West End Walmart Development 380 Agreement Gets City Council OK

WEST END WALMART DEVELOPMENT 380 AGREEMENT GETS CITY COUNCIL OK As expected, city council this morning approved a program of reimbursements to Ainbinder Company for improvements to public areas related to its Washington Heights Walmart-plus-strip-centers development in the West End. The vote, 11-4, came after amendments were approved limiting taxpayer costs to $6,050,000. The improvements will include wider sidewalks and bigger trees along Yale and Heights than required minimums, drainage and reconstruction of several nearby streets, and a jogging path along the Heights Blvd. esplanade south of I-10. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]

60 Comment

  • As much as I loathe Wal-Mart, I just can’t get worked up about this project, so long as it means the destruction of the apartment complex on Heights Blvd south of I-10.

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

  • Horrible news, but typical.
    It’s not about WalMart for me. We don’t have zoning, so they can do whatever; so can the Ashby Highrise and all the rest.
    But, promoting a $6M tax giveaway to Ainbinder/WalMart to enhance their own property development and bottomline is what I expect of a typical Houston mayor, not one who claims to have taxpayers best interest in mind. She seems to be in the back pocket of Houston developers like nearly every other mayor in Houston’s history. After working with her staff for many years, I’m not sure why I expected her to be any different.
    And since when do councilmembers disrespect fellow members by voting against them in their own districts?

  • John,

    That’s $6million to pay for reconstruction of public streets and public improvements. Ainbinder doesn’t get the money right away. After all the construction is finished, they have to file a claim to get the money. If the contractor charged less (which is highly likely in this environment), the amount can be less.

    Rebuilding narrow streets, widening sidewalks, rebuilding busy deteriorating streets are all hardly just giving money to a developer. Will it enhance the developer’s property? Sure. It also enhances properties that aren’t the developers too.

  • Maybe they were voting for the better providence of the whole city than a specific neighborhood?

  • kjb434,

    That’s an interesting spin, and I know it’s the official explanation, but’s it’s BS.
    The narrow streets have to be widened to fit WalMart’s 18 wheelers and increased traffic.
    What sidewalks? There are none on the residential streets, and the ones on Yale or the Heights will only be window dressing,after all they are destroying the apartments from which people might actually walk to these new stores.
    In order to attract and accommodate a store as large WalMart, Ainbinder would have to do these things street reconstructions anyway. To suggest otherwise is silly.
    More trees and landscaping? Blah, blah, it only enhances Ainbinder’s property.
    A jogging trail? For one block? Please.
    Did you read the part that says the developer can change anything at his discretion? If the COH doesn’t like it and sues, we get to pay his legal fees.
    This is more corporate welfare, no matter how you slice it.

  • Ainbinder doesn’t have to do any of this. It can leave the streets as is and have the trucks come off Yale. It offers to do this and the City say “yes”, rebuild our public streets for us and we’ll pay you back. Yale and Heights were streets that need reconstructing anyway but are extremely low on the priority list which means they will just get worse. Having a large commercial development adjacent to the streets raises the priority.

    Mayor White and Mayor Brown did this a lot (not necessarily within the 380 form) with little to no complaint of residents of the city. Now it’s Walmart, people are howling left and right at how horrible this is. Mayor White had several million shifted to widen Monroe at the Beltway because of a Target that was being built.

    What about the 380 agreement with InTown Homes which will extend a bike trail from Shepherd across White Oak Bayou to Cottage Grove. This trail has been wanted by the neighborhood and interest groups for a while since it will eventually make a connection to the Northwest Transit Center and Memorial Park across I-10. Should they oppose it also because a developer is involved? Council Member Gonzales (who was apposed to the Walmart 380 agreement) supports this 380 agreement. The only difference is a little thing called Walmart and some fear of a “suburban” style development.

  • I just want somebody to mow the sidewalks (yes I said sidewalks) on Yale by the RR underpass. Bonus on having the apartments torn down too. Lots of “issues” at those apartments.

  • Kjb434,

    You hit the nail in the head, “This trail has been wanted by the neighborhood and interest groups for a while…”
    Thousands of people don’t want this development. Where was the interest group begging for this development? Non-existent.
    Ainbinder can do whatever it wants with its own money. They should not get tax breaks for this project. It is obscene. No one is begging for a one block long jogging trail. No one is begging for WalMart.

  • John,

    What thousands? This Walmart will go in and many more will shop there than ever opposed it. It’s the same story everywhere there is massive opposition to Walmart and then it gets built.

    I would gladly put money down to say more people in the Heights will shop at this Walmart than oppose it in the Heights.

