09/02/10 1:53pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE’RE ALL INTRUDERS HERE “Now, if I lived next to it . . . I would be vocally opposing it based on its proximity to me, but I have to say, those of you living near its proposed location were on the WalMart end not too long ago, changing the quality of life for many of your neighbors with your big stucco three and four story homes going in next to small bungalows. So, while you are throwing stones, you might want to consider that in the not so distant past those stones were being thrown at you.” [EMME, commenting on Y’All Can Discuss the West End Walmart on Your Own]

09/02/10 1:08pm

Liking the views you’ve seen of the new Walmart coming to the former Trinity Industries steel fabrication property at Yale and Koehler in the West End? Well, one of them could be yours! A few more of those front-row townhouses lining the property’s southern edge will soon be available, reports 11 News reporter Shern-Min Chow.

“Sitting on the couch to the fence line is roughly 55 feet,” brags Anne Marie Leahey, who says she’ll be selling her 1,167-sq.-ft. townhome on Center Plaza Dr. soon. Chow sounds impressed:

Her home is beautiful. The inside is stunning. As she pulled the bay window curtains back, it was clear the view outside would also be eye-catching. Her home looks out directly onto the site of the new Walmart.

Leahey, a Bonner Street Homeowners Association board member, was already thinking about moving before she heard of the new development, but has since decided to relinquish her home now instead of waiting. That’ll give some more dedicated Walmart fan a chance to enjoy the complete construction process from close range. She tells Chow she regularly gets calls from neighbors asking her if they should move, too.


09/01/10 1:54pm

Y’ALL CAN DISCUSS THE WEST END WALMART ON YOUR OWN Missed all the fun at last week’s big celebration of Walmart’s impending arrival in the Inner Loop? Two ways you can still get in on the action: Mayor Parker’s office has posted videos of the presentations given by the mayor and chief development officer Andy Icken at the gathering. And a second public meeting is scheduled for tonight, at a venue guaranteed to keep things orderly — The High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice. But the folks from Ainbinder and Walmart won’t be around this time, according to the mayor, who’s announced the meeting “will focus solely on areas of the development that are under the city’s control.” [CitizensNet via Off the Kuff; previously on Swamplot]

08/26/10 3:52pm

At last night’s meeting, representatives of the Ainbinder Company revealed the suburban-style site plan for the development centered around Yale and Koehler streets in the West End they’re calling the Washington Heights District. Among the plan’s notable features: 2 bank- or chain-restaurant-style pad sites planted on the west side of Yale St. just south of Koehler, and a couple new strip centers along Heights Blvd., each featuring a double row of parking spaces in front. A rendering of the southmost strip (above) shows it changing facade costume every few bays, following the template of a sort of mini-Wild, Wild West version of Uptown Park. These new buildings would become only the 5th and 6th strip centers on the almost-3-mile length of Heights Blvd., joining such exclusive company as the Heights Food Mart north of Center St., the cell-phone-friendly Heights Retail Center at I-10, the Pink’s Pizza and Sunny’s Food Store combo at 14th St., and that just-in-from-Austin building at 6th St. that used to house McCain’s Market — in easy-auto-access splendor.

One change from the version of the site plan leaked last month: 2 other strip centers in the project — both on Yale St. south of the main Walmart driveway — have been moved up to the street and their parking placed in back. Well, maybe the back: It isn’t clear from the renderings, but it’s likely the store entrances will move to the Walmart side as well, turning away from Yale. The development’s 5th strip center offers parking-lot views to all 3 streets it faces: Heights, Koehler, and Yale.

But the Washington Heights District promises to be so much more than just a symphony of Inner Loop strip centers. There’s also . . . the Walmart!


08/25/10 2:56pm

Just ahead of tonight’s meeting, Ainbinder Company has released the requisite mostly-empty-parking-lot and pedestrians-standing-in-a-median renderings of the Walmart the company is hoping to seat off Koehler and Yale in the West End. The renderings come from a 5-page brochure for the company’s Washington Heights development that includes an aerial view and plenty of lovely images documenting the site’s industrial recent past, going so far as to call the former Trinity Industries plant on the site — where beams, columns, and other structures were fabricated from supplied raw materials — a “steel mill.” But no official (or updated) site plans for the current proposal are included.

