An employee confirms to Swamplot this afternoon that the Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr. will be shutting down on January 24th. The formerly 24-hour grocery store (referred to previously as Slow Jam Kroger in Jeff Balke’s 2010 Inner Loop Kroger census, though arguably having earned the nickname Bank Robbery Kroger in the years since) has already reduced its hours and is closing up at midnight these days. Readers report low morale among car-less residents of the nearby apartments; they also report a few slightly mismatched rumors that the land has been sold to a big name in the Medical Center.
Photo of Kroger at 1990 Old Spanish Tr.: Edgar V.
Slow Jam Countdown
The building housing the Houston expansion of Austin’s J. Black’s at the southwest corner of Washington Ave and Heights Blvd. now bears a new for-info-please-call sign, a reader notes. The bar appears to have events planned through at least New Year’s Eve; the 5,948-sq.-ft. space was only listed online as up for lease about 2 weeks ago. Back before 2012, the property was home to Phil’s Texas Barbecue, for about the same amount of time as it took Phil himself to restaurantize the corner’s original muffler shop setup. And soon another corner at the intersection will be getting a full workover as well, if all goes as planned — J. Black’s sits across Heights Blvd. from the subsection of the Memorial Heights apartments slated to go away some time next quarter, to make way for that planned Midway midrise with the H-E-B at the bottom:
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Cornered in Memorial Heights
The Long Sing Supermarket building is now up for grabs, per a fresh leasing listing that appeared last week. The 8,260-sf.-ft. retail space and its internal lunch counter sit across Walker St. from physicist-mascotted Neil’s Bahr, and next to Little Woodrow’s EaDo (visible in yellow to the right, with its face toward the corner with St. Emanuel St. where Warehouse Live hangs out). The pagoda-topped grocery store was listed for sale a few times since 2014 — back before the glassy Marriott Marquis highrise started photobombing the building’s listing shots from across 59, as it does in the photo below:
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Market To Market
The doors opened last week at that 4-story 100,000-sq.-ft. storage facility that has replaced the boarded-up Shell Food Mart just west of the corner of Richmond and Woodhead — itself a makeover of the 24-hour Richwood Market, known back in the day as Freaky Foods (affectionately or not). The 4-story building started going up next to King Cole Liquor some time after the nearby trees got cleared out about a year ago (with the city’s OK, Annise Parker said at the time).
Big Tex has since widened the sidewalks and added some new baby trees in a series of landscaped rectangles along Richmond; the company’s press release also says there’s gonna be an Art Wall.
Photos: Big Tex Storage via Urbannizer (panoramic of Big Tex at 1810 Richmond Ave.), Swamplot inbox (2014 shot of 1810 Richmond Ave.)
Boxes on Richmond
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NUMBERS ON HEIGHTS WETTING AND THE PRESIDENCY “Prop. 1 passed by 2087 votes. There were 654 undervotes (voters who voted but didn’t vote on Prop 1.), of which only 143 were on election day. By the way: 78 percent turnout in the damp Heights, and 72 percent of registered voters voted on Prop 1. — compared to about 60 percent county-wide and 55 percent nationally for the Presidential election.” [Angostura, commenting on Your Heights Dry Zone Ballot Problem Didn’t Affect Yesterday’s Moist Election Outcome] Map of proposed H-E-B in Heights damp zone: Houston Heights Beverage Coalition
A pair of electorally-minded readers send in 2 separate claims that Prop. 1 — the H-E-B-backed Heights alcohol sales one, not the provoke-Texas-into-reforming-education-funding-by-messing-with-the-system one — didn’t show up on their ballots yesterday, even though they were each registered to vote in what the Tax Assessor’s office calls the boundaries of the historic dry zone. Hector DeLeon of the Harris County Clerk’s outreach department told Swamplot earlier today that in the 1 case of a missing ballot option they’d heard about and looked into — in the context of around a 25 percent and thousands-of-voters margin of victory for the pro-beer-and-wine-sales folks — the problem appeared to be a voter not seeing where on the ballot the proposition was listed, rather than an actual missing option.
