Neighbors living in fear say that what was once a place of faith and hope has spiraled out of control and has become a place that fills them with dread.
The former campus of the Baptist University of the Americas on the south side at 8019 South I-35 has been abandoned for months and fallen into a state of disrepair.
There are huge piles of trash outside each of the eight buildings on the nearly 13-acre site. Transients can be seen coming and going from the unsecured structures at all hours.
In February, one of the buildings burned in what neighbors say was a blaze caused by vagrants trying to stay warm.
Graffiti marks several of the buildings. A foul-smelling water leak has caused a mosquito-infested moat-like marsh.
"I want to know if the city could get involved and find out who is responsible for this so we can get this cleaned up,” said Gilbert Rodriguez, who lives near the troubled compound and is tired of seeing dangerous looking people loitering in his neighborhood. “It’s very scary.”
Rodriguez added that he’s seen criminal activity at the site, including arson and theft.
“Definitely it's a drug haven. And two, it's a recipe for disaster,” Rodriguez said. “Not only that but we got students, families, that want to walk and exercise around the area. But with the type of people are living here and scavenging, it's unsafe for our community around here to come by and assure our safety.”
While a KENS 5 crew was at the site, a couple carrying a large bolt cutter and two spools of wire admitted that they came to the gutted buildings to take copper wiring. The young woman said that she brought her male companion along for safety’s sake. She said that she had bills to pay and felt justified in taking the material that had been abandoned.
The property is owned by the Baptist General Convention of Texas. A spokesman said that asbestos abatement delayed their demolition of the buildings. But after calls from KENS 5, their contractor started a cleanup of the site on Tuesday afternoon.
Over the past few months, the city code compliance division has cited the owners for a number of violations. The latest three tickets were issued for unsecured buildings, piles of trash, and overgrown vegetation. A code spokesman said that if the property owners follow through and submit all the appropriate information for a demolition permit, they should have that permission in hand by week's end.
The following is a statement issued by the property owner:
We understand the concerns shared by members of the community. Regretfully, a series of events has slowed an already time-consuming process. Asbestos remediation is now complete, and we expect to receive the appropriate permit to move forward with demolition any day. We anticipate demolition to wrap up in June, and we look forward to the space once again benefiting the lives of residents nearby.
Texas Baptists (Baptist General Convention of Texas)
The property is currently on the market, but no asking price is listed on the realtor’s website.
Once the demolition work is complete, the Baptists hope to sell the parcel to someone who will develop something positive.
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