Wheatley supporters, HISD meet with mediators about historic school's future

Phillis Wheatley High School (1929, Harry D. Payne) /  courtesy photo

Phillis Wheatley High School (1929, Harry D. Payne) / courtesy photo

Representatives of the Historic Wheatley / E.O. Smith Preservation Coalition and Houston Independent School District are meeting today with court-appointed mediators to try to resolve the coalition’s suit to stop the demolition of the original Phillis Wheatley High School, 1700 Gregg Street at Lyons.
Yesterday, Harris County District Court Judge Elizabeth Ray extended through Wednesday, September 10, a temporary restraining order that prevents HISD from tearing down the historic building. She appointed Harris County District Court Judge Levi Benton as the mediator in the case along with former Houston city attorney Ben Hall.
Coalition supporters want the three-story Spanish Renaissance style building to be renovated and repurposed as they say was promised in HISD’s capital improvement plan. The coalition’s lawsuit contends that HISD exceeded its authority by allocating bond money to raze the historic building. Coalition members believed they had reached an agreement with the school district and were surprised when HISD began bulldozing the building on the Sunday before Labor Day.
The school district has responded that, although the lawsuit would prevent it from using bond funds to demolish the building, it would not prevent HISD from tearing down the building using other sources of money.
Judge Ray has said she will rule on the suit on Wednesday.
Preservation Houston is working with both parties toward preserving architecturally significant portions of the building’s Gregg Street façade. Preservation Houston will update its members as this story progresses.