Piggybacking on the Washington Heights Walmart: Stripalicious Yale St. Retail at Heights Marketplace

What’s this we’re looking at? New pedestrian-friendly retail going in along Yale St., right across from Ainbinder’s Walmart-anchored center on Yale and Heights Blvd. in the West End? No, silly. That’s a ghost head-in-parked car hidden behind the artfully-placed starburst in the bottom left corner of the rendering. All those figures in front are just walking back and forth between the fish-taco joint at one end and their dentist on the other. Yes, work has already begun on this new strip center at the corner of Yale and Koehler St., called Heights Marketplace. The developer promises it’ll be finished before the end of the year, with the first stores opening next March.

If Ainbinder missed a few strip-center clichés in its Washington Heights District shopping-center plan, this Orr Commercial development, back-to-back with one of Ainbinder’s Heights Blvd.-facing strips, is here to take up the slack:


This is what the whole area was missing, after all: the stucco facade with angled hats, the no-you-go-first landscaping strategy, even the cash-advance store. And don’t forget the 2 tall pylon signs to wave down traffic along both Yale and the separate Heights Blvd. entrance (mocked up at left). Plus, the unadulterated “Heights” name, just a few blocks south of the neighborhood. Heights Marketplace clearly has it all — or close to it. Actual advertised tenants for the new Orr Commercial strip: Wahoo Fish Tacos, a Jimmy John’s sandwich place, Le Bon Cleaners, Loan Depot, Great Clips, and Lovett Dental. But wait: A later plan shows there’ll be a GNC and a Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt store too! That leaves only 2 slots left in the center of the strip. Sadly, both look a little too large for a nail salon. Maybe a third developer could come in and build something with one of those nearby to show us all how this sort of thing is really supposed to be done?

46 Comment

  • Jesus Christ. We have enough generic retail establishments throughout the city already.

  • Oh, there will be a nail salon. There HAS to be a nail salon. That plus a cell phone shop and I think we’re done here.

  • Dry Cleaner! Do I hear a bid for a Dry Cleaner?!?!?

  • Exciting news. I’m looking forward to having a Jimmy John’s in the area.

  • I was already in a bad mood today, and this is not helping.

  • What a totally disposable development. This seems to be a repeating pattern in Houston. Build crap, make money, tear crap down, repeat.

  • Oh well what did you expect? Louis Vuitton? I’m at least mollified that I can get a drive through barbacoa taco at Taco Cabana.

  • Good thing we’ll have a Loan Depot for all the Mercedes & Jaguar-driving Walmart shoppers…oops, I mean for all the lower-income walking patrons….wait….I mean all the middle-class Heights residents who will be forced to work at Walmart….oh, darn it, I can’t keep it sorted out.

  • $38-$40 per square foot? Ouch! For a decent sized restaurant or pub you’d be paying almost 200K per year with nothing to show for it. At those prices why wouldn’t you buy and build out your own space? At the end of the day at least you’d still be sitting on a piece of property you call your own.

  • Holy FM 1960 Batman!!!!

    Really disappointing stuff from Orr. They did a nice development down the street (Joy Yoga/Raia’s). But they just phoned this one in. I do not understand how they can do a nice development with a reasonable attempt at period appropriate architecture and pedestrian friendly store fronts and then turn around and drop a turd straight out of the burbs.
    The Ainbinder/Orr properties were such a great chance to redevelop the West End and southern edge of the Heights. But instead of following the lead of O.M. Carter and taking a chance on a bold vision for the community, Ainbinder and Orr are just cashing out and leaving the community with a little taste of FM 1960.

  • Yes!!! Taco Cabana! Hope it’s 24 hours so I can go there after getting drunk on Washington Ave.!!

  • More Katyfication of the inner loop. It’s very disappointing the direction Houston is going towards.

  • AHAHAHAHAHAH…..you heights people must have some good KARMA!!!!!

  • There’s no Taco Cabana. There is some West Coast place called Whahoo’s Tacos. Just what everyone in Houston wants–West Coast chain Mexican food.

