Montrose H-E-B Market: What Happened To That Grocery Store on Stilts?

Time appears to be running out for that “store on stilts” option for the new Montrose location of H-E-B Market. The leader of a Montrose group interested in preserving open space on the site of the former Wilshire Village Apartments says she was surprised not to see a 2-story option included among the 3 designs previewed by a small community group late last week. The designs were prepared by San Antonio’s Lake Flato Architects. (Lake Flato also designed H-E-B’s Buffalo Market, on Bissonnet and Buffalo Speedway). According to the Montrose Land Development Coalition’s Maria-Elisa Heg, all 3 options show a store whose back faces West Alabama, and all feature little or no green space. Space for a community “artisan market” is included — but on the parking lot. None of the plans include separate retail spaces fronting West Alabama, a feature Heg’s organization has been promoting.

But H-E-B Houston division president Scott McClelland tells Swamplot the designs are works in progress. He says drawings of a 2-story store — which presumably would allow more open space to be preserved on the site — will be presented along with the 3 at-grade options at the Neartown forum scheduled for October 30, where he’ll be showing models and asking neighbors for input. All options, McClelland notes, preserve the same number of trees on the site.


Over the summer, McClelland had announced H-E-B would be willing to explore a “store on stilts” option for the site — if funding could be found to offset the additional costs. “The cost to go up on stilts is $2mm. I’ve been able to find $1.2mm from efficiencies and offsets,” he now tells Swamplot. But there’s a looming deadline: “IF funding can be obtained in the next 45 days to offset the incremental cost, we would consider the two story option.” Neither H-E-B nor the MLDC have found any funding yet, though McLelland says the Houston Parks Dept. has agreed to maintain the park if funding for it is identified.

Says McClelland: “The bottom line is that we’re working both options simultaneously. Should funding not be obtained, we’ll be in a place to move forward. Should funding be obtained and the community support a two story format, we can revert to the earlier drawings.”

Photo: Carl Guderian

32 Comment

  • I have no doubt the community supports it. They just don’t want to pay for it and think big companies just have money to throw around.

  • Well of course, and keeping in mind it is just my opinion, if our former mayor who wants to be governor hadn’t sent the fire marshal over to condemn the property, without due process, see the story about Park Memorial and how a court ruled, in order for his former employer to use their second lien to force a sale to HEB which benefitted one of the two owners of Wilshire Village then we wouldn’t be worried about saving any of the trees, now would we?

    Don’t know about anyone else but I will never spend a dime at this HEB. In memory of the trees.

  • I would have loved to have been able to purchase and rehab the old buildings that were there. I think they looked very cool. I pictured them all repainted different bright bold colors. It would have been a fun and nice looking place.

    It’s up to HEB as to what they do with respects to green space but I’m hoping they do the ‘store on stilts’ and add park area. I have a lot of property on W Main (multifamily) within walking distance and having a nice park area so close would be great for tenants (and to be honest, it would also be nice for land values, for my own selfish reasons).

    It’s crazy that there are still so many mulitfamily properties trading at such a low price considering the land value, anticipated land value, and strong rental market/income. I’ve been buying whatever I can and suggest readers to the same.

    Some of the property is commercial (5+ unit) and extremely hard to get loans on (full discloser: I have a 5+ unit for sale with seller financing offered), however there is a lot of 1-4 family buildings that are fully occupied where instantly you’d be buying a building that would easily pay all costs (mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc.). And those are very simple for most people to get. No one seems to be going after them which is keeping prices low. I just bought four 4plexes at near land value where the rental income is about 2x the payment. Not sure how they were not snatched up earlier.


