houston Harvey in August 2017. As many residents are still struggling to recover and rebuild, the community may lose about half of its only green space.

The Memorial Bend Club was founded in 1958. The private club near Beltway 8 and Boheme Drive has a pool area, a gas grill, picnic tables and lots of oak trees, but its playground area and tennis courts might soon be replaced with a four- to five-story storage facility with 800 to 1,000 units. Some concerned residents are working to find a better solution.

Right now, Amazing Spaces Storage Centers is slated to buy the portion of property, which would improve the club’s financial situation that has worsened since Harvey as many families in the neighborhood are still trying to bounce back and have trouble making a pool membership a priority right now. Of the neighborhood’s 364 homes, approximately 186 flooded from the reservoir release in the days after Harvey. Around 70 remain vacant or have been torn down, said Ron Bitto, president of the Memorial Bend Civic Association.

Emily Strait, her husband and two young children flooded and only in March got into the new home they had rebuilt. While Strait emphasized that all the club’s board members are friends and neighbors that want what’s best for the community, she said she would hate to see the current plan go ahead.

“They’re saying that the club is going to run out of money before the end of the year and that will necessitate the sale, and then once the sale goes through, then they will use the proceeds to reinvest it back into the property and redo the pool and make it a little nicer, which you know, on its face, that sounds like it makes sense.”

But Strait said the storage facility would land right in the middle of a community that is currently all residential. “So our neighborhood is divided east and west by the beltway. I feel like having this large commercial structure right in the middle of the neighborhood would be really damaging for, you know, the neighborhood feel and building community.”

Memorial Bend Club Board Member Erika Sorsby emphasized that for her, the decision process has been difficult since she, too, is a resident and sees how the partial sale will affect the community. She said she worries about future flooding issues.

“The club property had at the peak, the most water during Harvey, somewhere between 5 and 6 feet of water. And if more concrete goes there, where is that water going to go?” Sorsby said. “It’s going be displaced somewhere in our neighborhood, somehow. No matter what type of retention they try to put it, I just don’t feel like it would be enough retention.”

A potential further drop in property values due to having a large commercial property in the middle of a residential neighborhood that will be visible from a lot of homes also worries some Memorial Bend residents. Sorsby said, “I don’t see how it could not negatively impact our property values.”

Strait said one of the main issues right now is getting out communications about what’s happening, that a lot of homeowners just don’t know. Some families have moved away as they recover, and the club lacks proper contact information for some. Although Facebook groups and Nextdoor have been helpful, Strait added that a lot of older residents don’t use those. She and others have been knocking on doors of residents to get the word out.

Strait and other concerned residents are actively trying to recruit new and returning members to raise funds to buy the club additional time to find other options, from finding a buyer that would build townhomes, which would blend in better to the residential area, to filling in the pool and just making it a full green space. Memorial Bend residents can join as limited members for $300 for this year (with all club amenities available to them), or they can become regular members with full voting rights. A regular membership requires a $750 initial fee and annual dues of $550. Some former Memorial Bend residents and even individuals from other area pool clubs have chipped in and donated money for memberships to sponsor club members or other families that are still rebuilding their lives, all because they see the lasting value of the club for the neighborhood.

The club is also raising funds through a Gofundme page. And businesses and groups interested in making a corporate donation can email savembcproperty@gmail.com.

Since Harvey, there are still a lot of repairs the club needs for which it does not have the budget. Scout, church and volunteer groups or individuals are encouraged to reach out if they would like to help with projects such as working on the property’s fence or putting new mulch down in the playground.

The Memorial Bend Club is important to a lot of people. It brings together neighbors both east and west of the beltway that might not otherwise interact, and it is the community’s only gathering space, Strait said. She hopes community members and others will step up to save the property for both current and future residents.

“The Memorial Bend Club has been very good to my family and community over the years. Now it is time to collectively give back to the Club. The club property deserves better fate than a storage center that is incompatible with our neighborhood’s post-Harvey recovery. I hope we can raise enough money to buy time to find a better solution for the good of all of Memorial Bend.”

tracy.maness@hcnonline.com