Wherever Armando Litchenberger looks around Urbana Recording Studio, there are memories. The stool Jose Feliciano sat on to record a couple tracks. Goldie Hawn used the studio to mix the soundtrack for a TV movie she directed. Duran Duran re-cut a guitar track that didn’t test well while on a world tour.
“There are memories here that are not replaceable,” Litchenberger said as he showed off the Near Northside performance room where the neighborhood’s de facto house band, La Mafia, recorded the songs that won four Grammys, which now sit a glass trophy case a few feet from the soundboard.
Beatles memorabilia and signed posters from hundreds of musicians and celebrities line the walls, but it is a pin in the parking lot that draws Litchenberger’s attention these days. Driven in by a surveyor, the pin marks the property line for a wider Interstate 45.
The I-45 project’s toll on local property owners would be unprecedented for TxDOT in Houston, potentially relocating hundreds of families and businesses. Estimated to cost at least $7 billion, the project will rebuild I-45 from downtown Houston north to Beltway 8, and change how it connects with other downtown freeways.
That means rebuilding — by removing — pieces of Fifth Ward, the Northside, Acres Homes and Aldine. Spots south of North Main where third-generation Latino residents help neighbors work on cars in their driveway. Or Tidwell, which bustles with activity as the commercial center and is the only place within walking distance of her apartment where Shondrae McBride, 26, can get her nails done, pick up marinated carne asada and drop off her husband’s cell phone for repair across from a Pho restaurant.
“Not everybody has a car to get around,” McBride said.