Boyd’s Wilshire Village Prayer, with Photos

From Robert Boyd’s blog, Wha’ Happen?:

Wilshire Village is officially no more. . . .

I am interested in what happens next. Certainly something new will be built there, but in today’s economic environment, getting loans for development is hard. So it may sit for a while. But I will be watching and taking photos whenever I notice a change in status.

Here’s what I hope. I hope that the new development there, whatever it is, is a reasonably high density development, like the one it replaces. I hope that the new development preserves the beautiful trees on the site.

I hope the new development is people-oriented and community-oriented. I hope that it engages the street and is pedestrian-friendly. I hope that it is architecturally interesting. I hope it has no fake stucco, no faux-Tuscan features. I hope it has no turrets or oversized, penis-shaped entryways. I hope it doesn’t have big garages that face the streets.


And I hope it is a well-built place. I hope it is built with care and built to last. I don’t really have a lot of hope, though. . . .

Photos of Wilshire Village, 1701 West Alabama at Dunlavy: Robert Boyd

33 Comment

  • “I hope that the new development there, whatever it is, is a reasonably high density development, like the one it replaces.”

    Give me a break. Outside of the architectural aspects and the period materials, the overall development is just like today’s modern suburban apartment complexes. Parking lot and scattered buildings. High density it was not.

  • I wrote “reasonably high density” — I could have written “relatively high density” as well. It certainly is higher density than the neighborhood I live in, and higher density than much of Montrose. Maybe I should have written it like this: “I hope the new development is not lower density than the original.” I am not suggesting that Wilshire Village ever had Manhattan or Hong Kong levels of density.

    (Of course, in its declining years when the owners kept a few tenants around for insurance purposes while otherwise letting the complex descend into ruin, it was very low density indeed.)

  • Your lips to God’s ears.

  • I fear that you just jinxed this lot into a bunch of shoddily built McMansions with no trees whatsoever and the residents will park their Hummers on the sidewalk instead of their giant garages that consume most of the front yard.

  • Aw hell! I hope not!

    But I think that’s unlikely in this neighborhood and in that location. I think it would be interesting for Swamplot readers to guess what will be built there, and when construction will start? Will it be townhouses? Midrise condos or apartments? A highrise (that is what Dilick was saying back in 2005)? Will anything start construction in 2010? 2011? This could be like March Madness, but for real estate.

  • For now, an ant farm.

  • That place is looking better already. Somebody get those backhoes back onsite and point them east toward the Fiesta. Then we’s really be getting somewhere.

  • I don’t think the Fiesta should go anywhere. Maybe redevelopment of the Wilshire site will have the property owners of the shopping center with Fiesta remodel it.

    That Fiesta, while not looking so great, is in a great location where a lot people walk to it. It’s very convenient.

  • What’s the fascination with high density? Do we all have to live right on top of each other?

  • Reasonable question. I don’t think high density is a good quality by itself, but it leads to other things that are useful–neighborhoods that are walkable, increased customers for local businesses and mass transit services, more “eyes on the street”.

    That said, high density is not the lifestyle for everyone. Fortunately for people in Houston who prefer the spread out lifestyle, they have many many choices for low-density, cul-de-sac & arterial, car-centric neighborhoods. But for folks who prefer a more urban, walkable, high density neighborhood, there are not so many options.

    This neighborhood is pretty good as far as walkability goes. As kjb wrote, the Fiesta is in a great location for the neighborhood. I definitely hope it doesn’t move (or if it does, it is replaced with another grocery). Whatever goes up where Wilshire Village was, it will likely provide customers to Fiesta. The more people who live there, the more customers it will provide, and the fewer people who will be forced to drive someplace to get groceries.

    That said, I don’t want it to sound like density is the only thing that’s important to me. I don’t want a high-density piece of crap built there; a new Tremont Towers would be a tragedy.

    Of course, what I want is irrelevant until someone makes me Czar of Montrose. But having followed the saga of Wilshire Village for so long, I can’t let go. I’m still interested in what happens there and have hopes for the best (as I define it).

  • Dunlavy Fiesta plays the best grocery shopping soundtrack.

  • How can you question the historic architecture of the Fiesta?!?!?! It is a symbiotic example of early Houston stipmallery!

