All That Empty Retail on South Shepherd: A Drive-By Photo Tour

Armed with a camera, two enterprising Swamplot readers set out to document the retail carnage along South Shepherd, between 59 and the Shepherd Curve:

The sheer number of businesses that have disappeared along Shepherd in 4 months has been stupefying. This is with a large, new, empty Weingarten development at one end …and the chronically empty Shepherd Plaza at the other. Hell, we have gone from 4 Starbucks to 3!!

That’s a 25 percent reduction in mocha lattes alone. How about in some of the other sectors?

Granted, there have been some new businesses, a Hallmark store, a dance studio, and something seems to have filled the lingerie place at Welch and Shepherd, but the vacancy rate now stands at 22%!!! We counted 172 retail “units” and found 37 of them to be empty. As recently as February, I remember only about a dozen vacancies.

What are the sights?


There’s that empty former Starbucks building on Farnham:

Shepherd Square:

Our correspondents continue:

The sea change in the balance between landlord and tenant here has been simply amazing. And this is in the solar plexus of Houston with the street rolling through both 77098 and 77019.

The former J.Jill on West Gray:

And that new piece of the River Oaks Shopping Center:

Bottom line? Savvy retail tenants in Houston will now start demanding NNN rents damn close to Zero for quality space. Even in the best inner loop locations (Kirby, Shepherd, Richmond, Westheimer). Why? With so many landlords around town having trouble paying the lights, insurance, and taxes, they are glad to get something…anything to pass through expenses and stay alive.

Awww, c’mon. Are things really that bad?

A few notes:

Wow. Why can’t more Swamplot readers send in projects like this?

We were honked at twice for slowing down or stopping and nearly got in an accident in the Shepherd/Westheimer Randall’s parking lot.

Okay, but it’s worth it, no?

Photos: Swamplot inbox

24 Comment

  • Good data. With a diagram too! You get a gold star from this engineer.

    I do know that Shepherd Square is owned by HEB. Don’t know what the plan it. There was rumor a while back that they would redo the entire center with an HEB in it, but that was a couple of years ago.

  • Nice job, supersleuths! When I drive down this stretch of Shepherd, I’m more concerned with not dying than actually noticing what is coming and going. I’m pretty amazed that even that particular Starbuck’s is now empty. So, if Shepherd is the solar plexus, what’s the “groin muscle” of H-town?

  • Are these places too new to tear down for luxury condos?

  • I was in the Starbucks right before it closed. According to the baristas, the landlord chose not to renew their lease. They were not one of the Starbuck’s closings that happened a year or so – in fact, they had one of the highest rankings for customer service in Houston!

    As for Shepherd Square, I too have heard that HEB owns an option on the center. However, with our new HEB opening on Buffalo Speedway in the Fall, I doubt they’ll put another one so close.

  • Where’s the one on Buffalo Speedway?

  • Honestly, it’s pretty much been this way since I moved into the area three years ago. Well, with the exception of the stuff up on West Gray…

    Anyway, one potential bright spot is that the abandoned bank at Shepherd and W Alabama is apparently FINALLY getting a new tenant. There’s a permit from 6/11 for conversion from bank to a Smoothie King. OK, so not a huge deal, but that thing has been empty for quite some time

  • Also, that fugly pinkish building 8 pics in has been more or less vacant since I moved to the area…it’s been sitting there for YEARS! It has a tiny parking lot, which probably doesn’t help much.

  • Keep going up Shepherd to I-10 and you’ll see even more vacancies — including new builds that have yet to see a tenant. Do the owners think too highly of their property or are we truly overbuilt?

  • I don’t think the new big Weingarten building on Shephard and West Gray (as much as I hate it) should be counted since it’s still being worked on, and at least one tenant (Barnes and Noble) will be moving in.

    As for Shephard Plaza…well, it has been in some weird kind of limbo for quite a while, long before the economy crashed. It’s as if HEB can’t quite make up its mind what to do with the place.

    Some of the lingerie places on Shephard have closed, I believe, due to competition. I mean, you certainly don’t need 1,000 lingerie shops in Montrose. :-)

  • kjb434: the new HEB is on the corner of Bissonet and Buffalo Speedway. The only thing left from that old strip center is the Buffalo Grill. I’ve been told that the old Buffalo Pharmacy will be inside the HEB.

    I remember when Shepherd Plaza was THE place to go at night, with all those bars and restaurants. I still miss 8.0. Hell, I miss Sound Warehouse. Most knowledgable music staff in the city back then.

  • Thanks ‘stina.

    I used to shop at the Kroger nearby all the time when I used to live near Kirby and Westheimer.

    With an HEB right there, I really don’t see one going up at Shepherd Plaza.

    I used to go to Shepherd Plaza when Guava Lamp. Now they are at Waugh and D’Amico. I used to go to Freebirds on the other side, now I go to the new one at Taylor and I-10.

