Lakewood Gets a Steal of a Deal

Houston Councilmembers are set to sell the former home of the Rockets at a price that has some people questioning their sanity. Laurie Johnson reports.

When it comes to prime real estate in Houston, it doesn't get much better than the site of Lakewood Church.

It's nearly seven acres of property in the heart of the Greenway area, with a humongous facility.

Last week, a number of councilmembers questioned the wisdom of selling it for what seems like a steal. The city's price tag for the church is $7.5 million.

Councilmember James Rodriguez says it may sound crazy, but it actually makes sense.

"I'm not a real estate expert, but I can tell you that the land was donated by Greenway back in the '70s. Lakewood came in 2001/02 and signed this deal. And you know looking at the deal, they've put in close to $90 million worth of improvements. I just think you really limit the amount of people that would be interested in buying the facility should they opt out of their lease."

Councilmembers were briefed on the deal in a two hour meeting on Monday, in an effort to convince naysayers of the benefits of the sale.

Lakewood paid nearly $12 million several years ago in a sort of lease to own agreement. Rob Todd was a Houston councilmember at the time and voted in favor of the lease.

"The lease doesn't pay out for years. We did that on purpose years ago. And that was done to allow the church to pay back the money that they were having to invest into the church. And at the time, we didn't just consider money, this was meant to be something that was good for the city as a whole. It increased our visibility, not only in the national community, but also in the world community."

Council will take a final vote on the Lakewood sale tomorrow. The $7.5 million is already counted into the city's current fiscal budget, making it a priority deal for the administration.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...