Where’s That Oak Forest Retail Renaissance?

WHERE’S THAT OAK FOREST RETAIL RENAISSANCE? The Shops at Oak Forest, 43rd St. and Ella, Oak Forest, HoustonIt’s not at all surprising to the Houston Press‘s Abby Koenig that her neighborhood, Oak Forest, walked away with the Least Recognizable Neighborhood title in this year’s Swamplot Awards. But she wonders when the area’s retail and commerce will catch up to its residential transformation: “There’s still nothing here! I am exaggerating; over the past four years a few new places have popped up: Cottonwood, Shepherd Park and Pink’s Pizza have opened up over on Shepherd, hidden away on Wakefield is Petrol and Wakefield CrowBar, in the shopping center on Ella we’ve still got our Kroger with some chain additions like a European Wax Center (thanks?) and an Edible Arrangements (thanks again?) and there is the much-praised Plonk bar and restaurant. But other than a select few, there’s not a whole lot to do in Oak Forest. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want the neighborhood to turn into another Washington Ave, but the hottest news item on the Oak Forest Facebook page over the past three months has been over the rumor that Berryhill is coming; that’s how bored we are: ‘not bad Mexican’ is the most exciting thing we’ve got going on.” [Art Attack; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Shops at Oak Forest: Transwestern Retail

13 Comment

  • We have friends who just bought a cute house (with a pool!) in Oak Forest. We visit them and when we drive home my husband always says, “Nothing to do out here but get a DUI”

  • Oak Forest is Houston’s 1940s version of Cinco Ranch. It is just a bedroom community with a single retail development at W 43rd and Ella. Why would anyone expect it to be SoHo or Haight-Ashbury? That being said, the neighborhood is just a quick drive from El Gran Malo, Rainbow Lodge, Cavatore, and Tony’s on the other side of 610. Another 2 minutes in the car gets you to all the bars and restaurants in Shady Acres (Crisp, Cedar Creek, Corkscrew, Hubcap, etc.). And the Pink’s pizza folks are putting in a new bar on Ella where That Pizza Place on Ella used to be. So, compared to Bellaire, Oak Forest is pretty much SoHo or Haight-Ashbury.

  • the people of Meyerland want to tell you to wait your turn, they’ve been in line for 20 years and have even less than y’all. Kroger > Food Town/Beldon’s/99 Cent Only.

  • I can’t see Oak Forest proper having much opportunity for retail and restaurants beyond what it’s already got for it’s residents and the few eateries (like Plonk or Mytiburger) it has for non residents. 43rd and Ella is the most concentrated commercial area, and it’s pretty much done unless and existing business takes over an established one ( i.e. Berryhill replacing a gas station). One prime spot was taken up entirely by Resource 1 credit union (Oak Forest is certainly not lacking banking services and branches!).

    If there was truly demand for something unique in Oak Forest, there’s a spot at the NW corner 43rd & TC Jester East/Rosslyn that’s been available for quite some time, and across the street next to the Valero there’s an empty lot that has also sat vacant for years.

    The vast majority of Oak Forest retail isn’t pedestrian friendly, isn’t “quaint” and unique–and never will be.

  • So this person wants all the restaurants, shopping, bars of Washington Ave, but they say, “I don’t want the neighborhood to turn into another Washington Ave”. Everyone I know in the affluent 25-35 demo has been raving about moving to Oak Forest because it’s “the new Heights!” Folks that realized their 3 story townhomes didn’t work when they spawned a newborn have all moved up there into single story homes and have realized maybe they’d actually like to go out and do things from time to time.

    Instead of asking retail and other businesses to follow you to the burbs, maybe you should move somewhere that has all the stuff you want.

  • Retailers – especially chain retailers serving a local neighborhood or community – need residential demographics, usually determined by a radius or a drive-time envelope. Oak Forest / Garden Oaks / Candlelight is already a low-density area. North of Pinemont, the quality of your demographics (in terms of retail appeal) drops off exponentially (no offense to anyone). So your basic market potential in that area is limited, even with the upscaling of typical household incomes.

    Compare that to the Heights or Washington Avenue – denser population, same affluence, extending further around you in all directions. If you were setting up shop, what location would you choose to obtain the largest customer base?

    Oak Forest is likely to slowly over time obtain retail and services meant to serve that limited market area. But this always takes awhile – look at how long it took the Heights to start getting better retail after it began serious gentrification in the mid-1990s.

  • Could use a concrete public skatepark nearby. Something better than the Watonga park junk.

  • wish we had the nice size lots like Oak Forest and GO. things could be way worse back there. More bars, groceries, nail salons and boutiques are not always a good thing.

  • “the affluent 25-35 demo”… some tiresome and whiny bitches.

  • Markd pretty much described 90% of Swamplot readers.

  • Be careful what you wish for. How many cutesy restaurants do you need in the block next to your house? Do you really want the garbage bin odor in the summer, the clanging and noise of employees out back, the large delivery & garbage trucks blocking your street/alley from time to time, not to mention nighttime celebrants searching for their vehicles?

  • I think Jason was spot on. Stop running away from what you didn’t like and hoping that what you do like will already be there, or otherwise follow you around town. For the same price as the GOOF, you can buy in the 1st or the 6th (or dare I suggest, Northside) and get your retro house, nightlife by foot or transit, and a fancy new skate park for E.

  • I think the area could and would support more retail. There are other centers that are screaming for revitalization in the area and then could be home to more restaurants and shops. Ella Plaza Shopping Center is one. In fact the whole area around 34th and Ella is a candidate.