Big Block on the Corner of Westheimer and Montrose Goes Up for Sale

The real-estate fund that’s owned the half-vacant strip center at the southwest corner of Westheimer and Montrose for the last 4 years has put the entire 2.86-acre block up for sale. On the site now: Half Price Books, Spec’s Liquors, Papa John’s Pizza, and the 3-6-9 China Bistro in a stuccoed-over 41,838-sq.-ft. building once known as the Tower Community Center (to match the Tower Theater, now home to El Real Tex-Mex, across the street). Also included: the standalone Jack-in-the-Box on the corner of Montrose and Lovett. No list price, but broker HFF is indicating “price guidance” of $10 million or higher.

The Art Deco building still lurking beneath was designed by architect Joseph Finger in 1937, 2 years before he completed work for Houston’s city hall. Here’s how the shopping center looked then-ish, with a Walgreens on the corner of Yoakum St.:


Photos: HFF and Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library, via GHPA

60 Comment

  • wow so many changes in that area, lived on Avondale in the 70ies…the fun days….

  • I have always wondered why that place has been half-empty for all these years when it is in such a prominent location.

  • I’ve always would like that block to house something similar to Post Midtown or West Ave. It’s a big intersection along Westheimer and would be nice addition to an urban inner loop.

  • No wonder why schlotzkys always has a rank moldly odor, of very old bathrooms. Though they do make a fine sandwich, I just can’t wait to leave…

  • Great old photos. Note they had diagonal street parking right on the Westheimer in addition to the off-street lot. In the 70s, Republic of Texas Savings and Loan occupied the entire northwest corner.

  • That’d be a fantastic highrise site.

  • Been thinking about this place lately. With all the Resturant/Bar activity and focus around here lately. A great opportunity to create a real public focused development on an area defining location…maybe some sidewalk cafes. Just please lord not an office max or cvs (or the like). Some apartments above would be really interesting.

  • If you’re heading north or west, that strip center is hard to reach because there’s no dedicated turn lane and limited driveway access. They need to fix that longstanding problem if they want to keep businesses there.

    West Ave has the same access issues, and I hear rumors that the development is not doing well because people can’t figure out how to get in.

  • Fantastic high rise site? Are you nuts?!? You can be forgiven if you don’t live in the area, but the traffic is already horrendous so too with the current density.

  • Knock it down and make highrise condos with no ground floor retail.

  • As soon as I move away, the neighborhood gets even better. I cannot wait to read what goes in on this corner.

  • How long would it take for your ROI on nothing but a parking garage there? Lord KNOWS it is needed. I mean, it’s not a very hipster thing to do, but…

  • This site has amazing potential. Full city block. Streets on all sides. I wonder how long Jack-In-Box’s lease runs. Getting them out is the key to the deal. Residential. Retail. Restaurants. All of the above. $10 million is $80/SF to the land. Sounds reasonable to me.

  • Great location for another Wal*Mart?
    Calm down, just kidding folks!

  • I really would like to see the 1937 facade restored but $10 M would indicate something scaled and designed for the “New Montrose”.
    Another Tuscan raze-n-rise perhaps.

  • 3-story bar/restaurant complex with open-air patio’s up top. or you know, a Food Town or another big apt. complex.

    just bulldoze the jack in the box is all i ask

  • All four corners of that intersection are ripe for redevelopment.

  • Wait, putting aside the fact that building an enormous parking garage on one of the most important intersections in the city, how is it “needed”? parking is really not that bad as long as you know which streets tow.

  • Agreed food poisoning in the box needs to go.. Shoot the old Taco Cabana across Montrose made me sick less often, that JITB is batting a 1000..

  • Why can’t Jack-in-the-Box be incorporated into a new structure? It’s a heavily frequented establishment. If financially possible, why not figure a way for the existing tenants to have a place in new structure if they would like one.

    Putting in only high end or idiot hipster approved places speaks of condescension and arrogance.

    What would be wrong with CVS or a Walmart Neighborhood store at the base with apartments/offices above?

    Any dense structure would require several floors of parking anyway.