  • Fortunately for people in Houston who prefer the spread out lifestyle, they have many many choices for low-density, cul-de-sac & arterial, car-centric neighborhoods. But for folks who prefer a more urban, walkable, high density neighborhood, there are not so many options.
    Houston has a lot of high-density *potential*. Unfortunately it isn’t developing out that way. Instead, high-density developments being put in low-density areas. Which makes them pockets of density without the benefits. West Ave., Regent Square, and the infamous Ashby Highrise are all examples.

    For urban density to work, it must reach a ‘critial mass’ of proximity, diversity of commerce, employment, and on-the-spot residences all within walking distance. Put the three developements above near each other, and near downtown, and you’d have a true move toward urbanism. Alone, none are big enough to be self-sustaining as a true urban lifestyle. Putting them in lower-density areas and residential neighborhoods dilutes the effect, greatly reduces the benefits of density, and causes a lot more strain on infrastructure this isn’t adequate for the density.
    If Houston want’s to become a true urban city, it won’t happen in the disjunctive manner we’re currently seeing. Our current path will only lead to those that want traditional neighborhoods upset with large-scale develpers and those that want true urbanism not getting it either.

  • With a grocery store, dry cleaners, the Chocolate Bar, Brasil, Empire, Agora and even the icehouse all within walking distance, you can bet it’s going to be high density. If Fiesta would just keep their store a little cleaner and hire a produce manager who can pick better produce, they should just leave it as is.

    And yes, where else can you get recycled disco music, oldies and a smattering of club music whilst grocerizing? Sure beats the paste out of muzak and light jazz, a la Randalls and Kroger.

    The land is so vacant and open now with some near-majestic trees, tis a shame the owner can’t default on his taxes and have the city swoop in and make it a park. I can already envision a curving walking/jogging track winding it’s way through the trees… but alas, cheap stucco that shears off when the next Cat 3 hits and mold behind faux marble sheeting it shall be!

  • You can also walk to the Menil, or select from a variety of restaurants relatively close by… Heck, we even walk down to the Museum District and Rice Village at times. They’re probably not close enough for most people in Houston, but both are definitely pleasant walks

  • Well if he’s going to build a hirise he better hurry or he’ll be the first “oh, no, we apply the traffic impact ordinance to everyone” example in the coming lawsuits oer 1717 Bissonnet.

  • I seriously doubt Dilick will be building anything, much less a highrise. I suspect he will be selling the property. (No inside knowledge, just a hunch.)

    Off the Kuff suggested that the property was likely to be unbuilt for a long time. Someone commenting on Hairballs suggested that The Menil might buy up the land.

    The idea here is that this much land near the Menil doesn’t come up for sale very often. They could snap it up and hold it until they are ready for their next big expansion. So who knows?… It may end up being empty “parkland” (with a Mark di Suvero sculpture or two) for several years, until the Menil hires some low-key architect to build a museum devoted, say, to the sculptural works of John Chamberlain.

    I’m betting on faux-Tuscan townhouses, but the Menil option is always a possibility in that neighborhood.

  • What if Dilick subdivided the property, got the city to put Branard and Sul Ross back to thru streets to Dunlavy….

    Or how about this! Dilick could become a local hero by refurbishing the land and planting a small farm (produce only, no chickens or pigs allowed, LOL, except for when the local Guinea Fowl nest there “accidentally”), Fiesta could dramatically improve their produce selection, and Urban Harvest could show off our “buy local” smarts!

  • Dave McC hits it out of the park.

    My dream world has this;

    Post Midtown Square and The Rise prove their success (which they have been). Gables moves in with a “West Ave” instead of what we got (a CVS and some strip malls). Building off of that, Camden City Centre, The Edge and 2222 Smith follow suit but also throw in some ground floor activity. This spurs a developer to think big and do a major redo of the Central Square project, even going so far as to revamp the clock tower and make it the new gateway to Midtown. Then, Regent Square gets hold of the “midtown green” property and plans to add the tower, office space, and mixed use midrises along the rail line. Then, the Ashby hi-rise folks move in and buy the greyhound lot and throw up a highrise with ground floor retail in that spot. If I am going to dream, I might as well dream big…

  • Don’t mess with my Fiesta…its the only store where the workers are friendly and really work hard…plus I love the music they play so much that sometimes I just want to shake rattle and roll my cart!

  • How about someone just ‘point a backhoe’ at bernard?

    the dunlavy fiesta is one of the best grocery stores in houston. it has an outstanding selection of ethnic foods, inexpensive produce, and one of the best beer and wine sections i’ve ever seen (as close as you’re gonna get in h-town to ‘2 buck chuck’)… and yeah, the in-store music is great.

