No Parking Variance for Heights Mercantile Retail Redo on 7th and Yale

NO PARKING VARIANCE FOR HEIGHTS MERCANTILE RETAIL REDO ON 7TH AND YALE Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsDespite a recommendation from the planning department staff to allow the development to proceed with significantly fewer parking places than required by ordinance, the planning commission yesterday denied a parking variance for the proposed Heights Mercantile mixed-use building complex along 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd., the longtime site of a warehouse complex for the Pappas Restaurant group. The Finial Group, the project’s developers, had hoped to be allowed to count 58 existing head-in public parking spaces along 7th St., many of them fronting the MKT Hike and Bike Trail, toward the development’s off-street parking requirements. [Previously on SwamplotRendering of proposed new building along Yale St.: Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

52 Comment

  • Cool, another giant ugly parking lot. The idea that every store must have it’s own giant ugly parking lot in front is so terrible that I constantly scratch my head at how many people support this law.
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    Think about any place that’s cool and fun to walk around, see people, mingle, hope in and out of various stores, cafes, restaurants, etc. How many of those areas had giant parking lots in front of them?
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    Ug, way to perpetuate the requirement for everyone to have a car to go anywhere. Thankfully my home is in Montrose where, while still too many parking lots for my liking, I can still walk around for most of what I need or want to do.

  • So, what does this mean then? They have to provide more on-property parking?

  • oh wow – at first from the artwork I thought that as a vey cool house either being build or for sale – bummer it’s retail

  • If Katy style strip developments is what the heights wants, that’s what the heights will get.

    Katyville is crossing I10 and moving north rapidy, and it’s just what the NIMBYs want.

  • hahahaha, keep on making the heights like the burbs. the developer should decide not to develop and sell the land to a starbucks, or a bank, or a cvs.

  • As I’ve said before, I think the heights has reached a developmental plateau. It has lots of new development and the corresponding increase in property values. But, the area is no longer a dump where anyone can build anything they want. The NIMBY’s are blocking new developers and being a thorn in the side of trendy new businesses. At some point, it has to make sense to go west across 610 and start building these awesome developments in areas that have lower land costs and less regulation but still have access to professionals with money to spend.

  • Maybe someone needs to make a FOIA request to see if the one or two Heights residents who raised a stink had any extra influence. Perhaps Heightstonian, who felt the need to point out in the original post that his/her “home on Heights Blvd has been the most tax assessed per square footage land than any other lot in the Heights,” was able to yield more influence than those of us who just live in the Greater Heights (poor us, right?). These people ruin it for everyone else.

  • parking uber alles

  • This is why we can’t have nice things – we’d rather be able to park. All hail the automobile.

  • We don’t have zoning, but we do have parking ordinances! All hail the mighty parking ordinance, it is the only thing (that plus set back requirements) that protects us from bad or out-of-place development.

  • Why don’t we let the market decide? If someone wants to invest in a business with less parking spaces then let them. They obviously don’t feel that having less cars will impede their business model. If they fail then they can decide to add spaces or sell to someone else.

  • The parking and setback laws remind me of the one reason why I’m glad there’s no zoning in Houston. Because if we had zoning, you can bet it would be done so stupidly that it would actually be worse than without zoning.

  • Ughhh. That’s really all there is to say about this.

  • Way to go, planning commission. Way to screw it up again.

  • Good outcome. The VERY poor due diligence shown by the planning staff, in collaboration with this developer, shone thru like a beacon in the dark. All they have to do now is pull out their “Plan B”, which will cost THEM a little more, and make a tasteful project that works for all concerned.

  • I watched the video of the hearing. The planning commission seemed to hang their hat on the argument that the developer could make the building that will replace the warehouse smaller and have more parking on that part of the development. But if you look at the blueprint for the development, they would just about have to entirely eliminate any structure on the north part of the property in order to add the required parking. Essentially, the planning commission wants them to cut the total square footage in half and put in a parking lot instead.
    The City has heavily subsidized strip mall developers with big 380 tax deals and then hammers the shit out of little guys who are trying to make a real difference in redeveloping the inner city.

