New Midtown Whole Foods Market Will Stand Apartments on Its Head, Shut Down a Street, Become Center of Universe

Rendering of Proposed Whole Foods Market in Pearl on Smith Apartments, 3100 Smith St. at Elgin, Midtown, Houston

Now we know why the Morgan Group, the developer that applied for a variance last year to allow for a Pearl on Smith apartment complex to fit onto the block surrounded by Elgin, Smith, Brazos, and Rosalie streets, later withdrew the request: To expand the project so that it could include a 40,000-sq.-ft. Whole Foods Market on its ground floor. And here’s a rendering of the design of the whole thing by Houston’s Ziegler Cooper Architects.


Rendering of Proposed Whole Foods Market in Pearl on Smith Apartments, 3100 Smith St. at Elgin, Midtown, Houston

The view is across Elgin St., with a high-ceilinged vehicle entrance coming in off Smith, a one-way street with traffic flowing south. What looks from the exterior like the store’s second story will be a mezzanine — similar to the one in the Post Oak Whole Foods. The Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff reports that parking for shoppers will be in 2 underground levels; residents of the 260-unit apartment complex, she says, will have room for their cars on 2 levels of parking above the store.

When a Whole Foods moves in to an urban area, Morgan’s president Alan Patton tells Sarnoff, “it moves the center of the universe to that location.” In this case, it also appears to close streets: Sarnoff reports that the developer is buying the block of Rosalie St. between Smith and Brazos. The building’s footprint will extend to a portion of the block to the north. The Smith St. vehicle entrance (and presumably another one on the opposite side, facing Brazos, for cars coming off the Downtown Spur) appears to be aligned with where Rosalie sits today.

The WPA-era building at 3100 Smith St. that last housed a Social Security office will have to be demolished before construction on the new 8-story structure can begin — early next year. The market is expected to open at the end of 2017.

Renderings: Ziegler Cooper Architects

Pearl on Smith on Elgin

40 Comment

  • Holy crap. Houston is turning into a real city.

  • This is a game changer because this location wont be just utiltilized by midtown residents but montrose, 3rd ward, museum dist, downtown, UH/TSU students, Eado, and maybe even as far as the med cen residents ! All we need now is for HEB To Buy and entire block downtown! my money says there will be an announcement by years end!

  • *slowly takes off sunglasses*

  • Hear that sound? It’s the sound of one thousand urbanists squeegeeing the spooge off their monitors.

  • And Swamplot explodes in 3…2…1…

  • Wow, it takes an out of town company to build something “urban” down in midtown. That’s a real win for the neighborhood. Now, if we could just get the development ordinance changed for midtown so you wouldn’t need a variance like this will to the 20′ rule! Reminds me a little ( on a shorter scale) of the Whole Foods on West Dearborn in Chicago. That also is built with a parking garage on top, and then apartments rising above.,-87.62934,3a,75y,16.02h,84.25t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sjU51KQviueRIlYxw7Iiqlw!2e0!6m1!1e1?hl=en

  • About that center of the universe: there isn’t one. It doesn’t exist.

  • if traffic in that intersection wasn’t bad enough!

  • Niche, judging by the pictures I think he meant to say “rich white people universe”

  • Now if they would just relocate the Greyhound and Autobus Expresso depot, midtown might become an actually pleasant urban experience.

    Until then, convicts, thugs and prostitutes will continue to frequent the area and take advantage of unsuspecting ‘new transplants’ to our ‘fine’ City!

    May Mr. Stewart R.I.P. He was a noteable Houston Entrepreneur!

  • Aside from the symbolism of a hoity-toity food store taking the place of a social security office, I do like this project. We joke about “first floor retail,” but it’s a good thing. And the reverse-approach: housing on top of a big box store, is an even better thing. It would be incredible if this became the norm in a densifying Houston: projects like this lining the major streets, where we now have strip-malls; and the quiet single-family residential streets behind them stay unmolested. This is what I think the urbanists are after, but they don’t seem to ever be explicit about it.

  • Thank you Lord, real food.

  • Randalls might have to drop their prices. Which may be ironically equivalent to Whole Foods prices.

  • Bravo! Now if only more of these apartments going up can appreciate the potential of mixed use properties. I’m looking at you Susanne and the complex on Alabama across from the Ice House. You see more foot traffic in this area than Midtown and a growing population with income.

  • Wonder what the dumpster view apartments go for? That view should smell pretty ripe come August.

  • Now that Whole Foods is hinting at a more “reasonably priced” version of their stores, it will be interesting to see what people really want. In most cases, the current version is really not an every-day grocery alternative.

  • @shadyheightster Morgan Group is Houston based. Their offices are located on South Rice near Westpark.

  • It’s really considerate of the yuppies to warehouse themselves like this, so come the zombie apocalypse they’ll be the first to go. Meanwhile, my Riverside Terrace pad has barred windows and triple-deadbolt double doors. Hasn’t stopped the locals from stealing my lawn care supplies, but should be plenty of protection against the undead. COME GIT YOU SOME.