DeLeon does say, however, that while it’s extraordinarily rare, it’s not impossible that the local option election could have be left off of a few ballots. An election worker has to select some location info by hand in the process of generating the 4-digit voting machine access codes that voters get upon signing the polling place ledger; DeLeon says that can (and occasionally, does) leave room for a who-votes-on-what mistake, especially in the case of certain unusual election zones (like, say, the Lost City of Houston Heights). One reader claims a poll worker at the Helms Community Learning Center on W. 21st St. told him that this sort of input error had been made on some ballots shortly after the polls opened, and had been corrected for the voters who stuck around to sort it out and get a new code issued. (The reader, who had already cast their ballot and came back later to learn more about what had happened, says they didn’t get to cast a new one.) DeLeon also says that the county clerk’s office doesn’t keep any records of access code issues if they’re caused by human error and considered resolved at the site — so there would be no official documentation to check against the reader’s story.
Photo: Ed T [license]
Not Rigged, Just Human
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE CHICKEN, THE EGG, AND THE HOUSTON SPRAWLSCAPE “I do usually avoid stores with no bike parking or unfriendly pedestrian/bike access, so I see the other side of [the parking lot] coin. Stores need to cater to their customers; it’s customer demand that’s ultimately at fault for hideous parking lots and runoff and heat islands and sprawl and all the rest. But one way to drive demand is creating feedback loops, and one way to start that is stores building less parking.” [Sid, commenting on H-E-B’s Plan and Backup Plan for the Double Decker Heights Dry Zone Store] Rendering of preliminary parking garage plans for N. Shepherd H-E-B: Houston Planning Commission
The final go-ahead on H-E-B’s planned store on the former N. Shepherd Fiesta spot at W. 24th St. is still purportedly dependent on whether or not the Heights-Dry-Zone-moistening ballot initiative it’s been backing passes tomorrow — but 2 designs for the proposed structure (depicted above) are already queued up on the agenda for November’s first city planning commission meeting next week. A variance request submitted by the company asks for permission to put the proposed 2-story parking-garage-and-store combo just 10 feet back from the property line on the N. Shepherd side of the block (as shown at the top), instead of the 25 feet that would normally be required (as depicted on the 2nd rendering).
What difference would that make? Documentation submitted with the request says that if the parking structure can’t stick out closer to the street, the company will add an extra row of surface parking spaces between the edge of the garage and the curb, which will cut into space otherwise planned for benches and landscaping. From the looks of the included drawings above, the developers will also ditch a planned bike rack, as well as something labeled as an Art Wall — below are the side-view perspectives on the proposed scene, with those 2 rendered ladies in white and blue stuck roughly in the same spot each time as a reference:
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Hedging Against Setbacks
Looks like the logo spotted in that Braun flier earlier this year wasn’t too far off the mark: a lease signed in May by H-E-B for a new store on Washington Ave., which Nancy Sarnoff noted yesterday afternoon, includes some preliminary layout drawings for the grocery chain’s claimed spot — at the foot of what looks to be a mixed-used midrise planned on the Memorial Heights apartment complex property. (Also included in the document: the name Northbank Condominium #1, which sounds a lot like that trademark that Midway was working on earlier this year.) H-E-B Houston president Scott McClelland told Sarnoff that this doesn’t change the company’s interest in putting a store on the former N. Shepherd Fiesta site (and backing the ongoing campaign to get the Heights dry laws dampened); Sarnoff reports that the company would ideally like stores on Washington Ave., N. Shepherd, and in Garden Oaks, if they can find places to put them.
Where exactly will the Washington store land? The lease shows a preliminary footprint right at the corner with Heights Blvd., stretching not quite to Wagner St. to the east. H-E-B’s yet-to-be-built space looks to include a 91,000-sq.-ft. ground floor store, topped by a layer of parking on the second level of the structure (plus about 6,600 sq. ft. more of non-parking space). The document filed with the Harris County clerk’s office also shows plans for 5 more levels split between more parking and room for other tenants — including what it tallies up as about 36,000 sq. ft of office space and about 262,900 sq. ft. of multifamily residential space. A 2,200-sq.-ft. retail spot is also tucked in on the ground floor on the east side of H-E-B’s main store area.
Drawings in the doc depict the H-E-B-footed structure fitting into the space marked Zone A in the diagram below, just north of the northern edge of the Memorial Heights Villages midrise:
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Northbank on Washington Ave.
The former Social Security Administration office at 3100 Smith St. and its gorilla-hawking mural wall are no more, following some weekend excavator grazing. Demo permits were issued last week for structure, which sat north of Elgin on part of the planned site of developer Morgan’s next Pearl-branded apartment development (the one with the built-in ground floor Whole Foods).
