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.
- Unveiled: New Washington Heights project to bring retail, restaurants — and, oh yes, a Walmart to Houston Inner Loop [Culturemap]
- West End Walmart coverage [Swamplot]
Photos: Charles Kuffner