  • i’m no developer, but being that this is off Yale (and not washington) across from a wal-mart it’s safe to assume they’re not going to be pulling in high-margin clients. there’s no point building a nice shopping center catered to the area if you can’t lock-in clients that can afford the rent. rent’s are already going to be well above average for houston. better to have a generic crappy strip center than a bankrupt high-end strip center. they know they’re building in the middle of a double-dipping economy in an area that certainly has high average incomes, but is still in flux none the less. better to build crap and establish a proven income stream with sensible margins before going overboard and losing money.

    as for the store selection, it’s certainly nothing i’d patronize but it’s an expected utilitarian lineup. we live in the internet age, what do you really expect, an amazon pick-up storefront?

    it’s easy to criticize, but it ain’t my money so i’m not going to call people out for doing sensible things with theirs. you can’t run a business and support employees livelihoods by taking risks for communities that may never support you in the first place.

  • subway…panda garden…sally’s beauty supply…dollar store…just typical retail in proximity to a WALMART. Were not they initially marketing that area to be local chef-driven restaurants? Boy, Oak Forest is looking better and better – byb-bye Heights and here we come a mid-century modern home remodel!

  • …and I’ve been to Wahoos while traveling for work. It reminded me of a Joe’s Crab Shack and Sam’s Boat rolled into one.

  • I agree with Joel, unless you have paid your hard earned cash for the property it seems senseless to vent on what should be built here. Let’s not forget that these properties were previously occupied by a steel manufacturing plan, run down apartments, and a bingo hall. Even in the “uber urban heights” don’t you need a liquor store, a dry cleaner, sandwich shop and ice cream or yogurt shop? Let’s give these developers a chance and see how their projects look. I would rather have a nice neighborhood service center close to my house so i can save the $4 a gallon instead of driving all over town to run my errands.

    To Old School – Taco Cabana is going across the street next door to Chase Bank.

  • The front facing elevation is just plain hideous even by suburban standards!! What is up with all the ugly little up and down angles?!! Even though this is just a little strip center, Excluding West Ave, I’ve just about given up on anything mixed use/high density ever being built inside the loop. Even smaller cities like Fort Worth are doing things right, like their West 7th development. How pathetically embarrassing!

  • Build it and they will come. Yes they will.
    Welcome to Houston

  • Why anyone on earth is surprised/disappointed with the look or clientele of this strip center is beyond me. Newsflash: no zoning and weak building laws are a developers dream. Build it quick and cheap and watch the money roll in. These guys care about one thing only-making money. Its Houston. Its ugly. And its a losing battle…

  • Because Houston will NEVER have enough high quality stripmalls. Always was fugly…..always will be fugly.

  • Whoa! Did I hear you right, Drew? Zoning would have kept out the check cashing center? That’s news to me. Please explain how that works.

    I’m surprised that Wendy is finally leaving the Heights once the Subway and beauty supply store opens. Really, Wendy? The first 13 Subways, Sallys and check cashing joints didn’t bother you, but the 14th runs you off?

    And, good ole Old School. Always willing to tell us what to do with our property and money, but never puts her own money where her mouth is. Tell me, Old School, after you and your other high brow friends posted on here for months how you would NEVER set foot in an Ainbinder development, how can you possibly be surprised that the retail offerings are not aimed at securing your business? It only makes sense to put in retailers that shoppers will frequent. Since you and your buddies sabotaged any chance at good retail by threatening to boycott, they went after the other demographic that lives in the area. And you are surprised why?

  • I have lived in the area for 25 years and, while I am not a fan of Walmart and their neo-feudilistic employment practices, this has been a gritty forgotten industrial part of the Heights. The fact that masses of new apartments and mind bogglingly dense single family are being built on the graves of the little clapboard houses that once housed steel workers and the like in the area means that we are going to see change. I cannot see the line of reasoning for making these strip centers look faux old (fauxld). If it is old and worth saving you should save it, but making things look fauxld just to satisfy the trendies who “discovered” the Heights only to buy a 3000 to 5000 sq ft Queen Ann style fauxld house is to give in to the force that will kill the Heights. To buy new fauxld housing puts pressure on the destruction of even more cottages and real old houses. Things should be honest and genuine, which to me means that we preserve a good century old house and, conversely, a new built thing shouldn’t pretend to be something old.

  • At one time Rice Village hosted Vanity Fair 5 & 10 and the Caribana… “Rastaman vibration yeah! Positive”

  • I’m sure the developer wants your suggestions and recommendations about other tenants and the design of this shining sign emblamatic of the Heights neighborhood; contact borr@orrinc.com or jcollum@orrinc.com.

  • Kiss my a*% haters…..Wahoos is the bomb. I for one am excited. As for the Lovett Dental, not so much.

