In the Mail: Walmart Gets Its Game on for Central Houston

More evidence that Walmart is now in full campaign mode as it pushes for public support to build what the company is now calling its Central Houston location: Residents of the Heights, Timbergrove Manor, and many other nearby areas have reported receiving a small slick brochure in the mail touting the benefits of the proposed “custom-designed” store at Koehler and Yale in the West End. The mailer asks recipients to send in an attached postcard indicating their support for the project — and asks them if they’d be willing to contact city council members and other “city leaders” as well. The mailer is identified as coming from Friends of Walmart, an organization with a 77270 Houston P.O. box address. But the website link featured on the brochure, WalmartHouston.com, is clearly a project of Walmart itself. That website follows the same format as others the company has set up (see the Chicago and Baltimore equivalents) to campaign for public support or approvals necessary to build urban stores in other major cities.

The ad copy uses some form of the term “community” 10 times. Also worth noting: The Friends of Walmart mailer describes the proposed West End site — formerly home to Trinity Industries’ steel fabrication plant — as “an unused piece of property that is much in need of remediation.” But the brochure doesn’t specify what remediation Walmart — or Ainbinder Company, the project’s developer — plans to complete before construction begins. The Walmart Houston website makes no mention of any possibly toxic materials lying in wait at the former plant.

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141 Comment

  • The brochure also shows how clueless Walmart is. The happy family/shopper/worker photos showcase people who are clearly not WASPY while it emphasises the hundreds of jobs that will be created.

    For the Heights McMansion crowd that is in the forefront of opposition, (if yard signs are any indication) it is those often brownish people who work for hourly wages that they are trying to PREVENT from coming to the neighborhood.

    Target, in contrast, works it.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/14/business/14target.html?src=busln

    Right about when this NYC store opened, Target showed their OWN area of tone deafness, but that is a topic for another time.

  • As a nearby resident of the proposed site, I make an easy promise: I will never shop there. Yale is primarily residential street. Because of the railroad tracks at Heights, Yale is also the primary street into and out of the area when the trains are running, which is fairly often. The development is not appopriate, a view widely shared in the neighborhood.

  • The liberal heights freaks need to get over it! What don’t they understand about NO ZONING. The city didn’t have any legal means to stop all the bars opening along Washington and the city has NO RIGHT to prevent another business from opening at Yale. I checked all boxes and sent the mailer in as soon as I possibly could. Get over Heightees, you are gonna lose!!! LONG LIVE WAL MART!!!

  • We got one of the flyers in Montrose. My boyfriend was confused as to how they targeted him and assumed that somehow or another they got the name from the Culbertson folk. I think there was some misspelling of his name that was indicative of that particular mailing list.

    I got polled via telephone on the subject about a week and a half ago. The question was some variant of “do you support the Heights Walmart, yes or no?” My “I don’t support it but I don’t oppose it either” response was apparently not expected by the pollster.

  • @ James Chapman

    Well said. Enviornment and Traffic studies are absolutely the keys to stopping a giant supercenter on this property in the middle of of neighborhoods. I know so many people here now that are opposed to it from all sorts of level of income, ethnicities and from all over the inner loop (not just the Heights). No level of comparison here between with bars or any other small businesses with the largest retailer in the world.

  • From James Chapman:

    The development is not appopriate, a view widely shared in the neighborhood.

    _______________________________

    Southampton Syndrome.

  • One more thing, instead of a poll call, I could a text on my cell with a number to call and I will get a gift card voucher for answering questions. It sounds like a new strategy for non-land line people.

  • I’m a Heights resident, and I was initially indifferent to WMT moving in.
    After seeing how worked up everyone is getting though, I am now firmly in the “FOR” camp.

    I do find it funny that many people that are against it, would be completely ok with a Central Market or something similar.

  • Residential? The portion of Yale this will be on consists of a bayou, an old industrial site, dirt bar, train tracks, a storage facility and some apartments. Yeah, I’d hate to see the residential feel of that stretch of road destroyed by something as unsightly as a new wal-mart

  • This is exactly what they did in Central Austin a few years back. IN addition to their local PR firm, there was a different local firm that conducted the astroturf campaign, which included the glossy brochure, as you describe. The neighborhood fought tooth and nail, but the site plan had already been approved by the City,without knowledge of the public. In the end, the City acknowledged that they should have required more of Wal-Mart, particularly with regard to the traffic analysis, but could do nothing because they weren’t willing to go back on their word. The project was delayed while the issue played out in the courts and the economy tanked during that time, but the project went on and will be completed soon.

    A funny (sort-of) story – In Austin, a staff member of Wal-Mart’s local PR firm signed up on the neighborhood e-mail groups and posed as a new resident who just happened to think that Wal-Mart was a really good, progressive company. I didn’t take too long to match those IP addresses up to the ones that sent out official Wal-Mart messages.

  • I hope you folks that live in the area and support this Wally World enjoy all the little white bags stuck in your bushes…..

  • To EB. Check out the StopHeightsWalMart – facebook page. There are at least a couple of WalMart paid folks on there posing as local folks in support of this…….pretty funny.

  • Those little white bags are real handy for picking up the p@@p that dogs (and some of their owners) leave.

  • That didn’t come out right. In writing that is. I meant that some dog owners don’t bother to even pick up after their dogs.

  • You’re not going to be able to stop it if it meets code – I speak from experience. But you can make it less of a sure thing with traffic studies as someone suggested. Also, ask for any and all modifications to the physical appearance of the store exterior if you think it’ll make a difference. Our civic group was against one proposed near our neighborhood and they made many changes to the architectural design of the building itself plus added a lot more landscaping than they usually do. We also got regulations preventing them from stacking things like fertilizer bags, etc. outside the store. Good luck!

