Thursday, July 8, 2010

Notes from the West End Civic Club Meeting - 8 Jul 2010

Tonight, I attended the monthly meeting of the West End Civic Club.
Mr. Jesse Dickerman, Councilman Ed Gonzalez's chief of staff (District H), was in attendance.  I appreciated Mr. Dickerman's presence and patience in answering a multitude of question in what was obviously somewhat of a tense Q&A session.

-The developer of the land is a company called Ainbinder.

-Per a meeting between Councilman Gonzalez, and the Ainbinder company earlier on 8 July 2010, a formal agreement with WalMart for the land has not been reached as of this time, but the two parties are deep into the negotiation.

-The Councilman's office respects that it is the developer's choice with whom to do business with.

-WalMart intends to speak to the community, but as there is not yet an agreement in place, it is not the intention of WalMart to speak to the community until they 'have a project'.

-The Developer insists that they (Ainbinder):
     -Want to speak to the community
     -Want to obtain community feedback
     -Want a positive development for the community
     -Wants any retail development to fit within the community

-The councilman's office made it clear that they do not desire to have a 'Suburban Style WalMart' plopped down in the middle of the West End.

-Both Ainbinder, and the Councilman's office agreed that they desire a 'different kind' of big box store.  A WalMart built in the West End must be a 'different' kind of WalMart.

-Whether the WalMart is intended to be a 24hour a day operation has not been decided yet.

-Ainbinder understands that there would need to be a significant infrastructure improvement in the surrounding area.

-The Goal of any new development would be to have a less impermeable footprint for drainage than what presently exists

Once these initial points were made, Mr. Dickerman opened the floor to questions.

-The Councilman's office did not define what 'have a project' meant, and could not clarify when WalMart would be open to discussing with the community.  Not speaking for WalMart, they could not answer when that time would be.

-The Councilman's office did firmly commit to ensuring that the infrastructure in the area surrounding would be 'up to par' to support the increased usage in the neighborhood.

-A question was asked concerning possible Tax benefits for the area.  It was discussed and agreed that while there are no details as of yet, there are avenues that can be explored to see what the best Tax / Revenue benefit for the city, and for reinvestment will be should a retail development move forward.

-There was no discussion today with Ainbinder regarding the proposed and reported HEB bid for the site.

-A Representative of TX State Representative Jessica Farrar's office was on hand, and helped answer a question concerning the new exit ramps and feeder roads between Patterson and Yale.
     -Aug 1 is the commencement date to begin work on the ramp building
     -Rep. Farrar's office confirmed that the I-10 exit at Yale and feeder road project happened independently          of the WalMart project
     -Some Land for the multiple detention ponds needed to support the new construction has been acquired, or is in the final stages of being acquired.

-Mr. Dickerman then confirmed that within 2 months, we will have final decisions concerning Ainbinder and the WalMart Project.  He expected that decisions would be made 'within weeks'.

-He proposed a meeting between AinBinder and leaders of the neighborhoods early next week, the week of 12 July 2010

-The councilman is keenly aware that his responsibility is to the people of his district.

-There has been little to no discussion between the Houston City Council concerning this issue, and the opinions of the at large positions, and/or their respective districts

-There have been no applications for permits that the councilman's office is aware of on the land as of yet pertaining to the development.

-A SN#22 representative was on hand to announce that Monday, 12 July 2010, there would be a SN#22 meeting at Depelchin Children's center at 6:30pm.  The topic of this development is on the agenda for discussion.

Again, Mr. Dickerson was extremely professional, courteous, and patient in his answering of the Civic Club.  I believe that he made the best out of the opportunity, and will express the opinions set forth in the Civic Club meeting tonight accurately to Councilman Gonzalez.

The problem here is the immediate timeline.  If there is to be a decision 'within weeks', then this leaves little time for a proper and accurate assessment of the strains that will be placed upon the neighborhood before a comprehensive collection of facts can be completed.  Further to this, it was mentioned the while there is not a deal in place, San Jacinto Stone's land is marked on the site map as a possible future development.  There are no further details concerning San Jacinto for the present.

I fully trust that the councilman's office will do what it can to come to a decision on this soon, but ultimately, dollars speak loudest.  Again, I'm all for a retail development, but WalMart has an ugly track record when it comes to this sort of thing, and its overall perception in urban markets.

Check back regularly for updates.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. Farrar worked with with my last neighborhood to prevent the creation of a development that was going to put a heavy burden on our already burdened neighborhood (details will just make them sound elitist, sigh), but suffice to say that she is a great friend of the community.

    Ainbinder's site shows their other development. They obviously specialize in the big box store with pad sites, but they're actually pretty attractive looking as far as they go. The oddest thing is that while they show several priors with HEB and even KMart, I see none with Wally. They either don't want to be associated with them, or Wally is super eager. I agree the time line is scary.

  2. Completely agree. Farrar's office always sends a rep to the WECC Meetings, no matter what size of meetings they are. Please note, she was only there to comment on the Exit/Feeder road development on Yale & I-10, and will most likely take the tone of the meeting last night to Rep. Farrar.

    Totally agree that Timelines is Very Scary ...

  3. I have watched this debate unfold without having a vested interest, mostly out of curiosity and from the viewpoint of someone in the commercial real estate industry. I have said from the beginning nothing would stop Walmart from going there except a breakdown in negotiations between Walmart and Ainbinder. Knowing Ainbinder is a competent and respected developer, I know they have their ducks in a row regarding the development issues, detention, infrastructure. The city is not going to tell Walmart no based solely on the fact Walmart is not a popular or preferred choice among some residents. I commend you for taking a leadership position on what is going on in your community and neighborhood. In my opinion your efforts will be best served by the concerned citizens making their voice heard on your desires to have a store there that fits the character and needs of the neighborhood. Some people right or wrong are going to despise Walmart no matter what. If Walmart is smart they will take into consideration the communities desires and concerns. It would be a step in the right direction in changing some people's perception of their company and might convert a few customers. That location is a very strategic site and likely very profitable. There is a high probability a Walmart is going to be there. Hopefully you will get something that conforms to the neighborhood beyond the perception of a typical suburban Walmart superstore.

  4. Thanks.
    Lets hope this works out for the good of the neighborhood. I don't think anyone is opposed to retail development, and if Ainbinder is speaking truthfully concerning their opinions of the neighborhood, then perhaps there is hope for us yet.

  5. Thanks for giving such detailed updates Nick. I also live in the WE and not happy about this development.