  • It’s funny that there are such expectations of HEB, and they seem to be participating, while no one expects a damned thing out of Walmart in the Heights or anywhere else; the company that does have money to throw around. HEB’s commitment to architecture is just another reason I shop there (and at Central Market). I love that HEB makes the effort and financial commitment to design stores individually instead of blanketing the city with dozens of the exact same box.
    These are some of the reasons why I choose to shop at HEB and Central Market, and conversely, yet another set of reasons why I refuse to spend a dime in Walmart, Sam’s, or anything Walton. I’d rather my money go towards companies that make what I consider to be positive impacts on my community, especially through architecture.
    Hopefuly, I won’t get attacked by the WalMart faithful for deciding where to spend my money and where not to spend it. I think it’s weird that WalMart shoppers seem to take it personally if you say that you won’t shop there; and almost without exception begin to call you a long list of names that they deem derogatory. Why do they care? Does shopping at WalMart make people insecure at best, or assholes at worst?
    Incidentally, I don’t think that HEB or any business owes the city a public “artisan’s market” or extra public greenspace on their property. If the public wants that, the public (COH, non-profit, or private donor) should step up and pay for it.

  • Whatever they end up with, I hope it’s better than the parking nightmare at the Buffalo Market.

  • @John: People typically shop at Wal-Mart because it’s inexpensive. For some, they couldn’t care less about architecture/design, etc. Wal-Mart has reach its position partly because it’s been able to create efficiencies where others have not. Remember, it’s goal is to bring the lowest prices to its customers, thus saving them money.

    I personally shop at the Buffalo HEB because I like HEB more than Kroger. Also, Wal-Mart’s not conveniently located. Honestly, the only HEB I like is the one off Buffalo. The rest that I have visited in the surrounding areas are pretty ugly and blah. Central Market is great, but it’s also expensive.
    As for the “positive impacts” on the community, I find it funny that you don’t think Wal-Mart does that. It brings in a lot more tax revenue and it donates a ton of money to charity.
    It’s interesting how people often criticize successful companies. Sam Walton was the little guy for many years and nobody had a problem with his companies. Now that they’re big, people complain all the time.
    As for Sam’s Club, I still prefer Costco because that what I grew up with.

  • Fernando, do you work for WalMart. Geez, you wrote “Remember, it’s goal is to bring the lowest prices to its customers, thus saving them money.”

    I actually believe that their goal is bring in the highest profits possible to shareholders. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that! I’m in business to make money too; so let’s cut the crap.
    Please don’t preach the WalMart mantra to me. Some people, like me, find value in more than just supposedly low prices. Some people are more than willing to pay for better quality merchandise, a pleasant atmosphere, a well-designed store, not having to deal with a 600 car, dirty, trash-filled parking lot, and for customer service that meets our expectations.
    Lots of stores offer low prices. WalMart’s are no lower than anyone else’s on the things that I buy; things that don’t include boxed, processed food, poorly made clothes, and tons of disposable crap that I don’t need. You can find those things everywhere. WalMart has sold the “idea” that it has the lowest prices on everything, claims that have been shown to be false repeatedly.
    As I wrote earlier, I don’t care that anyone else shops at WalMart; it their money. I still don’t understand why people, apparently like you, feel the need to defend the biggest, richest retailer in the world. It’s kind of funny and kind of pathetic.

  • What’s really pathetic is that you seem to relish the opportunity to bad mouth WalMart, often repeating yourself.

    That, and you like to derail threads.

  • “bad-mouth” WalMart? Oh no! Are you kidding?

    It seems relevant to me that the outcry over HEB was quelled by HEB’s decision to work with the community; something that I don’t think they had to do; but it speaks volumes about their corporate philosophy VS. the response from WalMart over a very similar community outcry.
    I pointed out that because I dared mention WalMart; its protectors would be coming for me. You, also, proved my point.
    I still don’t get it.

  • I *wish* this was our problem… Oh walmart, why must thou be so awful?

  • I thought this architect was supposed to be green. Chopping down some of the best trees in houston, to replace with a parking lot?!?!?!?!?!? Not impressed with the building on buffalo (south facing glazing . . . puhlease). Sounds like the alabama building could be worse.