Here’s a view of how the Walmart might look in the early dawn, as you drive up:


08/24/10 6:09pm

MORE THAN A COLLECTION OF RED SHIRTS AND BLUE SHIRTS Hearing the news that Mayor Parker will be hosting a public meeting Wednesday evening at Downtown’s George R. Brown Convention Center to answer questions about Ainbinder’s Walmart & friends development targeted for a 24-acre property near the intersection of Yale and Koehler streets in the West End (just south of the Heights), the folks behind the Stop Heights Walmart website have come up with an interesting plan: Urge opponents of the discount chain’s first foray into Houston’s Inner Loop to attend the meeting wearing red shirts. Notably, that’s the daily uniform of the hundreds of thousands of “team members” who work for discount rival Target. One Walmart opponent noted on the group’s Facebook page that red shirts are available for low prices at Walgreens. “Please don’t buy them at Walmart :) Given, right?” asked another commenter. A few representatives of Ainbinder and Walmart itself will be on hand at the meeting, wearing blue vests and greeting visitors at the door. [Stop Heights Walmart; previously on Swamplot] Photos: Rufus Quail; Alice Wright

08/20/10 4:17pm

Ainbinder Company president Bart Duckworth says he’s hoping to unveil plans to “community leaders” next week for the firm’s 23-acre development at Yale and Koehler in the West End — which the company is calling Washington Heights. But it sounds like they’ll look at least something like what we’ve already seen. Some details: The exterior of the Walmart the company wants to plant on 15 acres of that development will “feature more browns and show an effort to break up the stark ‘big box’ look with architectural detailing,” writes real estate promoter Ralph Bivins, who the company invited to look at the plans. Duckworth tells Bivins the Walmart’s large parking lot and store front will have tree plantings that “exceed the norm.”

The project’s leasing broker tells Bivins he wants “chef-driven restaurants, local boutiques and non-chain outlets” to occupy the new retail spaces on Yale and Heights Blvd., which he views as an extension to recent developments along Washington Ave.

Duckworth also describes portions of the “380” agreement his company has been trying to negotiate with the city:


08/18/10 10:51am

THE WEST END WALMART AND THAT “OUTSIDE AGITATOR” ARGUMENT Sadly, KPRC reporter Carl Willis doesn’t exactly specify who is “raising questions” about the neighborhood groups fighting Walmart’s attempts to build a new store in Houston’s West End. And he only shows a portion of Walmart spokesman’s Daniel Morales’s musings on the subject. But still, this is starting to get real fun: “As for the outspoken opposition, questions have come up about just who is supporting them,” Willis declares. “Written reports have alleged competing chains have paid consultants, or so-called Walmart Killers, to run anti-development campaigns in other cities.” Where could these suggestions have come from? Willis cuts to Morales: “It would be unfortunate,” says the Walmart spokesperson, “if another outside group or competitor would be creating a disingenuous movement . . .” Oh, but why cut him off there? [News2Houston; previously on Swamplot]

07/28/10 1:58pm

Signs have been going up and coming down around the West End site Walmart is reportedly buying. Yesterday, Swamplot reported that signs posted over the weekend across from Koehler St. on Yale had been taken down, though a representative of the planning firm hired for the project told blogger Nicholas Urbano, who’s been protesting the development, that the removal had been a mistake and that the signs would be back up soon. They are up now, Urbano reports. But the two other signs surrounding the Walmart site (for the replatting of a portion of the Houston Heights Addition, shown above) have been removed. Another member of the “Stop the Heights Wal-Mart!” group reported on the group’s Facebook page that an engineer he encountered on the property told him that Ainbinder Company would now be “looking to present this a different way” at the August 5th planning commission meeting.

The Yale St. variance sign, now back up:


07/27/10 8:05am

Will construction of a new Walmart off Yale St. just south of I-10 and the Heights require any variances from the Planning Commission? This sign appeared over the weekend across the street from where Koehler St. ends at Yale, just south of Dirt Bar. It appears to refer to the proposed extension of Koehler St. to Heights Blvd. shown on the Ainbinder Company site plan for the property. That’s not for the portion of the property Walmart will be occupying, but for an adjacent tract.