  • Finally! I’ve been waiting for years for someone to redevelop what has to be a high-value property. Anything would be an improvement, even a high rise apartment tower (and I do live a few blocks away), but what would I most like to see?

    Hmmm… let me think. I’d have to go with a med-small boutique hotel at a lower price point than ZaZa. Let’s go with $150 in place of ZZ’s $220. Needs to have cool bar / restaurant / nightclub / parking garage / Alfa Romeo dealership on the lower floors.

    After the Lovett Inn turned hostel, there’s no nice place nearby for me to house out of town guests.

    Back of the envelope: $10M property costs plus $10M for the building = $20M = $120k per month. Figure on 50 rooms with an occupancy rate of 70% @ $150 per night = $160k income so your profit is $40k per month if the restaurant / bar / nightclub rents pay your overhead / taxes / other expenses. The Alfa dealership doesn’t even need to sell a single car, but the ground level display window would bring in customers.

    Sold! Where’s Cody?

  • No where in Monstrose would be a fantastic site for a highrise for god sake.

  • So many possibilities. Here’s your chance, Cody. I hear most of the tenants have moving notices in the window. Are they throwing out the tenants to level it?

  • Wow a rare bird this site is.. probably one of the few in Houston that can justify mixed use. Office highrise/Residential midrise/ground floor retail/resturant

  • This is great for the area. Montrose is on fire. I think prices are going to continue to rise as it becomes more and more of a desirable place to live.

  • Something wrong with the Jack in the Box? Some of us do eat there occasionally. And at Wendy’s and McDonalds. Or do some want Montrose to just offer “chi-chi” food at “chi-chi” prices to lend a more “chi-chi” aura to their vision of Montrose? Those of us who walk would rather see Covenant House go. I suspect HPD would as well.

    As for the comment about the 70s and the “fun days” yes, they were fun. When Montrose was “bohemian.” Before the Guppies and Yuppies arrived to save us all from “bohemian” lifestyles. Odd how back then no one minded the drug dealers. Of course not that many really mind them today. They just like pretend that they do. In order to appear “chi-chi.”

  • I’d love to see what the City Centre developers could do here. Obviously it would have to be a lot different to fit the size of the site, but I really like what they did at Town and Country. Considering the article about the “River Oaks area” housing in Montrose, I feel like its not totally out of the question. Regardless of who buys it, I hope they keep both the history of the neighborhood and its future in mind as they develop it.

  • Whu do Houstonian NIMBY’s always complain about traffic when it comes to highrises.

    as if the parc buildings are causing some big traffic jam.

    This is a great spot for a highrise.

  • I like Patrick’s dream.
    Also, you know our civilization is totally freakin doomed when we choose between the least bad food-poisoning option . . .

  • Because of my tongue-in-cheek comment, Montrosians are already pissed about the prospect of a highrise… Mission accomplished.

    No, in all seriousness, this is a good site for a six-to-eight-story apartment project without retail. The footprint is just right. Grocery store across the street. High-visibility, imperfect accessibility. It’s an apartment site.

  • Yuk, West Av? Montrose is not upper Kirby. Corey is right–too much traffic and poor ingress/egress. A high-rise would be a nightmare. Whatever it is it needs plenty, not the usual inadequate, parking. The usual excuse for inadequate parking is based on the “walkable” fantasy. Yes those in the neighborhood might walk but most establishments in the ‘hood attract people from outside walking distance.

  • Keep Half-Price Books!

    I’m betting on a Petco.

  • Can we get rid of the sketchy valero on the other corner as well, please?

  • WoW the comments on this blog always amaze me. This would be the perfect site for a high-rise mixed use concept. It’s a huge block with plenty of room in a very desirable area with plenty of visabily at a intersection of two major thoroughfares. You people complain about traffic but I mean come on you act like there is always going to be a mass exodus of people leaving and entering the site all at once. We live in Houston traffic is just a part of it and it’s not going to get any better any time soon it’s just going to get worst so accept it. You guys complained about the Ashby high-rise causing traffic because it was in a neighborhood on neighborhood streets well this is on two major thoroughfares so get over the traffic. Bring on a high-rise mixed use development for this iconic intersection. It’s such a waste to have a half empty hideous suburban style shopping strip at this site.