  • Angeli Wahlstedt:

    I don’t think the new big Weingarten building on Shephard and West Gray (as much as I hate it) should be counted since it’s still being worked on, and at least one tenant (Barnes and Noble) will be moving in.
    But the B&N moving in will be accompanied by the closing of Bookstop, so the net vacancy along Shepherd remains the same. (I can’t speak to the other units in the Incredible Hulk, but presumably they wouldn’t have “for lease” signs if they had tenants lined up.)

  • OMG ‘stina, I was thinking about 8.0 just this past weekend!

    My kids loved the attention they got there, as well as the little animal decorations on the glasses.

    Their mural was an honest representation of where we lived at the time: The Woodlands… planned community with a thin veneer of forest concealing jam-packed building.

  • The problem that drives me away from Shepherd is the traffic–especially driving north at the corner of Richmond and the gauntlet when driving by the Randall’s at Westheimer. Driving south it’s the potholes. I almost lost my transmission–among other things–driving on the right lane in front of St. Anne’s. Then it’s so difficult to get in and out of these tiny parking lots. I take Kirby instead, even with all the construction.

  • Oh, and I forgot to mention “no left turn lane”. That’s a deal breaker for me with everyone always trying to get to the right lane at the last minute into the lane with the potholes.

  • From Delta Associates market information:
    “Houston’s retail vacancy ticked up to 15.9% in the 4th quarter of 2008, from 15.7% in the 3rd quarter and 15.8% a year ago. The current vacancy rate is the highest since the 3rd quarter of 2007.”
    So, while 22% is high, Houston overall has an awful lot of vacancies, in the top 10 worst nationally. It is a very overbuilt city.

  • All right! This is my hood! If you think there are a lot of vacancies you can see from your car, you should try walking it. I’ve lived here 16 years, and some of those places have been vacant over half that time.

    And for the people complaining about driving on Shepherd, I’ll be glad when the Kirby reconstruction is done so you can all go back over there. Sometimes it takes me 2 light changes to get off of my own street.

    I will say, though, that it’s a wonderful walkable neighborhood. The only thing I’ve found that’s missing is some sort of drugstore. The nearest are the CVS on Kirby/59 and the Walgreens on Montrose across from Krogay.

    Did you count Neon Nail and Land/Sea/Air as vacant? ‘Cuz they are. And did you count the Chicken ‘n’ Egg Roll? It’s on the demo list, but still standing.

    That bank — used to be a Rally Burger for a year or two. I sure miss the Dunkin Donuts and the Frenchy’s Chicken that used to be where Hunan Village is now, back when HV was where the MRI place is.

  • Makes me wonder how they will ever fill up Regent Square just a short way up the road.

  • I have nothing good to say about new Houston real estate. I have lived here my whole life, and have a deep disdain for all the the building that has torn down history throughout this town, especially in Montrose, and the Heights.
    As I drive down every major thoroughfare in this city, I realize that very few have a taste for history…or even sentimentality. Just look at the monstrosities that are being built on every corner. May your stucco go moldy!!
    I hope all of you will be happy when corporate America takes over, and ruins everything about this city!!!
    I will be long gone by then!

  • Schwaghag,

    Not having a left turn lane can be a benefit to traffic on Shepherd.

    What the city should to is put a simple center barrier on the street except for where signaled intersections are located. Left turns should only be allowed where turn lanes exist. Outside of that, the road would only allow right turns.

    The concept is called Right Turn in, Right Turn Out (RTRO). It is very popular in older cities with heavy vehicular traffic. It’s common in a lot of developing nations that don’t have the money or time to build freeways.

  • The City and Upper Kirby District need to improve the walkability and streetscape design of shepherd drive. The sidewalks are about as un-pedestrian friendly as they come and the traffic congestion is totally ridiculous. They should create a walkable streetscape similar to that of the new Kirby Drive. In addition, adding a turning lane in the middle of the street might ease the congestion created every time someone tries to make a left turn.

  • The City of Houston and some in the Upper Kirby District really want to rebuild Shepherd from Dallas to Richmond.

    It’s not the easiest street in the world to rebuild. It’s extreme busy and narrow as we all know. Many businesses are right up to the street.

    If you think Kirby is crazy because of the construction, then Shepherd would make it seem like a cake walk.

    A rebuild would most likely go to a concrete versus asphalt. The extreme crown on the road would be cut down.

    If that project does ever come up for design, it would difficult and fun.

  • “From movocelot:

    OMG ’stina, I was thinking about 8.0 just this past weekend! ”
    I miss that place, too. I ate there so often there was a menu option named after me, “The Barber Plate.” It was a chicken breast, mashed potatoes and veggie of the day. You could also get the “Brad version” which had double chicken “because Brad likes two breasts.”

    Bwahaha, another chuck of my 15 minutes of fame. 8.0 was also where we watched the Rocket’s playoffs on a big screen screaming our heads off. That was where I watched the infamous “OJ white Bronco” game.

    The good old days.

  • holly fabian: Just leave now. Please.