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West Heights Coalition

Alexan Heights trying again

The Leader News reports that the proposed mid-rise apartment complex for Yale at 7th Street has been reworked in a way that would avoid the need for a variance.

Alexan Heights on Yale

The deed restrictions involved single-family homes within the proposed complex — properties that the owners did not want to sell and that TCR was able to design around. TCR’s earlier request for construction with a variance failed before the Houston Planning Commission.

An advance copy of the new notice was part of a TCR/Maple Multi-Family Land TX letter to District C Councilwoman Ellen Cohen dated April 19, portions of which read: “The replat includes properties that were previously restricted to single family. The deed restrictions for these properties have been amended to allow multi-family so the replat will include all 3.55 acres of the site as an unrestricted reserve.”

The letter to Cohen also says TCR has restricted the project’s driveway on Allston Street to be a service exit, left turn only, to divert traffic away from the neighborhood. And, the developer “is willing to work” with Allston Street neighbors if they seek parking restrictions or “No Parking” signs adjacent to the apartment project.

In addition, the letter to Cohen says that if the city will approve a HAWK signal — a crossing signal controlled by pedestrians or bicyclists — at the bike trail adjacent to the mid-rise’s site, TCR will fund and build it. Similarly, the company “is prepared to make a contribution” to the detention pond/park at Rutland and 6th streets.

See here for the last update, and see here for a copy of the letter sent to CM Cohen’s office, which they shared with me. “TCR” is Trammel Crow Residential. I had thought they’d get the variance that they were ultimately denied, so I’m not going to speculate what may happen here. The neighborhood is still opposed to the idea, or at least the more vocal factions of the neighborhood is opposed. I know there’s a lot of interest in putting some kind of signal at the bike trail crosswalk, so you’d think there might be room for negotiation here. Be that as it may, there is a public hearing scheduled for 2:30 p.m. May 23 at City Hall Annex, 900 Bagby St to discuss this, so we’ll see what happens this time. Swamplot has more.

Alexan Heights update

The developers of the Alexan Heights project on Yale will go before the Planning Commission tomorrow to get a variance that would remove a single-family restriction on part of the property. Some folks in the neighborhood have been petitioning against the variance. The Leader reports from a meeting that was supposed to be between residents and the developer, except that the developer didn’t show.

Plans submitted by Terra Associates, affiliated with several luxury Alexan apartments throughout the Houston area, show a 350-plus unit complex with 4 stories of apartment units over two levels of parking, one of which is below grade. Currently a mixed-use block in the Maple Heights subdivision, the 3.5-acre site fronts Yale between 6th and 7th, with Allston Street its interior border and the Heights Hike-and-Bike Trail to its north.

Last week, Houston Planning Commission deferred its decision on whether to grant a variance request to replat as unrestricted reserved a single-family portion of the site. Since it has twice-deferred the variance request, however, the planning commission must make a decision at its next meeting, with or without the traffic study reportedly being conducted by the developer and expected in mid-February.

Whether passed or denied, however, a version of the project is likely to advance in some form, said Bill Pellerin, land use committee chairman, who also said neither the committee nor the association has taken a position on the proposed project.

Residents, however, were outspoken on the project’s potential impact on traffic in an already-bottlenecked stretch of roadway, on access and flow, on setbacks, on sidewalks, on drainage and on the overall presence of a mid-rise building abutting an otherwise single-family neighborhood.

“The variance is the project,” one attendee said, calling for residents to give the planning commission “reasons to deny it” and to remind commissioners as well as council members that seeking a variance means something is not in compliance. “Stick to the rules,” said another resident.

The West Heights Coalition is leading the resistance, with assistance from RUDH. I have sympathy for the WHC, but I have a hard time seeing how the Planning Commission denies the variance. There’s a similar high-end apartment complex about a mile north, at 2125 Yale, and between 6th and I-10 Yale is basically all industrial. Yale is a thoroughfare in the way that Bissonnet where the Ashby Highrise will be isn’t. It’s true that the traffic is awful right there, but as far as I can tell that’s because of the traffic light that went in after the I-10 service road was extended west of Yale. You could probably mitigate some of this traffic by building a dedicated right-turn lane for the service road, which is something I know was talked about as mitigation for the Wal-Mart construction. Anyone know whatever happened with that? Tweaking the timing on that light to give a longer green and a shorter red for Yale would also help some. I certainly agree that between this, the Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart-related development, and whatever is to come on the San Jacinto Stone site, Yale is going to become an unholy mess to drive on. But given all that, it’s hard to see how this one project will make that much difference.