  • Oh, please. Fiesta on Dunlavy isn’t “chi-chi” and we all know we must have “chi-chi.”

  • Hey does anyone know what they are doing on Branard just west of where Wilshire Village was? The city has posted signs near Woodhead about a variance….

  • I heard (not joking) that KB homes (I think, or another home builder) was looking at this site for a new style of very small and relatively inexpensive 1,000 sf-ish single family hyomes on very small lots. The traget pricepoint was about $150k I believe.

  • I think that variance is for minimum lot size. I still wonder what the deal is with the streets around here… They replaced Sul Ross east of Woodhead with concrete, yet did a strange half pave job on the west side. They’ve been doing some sort of underground utility work on Driscoll and Branard and have basically left dirt holes in what was already terrible pavement. Where are our concrete streets?

  • I actually have complained numerous times to 311 about Driscoll. The contractor filled the holes with sand that just washed out… Plus getting by the Chocolate Bar on Driscoll is sometimes impossible with how the people park.. The dumpsters at the Chocolate Bar and fabric place across the street are both illegally placed in public Right of way but the City does not seem to care… As to the variance, who is working on which lots? When they say minimum lot size I thought maybe they were going to make the street wider for something going in where Wilshire Village was… thats my guess

  • And I thought I was the only one who used 311 around here! Seriously, enormous potholes and overgrown yards seem to go weeks without notice – well, I guess that was until I started calling 311 and quickly realized that it takes weeks to get anything accomplished. Driscoll really can’t get any worse…it’s definitely the most horribly patched, rough street in this part of the city. The fact that the Chocolate Bar and those dumpsters take it down to virtually one lane doesn’t help…

    I personally have to take Driscoll every day since you can’t turn left on Woodhead. I’m waiting for the day the city comes through and reworks all of the crappy roads in our neighborhood, but I’m definitely not holding my breath.

    What I find interesting is that the grid around here is shown on early maps of Houston (1915-1920), yet there aren’t really any structures from that time (all 30’s and on). The streets seem to be pretty vintage, though…

  • I gave up on 311 for most things. I call my council member’s office and complain. That usually gets some sort of action. I’ve also been known to send an actual paper letter to the head of the department responsible for correcting the issue. Email can be ignored, but mail usually works. The next step is to send the letters, and then call the council member’s office every day asking for an update. Be annoying – something will happen just to make you go away.

  • I am going to write all the people running for mayor, plus a couple of public works people and tell the candidates to show me what they can do if they want my vote. I did this back when White first ran and the only one that took action was Orlando Sanchez. The patches he had placed on Driscoll were done right and are still fine today. He required the Director of Public works to respond also. I am going to start writing my letters today. As to Sul Ross, that street was completely redone with new curbs, and a blacktop overlay a few years ago. You could never tell today… the work was done poorly, plus the City has come in numerous times doing other things, including tearing it up again for new sewers… I think one problem is there is no inspection process by the city.. Contractors do what they want…

  • I am going to write all the people running for mayor, plus a couple of public works people and tell the candidates to show me what they can do if they want my vote.

    Don’t forget Sue Lovell. Who lives in the area. And do share with us her response. No doubt she will respond that it’s already on her list of things to do in her next term. It was probably on the previous list of things to do.

  • May I add a prayer, a wish?

    I’d like to see archaeologists – bane of all developers – find the bones of the Sieur de La Salle there! Then the spot becomes a Shrine. And while I’m dreaming: Let them uncap a natural spring during the dig:

    Wilshire Park, Shrine and Community Fountain.

  • There is now a giant “FOR SALE” sign on the Wilshire Village land offering up 7.68 (or 7.84 or something) acres.

  • The Fiesta is a wonderful store with great variety of produce, wines, and cheeses. It is a manageable size. Yes, it could be updated, but take a backhoe to it would be unconscionable. Many people, including students from St. Thomas, walk there. You can’t have an Urban area without places to walk to. My hometown had within walking distance of our little row house, a bank, post office, Church, shoe-maker, park with lake, library, a butcher, and a bus stop to get to the places you could not walk to. That is urban living, not multi-storied buildings with no place to walk to. All this “urban” talk is just public relations for big money interests. Mixed-use means you live, shop, relax, worship, in your own neighborhood. It also means its not an enclave for the rich, but residences for a variety of budgets. Get real, Houston. This is just the rich helping the rich and using buzz words to make it all sound so urbanly equal.