Restaurants, Retail, and Apartments Planned Between Shepherd and Durham, a Block North of Washington

The marketing materials for Hunington Properties’ new apartment building planned in place of Bethel Church a block north of Wash Ave come chock full of cultural references. There’s the Seinfeldian restaurant sign depicted on the corner of Shepherd and Center St, pick-up and drop-off zones adjacent to the parking garage’s entrances labeled Uber (sorry, Lyft!) in the site plan — and if that’s not enough, the leasing brochure notes that tenants “will be given latitude to incorporate unique elements into their storefronts promoting their individual brand identity.

Of the 4 corner retail segments planned — 25,000 sq. ft. total — 3 include patios. To accommodate them, Hunington is requesting several modifications to the setbacks: on Center St., on Durham, and the boldest on Shepherd — where the patio would sit only 5 ft. from the roadway, 20 ft. closer than is typically allowed. Last Thursday, Houston’s planning commission deferred the variance request. It’s now waiting on more information regarding the proposed patios before reconsidering the developer’s plans.

Bethel Church’s building currently takes up half of the block:

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168 apartments wrap the apartment’s central 7-story parking structure, shielding it from view on both Shepherd:

And on Center:

But leaving it mostly exposed on Durham:

Renderings and site plan: Hunington Properties. Elevations and aerial: Houston Planning Commission

The Interpose

9 Comment

  • The planning department should be granting these setback variances like candy on Halloween. What gives? I thought most of the planning profession understood that 25 foot setbacks are not a good idea in dense city areas.
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    This development looks fantastic. Between this and the HEB Buffalo Heights project, Rice Military or Wash Avenue or whatever they’re calling the neighborhood these days is rapidly closing on Midtown & Montrose to become one of the best walkable neighborhoods in the city, if it’s not there already.

  • The setback requirement is from the street’s right-of-way, not the roadway. The right of way extends some distance behind the curb.

  • Did anybody else notice that the “RESTAURANT” sign utilizes the same font as the one featured as a common set in ‘Seinfeld’?

  • Christian,

    The planning department shouldn’t be granting variances, they need to get rid of the setback rules. They need to use some of their vaunted Planning abilities and decide the necessary public ROW (street, sidewalk, maybe a little more (I like a little space for trees between the road and sidewalk)) and drop all other setbacks.

  • @TheNiche: I noticed. As soon as I saw it I knew the walkability fans would squee.

  • They also seem to have invented a bike lane along Shepherd.
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    @Niche,
    Since the word “Seinfeldian” appears in the text of the article, at least one person noticed it.
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    @awp,
    Agreed. Chapter 42 has partial carve-outs for shopping centers with parking in the rear, but if a development has a single tenant, or if the parking is in a structure or off-site, developers must seek a variance to get the same 5-ft setback.

  • @Angostura – They didn’t invent the the bike lane on Shepherd. The City did with its plans to rebuild Shepherd and Durham. While the project in the link stops on the north end at Washington Ave (from Dickson on the south side), north of Washington was planned for later in the CIP cycle (not sure how Harvey was changed that timing). https://www.rebuildhouston.org/documents/project_media/shepherd_durham_presentation.pdf

  • A few years ago there was a study of the Washington corridor. I saw that they proposed making Washington a one way and Center St a one way in the opposite direction. Anyone know if that proposal still being entertained?

  • @RR,
    Thanks for the link. I’d like to see narrower traffic lanes to calm traffic a little, but it’s an improvement.
    On the Houston Bike Plan map, the section from Feagan to Washington is in the “Programmed Projects” category, while the sections from Washington north (all the way to 34th) are in the “Long-Term Vision” category.
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    @HouCynic,
    I hope not. One of the best ways to kill off an emerging walkable district is to increase and speed up the flow of vehicles through it. Instead, Washington is a good candidate for a 4-to-3 conversion.