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top Above: former Buffalo Bayou Partnership chairman Mike Garver bought this derelict warehouse in the East End in October, 2001. Wationds Perk Right: the Partnership’s big dreams for the East End. Photo by Dave Mann Gordon is a member of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership executive board, according to group documents, or that former Chronicle publisher Richard J.V. Johnson was on the board as late as 1999, according to the group’s tax returns \(facts first reported by Richard Connelly of the “This plan is a fabulous, visionary catalog of opportunities,” gushes Harris County Flood Control District Director Mike Talbott, whose agency helped develop the master plan. Mike Garver, a prominent local businessman and former chairman of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership, told the Chronicle that the plan was certain to bring development to the bayou. “People love water,” he said. To anyone who’s actually seen Buffalo Bayou, this might sound slightly ludicrous. Herons, mullet, and sighing breezes aside, the bayou is a narrow, pollution-saturated drainage ditch that slithers through downtown and into the Ship Channel almost unnoticedthat is, unless you catch a whiff of the sewage treatment plants that dot its banks. Sure, the bayou’s not without its mucky charm. But the Seine it’s not. That has not deterred the Buffalo Bayou Partnership from staging a public relations campaign of the first ordera glossy effort to get the public behind the $800-million project. But there’s more going on here than marketing hyperbole: this is Houston, where no public works project this size could slip by without someone trying to snag a boatload of money behind the scenes.An investigation by the Observer reveals that several backers of the Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s master plan may benefit handsomely from the $800 million public proj ect. A handful of current and former members of the Partnership’s executive board, men influential in developing and lobbying for the plan, have snatched large swaths of real estate for themselves along the very bayou they’re planning to redevelop, according to Harris County records. In addition, a dozen Houston sources criticized the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and its master plan on several fronts. The bayou may offer great possibilities for Houston, they argue, but not with this plan: the development ideas are unrealistic and favor economic investment over environmental interests, parts of the flood control proposals don’t make much sense, and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership has a poor track record with spending government funds efficiently and effectively on prior projects. along the bayou. Behind the grand pronouncements and references to the Seine, they say, the Buffalo Bayou Master Plan is mostly a shell game for real estate speculation by some of Houston’s most prominent businessmen, and a boon for developers at the expense of water quality, wildlife, and green space along the bayou. Said one source, who works closely with the city and asked not to be identified, “This is the Enron of the nonprofit world.” f all the promoters of the redevelopment plan, Mike Garver may have the most to gain. He owns BRH Garver Inc., a Houston-based construction outfit, and dabbles in real estate on the sidea search of Harris County land records reveals 34 properties listed under Garver’s name or his C.M. Garver Trust. Since 1995, he’s been 1216102 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5 4rwrd