By Sunday night, though, the sign had been taken down. According to Kent Marsh of planning firm Marsh Darcy Partners, it was removed “erroneously” and should be reinstalled soon. Meanwhile, a separate set of signs are up along Koehler and on the other side of Yale, closer to where the Walmart is likely to go. But they appear to be for the Yale St. pad sites in the Ainbinder plan. And they aren’t for variances:


07/23/10 8:18pm

WALMART CAN’T WAIT Scratch that bit about “within a couple months”: A representative of Walmart told neighbors yesterday that construction of the new Supercenter behind the Marq*E Entertainment Center at Silber Rd. and I-10 will begin next week: “Several Afton Village residents spoke highly of Ikea, which they say reached out to the neighborhood well before plans were drawn for its larger store, which required the permanent closing of Afton Street from the I-10 feeder road. [Public affairs rep Kellie Duhr and Houston operations manager Jerry Peacock] said that Walmart believes in community and has a record of being a good neighbor. They said that philosophy would continue at the Silber store. ‘We bought the property. We can build there,’ Duhr said. ‘We’re here now, and it’s important to work with the community.’” [Memorial Examiner, previously on Swamplot]

07/22/10 11:13am

A little more detail on that other Walmart headed for I-10, from Memorial Examiner reporter Rusty Graham: Construction will begin within a couple of months on the 185,000 sq. ft. Supercenter just north of the Marq*E Entertainment Center, on the remaining 23 acres of the former Cameron Iron Works plant. The company has quietly owned a portion of the TCEQ remediation site, which features soil and groundwater rich in cleaning solvents, since 2008. (“Most of the soil at the site has now been cleaned to meet residential standards,” Cooper Cameron claims.) Six of 7 surrounding pad sites will line Silber Rd. The Walmart itself will form a scenic backdrop to an expansive 880-space parking lot:


07/15/10 2:50pm

Walmart has not completed its purchase of 15 acres of the former Trinity Industries steel fabrication site on Yale St. just south of I-10 and the Heights, but an executive with the Ainbinder Company, which has owned the property for 3 years, has been quoted as saying it is no longer negotiating with any other potential buyers (H-E-B was one), and that the deal should be complete within a few weeks. A site plan obtained by the Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff shows 2 bank-style pad sites and a park-in-front strip center facing Yale, in front of the 152,000-sq.-ft. Walmart’s 664-car parking lot. Also shown in that plan, as part of the proposed development: a sprawlerrific future for the current site of the Heights Plaza Apartments to the northeast of the site, featuring a strip center along Heights Blvd. and a “bank” site just to the north, at the southern edge of White Oak Bayou. Yet another strip center is shown on the back side of the bank site, facing Yale St. to the west.

Ainbinder has the Heights Plaza Apartments at 205 Heights Blvd. under contract. Speaking at a meeting organized by city council member Ed Gonzalez, Michael Ainbinder said he expects to close on that property this fall and include the land in the retail development, bringing its total land area to 24 acres. Nicgk, who took extensive notes on the meeting and included them in his blog, They Are Building a Wal-Mart on My Street, reports that the developers are claiming that the development will not be “a ‘typical suburban’ project.” Nicgk reports an Ainbinder representative noted the

‘warehouse’ type of architecture; they noted the ‘Core’ apartments, and ‘Berger Iron Works’ on the corner plot of land. They intend to keep that type of neighborhood feel to the development
-It was described as a more modern warehouse/urban type of feel . . . Ainbinder assured that the infrastructure of the land, and surrounding, would be brought up to appropriate specs to support.

Below: a few photos of the site from a larger set and scouting report by another neighborhood blogger, Charles Kuffner.


07/14/10 1:43pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: DISCOVERING YET ANOTHER NEW HOUSTON WALMART “. . . in my search for Wal-Mart to see if anything is going on at Yale, I found that a license is out for Wally at I-10 and Silber behind the Marq-E. $9 mil, starting 04/10 and finishing 1/11. Wally wants to be at every I-10 exit, I suppose. That seems more than gossip, right, if there’s a license and review completed? Who knew all of Wally’s 2010/2011 new stores would be in a ten mile radius in Houston, TX? Awesome growth plan, guys!” [brandyc, commenting on Swamplot Street Sleuths: Chances Are]

07/07/10 12:49pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE CREEPING SOCIALIST MENACE THAT LURKS WITHIN “It’s horrifying to think that a business would have to actually have to work with neighbors who will be living with their presence for a long, long time. The next thing you know, people will start thinking that as citizens they have some stake in the city they live in, and a right to participate and influence its future! What kind of crazy society would we be then?” [John, commenting on Mayor Parker to Walmart: Start Talking]