  • I don’t want to hijack the comments here, but another semi-funny story from the Austin fight was that Wal-Mart hosted an open-house for interested citizens. It was staffed by their lobbyist, local PR firm, local engineers, etc. Throughout the evening, literally hundreds of neighborhood people showed up wearing red in opposition. What made the news was when literally busloads of elderly people (Wal-Mart supporters)from a nearby retirement home were unloaded, right on cue, directly behind the Wal-Mart spokesman who was being interviewed on-camera.

  • From the article I read on the Austin location, yes, it is being built but it will not be 24 hours, smaller in size, no tire & lube, no garden center, with a parking garage and Walmart is moving in several mature oaks to the property and planting many more thanks to community efforts even after it was approved by the city.

    This fight against Walmart is not the Southhampton syndrome because this development adversely impacts all adjacent neighborhoods unlike the Ashby highrise. The only similarity is the grassroots community model Stop Ashby Highrise used.

    @OkieEric
    BTW, West End is a neighborhood where this place is being built which includes variances that affect several neighorhood streets. It is not the Heights, but several hundred households live here. Look at the map or check into the civic association. Whatever the site is currently, high traffic will decrease the neighborhood’s quality of life.

  • If you don’t want development that will lower your quality of life, vote for candidates who will support sensible land use or even (gasp!) zoning codes.

    If you don’t have predictable rules and processes for major new developments getting approved, and opportunities for the affected communities to get these issues dealt with before something is green-lighted, you’re going to have this fight over and over again.

  • I think the traffic studies are frankly a red herring. The Walmart site is good from a traffic standpoint in the same way that that the Target site is. It is freeway adjacent and with the through feeders completed will have easy freeway access. From those earlier leaked plans it appears that they are also planning additional spurs to the feeder to feed traffic in and out. In this respect it would be better than the Target site with it’s single access point.

  • Here in Lindale Park I got two of these brochures — one that was put in my mailbox by a man walking the street Monday night and one that came via postal mail yesterday. I completely understand why my neighborhood was targeted, but I wouldn’t have expected Montrose to get them.

  • “I do find it funny that many people that are against it, would be completely ok with a Central Market or something similar”

    Funny how? Funny because you don’t understand why? Would you, a thinking person, rather have your money go to Arkansas or to a Houston or Texas-based company? Because once that money enters the black hole that is Wal-Mart, I can promise you that you will never, ever see it again…

  • I’m not for the Wal-Mart or HEB or Central Market etc. I just don’t want the increase in traffic or trash or carts.

  • Jimbo, Target is about to get side access directly to the feeder road also.

    Also, Yale is very much a commercial/mixed use street. The lower end being much more heavily commercial. Yale was a designed as a bypass for Heights boulevard. It was meant to be heavily traveled.

  • Assuming a Wal-mart doesn’t go in, whatever winds up being built there will certainly result in an increase in traffic and crime. It’s an ugly vacant lot… Anyway, all of those homeowners that bought near the site should have realized it was a prime spot for development

  • OkieEric, be prepared to bombarded with comments. I used to make the comment all the time when people riled up about a new development close to them.

    The point is very simple. A very large vacant lot adjacent to a major thoroughfare is begging to become a large commercial site. This also goes for Washington Avenue and all it’s recent development.

  • I live in North Montrose and I got one of these in the mail yesterday. I think they would have gotten more support if they actually put the plan for the new Walmart on the flyer. There are just way to many unanswered questions for anyone in the community to really support the project. My main concern is the extra traffic in the area, which is only going to be multiplied by the new Whole Foods going in on Waugh and Dallas. I really don’t think that Heights/Waugh/Yale streets are large enough to support these two new stores and the huge amount of traffic that will come from both of them. I love living in my area because traffic is wonderful, but if I am stuck in gridlock trying to get to I-10 on a daily basis I will not be a happy girl.

    So basically NO I will not support any large store going into this space, I would rather see new homes, apartments, local restaurants, etc go into this space than any large big box store.

  • The Target Shopping Center has been a disaster for Taylor/Sawyer Street. It use to be my secret back route that was never crowded except for the occasional rice truck backing up and blocking traffic or the occasional train stopped on the tracks. No the road is almost always congested especially at Washington.

    I wish that Taylor Street Shopping Center had been held to the same scrutiny as this Yale project is receiving.

  • I just want to know what the brochure means by “remediation” and just how many of my tax dollars Walmart is planning to get for that “remediation”? I smell something fishy…again.

  • All of you need to separate Wal-Mart and the developer. If HEB or any other retail chain were building here, all of the same issues that Wal-Mart brings will still be present. The developer is building this site. The irrational hatred of Wal-Mart is hilarious yet very sad to watch. Life must be damn good if a retail store opening up gets your panties in a wad.

    Any remediation will be done by the developer and will be required by the TCEQ. If any tax dollars are utilized to remediate the site, it will likely come from federal sources through the EPA. This is highly unlikely though since this project doesn’t fall into the category residential urban renewal and is not public development.

  • Okay, is it the Conservative, Brownish Skin Haters that oppose the Walmart, or is it the Liberal Heights Freaks? I’m so confused.

    I think it’s cool they are going to build a basketball court though.

  • Hey Walmart snobs, get over yourselves. There’s 20+ Walmarts in the Houston area and there’s going to be one more. Life goes on.

  • I myself am actually somewhat of a WalMart fan (or let’s say I can appreciate their typical business model and have read Sam Walton’s autobiography/biographies).

    That being said, I think people who live in the Heights should have a huge problem with a WalMart in their neighborhood. Just from a socioeconomic standpoint, having a WalMart in an up-and-coming area where people see home values only going up (and I believe some readers of thie blog have equated The Heights with what West U. once was) is a bad idea. A Target? Fine. Target has a reputation for being… how do I put this? More high-end. Catering to a higher socioeconomic group. Case in point: the Target in between the Galleria/River Oaks. Would you put a WalMart THERE? I don’t think so. So were I a Heights resident, I wouldn’t want one there, either.

