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CultureMap previews the Wal-Mart

Some interesting stuff here.

Restaurants and stores on Heights Boulevard, along with new pathways and landscaping on the boulevard’s esplanade, will be part of Ainbinder Company’s Walmart-anchored retail development in the Inner Loop of Houston, the developer of the project said Friday.

The project, called Washington Heights, is planned for 23 acres near the southwest corner of Yale Street and Koehler, just south of Interstate 10 and the Heights community. Much of the project will be located on industrial land vacant land that formerly was the site of a Trinity Industries steel fabrication plant.

“We are going to take this land from a factory site to a fairly upscale development,” said developer Bart Duckworth, principal in the Houston-based Ainbinder firm.

Washington Heights will also spread onto land Ainbinder is acquiring on Heights Boulevard, south of the freeway. An old apartment project there will be demolished to make way for the new retail space, Duckworth said.

You can see the back end of the apartment complex here, looking east from Koehler Street. I’ll reserve judgment on that for now, but I’m pretty sure extending this development across Yale like that isn’t going to alleviate anyone’s concerns about traffic. I’m already envisioning a new traffic light being installed at Yale and Koehler to handle the exiting and left-turning vehicles.

Real estate broker Lance Gilliam of the retail division of Moody Rambin Interests has been handling the project.

Gilliam hopes to attract chef-driven restaurants, local boutiques and non-chain outlets to the retail space on Yale and Heights Boulevard, as an extension of the restaurant development that has occurred along Washington Avenue in recent years.

“We have really made an effort to reach out to the Houston, and also to Texas cities including, Austin, to see who that is out there would best serve this community,” Gilliam said. “We want shops that are unique and add to the community.”

Color me skeptical of that effort. I’m not sure how many driven chefs will want to share space with a Wal-Mart, but I suppose anything is possible. Maybe if pedestrian access between this site and Washington Avenue is improved, and/or if the Washington Wave extends service in that direction, it might make the proposition more attractive to the kinds of chefs and restaurants they seem to want. Or it might not. I know that when they were filling out the Target site on Sawyer that I was hoping for some decent food options, but what we got was Chili’s, Panda Express, and Freebird’s. Seems to me that’s the more likely, and more fitting, outcome over there, but I guess we’ll see.

Ainbinder is seeking an agreement with city officials to make public improvements to the area on city owned property, Duckworth said.

Under the proposal, Ainbinder would spend $6 million to widen and expand streets around the project, beautify nearby bridges, improve drainage, build new sidewalks, and create a crushed rock path and landscaping in the esplanade of Heights Boulevard, he said. Ainbinder would be reimbursed for the public improvements over time as the project reached completion and occupancy goals, in a government sponsored program that has been used for other projects around the state, Duckworth said.

The “government sponsored program” Duckworth is referring to is apparently a 380 Agreement. Which apparently has to be approved by Council first. Expect there to be some pressure applied to Council members about that. Usually, other Council members will defer to the District member on matters like this in their district, so watch what CM Ed Gonzalez says and does very carefully.

Walmart’s trucks will enter the store property off of Koehler Street, next to Berger Iron Works.

There’s already some truck traffic on Koehler, for the Berger Iron Works and for San Jacinto Stone, but for the most part we’re not talking 18-wheelers. Better hope widening Koehler is part of the plan.

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4 Comments

  1. chasman says:

    we did get a southwell’s near the heights as a result of the target development, though it took a while. and i kinda like freebirds and marble slab. the rest though — ie chilis, subway, panda, etc is the usual crap.

  2. Fayza says:

    Glad you found it useful 🙂

  3. Tony says:

    We who live in the area are always looking for improvement in our home values and the neighborhood. Not all development is beneficial to a neighborhood. A “BOX STORE” will degrade and depress the area in a number of ways especially if that “BOX STORE” is Wal-Mart (see link).

    Why is this? Local smaller retailers provide more jobs at higher wages. Small local retailers also contribute twice as much to local charities. Wal-Mart also undermines U.S. Manufacturers in several ways. From (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html), The gluttonous story of Wal-Mart is often hidden; “It’s the story of what that pressure does to the companies Wal-Mart does business with, to U.S. manufacturing, and to the economy as a whole.” From the same source, Wal-Mart will “squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors” which forces them to outsource from China and other countries with lower wages. In other words, Wal-Mart destroys U.S. Jobs ! So, why continue down this path? In the end, when we have so few jobs here to buy Wal-Mart products, Wal-Mart will just pack up and move away to find another feeding ground.

    In my opinion, the Wal-Mart influence results from Wal-Mart increasingly paying / buying / owning local politicians. In a way, it is an extension of “Big Government” types of policies and breaks for large corporations at the expense of everyone else.

    We do not need a Wal-Mart in our neighborhood ! And, I do not want one !

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