  • Also, CM Gonzales opposes this 380 because most of his constituents oppose it; he’s representing us like he supposed to. Likewise, most of us want the Bike trail 380, so he is for it. What’s hard to understand about this?

  • kjb434,

    That’s not a risky bet. It’ll be the first WalMart inside the loop, of course it will be packed. Why do you keep defending WalMart? I couldn’t care less about WalMart. I don’t shop at WalMart, Sam’s or anything Walton related, my choice. BUT this city doesn’t have zoning – so I have NO problem with the store being built. Likewise I have no problem with the Ashby Highrise or anything else. Houstonians need to vote for some type of land use regulation or just shut the hell up about these issues.
    I AM completely opposed to using tax funds/rebates/incentives as corporate welfare for multi-billion dollar companies that are going to build the development whether they get the welfare or not. It is just a giveaway and is wrong.

  • Lots of people in the neighborhood opposed this. And while there is little doubt that many more people will shop there, most of them will come from outside the neighborhood. This has certainly been the case at Target, which draws heavily from underserved areas east and north of downtown.

  • Adding to all of the above, for and against, the very people a Walmart targets are being removed as apartments and homes in poor repair are demolished to make way for Xer’s, Millenials, Yuppies, and flush Seniors. And their SUVs. And their dogs. Seems to me, that wherever poor folks move, they will be closer to a different Walmart. They will have to travel further to mow the lawns, clean the houses, wash the babies, cook the food and so on. Saw the inside of a Walmart once in Venice Florida. Blecch.

  • Class warfare at it’s best

  • John,

    You haven’t established a it’s a giveaway yet. Corporate welfare means you just give them money. That’s not the case. If it was, I’ll be against it.


    To all who think Walmart shoppers are all part some lower class obviously don’t know what you are talking about. Lot’s of people shop at Walmart that are middle class and upper middle class.

    Those types of statements don’t seem to follow Fiesta. A store that “supposedly” caters to pretty much the same “groups” that Walmart does, yet a lot of people shop there outside of that “group”. Why won’t Walmart be any different?

  • John,

    Council member Gonzalez is only opposed to this development when he is in a room of people opposed to it. He and his staff were part of the group that worked on the 380 agreement. He’s just another politician saying what he thinks the group in front of him wants to hear.

  • Basic information about Walmart, including comments on average income of shoppers ($35,000), product sources, cannibalisation, speculation on retention of higher income customers, et al. http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Wal-Mart_(WMT)

  • Yes, a publicly editable website is the perfect place for facts! Always check the sourcing of Wiki information.

    The income of customers is sourced from one newspaper article in the Washington Post which is virulently anti-Walmart in its past op-eds.

    The cannibalization references are sourced to opinions and no hard facts of it actually happening.

  • From John:
    No one is begging for WalMart.


    I once wrote a frustrated letter to Wal-Mart’s corporate office in Arkansas begging for a better store to serve the Inner Loop than what was available on S. Post Oak and 610. It may very well have come off as begging. Had they ever followed up with me about the particular issue, I almost certainly would have begged for the store. And had they come to my door, I’d have groveled at their feet in admiration of their corporate largess and magnaminity, even.

  • And as mentioned before, over 90% of the kids at Heights area schools are from families earning less than $35k per annum. Thousands of families who all live within the neighborhood and of whom many will choose to shop at Walmart if it helps balance their budget. The group that is shouting loudest about something is not always the majority, they are just the loudest.

  • Progress not perfection folks!
    Granted it’s a suburban design, but it will improve upon the existing.

  • Only 6 million bucks??? I bet by the end it’s more.

  • I saw it:
    in the newspaper

    in a magazine

    on tv

    on the internets

    in a wiki, so it must be true!

  • Markd,

    Since invoices and itemized lists must be presented for payment of the reimbursement, they won’t get more unless this economy improves massively in two years.

    Publically bid construction projects are routinely coming in way below the estimates because of the competitive bidding for work by contractors. Materials costs have stayed low also.

    I had to put together invoices for developers seeking to get reimbursements for infrastructure in low income housing neighborhoods. The reviewers are very thorough. A developers invoice was about 75,000 for a small subdivision section was knocked down to 65,000 because they couldn’t present the proof to get the full reimbursement.

  • There you have it! This is all “TheNiche” fault.


    But seriously, if you could send a letter to Trader Joe’s, BlueBottle Coffee, Sheetz, Butera’s, Tesco, Fresh and Easy, etc.. I would be appreciative!

  • PaxMcKatz is right. All of those treasured companies would have done the same. Whole Foods and HEB would have made the same 380 agreement. These same people wouldn’t be objecting to it also.

