Downtown Would Like To Know If You Would Like To Shop Downtown

DOWNTOWN WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHOP DOWNTOWN Around the same time that Macy’s announced it was closing its store at 1110 Main St., Mayor Parker announced that she’d organized a task force to figure out how to plug up the gaps in Downtown retail; accordingly, the Downtown Management District’s recruiting whichever Houstonians it can to respond to a 20-question shopping survey. It’ll be up through January 31. [Downtown Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Flickr user cjt3

27 Comment

  • I took the survey. The frustrating thing about downtown is that all of the excuses people have for not going there ought to apply to the Galleria/Uptown or Rice Village: traffic congestion, inconvenience, whatever. I guess parking is a big issue, but I go to movies at Sundance and to theater productions all the time and I’ve never thought it was astoundingly difficult to park. Maybe that’s because downtown is so often dead? Anyway, Houstonians need to get motivated to go to their city’s central area and stop making excuses. If you can put up with the headache-inducing morass that is the Galleria, you can handle downtown.

  • Anse, parking in Galleria is free as oppose to Downtown. Houstonians refuse to pay for parking as a matter of pride not cost. To force someone to pay for parking, one has to offer something that is magnitudes better than another area… the simple truth is that Downtown does not offer such things. It’s blah at best.

  • That may be true. But it’s weak, if you ask me. A few bucks to park is hardly a big deal. These people go to the Galleria and drop $500 at Niemann Mark-up for a pair of socks or whatever, but they won’t pay for parking? It’s sad that you are probably right.

  • I loved shopping at Foley’s and later Macy’s when I lived in Montrose, and parking was never a big bother and crowds were minimal. You could do all your Christmas shopping in about an hour.

  • Finding out what college students want is a good bet.

  • There is no such thing as “free” parking, you pay one way or another.

  • I’m someone who won’t pay for parking. It’s not really a matter of pride for me, but most of the places I go to aren’t that great to justify that additional cost. I’m not going to pay to park just to shop at the Downtown Macy’s or um, for example, Forever21. I’d rather drive to a mall, park there, get what I need, and go home.

    Places that require me to pay for parking or are so congested that parking is a nightmare… I just won’t go because it’s an expense I can’t justify. Even if I have to get something from the Galleria/Rice Village or make a return, I go right when they open or an hour before they close. On weekdays.

    When I had to be at the courthouse for a lawsuit, I actually parked in my old parking garage – Allen Center Parking – and hoofed it on over, so I didn’t have to deal with parking or pay for parking. That $5 does make a difference for me; that’s money I can put towards food.

  • La Branch Street is the answer. Make a linear “shopping district” 5th Avenue style. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel–copy what already works. Instead of a cluster inspired district that will encourage development of a few blocks, the entire street will become synonomous with shopping in Downtown Houston. The street’s location has many benefits to creating a thriving retail shopping district: connectivity from the Northside all the way down to Hermann Park, ample empty parking lot blocks immediately adjacent ripe for development from the ground up, walking distance from all four of eastern Downtown’s major attractions (Minute Maid, Toyota Center, Discovery Green, and GRB), future MetroRail stops nearby (though an added stop between Austin and LaBranch would benefit such a district tremendously), and relative ease of location finding for drivers. A linear shopping district downtown would further accelerate residential development in all of eastern downtown, be it north, central, or south. No resident living on the eastern side of Downtown would have to cross more than three streets to get to La Branch. A cluster shopping district would only encourage development in its immediate vicinity; only so many residents could live within that three block range. The greatest advantage of a linear district is location finding–there’s no need to study maps and such to find where the Downtown retail is–just go park near La Branch Street and you’re there. Who really knows how to get to Houston Pavillions anyhow? No kitchy names that are created by focus groups–the La Branch Shopping District. Put up some new place identifier street name signs to be sure. Flags on light poles too. How many more out of town tourists/fans/convention attendees will be more likely to go shopping if directions will consist of “Walk thata way ’til you reach La Branch–You’re there.”? Create a TIRZ for the linear district to incentivize the retail pioneers until the tipping point is reached at which retail and residential will create growth off of each other. Perhaps make the focus of the TIRZ building mixed-use parking garages to replace parking lots–create such a vast, easily accessable, free quantity of parking that the current perceived barrier to venturing downtown is eliminated.

  • Why don’t they put shopping centers in east downtown by Dynamo Stadium? Free parking, cheap land, booming number of residents. I am dumbfounded as to why they haven’t put a full size grocery store or strip mall in the area. Makes no sense…

  • Maybe they could make an EZ-Pass equivalent for parking. Like the Q card it could give you bonuses for using it a lot. As has been noted no parking is ever free. But not having to think about the bill is the difference.

  • Shopping center in EaDo? Yeah, we could call it something catchy like Mercado del Sol.

  • Forgive me if this sounds condescending–it wasn’t that long ago when five dollars was a significant amount of money for me, too–but people who have to choose between parking or eating are probably not the target demographic for most kinds of development. Paying for parking is really about discouraging non-essential traffic to the area, right? It’s a way to get people to move along when they’re done with their business. It’s a great idea if you have mass transit that people can choose instead, but since we don’t have that, we get a downtown that is perpetually up-and-coming instead of thriving.

