PUTTING THE HEIGHTS BACK IN ITS . . . UH, PLACES
“In their rush to capitalize on the popularity of the district, businesses and developers have awkwardly assumed the mantle of the name ‘Heights,’ even though they’re clearly outside the zone of its accepted borders,” writes Jeff Balke this morning for the Houston Press. Where exactly are those accepted borders? And which variation means what? Balke suggests something between a taxonomical scheme and an etiquette lesson on selecting the proper name for whatever flavor of Heights, Heights-adjacent and Heights-aspiring territory you may be seeking to invoke — from the historic city originally spurring the name, all the way to the fringe territories of Katyville and the Heights Walmart. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
Some signage for Starfish is now stuck to the side of the former location of yes-that-Bradley Bradley’s Fine Diner at 191 Heights Blvd. (next to Koehler St.), Heights-area-restaurant cartographer Brie Kelman notes. The aquatic theme, expected to extend to the menu, extends to the interior of the space as well, which Kelman says sports a large fish tank near the entrance. Cherry Pie Hospitality (which also owns Pi Pizza down at the south end of the strip center) says it’s looking for Starfish employees, now, too.
Photo: Brie Kelman (top), Chris S. (bottom)
Diner Goes Cherry Pie
This afternoon a wall of orange and white barricades along the edge of the Heights hike & bike trail just south of I-10 is hemming in the construction equipment recently migrated onto Tarkett’s former Texas Tile Manufacturing warehouse site. Permits for some earthmoving on the former industrial side were issued just before the close of the year under the name Lower Heights District, and the Katyville property showed up on last week’s city planning commission agenda for some preliminary approvals and flood-potential scrutiny. No official word yet whether the site’s owner’s previous mention of stacked big box possibilities is still on the table.
Reader and tower scrutinizer Lucky Gutierrez also took a closer look at the oil derrick hanging around next to the site, on the edge of the bike trail:
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Grading Katyville Heights
Signs are up at the soon-to-be-former Grocers Supply distribution center across Studemont from Kroger just south of I-10 announcing Studemont Junction, the name meant to bring some . . . uh, conjunction to the odd-shaped 15-acre food-storage facility Capcor Partners bought late last year. To judge from the proposed site plan for the project, that’ll be quite a task.
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Many Functions for Studemont Junction
A filing with the Texas Workforce Commission indicates that Tarkett, which operates one of the last industrial installations in the stretch of parking-lot-heavy retail south of I-10 that’s come to be known as Katyville, has decided to shut down its Texas Tile Manufacturing plant at 1705 Oliver St. and eliminate 109 jobs. The Tarkett facility is located between the Studemont Kroger and the Sawyer Heights Target, both of which were built on former industrial properties surrounding it. According to HCAD data, Texas Tile Manufacturing owns 21 acres at the Oliver St. facility — with frontage on Summer St., Oliver St., and the eastbound I-10 feeder road.
21 Acres in Katyville
Reader Debnil Chowdhury sends in these pics, taken yesterday, of the steel-framed structure that’s appeared over the last month just north of the new Studemont Kroger gas station in the formerly industrial district just south of I-10 that Swamplot readers have dubbed ‘Katyville’ — in honor of the suburban-style developments rapidly going in there, a mere 2 miles northwest of Downtown. And these latest additions do appear to be pad-site-alicious: Directly north of the McDonald’s going up at 1510 Studemont St. (and pictured here), there’s a sign announcing a new Capital One Bank. There’s no indication yet whether the bank building will have a drive-thru as well, but the signs look good.
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The Drive-Thrus of Katyville
Suburban-style retail and apartment complexes may have all but conquered the former industrial block southeast of the Heights Swamplotters have taken to calling Katyville, but there are still plenty of warehouse-y buildings to tear down — often of the more Mod variety — south and west of Timbergrove Manor. Here though, just inside the West Loop, isolated pods of townhome colonies would be the more likely result. A resident of the area tells Swamplot neighbors only found out about a 131-unit townhouse subdivision planned off of W. 12th St. between Ella and Seamist because developer InTown Homes is seeking a variance (in a hearing before the planning commission this Thursday). The variance is to gain approval for not including a north-south street through the 6.916-acre property.
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Heights Townhomes, Now in Timbergrove!
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT KATYVILLE COULD HAVE BEEN “From Yale St. and I-10 all the way through the First Ward to I-45, there are so many large commercial tracts that are on the market or coming on the market that you could build a whole new city. The Mahatma Rice plant is huge. The tract from Detering to Grocer’s Supply is huge. There are tons of other lots ready for redevelopment all along the Washington Corridor east of Yale St. We all know that traffic will get much worse as thousands more residents come into the area to live, shop, work and play. But the idea that traffic is just going to happen no matter what is silly. Smart development and infrastructure improvements can make a huge difference. When retail, residential and office are placed in the same development, you always reduce car trips. I used to work just outside the loop in a typical spec office building with no retail nearby. Worst traffic in the garage was at noon as everyone was scurrying out of the building to go get lunch. I now work downtown in a building that is in Houston Center. Hardly any traffic going out of the building, despite being many times bigger, during lunch as there are ample places to eat in the food court. The problem with redevelopment along Washington Ave is that everyone is just doing their own thing without any regard for trying to make the area conducive to work/shop/live/play without being reliant on cars. And the City still suffers from low self esteem and is happy to give out tax gifts without requiring any sort of return benefit. The result is that there is no connection between the retail development (largely single story title wall strip malls), residential (mostly disconnected pencil boxes) and office (an odd tower at Waugh and not much other new development). Had a single developer had control over all the available property, we could see a transformative development like a giant City Centre meets West Ave meets Post Oak Midtown. Instead, we get an odd mish mash of retail, office, and residential with little infrastructure improvements to mitigate the impacts (not even a right turn lane on Yale St. SB at I-10, which would make a huge difference). So much could be done, but so little will get done to maximize the benefits of incoming density and minimize the burdens.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: Admiral Linen and the Way of Katyville] Illustration: Lulu
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ADMIRAL LINEN AND THE WAY OF KATYVILLE “. . . Yes, it’s initially going to be utilized as an employee parking lot, but [it’s] hard to believe that long term Admiral Linen will stay. The trend . . . for any company with strong dependence on warehouse/distribution needs in the area has recently been to sell to developers and move out of the area. The increasing traffic on Center/Studemont/Washington makes the area increasingly difficult for trucks to move in an out of the area. Also the steady increase in land values will at least lead to any business owner with a brain and with a large parcel of land in the area to look at the possibilities of moving . . . as was the case with San Jacinto Stone (new LA Fitness, Guitar Center, Sprouts), Trinity Industries (Walmart) , Grocers Supply (400+apts, retail, movie theater), Studemont Kroger, Detering Lumber (on sale now). Living in the area, I’ve noticed my commute time to downtown increase by a factor of 2 (from 5 minutes to 10 minutes). Hard to believe that the traffic situation will get any better with Archstone Memorial Heights converting their complex to a high density property, 400+ new apts in the Grocers Supply site, and a new 24 floor office building being built behind the Bank of America on Washington. All of this development with absolutely zero changes in the surrounding infrastructure as of now will lead to some nightmarish traffic on S. Heights Blvd, Studemont, and Washington . . . the 3 main access roads for Admiral Linen . . .” [Debnil, commenting on Center St. Recycling Center Is Now Closed; Site Ready for Recycling] Illustration: Lulu