10/22/10 1:34pm

So many different sets of tiny signs on the former site of the Wilshire Village apartments have mysteriously appeared and disappeared over the last few years, it’s become hard to keep track. This week, the color is: blue! A reader notes the appearance earlier this week of survey crews on the corner of Dunlavy and West Alabama — the site now slated for a new Montrose H-E-B Market — along with a bunch of new stakes with blue streamers around the perimeter trees. “Also some trees either being trimmed or cut by a tree company,” reports the Montrose Magnolia watcher. Candace Garcia, our on-the-ground (or in this case, pretty darn close to the ground) photographer, has these exciting photos from the scene taken late Wednesday:


10/18/10 1:45pm

Time appears to be running out for that “store on stilts” option for the new Montrose location of H-E-B Market. The leader of a Montrose group interested in preserving open space on the site of the former Wilshire Village Apartments says she was surprised not to see a 2-story option included among the 3 designs previewed by a small community group late last week. The designs were prepared by San Antonio’s Lake Flato Architects. (Lake Flato also designed H-E-B’s Buffalo Market, on Bissonnet and Buffalo Speedway). According to the Montrose Land Development Coalition’s Maria-Elisa Heg, all 3 options show a store whose back faces West Alabama, and all feature little or no green space. Space for a community “artisan market” is included — but on the parking lot. None of the plans include separate retail spaces fronting West Alabama, a feature Heg’s organization has been promoting.

But H-E-B Houston division president Scott McClelland tells Swamplot the designs are works in progress. He says drawings of a 2-story store — which presumably would allow more open space to be preserved on the site — will be presented along with the 3 at-grade options at the Neartown forum scheduled for October 30, where he’ll be showing models and asking neighbors for input. All options, McClelland notes, preserve the same number of trees on the site.


08/02/10 11:51am

KHOU reporter Tiffany Craig says her news team “did a little digging” and has discovered that one of the design options H-E-B is considering for its new Montrose store across from Fiesta at the corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy is “similar to” Carlos Zapata’s famous Publix supermarket in South Beach — aka “the Mothership.” That’s good to hear, because as we all know since about 1987 all new buildings built in Houston have been required to look kinda like some more famous structures from somewhere else.

But Zapata’s 12-year-old Publix by the Bay is an actual 50,000-sq.-ft. grocery store, with carts and ramps and everything. The parking is above the store — on 2 levels:


07/23/10 9:52pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WILSHIRE VILLAGE PARK CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE GREAT UNWASHED “This seems like a potentially great corporate/community partnership. It’s not chump change, but it can be done. I hope the Montrose land Defense Coalition can get it together and do the fund-raising. I, for one, am willing to forgo my soap and patchouli budget for a month and instead dedicate those funds to this cause.” [RWB, commenting on H-E-B Looking for $2 to $3 Million for a 2-Acre Montrose Park]

07/23/10 10:39am

H-E-B Houston division president Scott McClelland tells the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris what he’s been telling members of the Montrose Land Defense Coalition for several months: That the grocery company is willing to include a 2-acre park adjacent to its planned Montrose store on the site of the former Wilshire Village apartments at the corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy — but only if community fundraisers can come up with “some offset” of the $2 to $3 million in extra costs required. “I’m not saying it has to be dollar-for-dollar,” McClelland says. “If we get close to raising that kind of money, we’ll find a way to do it. But if we can’t raise any money, it’d be tough for me to justify putting a park in.”

The company plans to have its new store back up to West Alabama and face south. If enough money can be raised, McClelland says the store can be raised — on stilts, so parking can fit underneath. That would leave room for a 2-acre park on the site’s south end. The “H-E-B on stilts” plan would also include space for a farmers market. Without the extra funds, that park area would be used for parking instead — though mature trees on the south portion of the property would still remain.


04/30/10 3:20pm

With several neighbors and a city council member speaking in support and no one protesting, Houston’s planning commission granted a variance yesterday to the new owners of the former site of the Wilshire Village apartments at the corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy. The variance will allow Sul Ross and Branard streets, which currently dead end into the 7.68-acre vacant tract, to remain dead ends as the property is redeveloped into a new Montrose H-E-B market.

In return, the planning department will get some vaguely defined involvement in planning the site. “As a condition of granting the variance,” explained the planning department’s Brian Crimmins,

the applicant will be required to coordinate with the planning department during the site plan stage to establish a reasonable landscape buffer between the subject site and and adjacent properties as well as reasonable preservation of the mature tree canopy on the site. The applicant has agreed to these conditions.

Neighbors had complained about earlier plans submitted for the property — which did not require city approval because they followed the city’s development ordinance. Those plans connected Sul Ross and Branard to form a loop, like this:


04/21/10 11:00am

Courtesy of Planning and Development Dept. public affairs manager Suzy Hartgrove, Swamplot now has a copy of the variance application submitted by the new owners of the vacant 7.68-acre site at the southwest corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy — where H-E-B has announced plans to build a new Montrose grocery store. At the property’s western border, Sul Ross and Branard streets used to lead directly into driveway entrances to the Wilshire Village apartments on the site. Under current development regulations, those streets would have to be connected to other streets (or perhaps each other) or turned into proper cul-de-sacs.

