Top City Development Officer: What Makes the Heights So Special?

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]

87 Comment

  • It seems that any longtime residents of any given neighborhood always seem to feel *their* neighborhood is just the right balance of x, y and z with a modicum of self-assured but understated superiority. In the case of the Heights, this was perhaps slightly a bit less understated, hence the flying feathers. What neighbor hood isnt proud of their historic past, middle years and hopeful for a future? To some degree, the Heights(and nearby hangers-on), need to get over themselves and understand theyre just another neighborhood in a multi-million person metropolis that is constantly growing and changing.

  • Holy gentrifying jesus batman, you are absolutely correct.. :-D

  • If you ever have meetings with anybody at the city that is in a position that deals with politically sensitive issues that affect neighborhoods, the Heights is always the standard bearer neighborhood to joke about.

    It’s always the feeling of “There goes the Heights again.”

  • Most of the residents of The Heights choose to live there instead of the suburbs for many reasons. One of these reasons is to avoid the struggle with the traffic and congestion associated with large “big-box” retailers. They would gladly pay a bit more for not having such a beast in their midst, since it tends to attract those of lesser means in greater numbers than the traditional thrift shop. The real question is why does the City of Houston have a Chief Development Officer? I assume his charge is to develop properties owned by the city. If this is the case, why is he helping Walmart, a publicly held corporation in their procurement and development of private property? Sounds like he is overstepping his authority.

  • I guess there are too many lawyers in Southampton to make comments like that about them…

  • He could just say “The Heights is guilty of taking itself far too seriously” and that would be the truth.

  • With a last name like Icken,Andy doesn’t have ANY room to be such an arrogant,condescending know it all penis head. He’s just a fricking bureaucrat,who along ,with the rest of Ms.Parker’s regime,had obviously decided in advance ,to approve WalMarts development of the Heights area property. The other outrageous aspect,is the taxpayers are subsidizing infrastructure improvements by a private developer and one the deepest pocket corporations in the world. That IS the real piss off for a lot of people. Let fricking Walmart pay for the “improvements”. The company has revenues of $330 billiona YEAR!! Ms.Parker can start counting her days as a one term mayor. This outrage along with the historic preservation b.s. has ticked off a LOT of her former supporters. She and her administration are the property Nazis!!!

  • Whigger he’s helping Walmart because that is his job as Chief Development Officer.

    Another title would be something like Economic Expansion Officer. His job is to encourage development and economic expansion through new development. Lots of cities have this type of position.

  • Ed,

    If this was a Central Market, Whole Foods, or some urban mixed use development; I sure you’ll feel much differently about the city working with the developer……

  • kjb & post #3- why do you think the city has that attitude? I don’t know what the reason is but I’m wondering if it’s because for many years Heights was a run down, dangerous and dark area of the west end inner loop and folks who lived there largely didn’t make waves.

    Then someone “decided” to clean it up and folks with a little more money started moving in, kicking out the renters and older homeowners and began knocking down and building up. It seems to have caught on and now, those folks with a little more money think that they deserve special consideration.

    On the other side of the coin, there is a reason why Icken is called Icky. His life can’t be easy knowing so many folks dislike him. If he was bent on making snide remarks, he’s a fool for putting it in writing.

  • I thought his comments were spot on personally. Enjoy all the 18-wheelers cutting through the middle of your neigborhood at Mach-3 speeds, mowing babies and toddlers down as they try to get their deliveries to Walmart on time. Man this is going to be awesome to watch!

    Beat it nerds!

  • I don’t think we think we are the only “special” neighborhood around. I would call Montrose, Museum District, Heights, Eastwood, Lindale Park, Idylwood, and Garden Oaks, historically and/or aesthetically pleasing and somewhat unique. And I am sure there are many more out there I don’t know of.

  • If the city thinks “there goes the Heights again” then we’re doing our job. I have never lived in a suburb of any city I’ve lived because they’re souless and sterile, just like Walmart. Same as the cardboard McMansions the historical district was meant to prevent. Keep the event horizon of the retail black hole in the McBurbs where it belongs.