City permission for the planned mixed-use building to cozy up to the street were approved in February; the project will also straddle that now-closed segment of Rosalie St. between Smith and Brazos onto a section of the previously cleared block to the north. Here’s what the layout might look like from above, per the plans included with the variance request:
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H-E-B WILL DOUBLE DOWN ON A HEIGHTS DRY ZONE STORE OR NOT BUILD AT ALL The H-E-B proposed for the former N. Shepherd Fiesta site at W. 24th St. would be another 2-story store, Houston H-E-B president Scott McClelland tells Jack Witthaus. The grocery chain is backing the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition’s dry-zone dampening campaign and showed up for the press conference last week on the now-cleared 4-ish-acre site. The company has already been planning its first double-decker Houston location (rendered above) on the 3-acre site of the existing H-E-B in Bellaire; plans for that development show about 75,000 sq. ft. of store stacked on top of an all-parking ground level. McClelland tells Witthaus that the proposed H-E-B in the dry area of the Heights would be about 80,000 sq. ft. and come with a 2018 expected completion date, but that H-E-B won’t build in the zone at all if the upcoming election doesn’t go their way. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed 2-story H-E-B in Bellaire: Terra Associates
The marker above (showing a now-officially-proposed H-E-B on N. Shepherd Dr.) is a little out of place, if it’s aiming for the former Fiesta site on N. Shepherd between W. 23rd and W. 24th streets as H-E-B says — but you get the idea, and the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition held a press conference on the site this morning to drive the point home. The red line on the map also only roughly shows the boundary of the nominal dry zone that the H-E-B-backed PAC is hoping to get loosened up a bit via that upcoming local election on take-home beer and wine sales. But you can find out for sure whether or not you’re close enough to be eligible to vote in the Houston-Heights-only election by checking your ballot at at HarrisVotes.com — and also check whether or not you’re registered, which you’ve only got until Tuesday to do. (If printing out a form is too much of a hassle, maybe try your nearest taco truck.)
Map of proposed H-E-B in Heights Dry Zone: Houston Heights Beverage Coalition
From the AIG tower neighboring to the north, a reader peers down behind the construction fencing now up at the corner of Waugh Dr. and D’Amico St., in an effort to figure out what might be gettin’ real in the Whole Foods Montrose parking lot. An employee tells Swamplot over the phone that the store is planting additional parking spaces on top of what was previously a walkway lined with grass and picnic tables, adding parking has been a squeeze on the weekends (which lines up pretty well with earlier reports from the scene). The rep also says that the tables (positioned across Waugh from BMW service garage Bavarian Machine Specialties and catty-corner to the health-and-beauty-shop-laden strip center across D’amico), were almost never used. Permits for the pave-over were issued at the end of May.
Photos: Randy Saad (top), Swamplot inbox (bottom photo showing opening day, 2011)
A meeting is set for September 7th to take public input on the city’s plan to purchase the long-vacant land at the northeast corner of SH 288 and MacGregor to let H-E-B build a store on the site (at the edges of a few of Houston’s USDA-defined food deserts). The city says the meeting and comment period (which lasts through September 11) are standard parts of its 8-step program when developing within the floodplain — Brays Bayou is just to the left of the frame above (snapped back in 2014), which the southeastern corner of the land as the facade-and-foreclosure-twin Mosaic and Montage towers peek over from west of 288.
The land is currently owned by Houston Community College; the college system bought the tract (reportedly for the second time) back in 2013 as the proposed site of the elaborately monikered HCC Coleman College of Health Sciences’ Medical Science & Technology Early College Charter High School. The city would bundle the land together with some adjacent already-city-owned property to lease it to H-E-B, and the grocery chain would be able to buy the whole package once all 72,000 sq. ft. of new store are constructed and certified for occupancy.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Flood Plain Food Desert
Drawings submitted this month to the city of Bellaire for approval outline how H-E-B plans to fit 6-acres of parking and replacement store onto its 3-acre lot at the intersection of Bissonnet and Cedar streets. The renderings and accompanying documentation show a roughly 75,000-sq.-ft. single-story store footprint sitting on the upper level of the planned structure, with an acre-plus of parking out front atop the all-parking lower level. The drawing at the top shows the would-be view of the design from Bissonnet (near the late-50’s supermarket building currently occupied by Randall’s); below are the proposed layouts of the upper and lower story once the existing H-E-B (also pictured above) and its retail strip friends are cleared of the way:
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Building Up on Bissonnet