    I guess we can talk about traffic and the fact that having a huge box-y WalMart is an eyesore, but the reality is that property values will be endangered and neighborhood vagrants will, I think, multiply.
    Unfortunately, no matter the size or strength of the fight Heights residents put up, it’s going up anyway.

  • @ flash
    Agreed on the basketball court. I’m extremely excited that this walmart will improve me and my dad’s relationship!

  • By the looks of this brochure, Walmart is pushing this development as an “urban renewal” project.

    kjb, I could care less what business is moving onto this property, Walmart, HEB, whatever, or who the developer is. I just know from experience that there are exact guidelines made for every single word used in a spin piece such as this by corporate/legal. There’s is some reason the word “remediation” was included.

    And for the record, I never want any of my tax dollars used to offer incentives to any for-profit entity, developer or Walmart. Fed money is still our money. It’s part of the cost of doing business and let them pass that cost on to their customers, who, in this case, I won’t be one of. Like I’ve said before, they have every right to build it, I won’t shop there.

  • Hey.. I didn’t get that fancy-pants propaganda mailer! Discrimination!! Wally mart is discriminatory and I will not shop there!

    /sarc

  • I found this rendering of the “urban” WalMart being built in Austin. It’s an improvement over the standard big box, but I doubt it’s enough to allay concerns in the Heights.

    http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/theticker/entries/2010/02/01/renderings_of_northcross_mall.html

  • Some important facts that seem to be lost on most of you:

    1. Houston has no zoning, so none of you get to decide what goes there.

    2. This vacant lot is not in The Houston Heights.

    3. Yale is predominantly business/industrial.

    4. The new I10 feeder road currently being built will ease congestion in the area.

    5. If Walmart doesn’t build there somebody less desirable may (eg. low income apts or hundreds of townhomes).

    6. Trash bags and shopping carts already litter Yale.

    7. The previous business on this lot had tractor trailers so large that they often blocked the entire west lane and required wide load signs with police escorts. (They carried beams to support large freeway overpasses.)

    KJB and a few others on here seem to be the only voices of reason. This argument is getting tired. My wife and I can’t wait to save a whole lot of money at the new Walmart. Bring it on!

  • Mailbox to trash can, 10 seconds flat.

  • I may have missed this somewhere but could someone post a link to where Walmart say this will be a 24hr full SuperCenter. The proposed building is significantly smaller than the average SuperCenter so they are presumambly going to have trim some features from it.

    In point of fact the actual building is proposed to be only about 20,000 shopping sq.ft larger (about 15%) than the Sawyer Target with a parking lot the same size as that of Target so, assuming they are incorporating full grocery, I cannot see how they will be fitting in things like lube&tire, garden center etc etc. Can anyone point me to where they say these features will be included?

  • What would be “appropriate”? A farmers market, whole foods, HEB, crate & barrell? I love all these so called problems and crime this mythical Wal Mart is supposed to be bringing, rest assured Gentrifying Jesus saves you money and or your soul. This is so tired, agreed.

  • Wal-Mart’s latest expansions are their own version of “extend and pretend” as the economic downturn has caused them to seek greater volume, in the meantime raising prices on their oh-so-valued customers’ consumer staples to keep profits from dropping too obviously.

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/walmart-raises-prices/19587730/

  • anon22,

    So? Nothing heinous in what you’ve mentioned. Seems like normal business practice.

  • What’s the deal with all these NIMBYS? When someone wants to develop something in their neighborhood all of the sudden they think they’re special. At first I didn’t care about this project, but now I want to see it built just because of all the NIMBYS. Instead of complaining, go do something useful, like trying to get zoning in Houston.

  • Interestingly the economic downturn initially boosted Walmart’s figures. They experienced a sales increase as people tried to find ways to cut their budgets. Their more recent drop in sales is actually a result of the fact that the economy is now slowly improving and those people are migrating back to the more expensive stores that they used previously. At least thats what I heard on Marketplace.

  • I hereby present to you evidence–from the EPA and TCEQ no less–that Trinity Industries and Heights Armature have not exactly been the best environmental stewards. And bear in mind, the EPA has only been around since 1979. And the TCEQ barely coalesced in the early 90′s. The stuff we know about shouldn’t scare people nearly as much as the noxious stuff we don’t know about.

    http://oaspub.epa.gov/enviro/tris_control.tris_print?tris_id=77007TRNTY3910W

    http://www12.tceq.state.tx.us/crpub/index.cfm?fuseaction=iwr.pgmdetail&addn_id=487359212006130&lgcy_sys_cd=ARTS

  • I wouldn’t want WalMart riffraff coming through my neighborhood, either.

    I think that’s what’s getting the folk riled.

  • That would be the most ignorant reason to see anything built anywhere, out of spite.

  • TheNiche,

    Within the larger cities like Houston, the TCEQ leaves enforcement to the city. Houston, Dallas, San Antonio all handle environmental complaints directly. TCEQ is essentially copied on all complaints and corrective action taken.

  • Definitely good info, thanks Niche.

  • I think the Heights folks are worried they may end up here – http://www.peopleofwalmart.com

  • They already sneak down i45 to the one at west road and do their shopping by the light of the moon. Never underestimate the power of hypocrisy and the NIMBY clan..

  • I live in the Heights and simply don’t like Wal Mart. I was so glad to tell people I didn’t have one anywhere near me. I knew it wouldn’t last.

    I don’t like Wal Mart because I work and have worked for companies who sell to them and they pull them by the nads let me tell you and not in a fair way. They make you jump through all kinds of hoops, crazy packaging etc so your whole business has to run a little Wal Mart camp. Then they wait about a year and pull the rug and all the workers who can only afford to shop at Wal Mart are unemployed, shopping at Wal Mart waiting for their next gig that is dictated in some “wizard behind the curtain” way and the cycle repeats and repeats.

