H-E-B Houston division president Scott McClelland tells the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris what he’s been telling members of the Montrose Land Defense Coalition for several months: That the grocery company is willing to include a 2-acre park adjacent to its planned Montrose store on the site of the former Wilshire Village apartments at the corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy — but only if community fundraisers can come up with “some offset” of the $2 to $3 million in extra costs required. “I’m not saying it has to be dollar-for-dollar,” McClelland says. “If we get close to raising that kind of money, we’ll find a way to do it. But if we can’t raise any money, it’d be tough for me to justify putting a park in.”
The company plans to have its new store back up to West Alabama and face south. If enough money can be raised, McClelland says the store can be raised — on stilts, so parking can fit underneath. That would leave room for a 2-acre park on the site’s south end. The “H-E-B on stilts” plan would also include space for a farmers market. Without the extra funds, that park area would be used for parking instead — though mature trees on the south portion of the property would still remain.
Although McClelland tells the Chronicle he’s spoken informally with possible donors, there’s no indication how hard H-E-B is working on its own to round up funds for the store-raising. But McClelland has pressed the Montrose Land Defense Coalition — a group formed originally to protest chain-store development on the site and later to preserve a portion of it for public uses — to help the grocery company cultivate donor prospects, including foundations and charities. McClelland also says he’s open to other approaches to coming up with the funds, such as leasing out space in the park to a small restaurant.
H-E-B’s current plans call for a 70,000-sq.-ft. store on the site, approximately the same size as the recently built Buffalo Market on Bissonnet and Buffalo Speedway. Versions of a site plan prepared independently by local architect Robert Morris have appeared — somewhat misleadingly — in other reports about H-E-B’s plans in Montrose. But Morris has not been hired by H-E-B. His schemes roughly follow the outline provided by McClelland, but they also include a row of small shops with offices above them facing West Alabama, backing up to the H-E-B. Both versions of the architect’s plans rely heavily on head-in parking along both Dunlavy and West Alabama. But head-in parking of more than 4 cars in a row has not been allowed in new city developments for quite some time.