Comment of the Day: Would Ground Floor Retail Work in the Rice Village?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WOULD GROUND FLOOR RETAIL WORK IN THE RICE VILLAGE? “If you follow many of the comments on this board, it’s become kind of an inside joke here that everything should have first floor retail. If there was an article about a cemetery, someone here would post that it should have first floor retail. That said, I don’t know of many other locations in this city that would be more suitable for first floor retail than this one. It’s already an established shopping district, and the building is actually replacing some retail. I’m not a developer, but I would think that in a high density location like this one, retail leases would be a net financial benefit, with a higher $ amount per square foot, and lease terms much longer than the typical 6 or 12 month residential lease. However, there’s two arguments I can think of on why they have chosen not to go the retail route. First, would any new retail businesses be subject to our city’s minimum parking regulations? If so, providing garage space would have a negative impact on costs. Second, perhaps if the plan by Hanover is to convert these to condos in the next 5 years, then retail would not be a net benefit.” [ShadyHeightster, commenting on What Hanover Might Be Building Next in the Rice Village] Illustration: Lulu

26 Comment

  • Cemetery with retail, huh? I guess a comment about Marble Slab or Cold Stone Creamery would be tacky. Best not to say anything.

  • “… if the plan by Hanover is to convert these to condos in the next 5 years, then retail would not be a net benefit.”

    What? Condos with retail exist in cities all over the world. Condos share high-rise buildings with hotels, museums, schools, and offices – all over the world.

    Houston and its developers are totally behind the curve with these building types – by about 100 years, just like we are with rail.

    The bogus idea perpetuated for decades by lazy developers and ignorant politicians that building and transportation types that exist everywhere else just can’t work here because Houston is “so unique”, would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic.

    The only thing more pathetic is that uniformed voters keep falling for it.

  • a walkable city with mandatory off street
    parking for all !

  • I came here for a cold stone joke and I must leave disappointed. Rice Village never recovered the charm and what made it ONCE special after Weingarten moved in and homogenized the whole area. Now we see the second wave incoming. I drove those little streets last week and muttered to myself “how are they possibly going to fit more people into this already overcrowded area?”

  • first floor retail and metro rail line and anything will succeed.

  • Doesn’t this building have to abide by parking requirements anyway?

  • You know, I was just out at Forest Park Lawndale the other day, and sure enough I was thinking, “Right here beside these crypts would be a GREAT place for a Starbucks.”

  • As long as it is subterranean, I don’t see why a Starbucks wouldn’t work at that location.

  • Come the revolution, everyone will have 93% lean ground retail.

  • The market doesn’t need retail in every single building, folks. Even in a place like Rice Village. The added population from this project could encourage other new properties to add retail in the future, though.

  • Anse,
    I think(and look forward to be told what I am missing) that it would be very difficult to do a one parcel mixed used development and still abide by parking minimum requirements. For surface parking you would have to give up land area around the building (~40′ of a ~200′ deep lot here). Just look at google and see how much of the land the one row east and two rows south of the Benjy’s complex takes. If you stick to a garage, as a business consideration, do you have to build two separate garages? Can you divide up a garage and say the lower two levels are for the retail customers and the remaining floors are for the residents? Are people going to move into high priced apartments where the resident garage is open to the public?

  • @Anse, yes, this building will have parking requirements for the residents, but I think that by adding parking spaces for shops or a restaurant/bar, they would have to add even more parking spaces in the garage to meet city requirements. Since this building takes up most of the ground space as it is, that means adding a floor or two or three of parking. In that case, maybe the costs of the added construction would outweigh the benefits of commercial leases?
    @Jon: I realize that plenty of condo buildings exist with ground floor retail in places like Chicago, NYC, etc., but I almost never see it here. My thought is that if Hanover converts to condos, they would likely sell the building to a REIT or some other entity that would not value the commercial leases as favorably. I don’t know, just a guess.

  • If Rice Village can’t sustain ground floor retail, no place can.

  • Per the city amendment on parking ( “Parking requirement shown in () is the number of spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area.

    o NEW: Take‐Out Restaurant(4); Dessert Shop (6); Small Restaurant(8); Neighborhood Restaurant(9); Restaurant(10); Tavern or Pub (10); Small Bar(12); and Bar, Club or Lounge (14).”

    If I understand this correctly, this is bad news for new retail who must ensure a lot of parking for their new venture. However, there is the following additional provision:

    “… off‐site parking distance [can be up] to 800 feet [and]… up to 1,000 feet away when sufficient pedestrian amenities are present.”

    So, in my reading of the ordinance, no garage parking would need to be provided since street parking could accomodate the new 1st floor businesses.

  • An additional comment along similar lines, the area could be improved w/the addition of a small park (e.g. Winthrop park in Cambridge, MA) and retail like a CVS or Walgreen’s. These amenities would be a great option for the pedestrians that will be living in the new apartment complexes as well as for the university students. In other words, the entire community would benefit. Ref.

  • In my line of work I look at parking requirements for different cities around the country all day long, and Houston’s are pretty high. 10 per 1,000 SF for a restaurant means you need a parking space for every 100 square feet. This means for every 10 ft x 10 ft block of floor space in your restaurant, you’re expecting that the people occupying that space drove ten different cars to get there. Is any restaurant ever so packed that there are 10 people for every 100 SF of space (including the whole area of the restaurant, not just the dining area), and all of them driving a separate car?

