West End Walmart Developer Promises More Browns and Greens

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:


Under the proposal, Ainbinder would spend $6 million to widen and expand streets around the project, beautify nearby bridges, improve drainage, build new sidewalks, and create a crushed rock path and landscaping in the esplanade of Heights Boulevard, he said. Ainbinder would be reimbursed for the public improvements over time as the project reached completion and occupancy goals, in a government sponsored program that has been used for other projects around the state, Duckworth said.

If Ainbinder is able to obtain an agreement, it would be one of the first such arrangements Houston has ever negotiated directly with a developer rather than a city-approved neighborhood TIRZ.

Does the site — formerly home to a rail spur a steel fabricator, and the enclosed-steel-drum-happy Heights Armature Works — require additional remediation? A brochure mailed out to local residents this week by a “Walmart-friendly” organization says it does, but Duckworth tells Bivins that the ground water is not contaminated, and that Ainbinder has already spent several million dollars to remove contaminated dirt from the property. The Berger Iron Works facility next to the property (pictured above) will remain in operation; Walmart trucks will enter the site next to it, from Koehler St.

Photos: Charles Kuffner

22 Comment

  • I’ve been reading about Texas 380 and 381 Agreements and it made my brain smoke. But then again it is Friday evening.
    So, I guess, the State helps Cities enter into contracts with Companies. As long as cities provide assistance for economic growth, the state gives the OK for Development and Success.
    wow awesome ooh,
    and, Houston has way less of these than Dallas-Fort Worth or San Antonio.
    Strikes me as a way to allow business to directly get approval from the State and leave the community government out of the loop? No?

  • How are they going to widen 4 lane Yale Street when it has to pass below grade under a railroad bridge? I doubt they can do that for $6 million.

  • They’re not going to widen Yale under the railway, they are going to widen the streets that provide access between the feeders and the store entrances. This is what happened with the Sawyer Target that is only moderately smaller and has the same size parking lot. It would seem logical that the same access requirements would apply to Walmart as Target.

  • Hopefully they do as good of a job with the Walmart as they did with the Target on Sawyer.

  • In what universe do “chef driven restaurants and local boutiques coexist with a Walmart??? NONE. It doesn’t exist! Local boutiques are exactly the types of businesses that will be put in jeopardy by walmart. Additionally, it seems all the money they are putting up to “beautify” the area will come out of our taxes when they get paid back by the city. I am praying this doesn’t go through.

  • …with all of the noise generated by the locals I hardly doubt that any “chef-driven restaurants, local boutiques and non-chain outlets” are going to risk being in that plaza. Just being in a plaza with a Wal-Mart in general would be a kiss of death. If the proposed Wal-Mart gets built – I will not patronize ANY shops in that development. Sorry Abinder, but people know who you got into bed with and you’ll have to deal with your walk of shame….it will be a long walk in that little black dress and heels

  • Y’all are losers. I hope its’ the biggest Walmart they’ve ever built in the history of Walmarts. I hope it brings every minority within 20 miles to your neighborhood. I hope tons of raping and pillaging ensues…..sheer destruction of the Heights.

  • HH:

    Now who is doing all the hating?

  • Local Boutiques are the very last businesses that will be affected by Walmart. The customers at Heights area boutiques and also at stores like C&D and Buchanan’s do not shop there because of price point. They shop there fully aware of the fact that they are paying more. The stores that will be primarily affected by Walmart are the dollar stores on Shepherd and the few Carnicerias/Mini-marts that are still scattered about the neighborhood.

  • Jimbo: “The stores that will be primarily affected by Walmart are the dollar stores on Shepherd and the few Carnicerias/Mini-marts that are still scattered about the neighborhood.”

    So not all bad, then, eh?

  • Note to all about Hater hater:

    Don’t feed the troll.

  • I’m not sure that the mini-marts or specialty ethnic grocers have much to fear, either. Those places have got a very different and well-insulated niche, and they survive (and even thrive) in Wal-Mart-saturated suburbs. The stores that compete directly with Wal-Mart are other chain stores; specifically…Target, CVS, Walgreens, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kroger, HEB, Family Dollar, Dollar General, etc.