  • What Old School said.
    I hope this is wildly successful and popular, and I’m not a fan of Whole Foods, but the concept.

  • I doubt too many midtowners will want to pay $400 for a week of groceries. That will cut into the beer fund for too many.

  • @markd

    “dumpster view apartments”? Can you explain what you’re talking about?

  • @ CREBBQ, I was referring to Whole Foods in my comment, as a tenant that sees they do not need 4 acres of parking in front of their store to accommodate shoppers.

  • hey clou, they gotta have a grocery store style loading dock and a big old dumpster/trash masher around back.

  • @Houstonian
    Sometimes Whole Foods bashing gets a little silly. $400/week? We shop at Whole Foods every week for $80-$100/week for a family of three and find the prices on basics comparable to HEB, Kroger or Randalls. All of these stores have expensive options and basic options. If you spend $400 at Whole Foods in a week that says more about how you shop than where you shop. As ShadyHeightster notes, the absence of surface lot parking is the real win here, and it took a forward-thinking store like Whole Foods to make it happen. Whole Foods almost got it at the Post Oak location, but has been doing it for years in dense urban environments in San Francisco, New York, etc. Apartments on top has been done successfully in these other cities as well. I’m really looking forward to seeing this happen in Houston.

  • “Growing up, we were so poor we had to live over a cut rate grocery store. We were homeless for a while, but the government tore down the elevated rode that would have been our only shelter.” — Future child of Midtown

  • @markd
    It looks like loading and dumpsters will be tucked under in a conditioned space and not “around back.” The large opening on the right hand side of the image appears to be where this will happen. This is a typical way to handle loading and dumpsters in a building like this. Apartment buildings usually have dumpsters anyway.

  • I’m sure that WF recycles and composts so diligently that their dumpsters will not be sufficiently noisome to disturb the other tenants.

  • I was reeeeally hoping they would put one of these in East Downtown like within one of the old warehouses by the new rail line. But I guess this is close enough. Now come on, Trader Joes!!! There is a warehouse with your name on it!

  • I remember in the early 90’s when only the brave went past where Westheimer turned to Elgin. That used to be a pet shop with an array of caged critters, and accross the street there was an adult massage parlor. Further down near Main there was an old abandoned mall with weekly dance raves. Great memories.

  • @Rafa: That building with the raves had an old Walgreens downstairs that housed my favorite Vietnamese restaurant ever, Lido. Sunday afternoons there would be bikers and witches eating the best food in an abandoned drug store.

  • midtown has finally arrived…i expect a few more of these hipster sandwiches to start popping up now around there.

  • What Walcott said.

    The Whole Paycheck joke doesn’t hold up when people routinely drop large sums of money on single dining experiences (+booze) at restaurants and then every week throw out grocery-bought food left to rot in the fridge. If you buy high-quality food, prepare it yourself, and consume it at home vs. shopping for groceries + eating out + throwing out wasted food, the economics of shopping at Whole Foods even out.

    if Whole Foods isn’t your jam, that’s fine. But bashing it as a concept without even trying to shop there is silly.

  • I am recalling the time I spent 6 dollars on a loaf of bread. The only other time bread was that pricey was pre-revolutionary France.

    Now recalling the time the cashier gave me trouble for my beer selection being bud light (I was just making a quick beer run before leaving town for the beach).

    Next, will they be trying to drive the bars out of midtown as it becomes “respectable.”

  • Greyhound is still an issue. The Expresso Bus station or their patrons are not a problem. Take a good look at greyhound. The clientele, homeless, and ex-convicts that hang out at Greyhound and McDonalds create an unsafe environment.

  • the renderings kind of look like the Lovett Commercial signs going up at the old Houston Post office building on Downling and Polk

  • The whole fooders trying to gentrify the post-grad frats out of midtown would be a good subject for a Vince Vaughn movie. The frats won’t take loss of their party town laying down. There will be hijinks before the eventual migration of the frat houses to EaDo.

  • I agree about Greyhound. We really should look at creating a big bus/train station near the Amtrak Station on he North side of Downtown. They could have everything right there. Direct shuttles to the airports (complete with bag-check). Bus station. Light rail connection. Trains (of course). A City-Bus transit center….

  • I cook at home a lot, and my paycheck goes a lot further at Kroger’s and HEB than it does Whole Foods. I do go there regularly for some baked goods and the food bar, but that’s about it. You can’t really buy cleaning supplies and other stuff found at larger grocers. Still, it’s a welcome drop of (expensive) water in a food desert.

    As for the Greyhound station, I wouldn’t anticipate it being moved anytime soon. It has to be centrally located so riders can get on other public transportation to get to their final destination. Also, to expect an urban environment to look just like the suburbs is just wishful thinking. This is the city, folks! It has weirdos and homeless people!

  • The bus station is a long way from the future Whole Foods site. I’d say the riffraff one will encounter around Whole Foods will be more the general homeless / drug peddler population that you can find in Midtown and Montrose and would be there even if the bus station was in another part of town. At least there now seems to be fewer male prostitutes running around there than what I remember from the 1990s.

  • Isn’t the new mattress store like a block away!?