New Whole Foods Market Midtown Store Will Go on Site of Shuttered Social Security Office

3100 Smith St., Midtown, Houston

What better encapsulation of the recent trajectory of Midtown could you find than today’s news that Whole Foods Market plans to build a new 40,000-sq.-ft. store on the former site of the city’s Social Security Office (pictured above) at 3100 Smith St. in Midtown?

Well, a few details to the story of the ramshackle block surrounded by Smith, Brazos, Elgin, and Rosalie give it even more color as a Houston gentrification parable: Noting, for example, that the former government office, across the street from a couple of bars, had been shuttered by the feds a couple years ago. Or that plans for a Morgan Group apartment complex on the same site were submitted to the city and then abandoned sometime last year. (It would have been called the Pearl on Smith.) Also: When it opens at the end of 2017, Whole Foods Market’s new Midtown location may turn out not to be a Whole Foods Market. The company says it’s developing an unnamed “sister chain” of smaller stores targeting younger buyers, but did not indicate whether the Midtown Houston store would be part of it.

Photo: O’Connor & Associates

The Midtown Story in a Nutshell

27 Comment

  • They better expand the bar section to be about half the store.

    I dub thee ‘Bro Foods’

  • Waiting for the complaints that this is too close to the existing location at Waugh.

    The same complaint lodged at WalMart and Kroger….

    The truth is that Whole Foods sees the zip code of every credit card used and realized a substantial number of shoppers live in the midtown area that shop at the Waugh location.

  • Also the former site of the world’s strangest pet store.

  • It will be a great location to play the game “Homeless or Hipster?”.

  • Well thank goodness it’s not going to be another Mattress Firm…

  • Too bad that building can’t be reused.

  • Seems likely to me this will get the new Whole Foods brand, whatever that may be. Surely they will try to shed the “whole paycheck” reputation.

  • This would’ve been nice when I lived in Museum District. Having 3 grocery stores right off the LRT (Fiesta, Whole Foods, Randalls) would’ve been almost like living in a real city!

  • This Bro Foods is just what we bros in Midtown have been grunting for. Gone are the days of trekking all the way to Waugh or Kirby. Its gonna be S I C K. 10 ultra-competitive $30 VIP valet spots in the front, 2 full aisles of coconut water (for electrolytes), a mac ‘n cheese bar, non-stop EDM playing on a sweet sound system, one of the new Whole Body Gym concepts they are testing out which you have to walk thru in order to get to the main store (sick!) and I hear there will be a new protein shake lab where you choose your protein and fine chicks behind the counter will blend it up for you! SO PUMPED.

  • What Midtown really needs is a 40,000 sq ft Little Woodrows to house all those wayward bros. If they strategically schedule some steak and corn hole nights, then maybe I can get some errands done.

  • Anytime a government office falls, I’m a happy camper. That being said. Did they have to put another liberal house of worship there? Whole Foods. Why not a real american business, like paid surface parking, or Chillis?

  • Smart placement, draws on midtown, neartown and montrose-ville. This will be a fine addition to the midtown neighborhood and will help spur some property development on some nearby cratered blocks. Anyway, traversing Grey to Waugh is tiresome and this is within walking/biking distance.

  • I remember when that building was a pet store. It even had llamas for sale penned up in the back. I guess I must be getting old.

  • Well, whatever it is, at least they won’t sell mattresses… or will they?!

  • Wow, I remember when part of that place was a pet store long before all the big box pet stores multiplied like mattress stores.

  • Darn that Federal government always the bleeding hipster edge gentrifying out the “world’s strangest pet store” as Crankyoldcoot correctly puts it. I bought my first two baby ducks there and raised them in our Montrose back yard.

  • WSJ reports that Whole Foods aims to create something “hip,” “cool,” and “high-tech”. They are trying to trademark names like Dailyshop, Clever Egg, Small Batch, and Greenlife. They want to attract “tech-savvy millennial shoppers.” Stores could be one-third the usual size, and and aimed at competing with places like Trader Joe’s and Sprouts.

  • Those names sound like “deal of the day” websites, but some could also pass for some of those subscription services too. Both such concepts are trendy with millennials…I can’t help but wonder if Whole Foods is trying to munge such concepts into the retail-store format, or what that would even look like. It’s all about keeping them engaged.

  • I have a strong feeling this will not be a Whole Foods, but rather one of their new brand of stores.

  • That’s one ugly building posted in the Chron today. Seem Kirksey could do better; perhaps it’s just conceptual eyewash.

  • This is a very smart move for Whole Foods. There is a lot of new multi-family in midtown and downtown that will be delivering in the next year or two. There is a lot of townhome development in the 3rd ward and Eastside. If the growth patterns continue at even a modest rate in these areas, there will be plenty of new shoppers to justify another location without risking over saturation of the market. By contrast, Walmart jammed its way into a neighborhood that was very quickly losing the working class residents who were most likely to patronize Walmart while having just completed a location that was convenient for the area with a lot of working class residents (Fulton Ave.) and planning another (Wayside). The Heights Walmart is just there because the Sawyer Target makes tons of money. Walmart’s Heights location was supposed to be some great new urban concept. But, it is just a dump like all the other stores. Waste of 15 acres of prime real estate.

  • It will be the “Pet Shop and Bird Clinic” Whole Foods. If Kroger stores can have names, why not Whole Foods locations? There are enough of them now that differentiation by nickname can be a thing.

  • Can there be any better symbol of gentrification, than for a Social Security office to be turned into a hoity-toity high-end grocery store? I mean really. Where once the poor went to sort things out with the bureaucrats, now the rich shall go to get hors D’oeuvres for their dinner parties,
    And nobody bats an eye.

  • I believe this is the building that currently has one side painted with a gorilla mural, too.

    Great location, too, for people coming out of work downtown and getting onto 59.

  • @ZAW — The city of Southside is located right where the County Poor Farm used to be. Oh…the irony! :D

    HAIF has a forum thread about the old County Poor Farm:

  • Food Hole should re-establish the neighborhood flock of Guinea fowl that once paraded Lower Westheimer.