  • @dag, you’ve got it backwards. It’s the NIMBYs who are trying to prevent Katyville from spreading inside the loop. In a city that allows developers to build any crap they want and ignore the legitimate concerns of homeowners, it’s the only way to fight the encroaching homogeneity that’s sucking all the character out of vibrant neighborhoods.

  • This is a very sad day for the Heights. My family wanted to come speak in support of the project, but we were too busy. We really wanted to see this variance and development go through.

    I just watched the hearing video on the City of Houston website. The opposition was led by Kent Marsh, whose firm created the Walmart on Yale – http://swamplot.com/the-west-end-walmart-and-the-disappearing-variance/2010-07-27/ . The petition against the project was created by the owners of Sara’s Inn, whose business also does not meet the minimum parking requirements and whose patrons park all over Heights Boulevard. Perhaps the City should examine that business and force it to shut down its restaurant and rooms.

    It’s time to embrace smart development and developers that care. Hopefully this will still get built.

  • @toasty
    Thanks for the laugh. A CVS would be perfect with lots of parking for everyone.

  • The Planning Commission vote was unanimous. Watch the video. The developers were buffoons and planning staff themselves were confused about the street plan if you watch the video. It is quite amusing.

  • I don’t want to hear one peep out of the neighborhood NIMBY’s when they get a Wendy’s surrounded by a huge parking lot with all the live oaks are chopped down.

  • The developers proposal included putting a parking lot on Heights Blvd at 7th. Can you imagine? So glad this did not pass! I hope they will figure out a creative ways to structure parking to the rear and maintain the streetscape on Heights, 7th and Yale. If they are smart they will be able to comply with the code and not screw up the neighborhood.

  • the problem with the assumption that we should let the market decide, is that we knowingly fail to adequately fund our city services to prevent issues that could arise from such business models. i can think of tons of intersections and 4-way stops throughout the montrose area that are dangerous hazards with cars parking all the way up to the ends of the curbs. these could all of course be easily rectified, and yet haven’t been and probably won’t.
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    can anyone here honestly guarantee that if such businesses were to create unfair/unreasonable headaches for the surrounding areas (parking violations, trash, noise, etc.) that the city would actually be able to handle them? residents need to be reassured that if any issues were to arise that they could be swiftly addressed and I believe that’s an issue in situations like this. it’s not always that the NIMBY’s don’t want change, but they probably have zero faith in their city to protect their interests and I know I certainly couldn’t blame them, who would.

  • After watching the speakers there is no way PC could conclude differently.

  • Huge Heights campaign against Walmart and the concrete jungle south of I-10, but then this campaign for a larger parking lot… right, that makes sense.

  • I have gotten word that the developer is scrapping the plans entirely and reaching out to Zone d’ Erotica to do for the Heights what it did for the Galleria. Look how much better that area is now since when it first opened!

  • Might as well post a sign saying “Future site of CVS”. This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • The irony that one of the most-loved stretches of the Heights – the 19th St. shopping district – could never be built today and would be met with screams about parking is delicious.

  • @Heights Jerry: The architect hired by opponents has a firm that builds Buc-ee’s and strip malls. They should have just invited Ainbinder to come down and yell: “Now I own Heights retail BITCHES”.

    The developer was spot on when he said that the neighborhood was against large scale development and wanted more urban walkable small scale development. Without flexibility on the parking ordinance, it will be very difficult to see any more redevelopment of retail in the Heights.

  • @Heightsi What about the existing lot on the SE corner of Heights and 7th?

    This is a great example of why this city voted out zoning. Not because Houstonian’s strive toward some noble, laissez faire ideal, but as an acknowledgement that our city officials, elected or otherwise, are empty-minded bureaucrats. Can you imagine a city having zoning laws when it can’t even figure out as something as simple as a parking ordinance?

  • That was somewhat predictable. The residents nearby have the best right to complain, but being nearby lets them be short-sighted.
    I remember a small commercial strip being turned into housing on 13th street, and I still wonder why more storefronts haven’t reopened on Yale. Looks like they’ve been closed for about 40 years…

  • The comments on this board make it sound like the developer had no plan for the property absent the variance. Is that true? I can’t imagine these people will be very successful.
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    I suspect the developers just wanted a bigger profit.
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    They can tweak this, make it a smaller scale, and still make it work. It makes me angry just to think they could trash the neighborhood for their profit.