  • Back before the Heights’ gentrification, the city was use to dealing with a poor neighborhood and residents, who were trained to be thankful for any crumb that came their way.

    Now, the wealthier residents have greater expectations and expect more from the city. Especially for the high tax dollars their properties pay.

  • “Mowing babies and toddlers down”?

    How utterly charming. Is this the epitome of a Wal-Mart patron?

  • Devolution at it’s finest or worst? You be the judge.

  • I love the fact that so many people here (and on HAIF, Swamplots crankier older brother) can figure out how to oppose BOTH the new preservation ordinance AND Walmart at the same time.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald was right.

  • kjb434:

    I was under the impression that the job of o encouraging development and economic expansion through new development was for the Greater Houston Partnership, ie. the Houston Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit.

  • “Don’t blame me. I didn’t vote for her.”

  • Lots of different groups encourage economic development, but ultimately, a liaison within the government entity is good particularly for larger projects.

    Houston’s part in encouraging the development to move forward is to pay for upgrading utilities and streets within public right of way in the vicinity of the project. To ensure the city doesn’t spend this money and the development doesn’t follow through, the developer pays up front and get’s reimbursed.

  • “effete”???

    Now that’s a mighty fancy word from a bureaucrat with a mighty fancy sounding title.

    Seems like “Development” is something that will happen organically if market conditions warrant… is that something we really need a “Chief Officer” to oversee?

    Sounds like a load of shit to me. How much does this guy make a year?

  • Truthfully, I’ve met him a couple of times and I think because he’s been there so long that this position is just to tide him over until he retires.

  • Why are we are giving Wal-Mart $1.6 Million in tax dollars to build this thing??? That is the question….

  • We aren’t giving Walmart anything. What the city is doing is repaying the developer on the back end after they upgraded the public utilities and streets with their own money.

  • JEW,

    Defining the the very essence of your very soul based upon simple geographic positioning just makes you look silly.

    But it’s precisely why I am IN LOVE with Swamplot!


  • “Defining the the very essence of your very soul based upon simple geographic positioning just makes you look silly.”

    Oooh, I wouldn’t want to see what’s left of you after uttering those words around anyone with a Texas flag sticker on his/her pickup….

  • According to this bio he can only have been there a handful of years. Up until 2000 he was with Exxon and had been for 30 years. My guess is he made whatever retirement he is looking forward to over there and is making considerably less off the City.

  • Naive Texans, erm Native…

  • Thanks Jimbo. Then he really makes it seem like he’s been working for the city practically forever when you talk to him.

  • Mr. Icken in incorrect in noting that 4 new Walmart’s have been built without community comment. There were certainly objections to the one at I-10 and Silber. Perhaps someone has a few minutes to find others-seems to one proposed for the Spring Branch area north of I-10 a few years ago that was actually stopped due to residents’ objections…

  • There are two Walmarts in the Spring Branch area. One on Longpoint (spanish one) and one on Gessner. These are the smaller neighborhood market style stores.

    Two have been added on the west belt in the last 10 years. That’s four right there.

  • Matt, It’s not $1.6 million, it’s $6.1 million plus interest payable to the developer – Ainbinder.
    And guess who gave the newly elected Mayor Parker $10,000 post-election contribution? And SHE approached Ainbinder with the 380.

  • So you’re saying the Mayor should get some thanks for having generated a couple of hundred jobs along with the temporary construction jobs?

    Mayor White did the same thing with the Target at Monroe and the South Belt. Monroe was converted to a rural two lane road into a brand new 4 lane boulevard because of that project.

  • I’m so glad to know my tax dollars are being wasted by a bunch of idiots who could care less about the lowly citizens who put them in their government/city council positions to being with. It is the principal of the matter. Why are my tax dollars being given to one of the wealthiest companies in the US. There are many other things this money should go to! Maybe fix the roads, add a drainage system and curbs give more money to our school systems. These all seem like valid requests to me! Thank you for ruining the integrity of my neighborhood and destroying the American dream for many local business owners. The Heights is a unique neighborhood and needs to stay that way. Way to go Mayor Parker and City Council. I will be sure to be at the voting polls and none of you will get my vote!

