PLEASE BRING YOUR FINAL PURCHASES TO CONROE FOR CHECKOUT Any plans to rebuild the Garden Ridge store at the northern border of The Woodlands on I-45 near Hwy. 242 — destroyed by fire today — will likely get careful scrutiny: “As one of the city’s ‘big box’ stores, Garden Ridge straddles the city limits between Conroe and The Woodlands Township. The cash registers are located in Conroe, the result of an annexation agreement reached between the neighboring communities in 2006.” [Montgomery County Courier] Photo: KHOU
FURNISHED RETAIL AVAILABLE Reporting on the desires of several big-box retailers to shrink the size of their stores, David Kaplan notes the owners of Ashley Furniture are considering subleasing 6,000 to 15,000 sq. ft. of space in any of the company’s 9 Houston-area stores. “‘It would have to be a good fit,’ [CEO Gary] Seals said. Ashley would adapt to a smaller space by taking slower-selling merchandise off the floor, Seals said.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Ashley Furniture
COMMENT OF THE DAY: NOMINATED FOR THE WALMART PEACE PRIZE “. . . If everyone arguing against the West End Walmart would stand up and say, ‘I don’t personally like Walmart but I certainly don’t think less of you for thinking they are not so bad’ then we would probably all get along much better.” [Jimbo, commenting on Surprise! Walmart Buying Land Next to Idylwood for Houston’s First Inner-Loop SuperCenter]
Just as Swamplot was reporting on the leaked site plan showing that a new full-size Walmart SuperCenter is being planned off the Gulf Fwy. at South Wayside Dr., Councilmember James Rodriguez comes back from a meeting with the company waving a slightly different site plan. And look, this one shows the proposed East End store between Idylwood and the freeway has already slimmed down by 58,000 sq. ft.! Does that qualify as a rollback? Plus: This plan (shown above, again rotated to fit Swamplot’s format) features 13 more parking spaces! Meanwhile, Walmart spokesperson Kellie Duhr tells the Chronicle the new store would be “about 150,000 sq. ft.” and feature a full grocery. That number jibes with the plan above. Also included this time, at no additional charge: an extra Tire and Lube Express next to the Garden Center on the south side. One curious detail, though: Both this plan and the one featured in Swamplot’s story on Monday are labeled with the same date.
What’s going into the lot at the corner of Maxwell Rd. and the I-45 feeder next to the driveway at the southwest corner of the site, labeled “Outlot 1” on both plans? A source tells Swamplot it’s being eyed for a gas station from Walmart sidekick Murphy Oil.
Plan: Doucet and Associates
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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A reader who says he’s been to many Walmarts tells Swamplot he was “stunned” to find this ice-cream counter and juice bar in the newly opened store at Northline Commons off I-45 near Crosstimbers — “serving horchata no less.” The new section is near the produce and bakery. Stunned? Really?
It makes so much sense for walmart to do this when you consider the number of kids who tag along with their parents. I also [saw] lots of kids and adults eating ice-cream in store while shopping. And at $1 they will be eating coldstone’s lunch pretty soon. . . . the only other store i can think of that has ice cream counters in store is costco. So the all around awesomeness of it was what stunned me i guess.
Photos: Swamplot inbox
How many cars showed up? “If Steven Colbert can get away with 6 Billion on The Mall, we can call this 22,000…what’s in a number?” asks a reader who says there were actually probably 70 to 100 cars lined up at about 10:15 at last Saturday’s traffic-themed protest of the planned West End Walmart. Comments sent to Swamplot yesterday:
We made the scene at 18th & Rutland during preparation for what one organizer described as a “Flash Mob sort of thing”. . . . The mood was fairly lighthearted; it was a beautiful morning after all. Plan was to drive down and around the Koehler Street site and make general mischief, I guess. Saw one TV station camera crew, but did not see anything in print over the next couple of days. Admittedly, I didn’t look real hard.
While I don’t agree with these folks . . . I have to admit, I honor their activism.
“What we need is sustained outrage”, indeed!
Photo: Swamplot inbox
“Closer inspection,” reports one of 2 readers who sent us photos of these heartwarming signs found on Studewood just north of Fitzgerald’s, “reveals these to be re-purposed campaign signs…Bill White ‘welcomes’ and Jessica Farrar ‘hearts’ Walmart, apparently.” Okay, so what have people been doing with the Rick Perry and Fernando Herrera signs?