  • Well, the Heights Walmart didn’t need a parking variance, so I guess we’re OK with that kind of development now.
    Enjoy your new surface parking lot on Heights and 7th.

  • The developer, Finial Orb, makes storage units in the suburbs. This space is out of their league. Good decision by the Planning Commission!

  • Glad it was denied

  • I don’t know about a CVS, I suspect this spot will make a fine no-variance-required Taco Bell.

  • Angostura, the surface lot at 7th and Heights for that entire lot was part of the developer’s original plan with the variance.

  • While I strenuously disagree with a developer’s being required to build a bunch of parking on their site and would have supported the variance, it’s never a good idea to base the success of your development proposal on the arbitrary decision of a public body that can be swayed by the noise generated by a few antediluvian-brained but noisy voters. Hopefully they can recoup their investment through a net lease to CVS or a drive-up bank.

    Overflow parking onto public streets from nearby uses, residential or otherwise, doesn’t constitute a valid reason for a regulation for on-site parking requirements. Big, great cities all over the world, or at least parts of them, manage to maintain greatness even if there’s a bunch of people using up street parking. This is especially true of urban core neighborhoods such as the Heights.

  • @Heightsi. Not screw up the streetscape? You must have some magic glasses or take hallucinogenics. Yale’s existing streetscape is butt ugly and Heights Blvd is a polyglot of nice restored homes, tacky 50/60s apartments and assorted flotsam. Not exactly the prettiest area in town to begin with.

  • @heightsdaddy since you drove out the good development, maybe they will build the storage units you seem to want instead

  • It’s amusing how so many of y’all seem to have the misguided notion that just because a business or venue has no parking lot, patrons of that business or venue will then automatically not drive their cars when visiting. This is definitely not the case in the Heights. I live within walking/biking distance of a multitude of locations and constantly witness the majority of my Heights neighbors getting into their cars and driving to these “walkable/bikeable” locations. What then happens is the streets surrounding these locations, which in no way are built to handle the influx, become clogged with parked cars. Instead of a large surface lot, whatever happened to the idea of a parking garage?

  • I am all for shop local, that being said most local stores need more bike racks and better ones at that. I also grow weary of the land lord is a tight ass argument and refuses to install one. You want me to shop at your store I need to be able to lock up my bike to a decent bike rack.

  • I live on heights blvd and support the decision. Developer can still build what he wants, but needs to have sufficient parking for it. Is that so bad? For the comments on the CVS/Walgreens (we have one of each 12 blocks away), so I doubt that will happen. For those who call me a NIMBY, I did not oppose the apt complex on Yale or the Walmart because they had a right to do with their land what they wanted, and followed the rules. If the city grants developers variances that will have a detrimental impact to the neighbors what is the point of having those rules in the first place?….Most of the comments on the board are from people who don’t live in the Heights. I hope the developer still puts up a restaurant or two, just not so many in a small lot that causes it to be harmful to the neighborhood. Most in the Heights do not want it to become Midtown where you can’t park your car. For those who want that…move there

  • Sometimes I imagine what it must be like for someone driving from Beaumont to Sealy on I10 who is running low on gas and sees a sign for Target, wonders what that is, then sees a sign for Walmart and decides to pull over for gas only to find out that it’s a Walmart without a gas station that nobody dares speak of in fear of being ostracized, a dude riding an old bike while wearing a tutu in the middle of an intersection off the feeder road trailed by the Death Star itself travelling south bound on Heights Blvd with nearby residents aboard all resembling Emperor Palpatine cloaked in heavy black burlap hoodies making rounds on variance request signage and permit tags while a lady with 27 dogs on a leash and a handful of flyers about animal cruelty waits to cross the intersection in front of a bus offloading 33 senior citizens who either thought the bus was a new fandangled steamboat ride to Galveston or made a mistake and thought it was the first Tuesday in November in an election cycle… Then I imagine this person trying desperately to get back onto a major thoroughfare and away from what would be just a glimpse of the twilight zone known as “The Heights”

  • @resident you just helped reject the proposed plan and now they have the opportunity to start over so who knows what great development you may get there now?! I have talked to the developer myself and I think he is coming around to my idea of one of my adult toy store with “library”. I think you and the other neighbors would be happy with it because I don’t need much parking and judging from all the comments here and elsewhere on this the neighborhood could use a good place to “loosen up”. When you ate with you kids and see my giant neon XXX signs you can remember when you fought the good fight for me and gave me my opportunity. Thank you.