  • Maybe I’m confused here but it seems to me that that is exactly what the money is being used for. It will be used to fix the roads, drainage system and curbs in the vicinity of the new development. This will help improve the neighborhood as well as improve access to the store. This in turn will help raise the tax revenue that the new store and associated development will pump into the City coffers. Without the development that money would not be there and without the agreement Aibinder would not put in the infrastructure improvements leading to exactly the sort of traffic chaos that people keep bleating about.

  • @Stacy. Did Target destroy the integrity of the neighborhood? Which neighborhood businesses were forced to close following the opening of the Target? Target is a similar size store with the same size parking lot that sells the same crap for approximately the same price. The Target development has pads for a greater number of national retail chains which would arguably affect local businesses more. So, did Target destroy the neighborhood and if not then why will Walmart?

  • I’m sorry Jimbo but apparently you are not educated on all the negative effects that Wal-Mart can have on a community. Do you even live in The Heights? We are proud of our neighborhood and I think that speaks volumes for our residents. How many other neighborhoods can say the same thing? Not to mention our taxes are not cheap and we would appreciate if our voice was heard.

  • Watch it Jimbo, throwing around some common sense and logic will confuse the Walmart haters.

    And Jimbo is right Stacy. NO money is being given to the developer or Walmart. It’s a reimbursement for public utility and street upgrades. Instead of the city doing a separate contract on it own, it’s cheaper and more efficient for the developer to do it coinciding with their project.

    It’s the same concept as if a friend bough something for you at the grocery store and you pay them back when they give you the item.

  • Also, how is a website dedicated to the hatred of a store educating oneself on the store? Kind of a biased source isn’t it?

  • “NO money is being given to the developer or Walmart. It’s a reimbursement for public utility and street upgrades.”

    Honestly, I fail to see a difference. But for the improvements, which are ultimately paid for by the city (errr..taxpayers), the developer/Wal-Mart (or Target, or whoever) would likely not move in.

    Why not have the developer/corporate business make the improvements on their own dime, without any reimbursement by the city?

  • I have always failed to see the difference either. If Walmart was not building there, would all those improvements have been absolutely necessary? Or could improvements have been made in a location in much more need?

  • I love it! Go Wally Martinez, build away.

    Also, is that location really considered in the Heights? I thought the Heights was primarily north of I-10 and if that was the case, this development doesn’t affect any of those northern residences. This is more of a Washington location then Heights.

  • If you don’t live in the heights why are you even posting on this? Your opinion does not matter. Don’t be jealous because you live in the ‘burbs and not this wonderful neighborhood. You are all a bunch of losers who need to get a life! A real one and not one arguing about a topic that does not even affect you!

  • Remember Galveston.

  • You have to be a little effete to use the word effete.

  • If Heights residents don’t believe that public comment should be allowed to someone living outside of the neighborhood where a controversial project is located, then they themselves need to withdraw from the discussion. This Wal-Mart is not and has never been within the Houston Heights.

    Moreover, if they really do think themselves that “special”, then 1) we’re confusing Icken’s arrogance for his absolute correctness, and 2) they need to petition to cecede from the City of Houston and form their own municipality.

    Any kind of argument that this won’t impact me when I’m going to shop there and live in the same municipality, and that therefore I have no voice (but that this will impact someone who won’t shop there and doesn’t even live in the same neighborhood) is…PROFOUNDLY ASININE.

    Are there any lawyers out there familiar with state statutes on a City compelling a neighborhood to legally disassociate with it? I think I need to write my councilman.

  • The only part of this project that enters the Heights a small piece of the commercial development at Heights Blvd and the improvements to that street and median. I guess the developer can just not touch their precious street and median and do everything else….

    The smaller properties along Heights Blvd. all the way to Washington is still technically in the Heights, but the Wal-Mart site is out of the Heights.

