It looked like the end of the line for the Chevy dealership in the streamline building at the corner of Houston and Washington Ave just west of Downtown: GM notified Knapp Chevrolet last May that it would not be renewing its franchise agreement with the 62-year-old Houston company. But a law passed by congress and signed by President Obama in December set up a neutral arbitration process for jilted dealerships, and late last month Knapp learned that its appeal had been successful. Unable to obtain new cars from GM for about a year, Knapp has survived by buying inventory from other local Chevrolet dealers. Expect to see a few more cars on the lot soon, now that Knapp has been reinstated.
Photo: Chris Adams
THE LINGERING SOUNDS OF SELLING BY THE FREEWAY Almost a week after the daylong feeder road-side furniture sale they held on the abandoned grounds of the former Landmark Chevrolet next to I-45 North near the West Gulfbank exit, wacdesignstudio designers and guerrilla marketers Scott Cartwright and Jenny Lynn Weitz-Amaré Cartwright were still feeling the effects: “We were there for nine hours, thankfully it was cloudy… but the sound pollution really affected one of us to the point that even today our head and bodies still hurt… can you imagine how hard of a job road workers have when building or fixing the streets?” [Swamplot inbox; previously on Swamplot]
So much vacant freewayside selling space, there for the taking! At least temporarily. Alas, no pieces were sold in last weekend’s guerrilla furniture sale — an all-day event staged on the abandoned concrete campus of Landmark Chevrolet at 9111 North Freeway near West Gulf Bank. But wacdesignstudio‘s Scott Cartwright and Jenny Lynn Weitz-Amaré Cartwright came prepared for their Sunday digs:
Because the space was not rented, Scott and Jenny brought an envelope full of cash to pay off potential security guards (there were none), as well as food for any wandering homeless people. The crowd was a mix of architecture students, writers, and curious locals from the adjacent Hidden Valley ranch-style development located behind the dealership.
Well, you know those kinda folks are just showing up for the ambience and cheese anyway. Did you really think they’d be buying up the prototypes in your new furniture line? But hey — marketing is marketing! And look at some of the pix you’ve got to show for it:
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DESOLATE FEEDER ROAD CAR LOT LANDSCAPES What’s become of the 20-some Houston-area car lots dealers have shut down over the last year or two? Here’s a sampling: “‘My mother lived here 27 years, and we never had any trouble with Landmark Chevrolet,’ said Rhys Everett, who was cleaning out his mother’s former residence in the Hidden Valley neighborhood behind the defunct dealership. ‘But now it is filled with vagrants who have taken everything that wasn’t nailed down, and it’s a jumping-off point for crime in our neighborhood.’ The dealership, one of 13 outlets nationwide that Bill Heard Enterprises closed in September 2008, sprawls for blocks near the intersection of Gulf Bank and the North Freeway. It looks as if it had been hit by a cyclone. The main showroom’s exterior and interior windows are shattered. Ceiling tiles are torn away, exposing duct work that dangles like limp straws. Awnings hang in tatters. . . . The ravaged Chevrolet dealership’s antithesis can be found on Interstate 10 in Baytown, where the defunct Baytown Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealership is preserved in near-pristine condition.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]
On the list of dealerships General Motors intends to shut down: Knapp Chevrolet, at 815 Houston Ave. just south of Washington. Back in May, GM notified the longtime Downtown dealership of its intent to terminate its franchise agreement as of Halloween 2010.
Since then, the dealership’s owners have been trying to get the decision reversed: President Robert G. Knapp presented his case to a congressional subcommittee in July, after several appeals to the company were rejected. Knapp claims his dealership has been profitable, and that closing the dealership would significantly hobble GM’s local market share. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has gotten involved, introducing a bill in Congress that would make it easier for dealerships to appeal franchise terminations in court. Knapp is also collecting a list of supporters through an online petition to GM. More than 6,200 supporters have added their names to the list so far.
One of those supporters: The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, fans of Knapp’s moderne corner building, completed in 1941, 2 years after the dealership was first established.
Photo of Knapp Chevrolet: Chris Adams