  • @ Toby: A comment on your comment: That is quite the run-on sentence you’ve mustered up. Pause once in a while with a period. Don’t be so breathless.
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    Back on topic: I’m sure the developers will rework their proposal and their business will continue. A slight hiccup but the demands of an investment return (aka The Invisible Hand) will compel them to fix this.

  • Adult bookstore- do you really think heighs residents care whether an adult bookstore goes into that location, and do you really think empty threats of taco bells and cvs’ scare people. Lols.

  • There is a lot of talk on here about what should or shouldn’t have been done. If it was so important to you then why didn’t you show up and give your one minute argument to the planning commission? And don’t say “I’m too busy or I work at that time.” Because the truth is if it was so important then you’d make it a priority like the people that did. There were people who spoke up for the variance and a handful against, plus 500+ petitioners. So as I read through all these comments it is pure speculation except for the few people who had the will to have their voice heard officially. For the rest of the armchair quarterbacks giving lip service, talk is cheap.

  • @toby, not to worry, the Heights is changing and the misfits are slowly moving out. I have releated previously that there is a SMALL VOCAL MINORITY of complainers who are dissatisfied with any positive change in the Heights. The new construction has displaced some of these people to the burbs where they can try to make life miserable for those out there, This construction will go on, likely with a few changes, but it will come. Then the complainers can go back to complaining about a poor resident who only wants to move a window over 6″, but oh no, that violates the historical ordinance. Insanity.

  • My idealistic side says that on-site parking requirements are burdensome to developers and lead to unimaginative site uses with too much pavement, and that the market should be allowed to decide how much on-site parking is really needed, given the density and walkability of the neighborhood (and the developer’s ability to convince the lender to fund the project).

    My practical side reminds me that Houston is a long, long way from reaching the point where a significant amount of residents use mass transit regularly, and will likely never get to the point where cycling is prevalent (at least outside of the cooler November-April timeframe…so at most, half of the year). The automobile will remain the dominant means of transport for a long, long time, and as such, any developments without adequate parking will result in spillover into neighboring streets. This isn’t a problem in and of itself…until the neighborhood inevitability starts complaining, and finally sets up “parking management districts” with irritating permit-only parking, paid parking, and towaway zones.

    One thing I love about Houston is not having to “think” about parking when running errands, going out for dinner or visiting friends. I’m grateful for the role that minimum parking requirements have played in this aspect of Houston, which in my experience is fairly unique among world-class cities.

    As for this particular development…surely the developer can come up with a plan B, with parking in the back, and/or a garage?

  • I can see both sides. There are some permit-parking-only areas in town which would be unlivable without those permits. When the Edwards movie theater was built on Weslayan, the few little residential streets nearby were swamped with people wanting to save five bucks by parking on the street. No problem, except that they would crowd people’s driveways and keep residents from getting into and out of their own garages. Until they called a tow truck.

    So sure, the streets belong to everyone, sounds great, but it doesn’t always work out.

  • I am not surprised by the lack of progress for this development. There are better priced and more easily TABC licensed areas in other parts of the Heights. Why bother with the hassle?

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    It is interesting that the new rendition on the website does not reflect the new intersection island planned at 7th and Yale to allow a safer pedestrian crossing. The new configuration removes several parking spaces that are depicted.

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    Curious that the developer did not opt to orient the parking to the rear. I guess keeping the historic buildings which then allows him to utilize decreased and grandfathered parking minimums was a bigger priority.

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    Also, that looks like a nice dumpster placement right behind residences with no trees or extra high wall to block it. In my opinion, the developer is insensitive to the neighborhood at best.

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    Finally, it is interesting that the developer refers to a “White Oak district” of restaurants when it clearly apparent that planning a restaurant west of Oxford and east of Yale is doomed due to TABC licensing restrictions in that area (no dinner service at Revival, Gelazzi cannot serve pizza, and Happy Fatz is on the verge of closing their meal service because a home is being built on what was their parking lot).