  • My first choice would be restore to original Art Deco glory.

    Wait for laughing to die down.

    Second choice would be a high-rise. Sorry but it really is a good location. The views would be spectacular.

    As you may be able to tell, I have given up. Houston is Houston and what will most likely go there will be some mock Tuscan midrise. It will be ugly and the residents will drive to Kroger. Just sayin…

  • Matt, don’t worry, we still eat fast food in the ‘trose. it’s just that that specific JITB has always been pure crap (although this applies to most of our fast food joints in the ‘trose). i’d feel sorry for the place if my card hadn’t got skimmed there before the big remodeling and changeover last spring.

    i love me some artery-clogging JITB, but i refuse to go to that location.

  • Ok lower Westheimer while 4 lanes is extremely narrow. There is NO chance 4 city buses could use that street simultaneously, unless the city comes in and widens these roads via eminent domain, but kiss Uichi (sp?) goodbye as it darn near sits on the curb as is (previously Felix Mexican). Now take into account Montrose, while significantly wider as a street, the street is very poorly maintained from W. Dallas, all the way to W. Alabama. During Rush hour there is a traffic pile up from Westheimer all the way to Allen Parkway, right now. You want to build upwards, and create apartments, you need room for amenities, like swimming pools, weight rooms, etc, while the lot itself is of good size it’s far too small to accommodate both a parking garage, retail, and enough room for an apartment or condo complex. Grocery store, sure would be ideal, refinish to it’s former art deco glory would also bring in new business. I have my personal issues with that Jack in the box, but actually quite like the Vallero, it’s clean well stocked, and the employees are nice, not to mention BB’s next door rocks. Not to mention look at the vacancy rates, and ROI of the average AMLI complex, and the level of bureaucracy they employee, it’s not quite the ROI that you might imagine.

  • They employ, not employee.. I need some lunch, sorry.

  • Looked pretty sharp back in the day. Weingarten must have got a hold of it at some point…

  • @Mike: extra credit for working in a Weingarten slam.

    Whatever happens to this property will be of little consequence to the rest of Westhiemer in Montrose. As noted above, this lot is a rare bird for Westheimer as, with the exception of the JITBox pad, it encompasses the entire block. Almost very other lot from Shep to midtown on Westheimer is split with residential lots behind the commercial lots that front Westheimer. Unless you can buy out a block of single family homeowners, you will never have another chance to build on a complete block like on this lot. Thus, whether it is a high rise, mid rise, or low rise mixed use or Walmart, it will not mean that the rest of the neighborhood will be likely to follow suit.
    I do not think that a high rise will go in because the capital markets are still risk adverse and would prefer something that will go up faster and provide a safer and faster return. Look for another 4-6 story apartment complex, hopefully with some ground floor retail. If the JITBox is an issue, it may end up staying a strip mall. There are plenty of people in town who could make a quick buck by sprucing it up and filling it with the usual junk. This is Houston afterall. Expect the worst, hope for something slightly better.

  • Corey says it very well! “New” now equals luxury and amenities out the wazoo. Also, where will the dog area go, a feature in every new residential project I’ve seen come in for insurance for the past ten years? There’s no place for a pool, green area and parking, unless they go underground for floodtime fun or on the roof for a helluva hurricane party pad. Atrium style would make for some apartments of a size that might be welcome in Tokyo or Paris, but I don’t think we’re at that mindset yet. I’m afraid the building is doomed to fall before a 2-story Lifetime Fitness or something similar. On to Half-Price in Rice Village.

    @mike: *SNORT*!! Good one!

  • I remember when this was Liberty Bank. It’s wonderful to see these old photos.
    I am in favor of the old Town & Country village style re-hab on these four corners. Jack in the Crack, Vallero, Aladin and Smoothie Move are s**t hole establishments, riddled with tranisents (not to be confused with transvestites,which in my opinion are ALWAYS welcome here)pan-handlers, and yes; drug dealers & prostitutes. Again, the issue is esthetics!! NO ONE wants to see another FUGLY highrise, nor do we want to see anymore cheap-a** looking/smelling/dirty drug dealers& hookers!! Clean it up,and get the dealers and the hookers back into the bars and restaurants like it used to be in the seventies and eighties!! Let the door men kick you out or keep you out if you mis-behave or are unseemly in some way!!
    And yes, Half-Price books should be able to stay!!
    And No, I’m NOT JOKING!!