  • HEB are liars.They promised greenspace,2 and a half acres of it.The only greenspace will be a 20×100 strip of St Augustine.In 2 years,the intersection of Alabama and Dunlavy will look like the intersection of Westheimer and Kirby,with the attendant problems.Despite Mclelland’s knowledge that he is moving into a hostile market area,he double-talks and steamrolls,the second owner of the Wilshire Village apartment complex was completely swindled by HEB friendly agents.I will not spend a dime at HEB

  • all the HEB stores in the regular parts of town look like bland big-box grocery stores. it’s just about income demographics and reaching out to increase foot traffic for more profits.

    as mentioned, this is a horrible spot for a park and would just be a crap-lot for the dogs rather than a place for the kids to play and enjoy a book outside. the menil’s literally a block and a half away and could probably change their parking lot to build one of a hell park if someone gives them a million to do it.

  • Instead of absurd suggestions like adding a park and green space to a grocery store (bad idea jeans) how about encouraging creative architecture?

    I don’t care if they take up the entire block as long as it’s unique and makes a statement unlike the store on Chimney Rock.

  • Why doesn’t the City do a 380 agreement with HEB to put the store on stilts and dedicate a portion of the lot to become a public park? The City practically fell over itself in giving Walmart everything it needed for its development in a 380 agreement. The City could reimburse HEB the 800k it needs out of the tax revenues just as it is doing with the Walmart 380 agreement.

  • Great thought, Yale St.
    Makes me wonder why I can’t get the city to do a 380 agreement with me for putting in curbs, gutters and a storm sewer in front of my house in lieu of the scenic *ditch* that is there currently.
    In fact, now that I think about it, back in the 90’s, the city put a lien on all the properties of my old street after curb and gutter were put in, so that the property owners would eventually pay for the improvements. Just the opposite of a 380 agreement….

  • Fernando wrote:
    “As for Sam’s Club, I still prefer Costco because that what I grew up with.”
    Yet John still wrote:
    “Fernando, do you work for WalMart. (sic) Geez,”
    Can we stop the “do you work for …?” or “how much did … pay you to say that?” It’s really old.

  • Yale St.,
    Maybe you could petition the city to do something like that. I have no idea whether it’s possible to do or not under COH law. Anyone want to chime in?
    I don’t care much one way or the other what happens at this site; I’d just be interested to see if it would work.

  • kjb434,
    Yes, if they can’t find $800,000, then they didn’t want it that badly after all.

  • eiioi: If the city can’t find the $800k then the city didn’t want it (the park) that badly?

  • Yale St and some of you have no concept of what a 380 agreement is. The money isn’t just given to the developer.

    The placing of the HEC store on stilts cannot legally be part of that type of agreement. A 380 agreement is a reimbursement for the developer paying out of there own pockets to improve public infrastructure.

    Before you rant and rave and make yourself look dumb, maybe you should learn what you are ranting and raving about….

  • When curbs get damaged on neighborhood streets, even by the giant claws picking up heavy trash, it’s the responsibility of the HOMEOWNER to pay for repairs to that curb.

    One of my neighbors received a notice from the COH about this exact thing.

  • The idea of a 2 acre park sandwiched between the neighbors’ fences and a big parking lot just doesn’t appeal to me. I live in the neighborhood and I can’t imagine wanting to go hang out in a tiny park next to a busy parking lot.

    What I dislike is the ugly ass end of a grocery store fronting Alabama. Everything up and down that street faces Alabama and the idea of having a big ugly wall facing Alabama is less than appealing. Given a choice I’d rather have the parking lot there.

  • kjb434:

    Please cite the language of section 380 of the local government code or the City of Houston enabling ordinance that supports your claim that a 380 agreement is a reimbursement for developers paying for infrastructure improvement. I will even accept attorney general opinions as a response. And, by the way, the Walmart/Ainbinder 380 agreement pays for a hike and bike trail and . . . wait for it . . . you are about to get schooled . . . this is really gonna be embarassing . . . $50,000.00 FOR IMPROVEMENTS TO WEST SIDE PARK!!!!!!! Thanks for playing.