Photo: Swamplot inbox
NEW WALMART OPENS NEAR THE HEIGHTS This one’s to the north: The brand-new Walmart next to Northline Commons — the new, more parking-lot-friendly version of Northline Mall at I-45 and Crosstimbers — opened yesterday. The biggest-box store joins recent Northline newcomers Marshall’s, Ross Dress For Less, Office Depot, Conn’s, The Children’s Place, Verizon, Foot Locker, Shoe Carnival, Al’s Formal Wear, Urban Zone, Rainbow Fashions, Foot Action, Dollar Tree, and a relocated Palais Royal. [PR Newswire] Fake-looking photo: Berenson Associates
TOP CITY DEVELOPMENT OFFICER: WHAT MAKES THE HEIGHTS SO SPECIAL? Where does Andy Icken get this kind of attitude, anyway? From . . . uh, reading some of the reader comments on Swamplot? The Chronicle‘s Mike Morris rummages through that stash of city emails about the West End Walmart and discovers “dismissive, and sometimes derisive, references to citizens opposed to the development” from Mayor Parker’s top development honcho: “For example, in response to a subordinate’s e-mail regarding potential fallout from a July 2 Chronicle report about Wal-Mart’s interest in the site, the city’s chief development officer, Andy Icken, wrote, ‘In that neighborhood I assume there are some who feel they have access to unique info that makes those folks uniquely qualified to decide what is good for everyone else. … Walmart deals with folks like this everywhere.’ Three weeks later, as neighborhood opposition intensified, Icken responded to a colleague’s comment about Wal-Mart’s growth in the Houston market by writing, ‘We have had 4 new ones built in the last 2 years without a community comment until they touched the effete in the heights!’” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]
Among the revelations in the packet of emails reporter Miya Shay recently received in response to a 3-month-old public-records request: City officials learned from Ainbinder Company as early as June 11th that the big-box store indicated on plans for the company’s Washington Heights shopping center in the West End would be a Walmart. Swamplot readers first heard reports of the company’s plans on July 1st. But as late as July 13th, the city development director’s deputy apparently felt it necessary to ward his boss off plans to keep the details or intentions behind the city’s infrastructure-improvement agreement with Ainbinder a secret: Tim Douglass writes development director Andy Icken, “Frankly, it’s a little too late to try and ‘sneak’ this through council. The cat is out of the bag.”
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY THEY’RE BRINGING WALMART TO THE WEST END “I once wrote a frustrated letter to Wal-Mart’s corporate office in Arkansas begging for a better store to serve the Inner Loop than what was available on S. Post Oak and 610. It may very well have come off as begging. Had they ever followed up with me about the particular issue, I almost certainly would have begged for the store. And had they come to my door, I’d have groveled at their feet in admiration of their corporate largess and magnaminity, even.” [TheNiche, commenting on West End Walmart Development 380 Agreement Gets City Council OK]
WEST END WALMART DEVELOPMENT 380 AGREEMENT GETS CITY COUNCIL OK As expected, city council this morning approved a program of reimbursements to Ainbinder Company for improvements to public areas related to its Washington Heights Walmart-plus-strip-centers development in the West End. The vote, 11-4, came after amendments were approved limiting taxpayer costs to $6,050,000. The improvements will include wider sidewalks and bigger trees along Yale and Heights than required minimums, drainage and reconstruction of several nearby streets, and a jogging path along the Heights Blvd. esplanade south of I-10. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]
On hand for the weekend’s grand opening celebration of the Arms Room firearms store’s move into the former Circuit City off the northbound I-45 feeder south of FM 646 in League City: a fire spinner and juggler, a clown handing out balloon animals, a booth from ESPN 97.5 FM, a barbecue stand, a cake decorated with toy pistols, “a few blonde, tattooed girls handing out free Arms Room merchandise,” . . . and Houston Press reporter Craig Hlavaty. He notes the store’s owners originally had wanted to move into a former Academy sporting goods store down I-45, but didn’t get a great welcome there:
“The lease holders didn’t want any guns being shot in their strip center, so we walked away from them,” says [Kathleen] James. The only thing holding that line of stores intact now is a Chinese buffet and a Subway sandwich shop.
Sucks for them. The 20,000-sq.-ft. former big-box electronics store at the Jameses ended up buying at 3270 Gulf Fwy. South allowed them to include a 15-lane indoor gun range (kinda like a bowling alley, “but you don’t have to change your shoes,” quips general manager Travis James), along with a gun shop, a section devoted to antique firearms, and room for an on-site gunsmith.
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