Play ball! Bellaire HS rebuilding could begin at last by utilizing vacant Avenue B campus
By Charlotte Aguilar
Five years after voters approved bond funding for a new Bellaire High School, the stalled process could finally be moving forward again — with an assist from a facility that has helped Houston ISD through other dilemmas.
A plan is in the works to move Bellaire’s baseball practice facilities permanently to the former Gordon/Mandarin Chinese school campus, now vacant, at 6300 Avenue B at Bissonnet Street.
“The move would essentially free up space on the current campus site to design a building that better meets the needs of the school and the neighbors,” according to Sylvia Wood, who handles communications for HISD’s bond construction projects. “HISD has been and will continue to be in conversation with the city of Bellaire to make sure all permit and zoning requirements are met, both at the Gordon site and the South Rice campus. ”
Bellaire City Manager Paul Hofmann said HISD hasn’t yet submitted an application for the specific use permit that is required to begin work on the project, and which would first be the subject of public hearings by the Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council before a council vote.
“I don’t have a schedule for that happening,” indicated Hofmann. “(It) depends on when we receive an application.”
The plan, which would require demolishing the old elementary school and removing temporary buildings, was presented to the Bellaire High Project Advisory Team in April at its first meeting in more than six months. Principal Michael McDonough reacted with an email update and said the concept “gives me the most confidence that we are finally on our way.”
He said the new proposal, which was presented by Trustee Mike Lunceford, allowed architects to rework plans to allow students to remain on campus during construction and to check off key boxes for design and neighborhood requirements.
According to McDonough, the first phase of the project will last 24-30 months and include construction of classrooms, shared spaces, fine arts, gyms-pool facilities and food services. The second phase, which is anticipated to take another year, will include a parking garage, administrative offices, and reconstructed athletic fields.
In an additional piece of good news, trustees voted to spread bond surplus funds from completed projects to other, unfinished schools, which added an additional $9.5 million to the original $106 million budgeted for the Bellaire High School reconstruction. That allows for a campus large enough to accommodate 3,100 students, with an auditorium matching the capacity of the current facility, and the move of the baseball facility, McDonough said.
The old, wooded Gordon/MCLIMS site — which is just shy of four acres — abuts Bellaire’s Feld Park, which has a strong athletic emphasis with an adult softball field managed by the Bellaire Optimist Club, youth soccer fields, tennis courts and an active playground.
The campus was a neighborhood elementary school from 1953-1983 and served other purposes for five years before reopening in 1988 as a relief school for over-capacity elementaries in the Gulfton area. In 2012, it was converted into the Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion School but has been vacant since that school received a new campus at the beginning of this school year.