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Pastor Deckard speaks on Greenspoint rival

As Greenspoint revival takes hold, worry that residents will be left behind


By R.A. Schuetz

Posted on January 20, 2020 in the Houston Chronicle


“I know you’re coming into Greenspoint,” said Rev. E.A. Deckard of Green House International Church, which is planning a job fair to address the area’s high rate of unemployment. “But what are you doing for Greenspoint?”

In the north Houston neighborhood of Greenspoint, robots scoot through a new $136 million Amazon warehouse, processing thousands of packages a day. Coca-Cola is finishing a $250 million bottling and distribution center, its first new American plant in more than a decade. Cyclists swoosh along the banked bends of the $26 million Rockstar Energy Bike Park, which opened in August and will host the UCI BMX World Championships in May. Hilton is in the midst of a $35 million renovation of its hotel on Greenspoint Drive.


Name brands from around the country have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into a neighborhood where nearly half the residents earn less than $25,000 a year. Local leaders see hope for a comeback for Greenspoint, which since the 1990s has struggled with a reputation for crime and a declining office market.


“There certainly is a stigma to Greenspoint,” said Richard Slutter, general manager of the Hilton Houston North. “As Exxon has left and The Woodlands has grown in its own right, a lot of our business has moved to other locations. We’re looking forward to welcoming them back.”


Others wonder how much Greenspoint’s residents will benefit from the money flowing into the neighborhood. Amazon declined to say how many of the 1,500 employees at its warehouse there live in the area, and it’s unclear whether Coca-Cola will make new hires for its plant, which will consolidate workers from existing Houston-area facilities, all of which are planned to shutter.


“I know you’re coming into Greenspoint,” said Rev. E.A. Deckard of Green House International Church, which is planning a job fair to address the area’s high rate of unemployment. “But what are you doing for Greenspoint?”


Mall anchor


Greg Simpson, president of the North Houston District, can remember when the Greenspoint Mall opened in 1976. The 1.4 million-square-foot mall anchored by Foley’s and Sears was a regional attraction. When he watched “Star Wars” there at the age of 10, the theater was so crowded he sat on the floor.


Exxon soon followed the mall to the neighborhood, drawn to the area’s easy access to Interstate 45 and Beltway 8 near Houston Intercontinental Airport, now Bush. An Exxon subsidiary purchased and master-planned 2,000 acres of Greenspoint, including retail, residential and high-end office towers. Fourteen miles north of downtown, Greenspoint has a skyline of its own.


“There was a very vibrant life during that time,” Simpson said. “Then, as cycles go, things started to change.”


Greenspoint began to fade in the ’90s after a bout of highly publicized crimes shook faith in community safety and consumer preferences began shifting away from big malls. Exxon pulled out, moving its offices in 2015 to a new master-planned community 12 miles north; it had already spun off the subsidiary that developed Greenspoint. Nearly a third of high-end office space in the submarket was empty after Exxon’s move, according to commercial real estate firm CBRE. By the end of last year, that figure had risen to 57 percent. The average annual asking rent is $25 a square foot, compared to $36 in the city overall.


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