    Also, in other Swamplot posts, several comments made the case (very well I might add) that a large portion of the residents in the Heights are the target demographic for Walmart and will mostly likely shop there as they do the Target right now. The majority of the Heights still consist of families that make at or below the median income. A store like Walmart which strives to keep prices low should be welcome to give these residents more choice and better buying power.

    Who knew class warfare goes the other way?

  • Agreed. Sic. Edit. Done.

  • There are 18 wheelers riding up and down Studewood, racing police cars, 2 Fiesta stores, funky laundromats and yes there are few trailer parks in the Heights. these anti Wmart people missed the chance to whine earlier. The proposed Wal mart is no where near any residence of the Houston heights, norhill, woodland heights etc. there would have been less hysteria if a Central Market went up but that Central market parking lot is a mob scene. There were no cries when the Whole Foods broke ground off Allen parkway, and that area will have some major traffic problem unless improvements are made to the streets. can’t believe the tree huggers are so snobby. The boo-hooing about Wmart is so absurd. there are so many other problems in the neighborhood unrelated to shopping.

  • Y’all pray for me. I live in the Heights, right smack dab in the middle of these assholes. Not only do some of them think they that are too good for Walmart, but they also believe they know more about how to preserve my house than I do.

    This used to be such a nice neighborhood. Who let these arrogant pricks in here?

  • The developer stated several times that this project was going to be built with or without the 380 money. The only roads they are upgrading are roads that are on their property as part of the development. Any drainage and infrastructure upgrades would be required to be upgraded by the developer anyways. They are putting in a rock running trail that deadends in both directions? We have given 6.1 million to Wal-Mart to build something they were going to build anyways….This is unacceptable.

  • Matt,

    The are completely rebuilding 4 public streets from I-10 to just past the project.

    The roads aren’t on their property. If it was, then the 380 agreement couldn’t be made.

    The only gain the developer gets is rebuilt streets and utilities. The city gets the developer to build it for them with the project in a much faster time frame. The city also get many new jobs, property taxes, and sales taxes. The cost of $6.1 million is drop in the bucket compared to the return on that investment. Easily in six years the development will payoff that money. And that’s not including the jump in property taxes that they get from improving the site.

  • Y’all pray for me. I live in the Heights, apparently near some asshole called RedScare. Not only does he think his neighbors are elitists, and too good for Walmart, but he also believes that he should be able to tear down his 1600 sq. foot house occuping a 5000 sq foot lot and build a 6,000 sq foot four story lotline to lotline stucco Perry home.

    This used to be such a nice neighborhood. Who let RedScare in here?

  • Scared, it’s really none of your business what Red builds on his property. None. You have zero legal interest in his property. You don’t own it, you don’t control it, it’s not yours. Maybe his family is growing and he needs more space. Why is it up to you to tell him he needs to move to a suburb to get the space he needs?

    If you want more order, convince your neighbors to agree to setback and prevailing lot size rules, or to deed restrictions. Don’t run whining to the City begging for “protection” from what your neighbor does on his property.

  • The reason that the Heights became the home of so many arrogant pricks is that the first batch filled up West U., drove prices to ridiculous levels and cock-blocked their real estate dreams. They’ve been looking for stuff to whine about ever since. At least there’s some satisfaction in knowing that the appreciation in home prices and taxes is driving out the Wal-Mart shoppers that lived there before them.

  • It is a fair statement that people who live in the burbs should not tell Heights residents that they can’t complain about the plan to cram a Walmart Supercenter on Yale. People living in the Heights do not have the protection of deed restricted HOAs that put walls and moats between residential neighborhoods and retail shopping areas. When traffic increases in our neighborhood, people can and will cut through our residential streets. And let’s not forget about the poor souls who live in the neighborhood abutting the Walmart. Despite what many believe, there is a residential neighborhood right next to the Walmart site. The roads are 18′ with people parking on the street, making the streets de facto one-way streets. Their neighborhood will be wrecked. And Mr. Icken did nothing to help them in the 380 Agreement.