    Wal Mart takes advantage of hard working people. PERIOD They are simply “bad people”. I wouldn’t want them for my neighbor if they were a family living next door with behavior they exhibit.

    Would you let the folks that run Wal Mart babysit your kids? If your answer is no you probably don’t like Wal Mart much either. Pay the extra .15cents and shop elsewhere!

  • Judy,

    What you said doesn’t make Wal-Mart bad. It’s makes them competitive. The thing is, if a product maker doesn’t sell through Wal-Mart, someone else will gladly fill in with there product.

    Getting you product sold by Wal-Mart (event with the initial hassles) pays off big. You have instant distribution to a vast market that you alone could never have reached.

    Also, that 15 cents increase would likely be closer to a $1 if Wal-mart didn’t exist. Wal-mart has forced large companies like Proctor-n-Gamble and Johnson-n-Johnson to totally modernize and make their process more efficient to reach Wal-mart’s price point. How is this bad for the consumer? It’s business. It’s competition.

  • Sarahc, thanks for the “People of Walmart” web site. Great content. The StopHeightsWalMart group are probably using the photos and videos for recruiting members.

  • @1986: go visit the WalMart in north Scottsdale, AZ – an area where the average income can rival River Oaks. It’s nicer than most Target stores (and it packs in crowds of some pretty well-to-do people.) It’s the only Walmart I’ve seen with a sushi bar inside. My parents live across the freeway from it.

    I have no dog in this hunt (I’ve only begrudgingly started to shop at the one down the street from me when I need to buy dog food, otherwise I get everything at HEB Sienna Market) but not every store that Walmart builds is ghetto fabulous.

  • What’s funny is that I can go to many events in the Heights and see people that would easily fall in line with People of Walmart Website. I know I saw a lot at the White Linen Night in the Heights.

  • White linen night, rofl.

  • (1)$870,000 in sales tax revenues for the city sounds like a drop in the bucket. It might barely offset the cost of the police department servicing the additional traffic accidents sure to come.
    (2)Traffic is a big concern to us as Yale is our primary route to and from home. When the train doesn’t stop traffic, rush hour on Heights Blvd is a parking lot.
    (3)A friend who shops at Walmart says everything he’s bought there breaks. This is hearsay; we don’t/won’t shop there.
    (4)Please don’t discard the flyer; recycle it.

  • The sale’s taxes are a drop in the bucket, but it’s drop that didn’t necessarily exist before. Also, the property taxes from the site will be more now that it’s improved.

    The only negative to the city to me has to deal with drainage. The developer (under current city policy) can claim the site was previously developed which means no storm water detention needs to be provided for the tract.

    The mayor and several other local groups believe that all new large scale development should provide detention regardless of the previous conditions of the site. It’s not an easy policy change to implement even in the strictest of regulatory environments.

  • If the Heights were’nt now filled with all the latecomers who got priced out of West U. this “Stop Wal-Mart” campaign might have more of a moral bite. The Heights used to be the equivalent of Austin- liberals, hippies, weirdos and poor people making the most of what they have. If you think about it, the people complaining the most are just as guilty of taking a neighborhood and changing it into something that most people hate, albeit in a topsy turvy way. I hope the poor people in the area who need the jobs this store will generate will benefit the most.

  • I will support and not oppose the new WalMart store only if they agree to extensively landscape the property, including a significant number of trees in the parking lot and along Yale.

  • The problem is the stop walmart crowd want all or nothing. They won’t stop their irrational objection and think, maybe we can work with the developer. Maybe we can have them double or trip the landscaping. Maybe we can get them to utilize things other than Crape Myrtles (TARGET).

  • Well if the Heights crowd really doesn’t have any leverage, as the defeatists would have you believe, then what’s the point in demanding things?

  • anon22,

    You don’t need leverage to have the developer increase the landscaping amount.

    Going in the debate, people who oppose the develop could talk in a reasonable manner and ask for things. The CVS in the Heights went through this process. The CVS didn’t haven to listen to anybody in the Heights, but they did and had their building moved, changed architecturally, and landscaping upped big time. So now instead of getting a generic CVS, they have something that in 10-15 years will look more apart of the community than an eyesore. I wonder if the Walgreen’s planned across the street will work with the community the same way?

  • While we’re on the subject of PR lets look at the results of the very active PR departments of other retailers.

    Trader Joes is a firm favorite of latte drinking liberals like myself and we like their small eco-friendly local chain image. Of course TJs is actually owned by a vast German supermarket chain and friends in the industry tel me that they are well known, at least in Southern California, for aggressively forcing supplier pricing down to the point where it is unsustainable.

    We all know Target is more employee friendly than Walmart. Yet Target has a less comprehensive health plan than Walmarts that they make available to a smaller percentage of their employees and only after they have worked at the company for a longer period if time.

    Thats PR for you.

  • I see. So it wasn’t just an example; you really think that the Heights residents should trade their concerns for a few extra trees. To be honest, I hope the Heights crowd isn’t superficial enough to fall for this. A link was posted to the experiences of Target in Harlem; I thought that at the very least, those sorts of demands would make a more reasonable starting point.

  • Cause a former industrial site on the banks of White Oak Bayou is so much like Harlem?

  • I hesitate to comment but it’s obvious someone can’t see the forest for the trees (bad pun intended). The days I agree with kjb434 are rare and reasonably far in between, but good lord anon you’re just drawing for straws. Make a valid applicable point, as all this wasted emotion is pointless and would be better spent doing something productive. It’s a Wal Mart not the end of the world as you know it.

  • I’ve said it before that I don’t like Wal-Mart and I don’t plan on shopping there but Houston being what it is, it was inevitable that something like this would happen.