    I guarantee you this: a city that requires that ten paved parking spots exist every time there’s 100 square feet of people dining somewhere will never be an interesting city. If you need that much flat pavement everywhere that people like to hang out and cluster, you’re going to concrete and asphalt yourself away from ever having an interesting district. You might manage to get something going in the parts of town that were built before the draconian regulations took effect, but pretty soon people are going to want to built new things in those areas, the new requirements will kick in, and pavement will start spreading like a cancer.

  • “…you’re going to concrete and asphalt yourself away from ever having an interesting district.”
    Yep. That about sums up Houston. Well stated, Mike.

  • Mike – check your math on that. 10 cars per 1000 sf of restaurant is 1 car per 100 sf, so each 10’x10′ portion of restaurant assumes car, which is actually about right when you get into laying out a restaurant.
    What I wish Houston would do is encourage parking collectives and off-site parking. If I’m an entity that manages a neighborhood, I should be able to build a parking garage or a surface lot and offer spaces in that peaking garage to businesses to meet their arming requirements.

  • Quantum, the Village already has a CVS, it’s at Kirby and Bolsover, right down the street from Hanover. I agree that a sizable park would be good for the area; the closest thing within walking distance is the university’s greenspaces, half a mile away across the stadium parking lots.

  • Perhaps I am stating the obvious here but does Rice Village need any more retail? There are already 300 businesses in the Village let alone all the retail nearby on Kirby and Bissonnet. Sure it would be interesting and feel good but is it economically viable? As I have stated before, people are not lining up in droves to open fashion boutiques, home accent stores, gourmet dog treat shops, etc…..and are service businesses like dry cleaners, nail salons, shoe repair, H and R Block offices what will make a vibrant pedestrian area? Not really and those types of businesses are already well represented in the center. What everyone should be clamoring for is some much needed green space.

  • IMO people in Houston do not walk as much as they do in other cities. I have a friend who lives at West Ave and drives to Whole foods across the street, stuff like that. This is why Houston hasn’t had more ground floor retail in the past and we require 2375646523 parking spaces per 200 unit apt complex. Now everyone blames the heat for not walking, but I blame it on laziness and crime. If you build a walker friendly area that is safe like on west gray or west ave then people will come.

  • so do the people that want ground floor retail even have any intention whatsoever in living in a building with ground floor retail? in a city like Houston i wouldn’t even consider the option unless getting a very sizeable discount on rent. it’s only an option in a select handful of amercian cities because the density there can sustain it, but i rarely see it in the new builds even in those cities now days.

    retail is a dying breed and we have empty strip centers all over town, including the inner city, literally dying for interested parties to snatch up and redevlop. as long as people are tied to their cars in this city (and remember that’s a good 90% of the city) that’s not going to change much. anyhow, i fail to see how ground floor retail in a handful of posh apt buildings is going to present some seismic change in infrastructure in this city. we don’ have enough infrastructure funding to make any changes if we wanted to or if they were necessary anyways, despite how much metro wants to waste my tax dollars on subsidizing transportation for those in-town workers.

  • @ZAW: I strongly agree with the idea of neighborhood-focused general off-street parking facilities that can lower than on-site requirements within a surrounding designated area. I think this is an approach that can help Houston transition to a higher-density more walkable environment.

    @Quantum: No, at present you can’t count on-street public spaces towards your on-site requirement. I think the City should re-evaluate this policy so some provision for lowering on-site requirements can be made, especially if the on-street spaces are being managed through pricing or maximum time requirements.

    @JT: I agree, it’s not a given that Rice Village necessarily needs more retail; that conclusion requires a market analysis. However, I disagree about your assessment of the types of tenants that are appropriate. Your everyday nail-salon-type uses are as much a part of a walkable neighborhood retail-scape as any other type of tenant. Not every retail space needs to be occupied by a “destination” tenant serving a 20-minute drive time radius. People living in the neighborhood need their non-glamorous daily needs met too – that means the same uses you’ll find in a small strip center in the suburbs. Of course, in a new multi-story vertical mixed-use project such as Hanover’s other Rice Village development, the required rents may be awfully high for these types of tenants – they’d have to make it up in customer volume.

  • Planner – glad to see we agree on something! It seems like communal, neighborhood off-street parking would be an easy enough thing to do, at the City Council level, with a small re-write to Houston’s parking requirements. And it would be an attractive thing for certain TIRZ and Management Districts to help bring in businesses.

  • benny,

    A lot of people do not walk* because pro car regulations make it so unpleasant/difficult.
    The roads are built only with cars in mind (super wide, super fast, short pedestrian signals). This Obvious at West Ave. I also would not want to cross Kirby with Grocery bags.
    Excessive setbacks mean you will always be walking next parking lots.
    Excessive parking minimums subsidize driving and decrease density, making so that at any given location there is less to walk to.
    Excessive setbacks + Excessive parking minimums mean that after walking next to a bunch of ugly parking lots you have to walk through a massive ugly hot parking lot to get to the store once you have reached your destination.
    At best, we don’t have euclidean zoning which allows a mix of uses and makes it possible that there might be somewhere you want to walk within walking distance of your residence.

    I also believe in the too bloody hot argument between May and mid-Sept. But then again, come to white linen night tomorrow and you will see a bunch of dressed up people walking around in August.

  • @Local Planner. I did not really illustrate my point about service businesses. Every strip center in town has these types of businesses covered–they seem to be ubiquitous and every new center seems to be filled with these opposed to “specialty retail”. And let’s face it, what is the thrill of a mixed use development that has no shops or cafes etc..of an interest?
    Otherwise it is simply repetitive of any center along Westheimer outside the Loop except an apartment building is stacked on top of it.