JURY RETURNS VERDICT IN HOUSTON CHRONICLE DEMOLITION TRIAL
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Houston Business Journal
Late last week, a jury awarded around $200,000 in a legal dispute related to the former Houston Chronicle site downtown.
The lawsuit was filed in Harris County District Court in April 2016 over the planned demolition of the former Chronicle building. The plaintiff, Theater Square LP, claimed the demolition would interfere with an agreement it originally reached with the Chronicle’s parent company, Hearst Newspapers LLC, to construct a pedestrian tunnel under the building to connect to a planned development on Block 43.
The Chronicle building was on Block 58, and Theater Square owns Block 43, which is just north of the building and separated by Prairie Street. Houston-based Hines Interests LP signed a deal to buy the former Chronicle property in 2015 and assigned its rights and obligations under that agreement to Block 58 Investors. Theater Square is affiliated with the Linbeck construction family. The lawsuit claimed that access to the tunnels was an essential component of Theater Square’s plans for developing Block 43. After some legal proceedings, demolition of the former Chronicle building began in summer 2016. In a June 2017 countersuit, Block 58 Investors stated it built a “cocoon” around the corridor at the center of the dispute and altered its demolition plans to protect the corridor as to comply with a temporary injunction issued last summer. Block 58 Investors sued Theater Square for costs related to protecting the corridor.
The jury verdict on Feb. 2 was in favor of Theater Square and requires Block 58 Investors to pay $211,058.70, according to a court filing. Hearst was not found liable.
Theater Square has built its tunnel and a parking garage on Block 43 and plans to build a tower there eventually, the Houston Chronicle reports. Hines declined to comment to the Chronicle, and Hearst was unavailable. Hines also declined to comment to the Houston Business Journal.
The former Chronicle building site — at 801 Texas Ave. — was turned into a 187-space surface parking lot last year, the Downtown District announced in October. Hines eventually intends to develop the site, though official plans have not been announced.