    What I don’t get are all these “Heights” people having a meltdown about the location.
    It isn’t really in your neighborhood and I don’t care if the original boundaries of the Heights extended south to Washington, the track or wherever. The fact is I-10 insulates them from the site and those that need to fret are the West End folks who are directly adjacent to it. And let’s face it, that area is spotty at best–even the new construction leans to the cheesy side.

    This location will actually be more accessible than either Target store
    and while I think their flyer about all the new sales tax revenue is rubbish (it will basically re-divide an existing pie),
    it’s going to happen so focus your energies on electing candidates who will support land use so this can’t happen again.

    Wal-Mart tried to convert an Old Kroger in central Dallas about 10 years ago with promises of a vanguard design and agreements that they would work with the neighborhood groups etc…It was quite a contentious issue with the City Planning Commission and City Council voting it down and actually acquesing to what the neighbors wanted.

  • “Cause a former industrial site on the banks of White Oak Bayou is so much like Harlem?”

    Well if intentionally missing the point is what you are resorting to then I do not recognize the value of your post. For practical purposes, when negotiating, it is always valuable to see what others have negotiated for in the past.

  • Applicable only to those you care about their neighborhoods:
    About the Walmart mailer, my recommendation is to NOT mail it back to Walmart because they will count it as support, but instead write NO WALMART, and re-address it to Mayor Annise Parker, City of Houston, P.O. Box 1562 Houston, TX 77251. She loves mail :)

  • anon22,

    So you think Wal-mart should buy off all the people who disagree with the development like Target did in Harlem? Schmoozing as the article states boils down to paying off the rabel rousers with primarily money. Target had to result to this and eventually pay off the zoning and planning boards in NYC. If we had zoning here, they would pay them off the same way.

  • Dude…..Man……like……why can’t we just make a park or something there? That would be really cool.

    Oh wait…NO, frisbee golf course…yeah…and a non-profit orphanage……for puppies….yeahhhhh

    Let’s come together and learn to live in harmony people.

  • kjb34,

    You are the one who always espouses that city officials always follow the rules and are out to make the city a better place. So why would a zoning board, if the gods ever graced us with one, be automatically corrupt?
    Why did Wal-Mart fail in Dallas? Not enough cash to line the officials pockets?

  • JT,

    Simple answer: YES. Dallas has a track record of projects that required tax payer incentives just to exist. Victory Project anyone? No developer would have been able to build that without convincing the zoning board and the city to fork over massive tax payer incentives. Incentives that make what the developer of the Wal-mart site in Houston seem like they are only getting a handful of change.

    Also, our planning commission is set up much differently than a zoning board. Zoning boards don’t have conflict of interest rules. The Houston Planning Commission has strict conflict of interest rules. You’ll often see a board member excuse themselves from the room on certain agenda items.

    Are all zoning boards corrupt? No, Pearland and Sugar Land seem to being doing a good job. The corrupt ones are typically the boards that have a strong central planning attitude and will have to resort to corruption to move project they like and or have interest in forward.

  • In central dallas there is a wal-mart. But it is a different concept than the usual wal-mart. Its called a neighborhood market; a small more urban looking one.
    One of the biggest issues I have is that their parking lots or so big and treeless. Can’t they build a parking garage and make it more pedestrian friendly since it is in the city center? Plus in houston heat no one wants to walk on burning hot asphalt to the store. What about the type of people this store will attract when that neighborhood is trying to improve itself?

  • There are neighborhood markets in both Cypress and Bellaire. Didn’t really do that well for them, considering the cypress store is generally empty.

  • joseph,

    The amount of trees within a parking lot is based upon regulations of that entity in which the place was built. Just look at the new HEB shopping center at Bunker Hill. It’s filled with trees. I would prefer Oak instead of crepe myrtles, but it’s better than nothing.

    This Wal-mart will have to have trees throughout it’s parking lot to satisfy the city rules. The amount of trees is related to the parking lot size.

    Corey,

    The Neighborhood Market on Gessner north of I-10 is packed when I drive by it when I’m in the area.

  • In all fairness to the issue, Wal-Mart is too big and too visible to be cutting under-the-table deals…at least in THIS country. They’ll lobby heavily, but that’s not the same thing.

    Where P&Z corruption happens is with local developers on high-value low-visibility projects by way of the good ol’ boy network (ex. the Sullivan family in Galveston), nepotism (rampant in San Antonio, the RGV, and New Mexico), or term-limited ex-politicians set up as “consultant” intermediaries between developers and a municipality’s P&Z function (think Dallas and Austin).

    That means that zoning **probably** would empower NIMBYs in this case. Even still, there are plenty of caveats where that might not necessarily be true.

  • Simple answer: YES. Dallas has a track record of projects that required tax payer incentives just to exist. Victory Project anyone? No developer would have been able to build that without convincing the zoning board and the city to fork over massive tax payer incentives.
    ======
    A great example of what not to do. Last I heard VP was struggling with vacancies, and the leased stores were struggling. It was a development in search of a need, rather than the other way around. Maybe it’s gotten better?

    If a development isn’t economically viable, it’s not needed. If it is economically viable, the tax breaks aren’t necessary. Incintives are either a market distortion or a give away to the devloper.

  • Hmm I’ve seen the store, but never been in. Good to know though, the cypress store is in weird location in the middle of some neighborhoods off of North Eldridge, and was a ghost town even on the days leading up to Thanksgiving. Kroger is king in the NW burbs..

  • The Heights like West U!!! Now that’s funny!! Does everyone have blinders on@?@? There are vagrants all over the heights already..The Heights is stagnant and it has already reached its peak. Everyone against it is against it for one reason and that reason is racism. Why don’t you just come out say it already. Cheese and rice, cheese and rice!! Wal Mart rocks!!! Im gonna come on ofer to yo ‘hood and sh*t in yo front yawds affer gettin me sum wally grits!!