  • I’d be sad to see this go; when I lived in Monstrose I spent so many hours in that HPB (and Specs). #1 shopping destination. Always full, too. Even the Jack in the Box was a haven a few times. I would much rather see the center restored and the vacancies filled in than having some frilly apartments or the like take its place.

  • I still remember when soundwaves was there… Many moons ago, and an office depot if memory serves where HPB is now?

  • Or, the purchaser of this property could just sit on it for a long time.

  • @Corey, I do believe it might have been OfficeMax.

  • I agree no high rises, but shops and restaurants like town and country would be nice. More jobs are never a bad thing, and getting more business to Westhiemer couldn’t hurt.
    I love the old pictures.

  • @ movocelot: Holding costs will be too high for any purchaser to just sit on this parcel. If it sells, it will have to be developed.

    @ the folks advocating a Town & Country-style redevelopment, you are all insane. This is a little over two acres, about enough space for one of City Centre’s parking garages. Nearby parcels are not in play and Houston is not your Sim City scenario. (If it were, I’d have summoned an alien invasion to implode the Mercer condominiums by now.)

  • Let’s get the Ashby Highrise built here instead. They can even add more floors than before.

  • The Niche, always proving he isn’t 40 something.. Lol..

  • It would actually be a PERFECT spot for the Ashby Highrise. 280 or so rental apartments. Incredible views of downtown. Ground floor retail and restaurant pad. Disco Kroger in your back yard. Intersection of 2 major streets. Walking distance to Uchi, Indika, El Real, Anvil, Hay Merchant, Pacific Street, Niko Nikos, etc… and neighbors that would most likely welcome you with open arms (see all the businesses just listed)

  • I wasn’t aware that 40-something was a panacea of demography.

  • Take a look at West Ave on Kirby, and the surrounding area. Now envision that plopped on Montrose and Westheimer.

    And if Upper Kirby doesn’t need fast food, why would Montrose?

  • Bernard: that’s some “insider info”. How do you know that?

  • ikoihil,

    How does Upper Kirby not have fast food?
    -Beck’s Prime on Kirby
    -JitB on Richmond
    -Everything between 59, Westbpark, Kirby, and Edloe (which is mostly fast food).

    Upper Kirby is not the just the area on Kirby between Richmond and Westheimer.

    If you take the Montrose area, existing fast food is more prevalent than even Upper Kirby.

    Nothing wrong with fast food because there will always be an audience for that style of eating.

  • Whatever they do with this, it would be GREAT to make a multi-level parking. This neighborhood needs parking badly!!!

  • Bye bye 3-6-9. Hello expanded Spec’s…just sayin’.

  • On second thought, what’s wrong with restoring this building to be an art deco treasure?

    It has two solid tenants – Half Price and Specs. Specs would probably love to expand and upgrade if the center did.

    It has a fun restaurant, 3 6 9 and a fast food place too Scholtskys. Jack in the Box can go as far as I’m concerned. It’s horrible.

    An upgrade and restoration would attract high-end tenants.

    Surely the owners would make a buck on it?

    I also concur – move the Ashby to this location. It’s perfect, with everything the modern upscale apartment dweller needs in their own backyard. The views would be unsurpassed. The neighbors would be welcoming.

    Someone said above, it’s Houston, expect the worst and hope for something better. That’s all we can do.

    and LOL at the Weingarten comment…so true.

  • Please Please … let’s set up a petition to get the Ashby here!! I lived in the Parcs and being the most walkable neighborhood in Houston is Fantastic! With all that planned, Westheimer might get moved up the priority list to be resurfaced or even possibly rebuit within its current boundries. Look at what the city is doing to the streets around the hated Walmart.

  • Corey, there was an HEB in that strip center some years back. I also recall an Eckerds and maybe a Blockbuster Video also.