Modern Urban Warehouse: Where the New West End Walmart Is Going

Walmart has not completed its purchase of 15 acres of the former Trinity Industries steel fabrication site on Yale St. just south of I-10 and the Heights, but an executive with the Ainbinder Company, which has owned the property for 3 years, has been quoted as saying it is no longer negotiating with any other potential buyers (H-E-B was one), and that the deal should be complete within a few weeks. A site plan obtained by the Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff shows 2 bank-style pad sites and a park-in-front strip center facing Yale, in front of the 152,000-sq.-ft. Walmart’s 664-car parking lot. Also shown in that plan, as part of the proposed development: a sprawlerrific future for the current site of the Heights Plaza Apartments to the northeast of the site, featuring a strip center along Heights Blvd. and a “bank” site just to the north, at the southern edge of White Oak Bayou. Yet another strip center is shown on the back side of the bank site, facing Yale St. to the west.

Ainbinder has the Heights Plaza Apartments at 205 Heights Blvd. under contract. Speaking at a meeting organized by city council member Ed Gonzalez, Michael Ainbinder said he expects to close on that property this fall and include the land in the retail development, bringing its total land area to 24 acres. Nicgk, who took extensive notes on the meeting and included them in his blog, They Are Building a Wal-Mart on My Street, reports that the developers are claiming that the development will not be “a ‘typical suburban’ project.” Nicgk reports an Ainbinder representative noted the

‘warehouse’ type of architecture; they noted the ‘Core’ apartments, and ‘Berger Iron Works’ on the corner plot of land. They intend to keep that type of neighborhood feel to the development
-It was described as a more modern warehouse/urban type of feel . . . Ainbinder assured that the infrastructure of the land, and surrounding, would be brought up to appropriate specs to support.

Below: a few photos of the site from a larger set and scouting report by another neighborhood blogger, Charles Kuffner.


A couple of views of the future Walmart from Koehler St., to the north of the site:

The leaked site plan (at top) shows the Walmart itself backing up to Bonner St. at the western edge of the property. Kuffner snapped this view showing Downtown from the fence along that side:

And looking south from Bonner across what will likely be the loading-dock end, to the backs of townhomes accessed from Center St.:

At the north end of the site is Berger Iron Works, indicated in the plan as “not a part”:

Here are a couple of views of tiny Bass Ct., taken from Koehler St. and looking north. The street currently dead-ends below I-10, but the site plan shows it connecting to a new eastbound feeder road along the freeway.

Across Bonner St. from the southern edge of the site, Kuffner finds the long-vacant Standard Register building:

Photos: Charles Kuffner

43 Comment

  • Nothing that we didn’t already know here….

  • seeing the mention of “bank-style” pad sites makes me wonder when wal-mart is going to make the big push into the banking industry. i’m anxiously awaiting their arrival into the market to see how the banks respond.

    wal-mart would easily strip away the entire low-income customer base from big banks whom currently use them for low-risk profits from fees.

  • WalMart has already tried to get into the banking business, but it was the government who stopped them not the big banks. Something along regulatory guidelines and how WalMart would be too large and have too many conflicting interests. Hrm…sounds like most banks to me though lol

  • It is a shame! Is is realy going to change the dynamics of one of the greatest streets in the Heights… Yale

  • any more news of the proposed Walmart less than 10 miles away on Silber?

  • Chris, HAHA…hoping that is sarcasm. What exactly are the “dynamics” of yale street. Crappy run down buildings and abandoned industrial sites???

  • Ditto mcoerver! Heights Blvd is like the “scenic” road and Yale is like the back alley you don’t want your guests to see. On that note, anyone know when they will be starting the Yale widening/repaving?

  • Yale reconstruction (never planned to be widened or repaved) from I-10 to the Loop is canceled indefinitely by the city.

    You can thank the many large trees along Yale. Many residents wanted the trees protected. Tree protection measures add to the cost and the city decided that money can be spent better on many other roadway/drainage projects.

    I have no problem with tree protection measures, but they want everyone saved and weren’t going to compromise.