  • Walmart advocate, you are out of line and extremely rude.

  • Maybe if the Montrose HEB is built on stilts, the Heights Walmart can just be slipped in underneath it. Two stores for the price of one! America wins!

  • I’m in 77098 and I finally got my Vote For Pedro, er… WalMart mailer today. Google Maps says it’s 13 minutes to Dunvale, 12 minutes to Post Oak/Meyer Park, and 11 minutes to West End, but it always seems longer on Shepherd. Shopping at WalMart always reminds me of that scene in Wizard of Oz where the tornado comes blowing through…

  • I got one of these. I wouldn’t cross the road to shop at Walmart. What makes them think I’d drive 2 miles to do it? I live in the Loop so I don’t have to take these 3 day camel rides to do routine things like buy groceries.

  • DaveMcC: “If a development isn’t economically viable, it’s not needed. If it is economically viable, the tax breaks aren’t necessary. Incintives are either a market distortion or a give away to the devloper.”

    Totally agree. Thanks for putting that into much better words than I ever could…

  • Incentives are not being offered to Wal-Mart any more or less than you might say that incentives are being offered to the City. The City has wanted Yale improved long before Wal-Mart was interested in this parcel. But they haven’t had the funding to make it happen. This arrangement allows them to get what they want sooner without ever cutting a check, and with a third party taking on indemnity for the project.

  • TheNiche,

    Thanks for putting it very simply.

    The agreement the city is making with the developer is quite common (in different forms). It allows infrastructure to improved and rebuilt without the city fronting the money. They city will pay back the costs at a later date.

    If the agreement wouldn’t be in place and the developer built with no improvements, then people will be claiming the development is destroying the existing infrastructure. This way, the city gets infrastructure replaced to handle the development and the tax revenue from property and sales taxes after the development. Also, the city won’t pay the developer until the work passes inspection after a warranty period.

  • How is this bad for the consumer? It’s business. It’s competition.
    ————————-

    Ah yes, blind faith in the free market. Where did that get us? Oh that’s right, shredded our retirement accounts, stuck the economy in the crapper, and saddled us and countless unborn generations with interest on loans to China.

    Let’s hear it for the free market!!

  • sidegate,

    You obviously have no concept of what really happened in 2008 and the 18-years that led to the eventual blow up of the housing market. The implosion in 2008 was because the free-market was circumvented for 18-years by the federal governments meddling in the mortgage lending industry. They forced the banks to make risky loans through legislation. The banks were stuck with risky mortgages and started unloading them off into new financial instruments to try to make something worth it out of a bad situation. On top of that, failed mortgage backers Freddie and Fannie also pushed horrible risky lending by buying these bad mortgages from banks when they couldn’t unload them into financial instruments (nobody will take them).

    Subprime lending for housing was started by the federal government because the free market would never have allowed it. Our neighbors to the north in Canada did not follow our path. You still have to have 20% (or more) down payment to get a house up there. Their banks aren’t forced to lend to risky customers. They are quite financially stable now and the the financial mess we are in left them relatively unaffected.

  • “They forced the banks to make risky loans”

    Oh, those poor little banks, forced at gunpoint by the federal government to make billions of dollars on loans! How mean of those evil Feds.

    Really, that Fox Kool-Aid must taste pretty good.

  • Errol,

    I could pull the order given by then Attorney General Janet Reno to prosecute any bank where they refuse to give these types of loans. Their bank charters would also be in risk of be revoked.

    The 2008 blow up was due to the Housing and Community Development Act being modified in 1993. This required subprime lending to occur.

  • …well that, and a lack of transparency in certain parts of the capital markets such as did not allow analysts to appropriately value and manage risk.

  • @ kjb434

    Now let’s not get mixed up with things like facts…

  • Lack of transparency was a big issue too!

    The SEC sat on it’s hands while all this was going on and they were receiving complaints that should have been investigated. The SEC’s hands were somewhat tied also by reluctance to investigate (this is from leaders in both political parties). If they investigated, the blow up in 2008 would have happened earlier and possibly on a smaller scale.

  • God haven’t any of you learned yet that kjb34 knows everything about everything
    and that he is one of the most trusted
    advisors to every CEO, Head of State and
    Witches Coven in the Free World?

  • LOL! I like following real estate. Reading around and digging can open your eyes. Very little real reporting occurred on the financial meltdown.

  • From markd:
    I wouldn’t want WalMart riffraff coming through my neighborhood, either.

    I think that’s what’s getting the folk riled.

    ___________________________

    And the racism and xenophobia of the folks who are getting riled is what is getting everyone else riled.

    Why not just have an ordinance that proclaims that only rich white “chi-chis” are allowed to live Inside the Loop?

  • And the racism and xenophobia of the folks who are getting riled is what is getting everyone else riled.

    Why not just have an ordinance that proclaims that only rich white “chi-chis” are allowed to live Inside the Loop?
    ___________________________________________
    I guess the acid test would be if Wal-Mart
    loomed within 50 feet of your place and see if you are thrilled about it.
    Of course, there would be more rough trade for you to troll so maybe it would be a bonanza for you.

  • I guess it would depend. Would the Wal-Mart replace a derelict and overgrown hazardous waste site? Would it improve nearby streets or drainage infrastructure? Would it make my neighborhood more walkable at all hours of the day and night?

    The southern edge of Eastwood backs up to the Macy’s distribution center. Lots of truck activity there that doesn’t bother anyone, and I can’t even buy groceries from it. I wish it were a Wal-Mart.

  • From TheNiche:
    Would it make my neighborhood more walkable at all hours of the day and night?
    ———————————
    Not likely. I wouldn’t be caught dead walking near a Wal-Mart day or night without a concealed weapon (thank you CHL).