  • Very good thinking, Thomas. Would you consider calling Central Houston ( or 713.650.1470) and making an appointment to pitch that bit to Bob Eury?

  • I occasionally shopped at the downtown Macy’s. More rarely, I shop in the Sears on the edge of downtown.

    I liked the Macy’s, but I don’t like walking along that part of Main. It’s nasty to step over streams of urine coursing down the sidewalk and it doesn’t feel safe, wondering if the men babbling loudly are harmless or might get violent. At the Sears, every time I go, someone hits me up for “gas money” in the parking lot.

    Basically, shoppers are women. They shop alone, with children, or with another woman. In none of those instances do they want to run a gauntlet of panhandlers and shady characters. They want it to be a fun experience, and they want to be able to get to their cars without feeling like it’s an obstacle course of seedy and/or unsafe.

    Case in point? Greenspoint Mall in the 1980s/90s. I haven’t been since women were getting targeted and killed in the parking lot.

    Where do I now shop? The Village. Meyerland Shopping Center. The Galleria, if I must. For large-scale, Christmas-type shopping, I’ll drive to a mall I perceive as safe — like Willowbrook, Baybrook.

  • Thomas has a great idea. Make it mixed use and it gets better and more interesting.

  • @ Anon
    “Basically, shoppers are women. They shop alone, with children, or with another woman. In none of those instances do they want to run a gauntlet of panhandlers and shady characters. They want it to be a fun experience, and they want to be able to get to their cars without feeling like it’s an obstacle course of seedy and/or unsafe.”

    You nailed it. I took the survey also and here is my take. If they want people to shop in downtown houston, they have to either cater to the people who hang out downtown (homeless and junkies), or run off the homeless and try to bring in people with money to shop at higher end stores. IMO it is a waste of time and money to try and force people to go somewhere, let the market decide.

  • So wait, if you perceive the need, why don’t you open a full-scale grocery store there? If you’re right you’ll make a lot of money.

  • Perfect idea thomas…only thing i can add is when they make the shopping district make sure the stores are street-level urban inspired stores…not the crap known as the Houston pavillions…

  • @Anse No worries. I’m trying to save money since I purchased a house, so every bit of cash helps. I was also raised without much, so even to this day, I’m still a bit more careful with my money. In the example I picked, $5 = some meat at Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s that I can buy and cook for a few meals.
    I would pay for parking if the shopping venues were worth it. They’re not. What I can go to in Downtown, I can go to easily elsewhere.
    Downtown retail for me would be places I can do my standard errands (like grocery shopping, trips to the hardware store) that I can do on my lunch break, so I don’t have to after I get off of work. Anything else is a purchase online or a trip to the local feed store.

  • people used to shop at sharpstown mall too. cant imagine going anywhere near there now, all gangs

  • Anon22’s idea is a great one. I love the idea of an ez pass for downtown parking.

  • @coconutbutter: if you’re short on cash, why don’t you shop at Kroger or Joe V’s rather than Whole Foods?

  • After moving to Houston in 1987 and having gone thru several births and deaths of downtown, I can honestly tell you why people do not want …detest….going downtown to shop or hang around at night or during the day. Houston, like many other cities, cannot control it streetpeople and homeless from overwhelming the area and causing perceived or actual tense situations to casual visitors. period. I’ve been approached 28 times by panhandlers and psychotics , have been cussed out by 2 and all because I’m middle class and dress as a middle class person would. I’m a marked target for these folk . Last summer , I took a friend to do a walking tour of east downtown, around the convention center then back to Main . We mostly saw empty parking lots in isolated areas and on Main, street hustlers standing around that 24 hr convenience store next to the new glass skyscraper…the pez dispenser building…I actually like it, cutting drug deals with urban highrise apartment folk or whomever their target market was. Take the train? Oh great, now I can rub shoulders with street people who board the train for free, who use obscenities and talk like their next baby mama is expecting another and they look like their main ambition in life is to increase their numbers to one day be in control of it all, that or to stare you down or ask you for money. Downtown? Only a person like Anise Parker could love it.

  • ^Tom your racism is showing.

  • @Spoonman I actually purchase most of my produce at conventional grocery stores minus a few apples, cilantro, etc. Remarkably, produce at TJ’s is comparable, if not cheaper than Kroger. A few things that I’ve noticed that come in under: lettuces, mushrooms, bananas, and onions.
    There is one thing I won’t budge on, and that’s my protein sources. I try to buy the best quality of protein that I can afford. The primary reason behind doing so: I do what I can to support good farming practices by purchasing my meats at TJ’s or WF’s. If the option is available, I’ll also purchase local meats from the butcher or from Kroger.
    I pretty much only purchase fresh produce, meats, and spices. So far this month, I’ve cooked all of my meals from scratch, but this is partially due to a desire to eat cleanly after binging like there was no tomorrow during the holidays. ;)

  • @ Tom, Well said

  • I wish there was a like button for all the great ideas and input. it is conversations like this that make our city great. We go to forever 21 all the time, and then there is the park shops and that great deli on the ground level. Niko Niko and the little park.
    I love the city and I love the way I feel when we take advantage of Discovery green and the events dt, I feel like I am taking part of all the greatness of living in the 4th largest city!