    And for others, the way it is supposed to work is the developer makes an application to the City for a 380 agreement. The statue and ordinance are pretty wide open, and the City has shown with Walmart that it will pretty much do whatever it wants to, regardless of what the statute and ordinance says as long as you are bringing a Walmart to a community that doesn’t want one. Concerned residents in Montrose should go to City Council, the Mayor and the City Economic Development Dep’t and demand a 380 agreement for the Montrose HEB. If they can throw 6 mil at a Walmart, they can throw 800k at HEB.

  • LOL,

    Like I said, maybe you should be familiar with the topic before you speak.

    Your scenario scenario involves the creation of a new park. The city does not have money to allocated for purchase of lands for a park and has been relying on the city’s not profit arm of the Houston Parks Board. The neighborhood could request the Houston Parks Board work with HEB. HPB has a many success stories. This HEB scenario does not fit within the guidelines of a 380 agreement.

    A 380 agreement is meant for economic development. A new park adjacent to a two story grocery store won’t provide economic development or support the new development. A new park could be considered if substantial infrastructure work was included such as street reconstruction and utility upgrades.

    Walmart’s 380 agreement sets up reconstruction of needed infrastructure for the economic development to happen. Quality of life benefits are often added such as trails and parks but are not required and are not the primary expenditure.

    There are scenarios were a typically quality of life element such as a trail is built as the only part of the 380 agreement. This is usually attached to residential developments such as Intown Home’s 380 agreement to extend a trail from the dead end at Shepherd across White Oak Bayou into Cottage Grove. The trail technically can be considered transportation instead of an amenity and get classified as infrastructure.

  • kjb434:

    Still waiting to the citation to the ordinance or the local government code. Stuff you read on the internet doesn’t count. There is NOTHING in either that requires a 380 agreement to go for reimbursement of infrastructure. In fact, if you solely base your knowledge on existing 380 agreements, rather than what the law says, just take a look at the Oak Farms Dairy 380 Agreement. The City gave Oak Farms Dairy a tract of land worth 1.1 million, 500k in tax abatements to offset impact fees. Where’s the infrastructure reimbursement? If the City can give land to Oak Farms Dairy, why can’t they use a 380 agreement to buy land from HEB?

    And while we are talking about InTown Homes, they get almost a million for required onsite stormwater detention and get roads and sewers built in a gated community (those improvements are not transferred back to the city upon reimbursement, they stay private). Doesn’t sound like public infrastructure improvements to me.

    Now it is time for municpal law 101. Your assertion:
    “A 380 agreement is meant for economic development. A new park adjacent to a two story grocery store won’t provide economic development or support the new development.” All the City has to do is say that it does and BANG POW!!! it does. The City is held to an abuse of discretion standard of review. A court cannot substitute its own judgment for a municipalities. Thus, if the City says it promotes economic development, it does. And in this case, there is a decent argument that it would promote economic development. If you put in a park, HEB would sell more prepared foods for people to eat in the park. Businesses would be drawn to rehab, if not completely redevelop, the cruddy strip center with the old Fiesta in order to be near the park.

    And lastly, your claim that “Walmart’s 380 agreement sets up reconstruction of needed infrastructure for the economic development to happen” shows that you know nothing about any of this. First, the developer said that he can build with or without the 380 agreement. Second, the 380 agreement was prepared and passed before anyone in the City’s planning, engineering, and public works dep’t ever approved a single permit or plan. Thus, no one even knew what infrastructure was actually required. They just decided to give Walmart everything they wanted regardless of whether it was actually required. Andy Icken even said that he thought the development would meet all City standards (ch 42, etc.) WITHOUT the improvements in the 380 agreement (see the emails that are all over the place now).

    So you are completely wrong about everything. Montrose residents should get their own 380 agreement. Nothing in the law says they cannot.