  • Yeah, I knew you folks would get snarky about Wikipedia; on the other side of that coin, being open to public scrutiny and editing may well keep the data fresh. Sort of like, oh I don’t know . . . Swamplot.
    How about this from the Wall Street Journal:http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/Extra/TheEndOfTheWalMartEra.aspx?page=2

  • I remember that article. Walmart is realizing the pricing model it pioneered is now fully in use by competitors like Target and K-mart. There isn’t much of a price gap or difference in stores now. Target and K-Mart just sell products that look more expensive but are essentially the same thing Walmart sells. As any smart business should, they have to adjust. They may fall flat and fail or they’ll succeed. Either way, it’s not a reason for the store not to build at Yale. What Walmart is going through is the same thing Target and K-mart when through. Target changed it’s image. K-mart went through bankruptcy.

  • I agree, kjb434, were Whole Foods or Central Market planning this store, many of the complainers would likely be cheering the plan instead of deriding it.

    The developer should be allowed to do anything he likes within the law. For those who don’t like it: push for zoning laws, and refrain from buying homes near large vacant lots ripe for (re)development.

  • Good news. I can’t stand NIMBYs. Let ’em build it, don’t really like the suburban design, but anything’s better than a parking lot.
    Items remaining on my wishlist:
    -Richmond Rail
    -Ashby Highrise

  • the pro-Walmarts had to keep their thoughts to themselves lest get blasted on Fbook or WH chat room. The site for the store is run down, ugly been that way for years. there area was commercial industrial. The anti Walmarts should spend their time on issues that affect everyone,even the trailer park residents that are in the residential Heights – such as increased crime, crappy sidewalks, poor lighting, narrow streets, poor drainage, dumping and blight.

  • I’m very excited about this Walmart coming to my neighborhood. My wife is very excited. My in-laws (also in The Heights) are looking forward to the opening. We’ll shop there often and sometimes I will even bike there down the 1-block bike trail (that’s connected to a 17-block bike trail). BTW, my wife and I each make more than $35,000 and neither one of us is “blecchh”.

    I can’t believe how wacky some of you Walmart opponents really are with your “better than thou” attitudes. Every time I pass your houses with your anti-Walmart yard signs I try to see what you look like so I can avoid you at all costs. I’m embarrassed to be your neighbor.

  • I don’t like or dislike walmart but the whole thing started with anti-walmart people saying that it will attract “the wrong kind of people”. I’m just saying.

  • I’m not a fan of Walmart & have no plans to shop there. But… guess what? We don’t get t have a popularity contest about which stores we like and which we don’t, to pick an HEB or Fiesta over a Walmart. As long as they or any business are following the law and the process for creating a development, it will happen. The only question is, can the city get something out of it? calling the 380 “corporate welfare” is just stupidity; they will get money back if they spend it on improvements OFF the property first.

    And, um, it’s not Walmart that will get it, it’s the developer.

    If it had been HEB the 380 would be praised as a fabulous example of corporate citizenship.

    I don’t like Walmart. I don’t like their business practices (like paying employees so little that they wind up on public assistance, effectively forcing taxpayers to subsidize their business – now THAT’S corporate welfare). But frankly, the complaints about this development have most been dumb.

    Don’t like the approval process for the impact of the development on the surrounding area? Well, vote for politicians who will put stricter rules in place of even – *gasp* – zoning.

    In the context of the way these things work in Houston, which voters support time and again with their choices, this is what you get.

  • Funny how we think that some retailers are somehow better than others … driven basically by their PR efforts alone. Tesco, who also own Fresh and Easy, controls almost 30% of the UK grocery market and is the subject of the same virulent attacks there that Walmart is here. They are a vast grocery conglomerate and exactly the same as Walmart.

    Trader Joes are the PR master of the grocery world. We all think they are some independent grocer selling interesting foods that their intrepid buyers are discovering in far flung corners of the world. In reality they too are part of a giant grocery conglomerate and actually source most of their stock from the same giant US food producers as everyone else. As an example, almost all of their snacks are produced by Frito-Lay, part of Pepsico. The trick, all of TJs vendor contracts state explicitly that the vendor is not allowed to reveal that they are selling product to TJs.

  • I wish that everyone who is so opposed to the Wal-Mart would give us a picture of themselves, so that I, the awesome Wal-Mart greeter, will be able to check you off the list as you come into the store on your first visit. I know it will happen. You know it will happen. AND remember, watch out for falling prices. . . .

  • One of my favorite sites – great for those who don’t care for Wal-Mart. Really fast shipping as well:


  • Thank you so much for the link Hellsing.

