The first-ever inside-The-Loop Walmart SuperCenter will be built near the corner of South Wayside Dr. and the Gulf Freeway, a source tells Swamplot. The 28-acre site sits between Idylwood and I-45; according to a preliminary site plan currently making the rounds in that neighborhood, the store’s main entrance will be from Wayside, which also serves as the freeway entrance to a few other eastside neighborhoods, including Country Club Place and Forest Park.
According to Swamplot’s source, a real-estate entity connected to Walmart has an 8-month option to buy the property, home to 6 vacant warehouse buildings that once served as a distribution center for Oshman’s — as well as the former corporate offices of the defunct sporting goods company. Walmart has been completing its analysis of the property and is less than 30 days away from completing the land purchase, for a price of $35 a sq. ft., the source says.
Isn’t Walmart already planning its first Inner-Loop store on the other side of Downtown — just south of the Heights? Yes, but that store won’t be a SuperCenter. The Idylwood store is expected to measure approximately 210,000 sq. ft. — almost 60,000 sq. ft. larger than the planned Washington Heights District location. The site plan of the Idylwood store, which is not final (and which we’ve rotated to fit below), shows an asphalt parking lot with 722 spaces, plus a garden center on the store’s south side:
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The property, which has been owned for a long time by an entity called Oshman’s Warehouse Trust, backs up to the Sylvan Rd. apartments at the southern edge of Idylwood. The site plan, labeled “Wal-Mart SuperCenter #5612-00,” was prepared by an Austin engineering firm and dates from January 27th. It began circulating among Idylwood residents late Friday; over the weekend, several wrote to Swamplot to express their concerns (Idylwood won the title of Houston Neighborhood of the Year in the 2010 Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate). “Folks here are not happy,” says one email; “I wouldn’t be surprised if we pull a Heights and campaign against this,” writes another resident. In circulating emails, residents of several nearby neighborhoods have expressed interested in meeting with the developers and city officials and exerting influence on details of the design before it is finalized.
Walmart is not planning to buy several adjacent parcels that would have given the store more frontage on Wayside and the northbound feeder road of I-45, according to the source. The owner of the demolished former Holiday Inn at the corner (labeled “Wang Tract” on the plan) wanted $45 a sq. ft. for that land and Walmart won’t pay it, the source says. Also, according to the source, Walmart does not plan to purchase the vacant lot (labeled “undeveloped”) next to the Fuel Depot convenience store and gas station that sits the corner of Sylvan and Wayside, but is trying to convince the owner to grant a 25-ft.-wide easement through the property to allow an additional driveway to connect the northern section of the Walmart parking lot to Wayside; Walmart also wants that property owner to put in place a restrictive covenant that would prohibit a CVS store from being built on that site.
Photo of future Walmart SuperCenter entrance along S. Wayside Dr.: Candace Garcia