  • Ok, you’re being so smart, why don’t you draft one up? Why don’t you approach HEB to do one? Why don’t you coach the active neighborhood residents to work with HEB versus just having a meetings and then complaining a “promise” wasn’t kept.

    The central part of a 380 agreement is that it’s for economic development. Some cities (especially small towns) will form agreements to provide an incentive for a business to locate to the town(the Dairy Farms example).

    Houston has traditionally utilized the agreement to fund infrastructure and related public aspects to a project that they were going to eventually build. Houston doesn’t utilize these agreements that often since many of the TIRZ’s provide a similar setup under the TIRZ rules. The state statue is vague but has guidelines.

    Below is that actual statue.

    You still haven’t justified how the new park is good for economic development…..

    The city isn’t in the position to purchase new park land. They don’t have the money for it. That is left to the Houston Parks Board and by private land donation. Additionally, the city also works with Harris County and Harris County Flood Control District to create mult-use lands that can also serve as parks. The future I-10 detention/floodplain mitigation basins will be converted in parks upon their completion adding many acres of parks along White Oak Bayou and making way for a future trail by the Houston Parks Board.

    While the city can technically do the agreement to just build a park, they won’t unless someone shows the economic benefits of the agreement. If they did just hand house incentive money, there will be a line out the door looking for handouts. Small towns do this because there isn’t a throng of people that will have their hand out. It’s actually an incentive in this case.

    Also, whether Walmart/Ainbinder would have built the development with or without the 380 agreement is irrelevant. No money is given to the developer in the agreement. The developer is getting a reimbursement on the cost of engineering and constructing public improvements. I’ve worked with the reimbursement office before, you have to present invoices and proof of payment documents along with signed affidavits. The developer will only be getting reimbursed on what they spent on the public improvements. If they go over the maximum number, they don’t get anymore money. This agreement is not one to say that money is just being handed to the developer. The agreement is that the little cost to the city of up to $6.5 million will be trounced by the sales and property tax revenues (even after the supposed market cannibalization).

  • “If you put in a park, HEB would sell more prepared foods for people to eat in the park.”

    Seriously? You would count that as a valid example of economic development, HEB would sell a few extra sandwiches? The Oak Farms Dairy 380 guarantees 150 new jobs and a $40 million investment in the plant as opposed to them moving it to Dallas. Thats for a $1M 380 agreement. On what planet is HEB selling a few extra sandwiches comparable?

  • And the Walmart 380 agreement guarantees nothing as the developer will build with or without it. The City is just using the agreement to make the developer into a lender.

    And what are the economic benefits of putting 50k into West Side Park? The park is over a quarter mile from the Walmart. I am sure HEB is going to need major infrastructure (drainage, sewer system, sidewalks). Why can’t they get reimbursed for all of that and get reimbursed for the 800k needed to dedicate land to a park? Exactly the same concept as Walmart. The only difference is that HEB actually would need the tax dollars, Walmart doesn’t.

    And for kjb434, the tax reimbursement isn’t free money. The City is borrowing from future revenues. They are spending the next administration’s money. Walmart will need lots of police, fire, and other city services. But they won’t be paying their fair share because all the taxes they generate will go back to the developer.

  • Ohhhhh It thems have stilts that means me tall!!! Thems will be like me highheels! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  • West side park, lols.. That place is rough, and 50K is a spit in the bucket. Not someplace I’d want to be after dark inspite of the encroachment of the stucco condos set. Urbano is actually getting to be somewhat articulate now too, actually completing sentences, still can’t stand him but oh wells..

  • @Yale St,
    I do not understand your comment “The only difference is that HEB actually would need the tax dollars, Walmart doesn’t.” What is it about the proposed HEB that indicates a “need” for tax dollars? Also, are you substituting tax dollars for tax abatements? Or are you referencing the tax money to be paid as a reimbursement for infrastructure improvement?