  • Detention and Heights Lover, why do you assume that since someone doesn’t live in the Heights and march in lockstep with the anti-WalMart view, that they are living in the suburbs?
    And Heights Lover, please tell me you were just being ironic or sarcastic. I mean, really?!?
    Heights people have exclusive right to bitch and moan about a project which is not in the Heights. People who live closer to project location, you better ‘STFU’!!!!111!!1
    If I were being lumped into a group who were called snobby, effete, and assholes (hat tip: RedScare), I would put in some extra effort to dispel that myth. When Heights residents are called the same, it seems some are crawling out of the woodwork to to prove that they are everything they’ve been accused of.

  • Detention, are you sm3k on HAIF? I hope that you spotted that I caught you making this same bald-faced lie. Koehler, Bonner, and Bass streets will all be reconstructed and will be much wider. Water, sanitary sewer, and stormwater drainage will also be added.

  • And what about many residents in the Heights that will shop at Walmart? I like how they magically don’t exist when a good chunk of them will be shopping there.

  • Those expanded streets will also provide access directly from the new feeder roads which means you don’t have to get on Yale to access the store.

  • Matt,
    Other points aside about whether it was right for taxpayers to fund the drainage, etc., but I don’t buy your analogy. It’s like saying that I’m definitely going to buy a car or definitely have to buy a house, so I better not try to bargain on the sales price, closing costs, etc., because it wouldn’t be right.

  • When I was in college at UH in the 90s, The Heights was full of unpretentious hipsters, art car teams and crazy artists. Folks that really were hip. These people have been ran off.

    Sadly today The Heights appears to have been taken over by pretentious un-hipsters.

    It’s funny to see The Heights try to make a land grab across I-10. Almost as funny as seeing Whole Foods on Waugh making a land grab for Montrose (see their Whole Foods Monstrose sign).

    This city is so geographically challenged. And with idiots making up locales such as EaDo things are only going to get more confused.

  • It is technically North Montrose, I know I am a resident, 77019.

  • Which is why U. St. Thomas has signs out front that read “Museum District”?

    Gotcha ;-)

    Some say “Montrose” is a neighborhood in “Neartown”.

    At any rate it’s easy to see why The Heights folks are struggling with this lesson in geography.

  • Those idiots that made up the term EaDo obviously did not have local input. I know of no one in the east end who favors that word.

  • Nah, the kinds of un-snobby ‘hipsters, art car teams, and artists’ that used to populate the Heights were pretty much indifferent to blight in any form. That’s how they could tolerate living there when it was still a diamond in the rough; it’s also part of why we never really heard anyone complain about the construction of any of the other big box stores (Home Depot, Lowes, Target) along the periphery of the Heights.

    As for being anal-retentive about boundaries…what other options do we have when Heights snobs would try to claim that a retail center across a 16-lane interstate highway from them is going to destroy ‘their’ neighborhood (when the 16-lane interstate highway evidently hasn’t).

  • Everybody gets to have an opinion, Mel. And if you’re a resident of the City of Houston (like me), then it carries political weight.

  • Thanks, the Niche, but apparently I don’t get to have an opinion as my post was deleted. Sort of ironic.

  • I take it back, it was my fault my post was deleted.

  • For all those whining about the technicality that “it’s not in The Heights so why are you complaining about it”, I’d just like to note that the developer is calling the project the “Washington Heights” Seems to be trying for a land grab of it’s own there. And trying to cash in on the cachet of the neighborhood.

    Besides, the radial effect of the new development on Yale and other streets north of I-10 will definitely impact The Heights.

  • Lots of neighborhoods have the word “Heights” in them. Washington Heights actually is the name of the west end neighborhood from when it was platted, and that neighborhood was developed by a different developer and was never part of the Houston Heights. The same is true of Memorial Heights a little further south, Dissen Heights in the east end, Independence Heights just north of 610, Rosslyn Heights several miles north of 610, et al.

    If you’re claiming that any neighborhood that uses the word Heights in its name was or is just trying to cash in on the cachet of the Houston Heights, I’d advance a theory that you’re confirming my opinion that you’re a snob.