  • From TheNiche:
    The southern edge of Eastwood backs up to the Macy’s distribution center. Lots of truck activity there that doesn’t bother anyone, and I can’t even buy groceries from it. I wish it were a Wal-Mart.
    ——————————–
    Careful what you wish for. I’ll take a distribution center over a Wal-Mart any day.

  • Now the gun nuts show up, lovely.

  • From JT:
    I guess the acid test would be if Wal-Mart
    loomed within 50 feet of your place and see if you are thrilled about it.
    Of course, there would be more rough trade for you to troll so maybe it would be a bonanza for you.
    ———————————
    Very well said. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the people bitching about anti-WalMart people would be bitching themselves if one was plopped right across the street from their home. Hypocrites.

  • From Corey:
    Now the gun nuts show up, lovely.
    ————————-
    Just wanted to get my point across with a few extra email notifications to you. Thanks!

  • You have your concealed weapons, I have my sincere distrust of people who think guns are necessary. So be it.

  • cm=corey: If you could find a way to keep criminals from having guns I would be all for it. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s possible so I want to keep my right to bear arms. Maybe I should stop listening to the news reports about car jackings, home invasions, murders, etc and just be naive. I’m a young woman and I like that I have an option to protect myself if my life is ever in danger (though I truly hope to never have to use that option).

    I realize that we could debate about gun rights until our faces turn blue but neither of us will change our minds. So you’re right…so be it.

  • Walmart Advocate: You are not helping the cause which you so staunchly advocate in making a joke out of racism or the very real threat that, unfortunately, not racism, but SOCIOECONOMICS play in our city’s/nation’s crime.

    Sorry, but I think that’s what we mean here when we say “vagrants” or “riffraff.”

    Obviously, it’s in poor taste to suggest otherwise.

    Unfortunately, just as you have passed judgment on me and on other commenters, most of us have likely already decided that you, evidenced by your moniker alone, are white trash.

  • From JT:

    Of course, there would be more rough trade for you to troll so maybe it would be a bonanza for you.

    __________________________

    You and Emily seem to have some sort of hang-up about “rough trade” which makes one wonder if perhaps you don’t project your repressed desires onto others who don’t get into kinky things, unless they’re running for governor, but just the same could care less about those who do just as long as they keep it behind closed doors. You really should see a psychiatrist about it.

    Of course you may be Emily. In which case you should see a psychiatrist about that as well.

  • From kheatherg:

    Very well said. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the people bitching about anti-WalMart people would be bitching themselves if one was plopped right across the street from their home. Hypocrites.
    _______________________________

    I’d rather have a Wal-Mart than a Skylane across the street.

  • From kheatherg:
    Not likely. I wouldn’t be caught dead walking near a Wal-Mart day or night without a concealed weapon (thank you CHL).

    ——————

    I’m not sure that that figure of speech, “I wouldn’t be caught dead [doing something] [somewhere]” supports your conclusion that you should carry a concealed weapon near a Wal-Mart. If you’re not at risk of becoming dead there, what’s the point? ;)

    Nah, seriously though, “carry” on. Good for you taking responsibility for your personal safety.

  • TheNiche: Ha. Well, I guess I’m not making much sense today. I need a nap.

  • KTH, I am comfortable with that and definitely appreciate your side and your views. My opinions are only related to me alone and are not my idea of blanket statement applicable to everyone, and you’re more than entitled to your opinions, and I will vehemently defend your right to arm bears too.. :-P I’m not a worrier, I just live life as smartly as I can and thank you i too hope I never face the wrong end of a gun.

  • I just received the “Friends of Walmart” tripe in today’s post, over here in Winlow Place.

    So, what’s with all the happy Huxtable-looking minorities in the slick pics… where the white folk be??? Maybe that’s a blurry but dirty blond in the background behind the happy Hispanican lady & little girl?

    What a load of crap.

    Buy local.

  • I am so very confused by all the racist claims…We would never live in this area if we were afraid of the ‘browns.’ All of you yahoos living in the burbs are the ones that have tried to move away from a ‘certain element’. Don’t project your racism on those of us that chose to live in a diverse area. This is simply a matter of 24/7 traffic and the placement of a ‘super center’ smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood – not on a freeway – right in the middle of a neighborhood.Look at the map people – this is unheard of. Of course these folks are suckers for buying these overpriced condo things but the condos were there before the Wal-Mart and I think they have a right to expect something more appropriate to go in. Can I build a skyscraper on my lot? Of course not. Wal-Mart should just build a scaled down grocery only and then tell all the folks that hate WM just to hate them –to “shut up.”

  • And you are a damn fool if you get close to any Wal-Mart or gas station in Houston without at least a couple of pistols straped on……… Just make sure you know how to use them.

  • Uh-oh Corey. Another ‘gun nut’ and this time it’s not me! Heehee.

  • matt,

    You must be looking at a different map. Any why is it that these people should expect something “more appropriate”? What exactly would that be? Again, it’s a huge, ugly former industrial lot…and these people bought townhomes right next to it. Those townhomes were likely less expensive (relatively) to begin with, anyway

    So yeah, I would be pissed if I bought a townhouse right next door and for some reason (?) expected a more attractive large-scale development, whatever that might be. They were most likely going to be backing up to loading docks anyway, though

  • On a side note, we live a few blocks south of Winlow Place and actually got the mailer yesterday – and then today, we got our first direct ad mailer (ever) from Walmart. I still don’t get why so many people north of I-10 really care…is it just because they don’t want “The Heights” name associated with a Walmart, even though it is buffered by a freeway? Parts of Montrose are just as close

  • Well, the liberal freaks won’t be shopping at wal-mart (or anything near it). no one would good taste will either.

