Downtown construction boom


HOUSTON – The summer construction season has several businesses in and around the Square in Houston in the process of renovation or repair.

The biggest job is the renovation of the future home of Watkins, Ward & Stafford CPA on the west side of the Square, with work on water lines by the city and repair of buildings on the east side of the Square coming in a close second.

“The city can’t renovate and repair buildings, but when we see people doing something with their property, we look for opportunities to help,” said Houston Mayor Stacey Parker. “It’s great to see businesses invest in downtown. That’s good for Houston.”

Shane Pettit is working to renovate the Jeremy Harrell building for Watkins, Ward & Stafford. He said they are renovating the building from front to back.

“We poured a new sidewalk – with the city helping to haul off the old concrete – and are busy putting in offices,” said Pettit. “I’ve got about a three-week deadline and we are very busy.”

Pettit said there will be a lobby behind giant plate-glass windows, nine offices, a conference and computer room, a break room and even a shower. He said they are also rewiring the building and installing decorative doors at the front and back.

“It’s going to be nice and we are very excited about being downtown,” said Jason Brooks, CPA with Watkins, Ward & Stafford. “The Square offers a lot for businesses like ours and we wanted to be downtown.”

Brooks said renovating the building will do a lot for downtown and his business.

“We opened at our current location in August and have already outgrown it,” said Brooks. “We have plans to hire two people immediately when we get in that building and will bring in other staff to work with our clients during our busy time of the year.”

Ricko Nichols, Houston Street Department superintendent, said a new six-inch waterline has been laid in the alley on the west side of the square.

“We have also installed two new fire plugs,” said Nichols. “We have replaced three new valves and have plans to replace or add about six or seven more.”

Nichols said in some places the pipe downtown is 50-years old.

“We got a $360,000 ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) grant that is helping with the water and sewer downtown,” said Parker. “This is part of a plan. This doesn’t just help one person or business, but it’s one step in the direction we want to go. This is part of an opportunity we had presented to us and we took it.”

Parker said the city is also working on a water/sewer project that stretches from Airport Road to Houston High School.

Parker pointed to work to repair the Neal Colbert building on the east side of the square. The back wall has been replaced after it collapsed during bad weather this winter.

That work will see the roof, east wall, door and floor replaced in the building occupied by M.J. Express.

“And I want to thank people like Tom Byrne and Steve Pearson for taking the lead on renovating buildings downtown,” said Parker. “Mike Colbert has renovated the building he is in with more to come.

“Franklin Lowe is doing his part and there are others who are doing their part,” said Parker. “It takes us all and when one business renovates or repairs, it helps everyone and it helps Houston.”

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