HISD given go-ahead for Washington HS neighborhood demolition project

A preliminary design concept shows the front of the new Booker T. Washington High School.

A preliminary design concept shows the front of the new Booker T. Washington High School.

Demolition is scheduled to begin in early March, which follows the completion of asbestos abatement at 51 properties in Houston’s Independence Heights neighborhood – properties that were acquired by the district to become a part of the new 21st century campus for Booker T. Washington High School.

As part of HISD’s current bond program, voters approved $51.7 million to build the new school, and the purchase of nearly 16 acres of land was part of the plan to nearly double the size of the campus.

The demolition phase is expected to take four to six weeks, and work will begin next week by disconnecting utilities and moving in heavy equipment.

“After the utilities are disconnected in the coming weeks, you will start to see more activity on the site,” said HISD Project Manager Amanda Goodie. “I know the neighbors are looking forward to the demo being completed – we are too, and we’re working hard to make that happen.”

Most buildings constructed prior to 1974 contain asbestos in the flooring, spray-on fireproofing, and HVAC pipe insulation. The abatement process includes conducting an asbestos-containing material and lead-based paint survey; securing an abatement contractor and air monitoring consultant; monitoring air conditions throughout; conducting air quality sampling before and after; and passing final inspection.

“It takes some time to remove older buildings due to asbestos and lead based paint that may be present, which can be extremely hazardous,” said Andreas Peeples, HISD construction general manager. “This was a large project and a complex one, but we’ve done it safely. Now it’s time to bring the buildings down.”

Several other HISD schools will be undergoing similar abatement and demolition activities as homes, apartment buildings, and old school buildings are removed to make way for new schools to be built.

“We follow strict protocols when it comes to demolition and dealing with any hazardous materials,” Peeples said. “Safety is our top priority – for students, workers, and the community.”

After the homes are cleared from the Independence Heights site, the construction company will begin the removal of the streets and underground utilities.