  • And I am also confused by all of the racist claims–my area of the hegihts is a mix of white, brown, and black. If I wanted all or mostly white i’d go to katy, sugerland, or some other ex-burb area. the ones claiming racism are likely projecting–they don’t seem to have a clue about the neighborhood. if wal-mart was building between shepherd and duram, I would have no problem with it. they are simply choosing an area that’s mostly residential near trendy washington–it’s an anchor to the area.

  • From James Chapman:

    Well, the liberal freaks won’t be shopping at wal-mart (or anything near it). no one would good taste will either.

    —————–

    All the more reason to expect that Heights residents will shop there.

  • @matt, not on a freeway? I’m not sure how long it’s been since you’ve been to the area but there is a freeway that carries over 230,000 vehicles per day almost immediately adjacent to the site. It’s the big long gray thing with cars on it. This site is no more residential than the Target site at Sawyer. In fact given the fact that there are not residents on the land who have to be bought out so that their homes can be demolished you could argue that it’s less residential.

  • HA Yes – of course the big long thing with cars on it is there…. I was more referring to the fact that there are homes sitting between the WM and the big long thing – which relates to the traffic issue. The people will be big time affected by the 24/7 flow of traffic. These roads will not support the traffic that will be generated by this mess.

  • Haha, good point KH (lols). On a separate note though Liberal=tolerant not *necessarily* a freak. It’s easy to be uptight and conservative, especially if you just inherited your political views from your parents, and haven’t done much of any thinking of your own. But who am I say that?

  • LOL! Liberal = tolerant? Liberals are often the most intolerant and bigoted people. They have to preach tolerance and acceptance to cover this up. How else would liberals be so intolerant of a store that provides a service to those they often profess to want to help? They should be welcoming Wal-Mart because it helps raise the standard of living of the less fortunate.

  • Flash and everyone else – what makes you think the Heights is liberal?
    People with money tend to be conservative, especially here in the South. As money came in went up, liberalism went down. It is at the more recently built houses (over half a mil generally) you see the anti-preservation signs AND the anti WalMart signs. What they really want is conformity; diversity of any kind is frightening and brings down property values. Indeed, the most basic tenant of conservatism is “You should be like me.”

    Note: The Houston Heights Association is NOT a homeowners association.(Check their website) They mostly represent the interests of those who see the Heights as a profit center.

    As for me, I don’t care what goes on the freeway adjacent brownfield.

  • Most liberals I know are pretty uptight AND out of touch with reality.

  • Most conservatives I know are self centered, me first at any cost prigs who think that their values are superior and are so afraid of change and anyone who is not just like them.

  • As the mud flies…Hey, Gus, has this topic surpassed the Cypress Outlet Malls as the All-Time Most Popular Post yet?

  • And most conservatives I know have a ME,ME,MINE, mentality, AND they’re out of touch with reality too.

  • I was not surprised to see the anti WalMart signs in the Heights. I was surprised and disappointed to see the amount of support for the anti-preservation movement. Liberals have money just like conservatives and liberals dominate in the Heights. It is not a anomoly that the 18th District(which includes the Heights) went 77% for Obama vs. 50% county wide in Harris.

  • Better ME ME MINE than GIVE ME GIVE ME GIVE ME – anyday folks………

  • Er…OK. So which is the Heights and which is the Wal*Mart crowd? See if you can figure it out…

  • There isn’t “A” Heights crowd.
    When I arrived in the early 80s, the SW part of the Heights was African-American, the public schools had almost no Anglo students and there were many, many long time residents of the WW II generation. Lots of artists, lots of renters.

    The old folks died and their heirs sold the cottages which were usually bulldozed. Now an empty lot costs a cool quarter mil and the artists, renters and working class folks have been chased away, replaced by lawyers, oil execs and bankers.
    The tension between the moderate income old timers and the McMansion crowd is palpable. More money brings more Republicans – that is Poli Sci 101.
    And Norhill Joe – look at a map of the 18th – the Heights is only a tiny part of that.

  • @finness, I would not consider the Heights a “tiny” part of the 18th congressional district. Looking at the breakout of the 2008 election (thanks to Off the Kuff) it shows District H (Heights)as 68.8% for Obama. Once again that is vs. 50% county wide for Harris. The area is predominately liberal and the anti preservation and anti walmart folks come from that base.

  • I think the historic district issue is much more complicated than just pro or anti preservation. I think we can all agree that there are a lot of ways to go about preserving both individual properties and the character of a neighborhood.

  • I don’t really get all the fuss. I moved here from Dallas which anyone with a set of eyeballs will agree is an infinitely nicer, cleaner city (at least in it’s “better” areas). The Heights is pretty cool but nothing special. You can’t walk 10 feet in any direction in Houston without being in the hood. My point is, NOWHERE in Houston is above having a Wal Mart next to it. We had a Wal Mart Neighborhood Market in uptown Dallas and if it didn’t kill them, it won’t kill you. The store eventually closed just because there was no real market for it. I hate to break it to you Heights but your neighborhood isn’t THAT nice. And as for Washington, those drunk kids will eventually move on to the next best thing in a year or two and it will also just be another old Richmond strip or midtown. Abandoned! A Wal Mart could actually do some good here. Besides the rundown apartments, train tracks, abandoned industrial sites and the freeway, it’s about all you have going for you. Get over yourselves.

  • From Josh:
    I don’t really get all the fuss. I moved here from Dallas which anyone with a set of eyeballs will agree is an infinitely nicer, cleaner city (at least in it’s “better” areas).
    —————————-
    Spoken like a true Dallasite. My husband is from Highland Park and I don’t agree that it is any nicer or cleaner than River Oaks or West U. And I do have a set of eyeballs, thank you very much.

    Honestly, there is nothing wrong with wanting something better for the community I live in. I don’t think a Wal-Mart will improve this area so I am against it. That is my opinion. You have yours. Telling me to get over myself because I don’t agree with you is a bit childish.

  • Josh – you are correct on one point. Dallas is nicer!