    FYI and sorry, off topic: I am a big fan of Fiestaware china, made in the USA for years. They have an outlet location in Galveston, right off the Strand on 20th. It’s such a great little shop.

  • Ahhh, the old “Buy only made in America” sentiment. Talk about beating a dead horse. It’s unrealistic in today’s global economy. We can keep trying to stop the inevitable and die like the Unions, VHS rentals, and chimney sweepers… or adapt and compete in the real world economy.

  • You know it doesn’t hurt to at least try to buy some American products when they are available and keep at least some of our manufacturing sector working.

  • And I have to wonder just how many clothes are still made in the USA.

    I haven’t looked at labels at Old Navy, Macy’s, or Target lately, but being realistic, I’m doubting that they are made stateside.

  • I was a fan of American Apparel, but then they were busted for being another sweatshop, though American-based. I’m beginning to think it’s hopeless.

    I had hoped the U.S. would help raise the rest of the world to our living standards, but it looks like we are moving down to their’s. We’ll meet China somewhere in the middle and then they’ll pass us going up.

  • i’ve see no decrease in our standards of living and china is probably a good 30yrs away from ours at minimum and they still have to transition from an export-driven economy to a consumption economy like ours which would probably mean the destruction of thier gov’t so you can add another 10yrs to that.

    anyhow, such is the reality of free choice and bad schools. we can all choose to be doctors, lawyers and engineers but we don’t and so it is.

    you can’t deny the benefits of globalization, both to our 401k’s and other countries standards of living though. works a hell of a lot better at protecting us than a war on terror does.

  • Exactly, Heights Weirdo. I’m going to the eco-market at City Centre tonight for local produce & baked goods. Will I stock my kitchen? No, but I’ll get fresh products with actual flavor and help keep some area people in business.

  • I’ll be supporting the American live music scene tonight at HOB or I’d try to be right there with you! :-)

    It helps that most swamplot posters have a higher standard of living able to support buying at the local markets.

    Unfortunately, lots are unemployed and their standard of living isn’t able to support anything but Walmart anymore.

    Trying to bring it back to Walmart…sorry for the highjack.

  • One more quick diversion – after Ike when many were eating out of packages & cans, the Airline farmer’s market vendors in the area were selling produce off of their front porches by the Monday after. It took the undamaged stores a good 3-4 days to open with generators. Could they sell their wares on the sidewalk because the community needed them and they would go to waste otherwise? Nope….

  • God bless the Airline farmer’s market. My great uncle sold cantaloupes there for many years before he passed and the family lost the farm. Here’s to a comeback for local farming.

  • we know someone that applied to Wal mart who has no job skills, unless you count texting,a h.s. education. trainee to work in bakery dept. 10/hr. PTO, etc not too shabby considering.

  • ‘A 50-foot lawn hose for $4.99!!!’

    Moral: There’s a point where we all break down & give in…

  • Now parents will have a nice place to beat their kids in public…

  • rom Rugrash:

    Now parents will have a nice place to beat their kids in public…
    Yeah! And domestic terrorists will plot and scheme in the sporting goods department even as BP put environmentalists over a barrel in the fishing aisle. And the profits from sweatshop labor in the back to produce the children’s clothes on the floor will go to Kim Jong-Il.

    Seriously, if that’s what the line of argumentation that you’re reduced to…it’s over. It’s all over. You have failed. Your beleaguered catharsis only makes it apparent to those that might not have otherwise realized that you have lost.

  • Gracious, Niche – It sounded like a joke to me.

  • He’s just projecting.

    The carpetbagging grovelers drive the action here — what a city!

  • To Niche

    It’s amazing to me that someone with your obvious intellect and grasp of the English language failed to see the sarcasm in my post. I’m ever so sorry to have offended you (really…NOT being sarcastic this time :-))
    In the future, I will be sure to place my “/s” sarcasm tags. Thanks!

  • Rugrash,

    Yeah, I thought you were being sarcastic but that maybe you did mean it…..just a little bit.

    And, yes sarcasm is difficult to convey in print.

    I used to shop a lot at Foley’s (not so much now at Macy’s) and several times I observed mothers in that store who were frustrated with their children. Not beating them, but loudly correcting them. Not to the point of creating a scene, but still…….

  • Oops, s/b

    And yes, sarcasm……..

  • I just threw up in my mouth thinking about all the white, Hispanic, black, and Asian trash that will infiltrate our sacred Heights. God help us all, except the aforementioned ;-) In all seriousness, I honestly believe that 75% of the Negative Nellies that oppose this project are miserable SOBs. They would be 100x more miserable if Walmart didn’t locate a store in the Heights. What in the world would they bitch about?