The Great River Oaks Shopping Center Compromise of 2009

There was no showdown over the River Oaks Shopping Center variance request at yesterday’s Planning Commission hearing. In talks prior to the meeting, Weingarten Realty used its mad skillz to assuage the most vocal neighbors with a few minor changes to the patio-topped porte-cochere facing Shepherd Drive — already under construction — that violated the setback:

. . . reduce the size of the balcony seating and enclose the seating area. That will result in a 30-inch encroachment into the area of the 25-foot setback.

Lower the 10-inch signage on the west side of the building facing Shepherd Drive.

Will remove external LED lights on the west side of the building and turn off flashing security box lights inside the parking garage.

Variance . . . granted! The screencapture above shows the revised, enclosed balcony shown at the hearing, which will be a part of Tony and Jeff Vallone’s new Il Tavolo restaurant and wine bar.

Weingarten knows how to keep more than just a noisy upstairs wine-bar quiet, notes abc13’s Miya Shay:


Homeowners along this stretch of Brentwood [in back of the center] haven’t been able to say anything because they signed an agreement with Weingarten to keep silent. So they can’t complain even though they live directly behind the new parking garage.

Isolate your critics! It works:

Despite the anger of some neighbors, Weingarten at the end of the day got what it wanted: It got the variance. It doesn’t have to tear down the structure that initially was against city code. And it still has the support of several council members, many of whom have received campaign donations from some of the management at Weingarten.

Screen capture: HTV

11 Comment

  • Yay!

    It’s settled. Now they can finish this project and move on to more along this strip!

  • Yea they scr%wed us again. What happened to following the rules. Could a ordinary citizens get away with that BS.

  • The old 60s radical in me thinks this sucks as the rich and powerful continue to rewrite rules as they see fit. In this modern age of computer aided design, no way they made that big of an error.

    Then, the jaded old bastard that I currently am says… Big deal. Move along. Nothing to see here.

  • I am really hoping that this economy will take it’s toll on unscrupulous developers like Weingarten. Tear everything down, put crap up, rules don’t apply to us, divide neighborhoods, pay off your critics. Buy your way. Convicted felon Lea Fastow sure didn’t fall far from the Weingarten tree.

  • Oops, I misspoke. Lea pled guilty to a misdemeanor count. Her husband is the convicted felon. My bad.

  • What’s weird is much of the neighborhood is the rich and powerful anyway.

    If anybody should be pissed, aim it at the Planning Commission members who are appointed by the Mayor.

    The main complaint was noise from this balcony because it was too close to the street. Weingarten addressed that by making it enclosed.

    There was nothing tragic about this. These types of variance requests and challenges happen all the time. Each week you can see all this happened at the Planning Commission meetings. Any planning commission member that has any relationship with Weingarten has to recuse themselves from that particular discussion topic at the meeting. And this happens all the time.

    The reality is that neighborhoods win these fight plenty of times too. There are countless times where a developer has to make concessions because of a neighborhoods opposition.

  • “Isolate” your critics? Uh, no. “PAY off your critics.” There are only about 10 homeowners in Brentwood who are directly affected by the overhang. If Weingarten spent more than $200k, I’d be surprised.

  • When Brentwood was first built, there was a bowling alley behind them.

  • Surely they wouldn’t have been able to hear the noise from the balcony over the top of the traffic noise from Shepherd whch is frankly a race track through there anyway.

    I’m torn about this development. The new building is pretty hideous but at the same time the old building, whilst it had historic significance is part of a development that will become commercially less and less viable given the poor logistical access to the retail units, the inadequate parking etc etc. I suspect that realistically it was always only a matter of time before some part of the historic structure had to be sacrificed in order to save the rest. This probably wasn’t the most architecturally sensitive way to do it but then thats Houston for you.

  • My grandfather built a house on Brentwood which is still standing with the second owners in residence. What a great place it was to visit as a child. The park in the middle of the cul-de-sac made it a great place for kids. It has managed to remain a quiet and quaint little street thus far,even with the tall and large new homes. I think it will remain so.

  • This was a good solution, and we disagree with the notion that Weingarten “used its mad skillz to assuage the most vocal neighbors with a few minor changes.”

    These were major changes, and the neighbors are not an easily assuaged bunch. They had specific issues with the project, but were not out to destroy the project or prove anything. And they had nothing to do with the very different agreement signed two years ago with completely different neighbors.
    The original plans included an outdoor wine bar, to be available for private parties and open until 2am, encroaching more than 11 feet into the setback – in addition to light and signage issues.

    In the end, Weingarten agreed to essentially everything the neighborhood had asked for. They agreed to remove all outdoor occupiable space above the encroaching port-cochere and completely enclose the remaining wine bar, in addition to significantly dimming the lights at the top of the structure, and lowering the higher sign by approximately six feet to decrease its visibility in the surrounding neighborhood.

    Neighbors supported the variance request subject to these modifications, and the Commission approved the variance subject to the modifications.

    We have received a written agreement directly with Weingarten that memorializes these changes, and are awaiting an amended version that, as previously agreed, makes the changes permanent on the property in case it is sold and does not limit remedies in case the agreement is ever breached.

    We appreciate both the involvement of over 700 neighbors and concerned citizens in making their objections known, and we also appreciate the good faith efforts of Weingarten to deal with the issues their encroachment caused and their willingness to make major changes to their project and make these changes permanent and binding on the property.