The variance would allow the property’s new owners to bypass this requirement and leave Sul Ross and Branard as they are — minus the driveway access.

Oh — the property’s new owners! Who are they?


04/20/10 9:05am

The new H-E-B at “Lancaster Center” makes its first appearance at the 7.68-acre Dunlavy and West Alabama corner lot. Any neighbors want to send us the plat drawings they should have received in the mail by now? An interested observer sends in this snapshot and comments:

Some time in the last few days, a “Notice of Variance Request” was posted on the old Wilshire Village / soon-to-be HEB property, for the apparent purpose of dealing with “cul-de-sac standards”. One assumes this has something to do with the current dead-ends of Sul Ross and Branard into property–but what, exactly? Does this mean that part of the property is going to be used to construct cul-de-sacs? Does this mean that the Montrose Land Defense coalition might get thrown a minor bone or two in the way of public green space?

Photo: Swamplot inbox

04/09/10 5:07pm

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO From Michael Reed, the River Oaks/Bellaire/West University/Memorial Examiner newspaper reporter who’s been covering the long, strange tale of the Wilshire Village Apartments all the way from the evictions last year to the recent mysterious weed-tag flare-up: “You know, I figure if all the Wilshire stories combined have caused just one person to rent ‘Blow Up’ my work is complete.” [Swamplot inbox] Photo: Michael Reed, River Oaks Examiner

04/08/10 11:36am

Intrepid River Oaks Examiner reporter Michael Reed tries to get answers to that nagging question on the mind of every person who’s walked or driven by the vacant site of the former Wilshire Village Apartments on Dunlavy near West Alabama in the last month: What’s the deal with that little square of land in the back of the site that’s been taped off with a handwritten address sign?

Since the yellow tape was not in the shape of a fallen body, our first guess was the little cordoned-off area had something to do with some “truly odd” city code. . . . Perhaps it involved an obscure extremely minimum lot size ordinance, an idea we soon discarded because it almost made sense.

Carefully attuned to Wilshire Village’s well-documented vortex of absurdity, and being careful — professional journalist that he is — not to trespass on the site, Reed takes a photo of the city green tag on the sign while standing on the public sidewalk. Then, all David Hemmings-like, takes it home to enlarge it and read what it says:


03/15/10 12:07pm

About 100 people showed up to that Saturday protest on the former site of the Wilshire Village Apartments, organized by a group calling itself the Montrose Land Defense Coalition. Organizers had originally expressed a desire to have the 7.68-acre site at the southwest corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy be turned into a park. Protesters told reporters they wanted the property’s trees preserved. But the organization’s website now features this clarification:

The aim of our campaign is not to alienate or place our Coalition in direct opposition to any one entity seeking to develop the land. We are concerned with the degree to which communities have a say in the development of land directly adjacent to their places of residence.

Specifically, organizer Maria-Elisa Heg tells Swamplot,

We are still fighting for a green space, a public commons, and we need to show HEB that they need to be mindful of smart urban planning.

And . . . uh, they have some plans for the site to present — shown to them by an unnamed “group of architects”:


03/12/10 12:07pm

HOW CERTAIN IS THAT MONTROSE H-E-B? H-E-B’s plans [to build a new store on the former site of the Wilshire Village apartments] may not be as sure as some think. Cyndy Garza Roberts, the chain’s public-affairs director, tells Hair Balls that plans ‘are still in the very, very early stages.’ That includes not just rudimentary things like due diligence on title and legalities, but even a feasibility study to determine whether a store at the location would be economically viable.” [Hair Balls; previously on Swamplot]

03/10/10 2:45pm

LOOKS LIKE THAT PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN FOR THE NEW MONTROSE H-E-B HAS ALREADY BEGUN If H-E-B can figure out a way to keep this sort of thing going even after the new store is built, that Fiesta won’t have a chance: “The Montrose Land Defense Coalition will hold a rally this weekend at Menil Park to raise awareness of H-E-B’s plans to build a new store on the site of the long-gone Wilshire Village apartment complex. The group will walk from the park to the property at the southwest corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy on Saturday around 1:30 p.m. Last week, H-E-B confirmed that it’s under contract to buy the nearly eight-acre site across from a strip center anchored by a Fiesta. Resident Maria-Elisa Heg recently formed the Montrose Land Defense Coalition to call attention to the property and attract investors who might be interested in buying it with the city of Houston for use as a public space.” [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot]

03/05/10 11:12am

No, H-E-B isn’t just buying the former site of the Wilshire Village Apartments at the corner of Alabama and Dunlavy as a real estate investment. H-E-B Houston president Scott McClelland tells the Houston Business Journal‘s Allison Wollam that the company expects to open its Montrose store on that site next year:

We . . . have a site tied up at Alabama and Dunlavy in the Montrose area that we’re finalizing. I think that it’s far enough from our recently opened Bissonnet and Buffalo Speedway store and it will be a good new market for us.

Okay, while we’re at it . . . what are H-E-B’s plans for the Heights?


03/04/10 2:39pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE WILSHIRE VILLAGE CURSE “. . . I think we can officially call this site cursed as everyone who has anything to do with it seems to begin making insane decisions about what to do with it. A grocery store?? Really?!?” [mstark, commenting on H-E-B: Yes, We’re Buying the Wilshire Village Site]