    Even if they won’t openly admit it, I sincerely hope that the Heights NIMBYs are introspective enough to realize that they’re corporate schills.

  • Bottom line is still this Walmart is going in this area surrounded three sides by West End neighborhood residences. Walmart would need to use neighborhood streets for it’s 18-wheeler delivery trucks. Unlike the previous industry that was there, this one is a 24-hr business and much higher level of commerical and shopper traffic. When I say Walmart, it is not just the Supercenter, it is also all the other retailers and “chef-driven” restuarants Aibinder is talking about like Taco Bell, Subways, TGI Fridays etc.

  • Irfan, We have not seen the final plans being proposed by Wal-Mart. Your claim that truck traffic will have to use neigbhorhood streets is without cause. Does the Lowe’s on the North Loop use W. 26th Street for truck traffic? Do the people in houses backing up to N. Shepherd have a problem with the Kroger loading docks across the way? How about the people buying new custom homes in the exclusive Creek Side Court subdivision behind the Home Depot loading docks (near I-10 and Bingle)?

    Moreover, consider the alternative uses for this land that are possible. It could remain a polluted brownfield or be developed in a similar (or perhaps worse) fashion for a different retailer.

    If you just don’t like the idea of Wal-Mart in general, say that. If you think that this site is not appropriate for retail, lobby your councilperson for zoning. What you should not do is fabricate baseless information and pollute the internet with it.

  • Hugo Rodriguez said:

    “Hopefully they do as good of a job with the Walmart as they did with the Target on Sawyer.”

    The Target on Sawyer is a disaster. Insufficient infrastructures combined with the typical, sprawl-style strip mall development has made that entire area around there a “no-go” zone for me. Poorly planned and increasing the traffic around the area without suitable alternatives. God help us if another “Target on Sawyer” is what we are going to get.

  • HA HA Irfran!

    Enginerd, If you’re hungry I got some duck sausage for ya buddy!

  • @Irfam

    “Walmart would need to use neighborhood streets for it’s 18-wheeler delivery trucks.”

    I suspect that someone buying a house right next to the railroad tracks would have already accepted the side effects of urban life. If not, they would’ve gone to the Woodlands.

  • “and they survive (and even thrive) in Wal-Mart-saturated suburbs.”

    Most baseless comment in recent memory?

  • anon22, my comments can be observed rather easily.

    There are no fewer than ELEVEN Wal-Mart stores south of Westheimer and north of S. Main between 610 and Highway 6. It’s definitely the most Wal-Mart-saturated part of the Houston region…and possibly of the entire state. Yet that’s a part of town where convenience stores and ethnic/specialty grocers flourish. Bellaire Blvd. even gets play in the national press from time to time, for instance in the NYT or WSJ.

    Compare that to the inner loop, which has zero Wal-Marts and generally overpriced and underwhelming ethnic/specialty chain grocers that are not locally-owned or home-grown and that will never compete head-to-head over Wal-Mart’s clientele. Really, it begs the question…what are you Heights people concerned that you’d lose!?

    Source: Walmart.com Store Finder

  • From Irfan:
    “Bottom line is still this Walmart is going in this area surrounded three sides by West End neighborhood residences. ”

    That’s a bit of a stretch. Please don’t tell me you’re including the townhomes that were built right up against the railroad that actually borders the South Side. I have some sympathy for the owners of the handful of properties on Koehler on the North side and the one home on Bonner on the West side, but if you bought a house adjacent to a freight rail line with derelict industrial property the other side you’re frankly on your own.

  • Alright, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t trying to make the point that Wal-Mart *isn’t* bad for bodegas and ethnic stores.

  • I hope they make a wal-mart on every corner in the HEIGHTS…I wonder what the yuppies will do then..(sarcasm)Oh no? another Wal-mart? More Brown People? Will this development make the Heights even uglier than it already is??? Whatever shall we do??