Growing Pains: Heights Residents Concerned About Second Proposed Apartment Complex

Categories: Surreal Estate

heights-alexan.jpg
From the Alexan Apartments Web site: how Heights life might look in five years?
For several years, complaints raged around the development of a Walmart near the corner of Yale and I-10. Certainly there was some degree of "Walmart sucks and we don't want it in our neighborhood" frustration, but chief among the legitimate concerns was what would happen to traffic at that intersection and the one immediately adjacent to it, Heights and I-10. If you have driven in that area since Walmart and all the corresponding shops have opened, you know the whole area is a traffic cluster-you-know-what, made worse by the fact that trains still halt traffic, sometimes at rush hour, along Heights Boulevard.

Add to this the exponential growth throughout the historic neighborhood over the past five years and the worries of residents seem justified. Now comes word that developer Trammell Crow is adding to its plans already in place to build a massive apartment complex on Yale just six blocks north of I-10. One complex at Yale and 7th -- right near where the hike-and-bike trail crosses Yale with no signal, it should be noted -- is under way and now they want a second just a block south at Yale and 6th.

As you might imagine, folks in the Heights are not thrilled.

A story in The Leader detailed many of the concerns and what was being done to address them, which is essentially nothing.

"Horror, shock and disbelief" are among the reactions of neighborhood residents, said Roxanne Davis, a founding member of the neighborhood advocacy group West Heights Coalition.

"We are disappointed to hear of yet another extremely large project in an area without sufficient infrastructure for the initial one," she said, particularly since WHC reps had asked TCR earlier this year if other projects were in the works in the immediate area.

A second apartment complex would likely compound any traffic, safety and density concerns the neighborhood had with the first one, she said. WHC had, for example, estimated Alexan Heights' 361 units would generate 500 cars following roughly the same peak commuter hours and southbound destination: I-10.

One area resident noted that the population of either complex would exceed that living in the single-family homes within the five-block area around them.

Traffic on Yale Street already stacks back six blocks from I-10, Davis said. Cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets encounters narrow roadways without curbs.

I lived in the Heights for more than 15 years and there were always concerns about development encroaching on the historic neighborhood. For the most part, areas deep inside the neighborhood have been spared, but portions along the major throughways -- Yale, Studewood and Shepherd -- are starting to show signs of economic expansion with apartments planned at Studewood and 14th, for example.

With no zoning laws on the books, developers are free to do pretty much whatever they like regardless of how it affects the neighborhood. It's ironic considering that when I moved in back in the mid-90s, people considered large sections of the Heights to be dangerous. There were gang fights at Love Park, just a block from where I lived.

As gentrification has set in, commercial enterprises have made their move as well, dropping expensive homes onto lots far too small to support them, just like what happened in West U, the Montrose, the Washington Corridor and other Inner Loop neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, communities are virtually powerless to stop developers, as we saw with the Walmart shopping center that is snarling traffic along Heights and Yale. It appears, at this point, there is no end in sight and very little that can be done. Even city council members throw up their hands:

Councilwoman Ellen Cohen said in an e-mailed response that one of District C's hallmarks is its "incredible level of development.

"When a new complex is being introduced within an already-developed community, I know the residents will have concerns regarding the impact on traffic, safety, and infrastructure in their neighborhood. However, in a state with strong property rights and in a city with no zoning regulations, there are few ways in which a Council Member can affect development."

She said her goal is "to ensure that the quality of life of my constituents remains high, and the best approach is to bring the developers and the residents to the table to address their concerns and attempt to find ways to compromise for the betterment of the community."

In this case, "compromise" would appear to mean "bend over and take it" for residents.

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12 comments
jberlat1
jberlat1

I have driven in the area many times and traffic isn't any worse after rush hour. That is whay happens when you have 10,000 a month moving to Houston.

h_e_x
h_e_x

How could anyone look at the asshole in the picture and not throw up? Every single thing about him, the smug expression on the face, the ugly tie on a tacky short sleeved shirt, the ugly hotel-like decor of the space, they all scream pathetic yuppie who wastes their money trying to impress their yuppie peers. Don't fear your 30's, that's no reason to submerge yourself in such douchiness.

Kelley Smith
Kelley Smith

-> rassin' frassin' shnikin' rickin' rassardly! ~channeling muttley

crab-a-cane
crab-a-cane

I'd wager that more than 75% of the "Stop the Heights Walmart" crowd either:

a) now shop there or in that strip mall area on a regular basis

b) never did – or never will – live in The Heights.

As a 10+ year Heights resident / homeowner, I am actually more concerned about what is happening at White Oak and Studewood aka Washington North. Each bar or restaurant that opens is douchier than the last. We already have enough Republican / Texas Ex / 100 Club idiots living in the neighborhood, we don't need to ship extra aholes in on the evenings and weekends. Plus, I'm already paying their property taxes!!!

Anse
Anse

The biggest frustration with the Walmart is that it is a massive strip mall, a tired approach to development. It's as if developers sense the demand for more density (a good thing) but then they go about it in such a way that ruins any pedestrian-friendly aspects in favor of nearby retail that is surrounded by acres upon acres of asphalt parking lot. I don't think these two things really go together. They could have built a nice mixed-use development that encourages density in the best possible way, but they didn't.

As for the Heights...I'm a former resident of 10 years. I would love to see it preserved. But if the consequence of preservation is a lot of two bedroom, one bath bungalows selling for half a million bucks to douchebags in Range Rovers, then screw it. All you'd accomplish is preserving a semblance of the architecture. Architecture is important, but if you can barely stomach the neighbors, who cares?

Anse
Anse

@crab-a-cane Walmart is like a public toilet, dude. At some point everybody ends up in one and not always willingly.

rgwalt
rgwalt

Some of the businesses there are relatively long standing, like Onion Creek, Jimmy's Ice House, and Fitzgeralds.  Others are Houston locals, like BB's and Tacos-A-GoGo.  I'm not a fan of Christian's and Little Woodrows, but at least they are local  estabilishments.  It sounds like you are unhappy with the crowds being drawn... Well, you picked the wrong state to live in if you don't want to interact with Republican's, Aggies, or UT grads.

jberlat1
jberlat1

@Anse You want apartments above the WalMart? Strip malls are here to stay. 

kmaher23
kmaher23

@Anse Some of the little bungalows are tastefully renovated & enlarged a tad.  Most of them sold nowadays are torn down to make room for huge places that fill the lot....


kmaher23
kmaher23

@rgwalt I agree; most of the places on White Oak are just fine.  In fact, if you avoid peak weekend nights, Christian's has excellent burgers. And Little Woodrow's has good beer--and food trucks, on occasion.  (It replaced Beer Island--which was hardly an august landmark.) 

I live in greater Heights & have never been to Walmart.  I'll get my cheap Chinese stuff at Target, thank you!


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