Comment of the Day: White Oak Deco Strip

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHITE OAK DECO STRIP “Per HAIF, the tower rendering on this sign has been replaced by a rendering of a renovated version of the current retail center.” [ArlingtonSt, commenting on White Oak Tower: It Was All Just a Bad Drawing]

15 Comment

  • I was no fan of the previous rendering. The tower was going to be a little large for my liking and the parking structure levels would have looked enormous from street level. However this new rendering doesn’t exactly inspire me either. The Heights desperately needs some larger mixed use development and White Oak still badly needs revitalizing . This new rendering looks like purely a revamp of the existing structure which will do pretty much nothing change the character of that section of the street.

  • Why does the Heights NEED large mixed use development? There’s already a sizeable inventory of empty retail in the area. And some folks prefer lower density residential and lack of commercial development. If folks like dense residential jammed in with commercial there’s always Rice Military; or Midtown for urban.

  • The only empty retail on White Oak is basically of tear-down quality. And notice I didn’t say large, I said larger, as in larger than what is there now. If the Heights continues to only give birth to extremely large single family dwellings as it is now then it will eventually become a dead bedroom community. I would like to see increased retail and commercial as well as some multi-family residential because I think that having this blend of properties is the key to maintaining a vibrant living community in the long term. If folks like low density development of mansions with no commercial there’s always the exurbs.

  • The Heights is surrounded by large retail areas perfectly within driving or cycling distance. It is not like we are miles and miles in the sticks. What I hate about Kingwood? The self containment of the neighborhood which leads to mediocrity. What I love about the Heights? The diversity which has its highs and lows but when averaged out makes for a real community feel. Keep your large developments. WE DON’T WANT THEM!

  • Jimbo, thanks for the reasoned comments. The Heights continues to be a very attractive place for many people to live; even though it has minimal commercial retail, density, and urbanist-mixed-use development. It’s a unique part of Houston in that regard.

    Why is it attractive to so many folks without all that? I’d argue that the attraction has been *because* it lacks all those things.

    Why try to change the composition of a thriving, well-established nieghborhood, by importing an environment that exists only a mile-or-so away? What’s wrong with neighborhood diversity?

  • It sounds like I may have phrased my comment badly. I’m not advocating large developments or big box retail. I am advocating diversity, to include more well designed small retail, commercial, and multi-family residential. I think the current development practices in the heights, particularly around White Oak there are almost monotheistically 5000sq ft homes on single lots. That to me is not diversity.

    As someone who lives within 3 blocks of that location I would challenge anyone to tell me that those few blocks of White Oak don’t need some development. They make what could be a nice walkable retail and commercial street a wasteland of ugly empty buildings fronted by a sidewalk carpeted by broken glass from the combination of bar evictees and homeless people.

    Why do we have to assume that the only non-residential development is necessarily big box retail or towering condo buildings? There can be a middle ground.

  • “Why do we have to assume that the only non-residential development is necessarily big box retail or towering condo buildings? There can be a middle ground.”

    Unfortunately, that is what Houston is known for.

  • True, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have to cross my arms and shout “No Developers” at the top of my lungs. There are several buildings along White Oak in that vicinity that need to come down. They will not and should not be replaced by single family dwellings. Thus the alternative to letting the existing buildings slowly degrade into blight is to at least try and envisage what else could be built there.

  • I have to ask though, why should they not be single family dwellings? Why not both commercial and residential? I know it would probably be silly to build single family, but I wouldn’t say it “should not” be. The original Heights had machine shops, grocers, post offices, Polish neighborhood bars peppered all through it amongst the single family homes.

    And I have to ask, aren’t many of these properties still inhabited and not condemned by the city? Why should they be forced out?

    Your trash may be someone elses treasure, and your treasure could be someone elses trash.

  • The properties I am talking about are either empty, appear to be empty or already demolished.

    On the North side working West from Studewood there is an apparently empty light industrial, the now closed bbq joint that appeared to be killed after substantial water damage, an almost empty and exceedingly ugly strip shopping cluster that mostly serves as a porch for people to sleep under. Both corners of Cortlandt, empty or derelict. A couple of other empty lots utilized as parking.

    South side there are a couple of empty lots close to Studewood, a couple of apparently derelict lots just East of Oxford and a couple more vacant lots further West towards Heights.

    It is unlikely to be developed as single family as I don’t believe people will buy a $1M home on White Oak and that is the only single family being built. If they are built they will face the cross streets and end up sucking more of the potential life from White Oak turning it more and more into an arterial street with high speed traffic in the same that 11th is trending.

    I am all for neigborhood diversity Emme but the properties near me are being replaced now by one of about three stock giant homes. That isn’t my definition of diversity.

  • Jimbo: I understand you line of thought much better. Thanks. It would seem a nice rehab or even in-scale expansion of the existing property we’re talking about is in line with you ideas. No need to be anti-developer as long as they do something that fits scale and character of the nieghborhood. This appears to do that, whereas the previous idea decidely did not.

    I’m concerned that we’ll end up with more ghost structures like the ones you mentioned; only they will be newer. For example, the very nicely restored strip center on Yale/11th remains empty. McCains is shuttered, and other than TSO the entire place is vacant. The retail space behind Subway on Heights is empty. There are several empty places around 19th/20th. And I believe there is more retail for Heights/11th in planning. Those are all pretty prime locations, yet have not seen much success in finding successful tennants.

    It’s easy to fall prey to the “build it and they will come” mentality. But that is the developer’s risk.

    As a side note: atleast one of the vacant lots you mentioned had some Reutier Homes signs on it before the COH started using as a staging yard.

  • I take your point. Perhaps you are right that reuse is a more realistic goal and several of thos properties could be reused. Unfortunately some have been apparently vacant for years already. The lot you mention that is now being used as a staging point by CoH was slated for condos/townhomes. I never saw a rendering but was told it would be three or four storey. Nothing on the Reuther website.

  • I also heard that a Thai restaurant was going into one space of the Yale/11th renovation. It seems to have been an awful long time since I heard that rumor though.

  • Once the economy picks back up I think the retail space will also. Until then, I agree it is not a good idea to build any retail space. It’s not just the Heights. There are blank holes in lots of retail sites all across Houston.

  • From the HAIF thread, it sounded like the lot west of Jimmie’s, plus several lots on the north side of White Oak (starting with the Lucky food store lot and running east to the lot to the east of where Camphouse BBQ was located) had been bought up by a single purchaser – who was planning a major development of some sort on the north side and a parking garage on the south side.
    I’m sure the economy has had an impact on those plans as well.