  • That sucks, I thought a compromise had been met.

  • Given the acres of concrete, I had proposed a ferry service at Yale during increasingly frequent floods. (Mosquito repellant not included) Now, given the additional construction, I am announcing a short-hop helicopter service over the bumper-to-bumper traffic 24/7 that will surely result. (flight sickness bags not included) The revised name will the the Yale Street Float and Flight Company.

  • The Standard Register building is also a very interesting plot of land/structure.

    Since it’s kind of bordered by residential streets, it may be difficult to develop.

    However, Bonner st would give it direct freeway access once it’s re-paved. Seems like a good place for a brewery!

  • Bahahaha on the bank sites. After the economy crumbled and WaMu and Wachovia weren’t around to eat this junk up, I don’t know that many banks have gone up. So instead look forward to those becoming Taco Bell or something. The only salvation (and not a complete one, but something) would be a Chik-fil-a going in… for all the “mom and pop” talk that goes on around here, I’ve heard many a parent around the hood complain about not having one of those nearby.

  • Wait! Does this mean there will be parking on Washington with bus service from Wallyworld?!?!

  • Actually, I find there to be some beauty in the overgrown vacant lots and old industrial buildings. Certainly more appealing than ANOTHER damn generic strip mall with a gigantic Wal-Mart peering from the backside… A city is supposed to have grit like that. What a city ISN’T suppose to have is the mess rendered above. That’s where the suburbs should come in.

  • i think it would be a terrible idea for Walmart to open a store in the Heights!!! I no from experience. I have a rental home near Meyer Park, although the mall has seen its better days the Walmart was a nail in the coffin! That store attracts bad element and the crime rate in that neighborhood has skyrocketed! Someone has been shot and killed in the parking lot. The wells fargo in randalls has been held up a few times.
    Would it be convenient, yes but i rather see a HEB super store or some decent grocery chain go in there!

  • George, you aren’t the first to make the comparison to Meyer Park, and I think it’s a good one. It got seedy pretty quickly and that little pocket of the area is now full of vacant storefronts and disgusting. I know several people in the area and that is the last place in the world they would shop, cheap or not.

  • Don’t know yet how I feel about ginormous big box in this location, but I’m really suprised to hear folks from the Greater Heights area talking about “the element” that the Wal-Mart will bring in. I thought ethnic and economic diversity was what the Heights was all about. If you want homogenous (and lots of big box) move to Cinco Ranch or something……

  • the walmart in meyerpark is a good example of why this parade of evils won’t be a problem in the heights. the crime all stays to the east of the freeway there–in other words, it doesn’t come into meyerland proper. same should be true here–it will all stay south of I-10.

    furthermore, the stores were already closing in meyerpark before the walmart was there, and the movie theater had been very dangerous for more than 5 years.

  • Which Meyer Park? Spring/Klein/Willowbrook? The whole 1960 area is going to ***t; but hardly think that has anything much to do with WalMart.

  • @htownproud

    So people living in West End, Memorial Heights and Rice Military neighborhoods don’t deserve to have crime free neighborhoods if “the crime will stay south of I-10”?

    Even in Meyerland, the Walmart & the likes have killed off whole neighboorhoods behind it and now affecting Stella Link area properties. Crime and de-valuation of property does affect all adjacent neighborhoods.

  • the walmart in meyerpark is a good example of why this parade of evils won’t be a problem in the heights. the crime all stays to the east of the freeway there–in other words, it doesn’t come into meyerland proper. same should be true here–it will all stay south of I-10.

    Guess all those “kick-robbers” as in “kick-in-the-front-door-instead-of-ringing-the-doorbell-and-pulling-a-gun-when-they-open-it” robbers moved into Willow Meadows since it’s more convenient to “rob and shop.” Who’d have thought? Low-lifes with a social conscious. Robbing and shopping in the same neighborhood and saving gas and cutting down on pollution.

    Or maybe they all moved to Willow Meadows and just “walk and rob and shop?”

    Crime must pay well given the price of homes in Willow Meadows.