  • You critics better watch out! Some former economics majors and MBA’s are gonna come on here and tell you you don’t know anything about development. You should really be thanking these developers for doing what makes them easy money. Either that, or buy the land and develop the property yourself! Otherwise you’re just attacking Freedom. Adam Smith is crying somewhere…

    Oh, and don’t forget, you’re all racist, because anyone who doesn’t like surface parking is racist. That’s the new definition of racist: someone who doesn’t like surface parking. Between this and the Wal-Mart, you’d think it was 1861 again with all the racists in this part of Houston.

  • It’s their development so they can do what they want, but putting in a loan shark store is just wrong. Taking advantage of people who are in desperate need and/or don’t understand the outrageous terms is unresponsible as well as down right predatory. Shame on these people. I’m also surprised that Starbucks isn’t going to jump in here.

  • Now remember Old School – with great power come great responsibilities. Considering that you and a few friends can determine the course a multi-million dollar development will take with a few well-chosen words on a blog, there are a few shaky dictatorships you might want to look into.

    I won’t be going to the center as I see nothing I need there and the traffic will be a new level of Hell. I’m simply tired of developers in general mouthing platitudes about how they will take the nature of the area and wants of the neighboring communities into account, bleh, bleh….I would have considerably more respect for an honest one who said, “I’m building what I want and I don’t give a B-flat fart about anyone else’s opinion”.

  • Ya cash advance places are totally evil. They just “take advantage” of people.

    Personal responsibility, people. It’s refreshing…

  • Geez, I am so confused. I have been corrected numerous times by the pro-Walmart, pro-developer, anti-liberal effete/elitist swamplot posters that the Walmart and this center are not in the Heights… and here the developer went ahead and christened the strip center “Heights Market Place.” So, are they trying to market to Heights residents or not????

  • #30, note the Starbucks logo at Koehler and Yale…

  • ^^^ Heights Baby – check that first picture after the fold. There’s a nude mermaid on there fo’ sho’

  • There is a tiny tail of the Heights that straggles south of I-10…down Heights Blvd. and Yale just down to Washington. It really doesnt make sense to comment how that tiny area south of I-10 will effect Heights “proper”…as the majority of “The Heights” is north of I-10…all the way up to 610 north. Its really not the same. Wal-mart and Orr’s development will have little to no impact on The Height’s…the large neighborhood nortth of I-10…so Heights dwellers (such as myself) don’t really need to “sweat” the whole situation. The impact of Wal-mart and Orr’s development truly impacts Washington Corridor…Rice Military, Memorial Park area…those areas south of I-10. And for some reason you don’t hear much griping from those camps?

  • Ludakris, I don’t know that I would call it “griping”, but among other sources, you can check out the blog:

  • Unless there is a store selling soy candles handmade by Guatamalan lesbians, there will be protests!

  • The sad thing is that this flyer was shown to the City of Houston in March of this year and when asked why this development was not being considered in the Ainbinder’s Traffic Impact Analysis, the City had no answer and refused to acknowledge the development. This development met all of the requirements within the City’s design manual to be factored into the TIA; however the City refused to acknowledge the development with absolutely no justification. Way to go City Government, 2 thumbs down!!

    It is clearly evident that the only way to get government representation in Houston is to buy it like Walmart, Ainbinder and Orr did. If we all chip in some cash we may be able to collect enough to buy the Mayor, I saw an advertisement on Craig’s List!

  • So, so sad…

    No movie theater (was thinking Angelika). No window shopping (was thinking Rice Village). No fun little shops or little wonky eateries you can walk between (was thinking 19th Street).

    What a waste of space and money.

  • @38 – Grow up.

  • @41 Oh come on, you don’t see the precious tediousness of people insisting that every bit of retail in the Heights has to be sprinkled with some kind of pixie dust? (Although more upscale retail would help push the pesky low income folks out!)

  • Ugly, no character, no soul, giant parking lot in front of big box store, no creativity, terrible architecture, unwalkable, and lifeless. I just described your typical post World War II suburb like Katy. Sad that this development or any developments like this is being built in a pre World War II streetcar suburb that’s increasing in density and urban vibrance.

  • Like the Walmart pushed the pesky lower income people in the now-demolished apartments out, John?

  • I will be excited to see horrendous traffic, added noise, light, environmental pollution, and a giant parking lot (filled with HPD squad cars responding to calls) when I step out on my patio!

  • “Cafe Expresso” in the image? Really? The misspelling fits though.