COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE DRIVE FOR OAK FOREST RETAIL “The Oak Forest area is probably as good as its going to get right now in terms of retail. There is still a vacancy in the newish shopping center where Plonk sits, behind the Starbucks drive thru. At least we avoided a payday loan storefront, so that’s something. At Ella and the railroad tracks we got a storage place. Where Theatre Suburbia used to be, across from Oak Forest Elementary, we got a credit union. We bundle the children into the car, drop them off at Oak Forest Elementary, drive thru Starbucks to get a latte, drive thru Walgreens to get our prescriptions, drive thru Shipley’s to get donuts, drive thru Chase to make an ATM withdrawal to pay for our coffee and donuts. There is absolutely no reason for Oak Forest area residents to expect anything other than what we have. As long as residents have to get in their car to get a bite to eat, or pick up groceries, most won’t mind driving a bit further to Central Market or Whole Foods for a more upscale shopping experience. The only recent project I can think of where someplace actually became more pedestrian-friendly is the addition to the Oak Forest Public Library, with a new entrance on Oak Forest Drive.” [matx, commenting on Comment of the Day: That’s a Different Kind of Growth in Oak Forest]
Oak Forest may be out of available retail space, but there’s lots of room close by. It’s good to see LA Fitness building a huge facility just north of 43rd on Shepherd. There’s a lot of great opportunities for growth on that stretch of road, and plenty of residents in Oak Forest and Garden Oaks to fill the stores. Hope to see more. (Hello, HEB?)
I don’t see any reason why it has to be that way…I don’t think GO/OF is any less pedestrian/bike-friendly than any other area of Houston. We just need better stuff to walk/bike to. But sometimes I do think we urban-density/pedestrian-friendly-policy-supporting citizens occasionally confuse what kind of retail growth is important. It can’t all be artsy-fartsy boutiques and sidewalk cafes and bars and such. We need mechanics and gas stations and various other things, too. There’s got to be room for all that stuff. Just make it a little easier for folks who want to walk or park a bike on a fine day like today.
@ Anse: Greater Oak Forest probably has fewer opportunities to be walkable than either the newer or older master-planned communities (i.e. Eastwood or The Woodlands). The older ones have secondary thoroughfares spaced at shorter intervals, so for instance every four blocks instead of every ten blocks; they were built with sidewalks; deed restrictions tended to be weaker; and they were much smaller to begin with, easier to escape on foot. The newer MPCs were designed to have jogging trails and interconnectivity for recreation rather than for transportation, but that’s something at least to walk around for.
The Oak Forest walkability problem is apparent if you just look at Google Earth. It’s a big gigantic green splotch with only one viable commercial strip running through it and 34th Street (across the tracks) as the red-headed stepchild of neighborhood retail. The neighborhood streets tend to run parallel with the commercial strips with perpendicular streets at much less frequent intervals. It’s not walkable. It wasn’t intended to be walkable by design.
When I lived in that area, I’d walk two miles to Petrol Station and back. That’s how I justified to myself indulging in the Rancor Burger. But then…you have to understand that I am insane. Not as profoundly insane as the Art Guys, but I’m the sort of person that will walk alone from Montrose to Bellaire and back via the TMC from between 10PM and 3AM for no particular reason. Normal, sane people aren’t gonna walk like I walk.
But don’t get me wrong. I suspect that Greater Oak Forest’s relative lack of walkability or mixed-use potentials is part of what draws the big money in. They prefer it to be insulated from the urban core physically, aesthetically, and demographically. If you own property there, you will prosper.