  • My comment got deleted, but I see images, and all manner of other posts that reference the word “d**che”. But alas, censoring is censoring, god forbid someone’s little feelings got hurt. (No worries none of you, especially not theNiche – solidarity there). Have a great weekend gents..

  • Standard developer nomenclature – take the two nearest names with any substance behind them – in this case Heights and Washington – and string them together. Just like the Memorial Heights apartment complex on Studemont, Sawyer Heights Apartments and the Alexan Heights apartments on the I-10 feeder. It’s a concept called marketing – of course they will try and cash in on anything around them that will bring up the perception of their property. And sure, there are plenty of neighborhoods that are called Something Heights – irrelevant – this is not a neighborhood, this is a money making development. It’s just like the algorithms they use for naming suburbia – Forest/Wood/Lake/Valley/etc – throw them in, mix them around and out comes Stepford Glade. Oh, and Niche – I’m sending you a chip – it’ll help balance the one you have on your shoulder.

  • Alexan Heights has been Midtown Heights for the last 12 months or so. So are they trying to cache in on the cachet of Midtown or the Heights? I want to know if I should be outraged or not.

    Of course the ironic thing is that when some Victorian property developer sat down and tried to come up with a name that would help sell his clear cut suburban housing development he was thinking the same thing Walmart are, give it a fancy sounding name and it’ll probably sell.

  • It’s not just for marketing. Some naming is also for search engine optimization. If someone is searching for an apartment in a specific area, apartments are naming themselves to come up in as many area searches as possible. So Alexan Heights becomes Midtown Heights so a web search will pick it up when someone types in “Midtown” or “Heights” and “apartments” in Houston.

  • Hellno, I agree with your second analysis. Naming conventions are highly contrived efforts by developers to confer an impression that may or may not be supported by reality.

    The Allen Brothers propogated a sketch of Houston as having high bluffs; it did not. In fact, we and flooded frequently and horribly even back in an era without vast quantities of impervious ground cover. It probably isn’t that much of a stretch to speculate that in an era before flood control, the NFIP, or the widespread availability of flood insurance, the word “Heights” probably conferred a sense of safety (whether it was especially accurate or not).

    None of this should come as any kind of surprise to anybody. And getting back on topic…frankly, even if this site were encompassed by the historical boundaries of the Houston Heights, I’d still argue that it wasn’t in the Heights as we know it today. There’s a 16-lane interstate highway in between the Heights and this site. It is an entirely different neighborhood, physically divorced from the Heights. Its character is different; the market for real estate is different; the character of the residents is different. So there.

  • cm=corey

    I doubt that your post was deleted by management. There have been much worse words posted here that have been tolerated.

  • I’d venture to say most Heights residents didn’t even consider this site as part of the Heights until this issue came up.

    It does not fall inside the boundaries of “Historic Heights”. It does not fall within the boundaries of the Greater Heights Super Neighborhood.
    Hell, even your “Welcome to the Heights” sign is north of 10.
    The slightest sliver of the site falls within an outlying 2 block wide ‘peninsula’ of the Heights Subdivision.
    This peninsula is mostly undeveloped, or commercial, with a little industrial and an even smaller amount of multi-family thrown in. It shares none of the characteristics of what most Houstonians would consider The Heights. This whole area south of 10 is in fact HINO… Heights in Name Only, because it’s now convenient for the Anti-Walmart Cause.

    Regardless… 95% of this site falls outside the Heights subdivision. So in response to Heights Lover…. If you live in the Heights, then what right do you have to post here? This Walmart is in Houston and does not concern you. What degree of snobbery lives in the Heights that you people think you have the right to dictate what is built outside your walls?

    -Highway6 (Montrose resident and soon-to-be Walmart shopper)

  • Heights Weirdo:

    Back when I was young and an apartment dweller, we just got in the car and drove around the neighborhood where we wanted to live until we spotted a place we liked. It seems an unproductive way to go about it but honestly, looking in the phone book was not nearly as much fun!! Of course, there was no midtown, uptown, near town etc. All we had was Sin Alley, Mid-lane, Cummins, and of course the whole Shepherd area. Also, no search engines either. Those were the days……

  • Who cares whether the walmart is in the heights? Excuse me for being an apparently elitist snob who has the nerve to want to raise my family in the heights and not want a bad neighbor like walmart.