    Such racism. Such ignorance.

  • get over your property valuations people, homes aren’t investments. wal-mart won’t do anything more to the area that living that close to a freeway won’t do already. once the baby boomers start kicking the bucket there’s a whole generation of folks that won’t be able to afford these properties at market value anyways.

    i do hate poor people as much as everyone else though. maybe we could just round them all up and throw them in a concentration camp by the grand parkway. we can offer them free happy meals and transportation to the nearest wal-mart.

  • subprimelandguy: it surprises you that they don’t want “that element”? If you’ve been reading any of the stop Walmart blogs, it’s there in between the lines.

    I get the feeling that while they may want diversity, they really want to pick and choose what parts of that diversity are allowed into their neighborhood.

    Everyone knows that Walmart is not chi chi. They talk about losing their mom and pops. Where were all those folks when Kaplan’s went down?

  • Meyer Park was on the decline well before Wal-Mart opened its doors overthere. I used to go to the movie theater (Meyer Park 14 or 16, can’t remember) in the early to mid 90s every weekend as a kid and the area was already getting rough. Wal Mart went there precisely because of the lower end demographic but the area did not turn bad as a result of Wal Mart being there.

  • Land Guy is right. I remember not going over there for that reason. Still don’t want WalMart, but not because it brings a “bad” element. There’s a Big Lots on SHepherd, a TJ Maxx on W. Gray. And a Target on Houston Ave. THere’s a Walmart in Kingwood, that area hasn’t declined (yecky for it’s own reasons, but not for that). Oh, unless you are afraid the Walmart is going to bring the White Flighters back to the inner city. Now that would be ugly.

  • Captain Anti-WalMart-Facebook, is his last name really “Urbano”?!? — a strangely fitting name, appros pot.

  • Man … kind of is strangely fitting … never thought of it that way before.


  • The compromise on Yale was to re-asphalt with the existing curbs instead of reconstructing (which would indeed have included minor widening in some places and would have taken out a number of trees. Last I heard, they were still planning on reconstructing to standard from I-10 to 6th and from around 22nd to 610.

  • Considering the firm I work for is under contract to do the engineering for Yale and city has told us the project is dead, I tend to believe them.

    At most, the city may move Yale to it’s general asphalt rehab list away from reconstruction. It’s sad because 10-years from now it’ll be in the same condition without a reconstructed base.

  • Yes, I think your “move … to the general asphalt rehab list” is the same as my “re-asphalt within the existing curbs,” and yes, it’s going to need to be redone sooner. (I had heard five years.) If you have been called off the project, maybe the upper and lower reaches of the project were also cancelled.)

    Most of the neighbors who have expressed opinions in my presence were glad the trees were saved, even if it means the next repaving will be sooner. Getting the trees planted twenty years ago was a major project, and many of them would have been lost to the proposed project. (How many depends on which version of the project you consider.)

  • This doesn’t sound bad. Of course I would prefer to have something more chic and upscale constructed on the lot, but it looks like the street front will have smaller boutique style spaces obstructing the Wal-Mart from immediate view.

    Also, as a Rice Military resident, I’m concerned about the parking issue on Washington Ave. There is no question that a 600+ car lot will improve street parking situation on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Regarding the comments about Wal-Mart increasing crime…. how is bulldozing a few dozen methlabs going to INCREASE crime?

  • No meth labs will be harmed in the making of this Wal-Mart. Most of the land was industrial (as in legit manufacturing) before it was cleared.

  • My concern about this possible development is the traffic in the West End neighorbood directly to the west of Bonner St.

    It seems that patrons will be using Koehler, Eli and Schuler streets for west-side access from Patterson St.

    Patterson St. is already getting a ton of traffic because of it’s ease (no stoplights) of access to I-10 and the Quiet Zone road closures. All the neighborhhood streets between Patterson and WM are pretty much single land throughfares because of the street parking.