  • While dismissing citizen concerns is pretty appalling, and then saying, “Oh, it was just in an email!” makes me think that Icken has been living under a rock for the last ten years… this Heights homeowner kind of agrees with him.

    I don’t like Wal-Mart. I don’t like their business practices, I don’t like the impact they have on a community, I don’t like anything about them. BUT…

    … I am sick of hearing “Why are we giving our tax money to them?” when we’re not. The facts are pretty simple – the city will reimburse the developer of the land (NOT Wal-Mart) for improvements to *public* facilities nearby (not the privately owned land). This is basically a cheap loan to the city for public improvements. Not a bad deal.

    … We don’t get to have popularity contests for who the tenants of a shopping center are, the owner gets to do that, so long as they comply with all applicable laws and restrictions, which they are. (What, we have rules in Houston? But I thought… wait, that’s another topic.)

    … I think the development planned there is a mediocre suburban style piece of crap. But… people, if you don’t like that, vote for a city government that will put reasonable development rules in place.

    I know a lot of people here hate that idea; nevertheless, that’s the debate worth having, not whether we like HEB better than Wal-Mart. You want some rules? Vote for people who’ll put them in place.

    It seems to me that the worst possible thing for someone whose business is developing unused land into commercial properties is uncertainty. If there are clear rules, you can plan a profitable venture around them – as happens every day in lots of cities. If you have no rules, but irate citizens who don’t like a particular project, you get travesties like the Ashby High Rise nonsense, and irritations like longwinded rants about how Wal-Mart is going to drive local Heights businesses out of existence. (Because no one is going to go to a cute little shop that sells candles hand-crafted by Guatamalan lesbians or antique furniture or clothes made out of twice-recycled burlap, because now Wal-Mart is up the street. Right.)

    The people who should be worried about Wal-Mart? Target.

  • Reposted from earlier:

    This whole garbage about “it’s not in the Heights,” so you don’t get to complain is total BS. First, Walmart calls it the Heights in its mockups. Second, Walmart mailed me a mailer at my house in the Heights telling me how great the Heights Walmart is going to be. Third, Walmart called me at my home in the Heights to ask what I thought of the new Walmart and what I would like to see there. Fourth, Walmart is promising organic fruits and veggies and some sort of farmer’s market. And fifth, Andy Icken and our other city employees repeatedly refer to the Walmart as the “Heights Walmart” in subject email train. So, although Walmart and the City is calling the location the Heights, and Walmart is trying to market itself and appeal to me, a Heights resident, I am not allowed to have an opinion about the Walmart because it is not technically in the Heights. Facsinating.

  • I think arguing anyone in the area this store would serve doesn’t have the right to an opinion is kind of silly. As is arguing the store is actually located in the Heights. But that’s why Swamplot is so fun to read :)

    Some things you guys made me curious about:
    1) Would you call the neighborhood the Walmart development is in Old West End? That’s what’s on the Super Neighborhood 22 map, but I never really see that term get used. This area gets dumped into a “Washington Corridor” bucket as far as I can tell.
    2) Ignoring (as much as you can) reasons you personally dislike/like Walmart itself, what do you think will be the actual impact north of I10?

  • No you’re right, not because of the “D” word. I’m not the least bit bothered by it, I enjoy seeing ruffled feathers. Means I’m doing my job.

  • Mel,
    You’ll see this whole mess about who is “allowed” to have an opinion on the matter started (in this thread at least) with post #43. In what I hoped was sarcasm but was probably not (and then if it were not sarcasm, that it was only tiny minority of Heightsers who thought this way (which might or might not be true)), they claimed that no one outside the Heights gets to have an opinion on this.
    Given the project location, I think this declaration is certainly more absurd than the reverse.

  • Nah, #43 came across to me as being very serious. And selfish. And childish.

    Thinks the whole issue is about “me”. (acutally, him/her)

  • love love love walmart……………