  • For those of you who haven’t shopped at Walmart in the past year, I recentely went to a Walmart and was thouroughly surprised at how nice it was. I was actually shocked! I even caught myself thinking “this design seems very similar to that of Central Market” (crazy I know). Granted, it was in an upscale suburban neighborhood, so I assume it was designed and stocked to fit that market. I would think this Walmart would be no different. Ther are not a dumb company and would most definately cater to the more affluent Heights customer.

  • All knew Wal-Marts are paying attention to aesthetic in the new stores they build and are slowly renovating older ones.

    Initially, Wal-Mart’s concept was that their prices and selection alone will be good enough to stay on top. They noticed that in many middle and upper middle class neighborhoods, their same store sales started to slump while Target and K-Mart remained strong. Target and K-Mart both have conceded that they are not going to win the rock bottom price market and started to trend to appeal to people willing to pay a little more for nice things. Wal-Mart is adjusting to do the same thing now.

    Wal-Mart is focusing now on image where they have typically avoided because a chunk of potential customers have image just as high on their minds as what they may pay for a product.

  • I agree. I would be more than willing to shop at a Walmart similar to the one I visited. I had a great shopping experience… nice, clean, and well stocked grocery section.

  • From the point of view of esthetics, whatever is done on this site is likely to be better than what’s there now.
    It’s not immediately clear from the site plan, but much of the frontage on the East side of the site is actually above street level (Yale St. dips under the RR tracks here). The north and south sides face a stone yard and the RR tracks, respectively. Even if it were built as a “typical” Walmart, you wouldn’t see much of it anyway, unless of course, you enter the parking lot to shop there.
    I’m glad they’re putting an effort into

  • I wish we knew what the Walmart is going to offer (grocery, lawn and garden, etc.) Anybody have that knowledge?

  • From Nick Urbano’s website it is going to be a SuperWal-Mart that will probably have all three aspects.

  • Folks if the Wal-Mart goes in where the plan above shows, IT WILL NOT BE in THE HEIGHTS, but in the Washington Avenue Corridor. I am not a big fan of Wal-Mart for many reasons, but can it destroy the Washington Avenue Corridor any more then the 40+ bars, clubs and lounges that are presently there, with many more to come. Go visit Washington Avenue on a Friday or Saturday night, especially 12 – 2 AM, and watch 1,000s of totally drunk 21 – 40 year old “want to be seens” stubble from bar to club to their cars. The Wave jitney has helped, but I strongly advise you to not drive. Take as a warning the billboard at the corner of W.A. & Sandman for a lawyer that specializes in DWI. Better yet, go to the web pages of the alcohol establishments, and click on “pictures” to watch binge drinking at its best. These business have pushed out renters, home owners and businesses that had been in the Corridor for decades. The thousands of ugly condos and town house have also helped in this process. And, though they look different from outside there is only one basic plan. All this could only occur in the only major US city without any ZONING and Protected Historic Districts, except for the Old Sixth Ward. And, you wonderful Heighters, remember that the Heights does not allow bars, clubs and lounges, so if you do your drinking on Washington, you are no different than those “others” who will shop at the possible Wal-Mart in the Washington Avenue Corridor and not the HEIGHTS. The word on W.A. is, “developers rule.”

  • Bob Sennhauser,

    After you stop hyperventilating, I would like to ask:
    You do realize that the original Sixth Ward and the various part of the Heights were built by developers to provide basic cheaper tract homes?

    The Sixth Ward and the Heights started off by the developer clear cutting the existing forest not saving any trees.

    Natural ravines and streams were filled in the Heights.

    Your are essentially supporting one developer’s remolding of the land over a current developer’s similar act.

    People need to realize that their historic areas were built by the same profit driven developers back then as re-developers now.

  • Actually Bob, if you check your history, the original Heights boundaries extended past I-10 to Washington Ave.

    That is why Heights Blvd. changes names to Waugh, south of Washinton Ave.

    FYI – This was way before I-10 was built.

    Thanks for the tip about avoiding Washington Ave from 12-2AM.

    Though, I’m usually in bed by then or comfortably getting ready for bed.

  • @ Bob

    1st and 2nd streets off Heights Blvd are south of I-10.