March 28, 2005
Washington Avenue

Since this is near where I live, I'm quite interested in the development on Washington Avenue.


Rob Johnson recently accomplished what few independent real estate developers can in the inner city.

He bought enough land on a hot corner, no less to build a shopping center.

Johnson's new project is planned for the northeast intersection of Washington Avenue and Shepherd Drive.

Experts say the price of real estate along Washington Avenue the east-west corridor that connects Memorial Park to downtown is being driven up by acquisitive developers and real estate speculators who see huge promise in this area.

"It's hard to find land," said Johnson, owner of Rob Johnson Interests. "I don't think there's any street inside the Loop that's changing as fast as this one."


Washington Avenue is somewhat of a curiosity. Just south of I-10 and the Heights and just north of Memorial Park and the West End, it's an oasis of non-gentrification surrounded by townhomes and shiny new commercial development. It used to be a hot spot for live music, but sadly, all of those places - Rockefeller's, the Satellite Lounge, the Bon Ton Room, and probably quite a few others that I can't recall - have all closed down. The far eastern end of Washington, near downtown, has seen residential (which is to say "townhome") development, but that's about it so far.

I'm actually a bit amazed that it's taken so long for anything to happen on Washington. I can't think of any other stretch of real estate south and/or west of downtown that's been anywhere near as overlooked. Maybe Richmond Avenue east of Shepherd? Anyone in Houston that wants to nominate some other street, please do so in the comments.


Developers and retailers are attracted to this area because of its demographics and proximity to dense residential neighborhoods, people in the area say.

Nearly 130,000 people live within three miles of his site and have median incomes in excess of $80,000, Johnson said.

Many of those folks live in pricey new townhome developments.

"Townhomes are proliferating in every little pocket in the area," said Larry Plotsky of the Plotsky Group, a real estate brokerage that's leasing space in a new strip center on Washington.


Just so we're clear here, since I've made it known I'm not the world's biggest townhome fan, this is the kind of townhome development that I generally approve of. Putting them in places where there was basically nothing to begin with, thus creating neighborhoods from scratch instead of overwhelming existing neighborhoods, that's a good thing.

So far, much of the new commercial development has been concentrated between Westcott and Shepherd.

A CVS drugstore has just opened on Washington near T.C. Jester. And Mexican restaurant El Tiempo has moved its Katy Freeway location to a spot across the street. The cantina is said to be packed nightly, backing a theory that this area is underserved by retailers.

"A lot of the people eating and having drinks are walking back into the neighborhood," said the Michael Group's Jeff Trevino, a commercial real estate broker who works in the area. "They're walking back to their townhouses."


I like the sound of that, but, umm, are there really sidewalks for people to walk on around there? I know I haven't seen many of them in the West End/I-10 townhome areas. TC Jester is farther west, so maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. Here's hoping.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 28, 2005 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack
Comments

Some of the streets linking up those townhome clusters are barely two lanes wide, which makes it hard for the monster SUVs like Hummers to pass each other. And God forbid anybody on a main street is having a party that backs up parking beyond their sidewalk.

And thanks to the placement of drainage culverts, no room for sidewalks..

It's nice that they're cleaning that area up, but they're doing it in a very shortsighted and crowded fashion with zero room for correction later.

Posted by: Laurence Simon on March 28, 2005 9:20 AM

My friends in the music industry say that the Satellite Lounge was killed by Star Pizza, because Molina's used to let people park there and Star doesn't.

It's pretty much made them all stop going to Star.

Posted by: Michael on March 28, 2005 9:33 AM

Michael - It was Leo's, not Molina's, and according to this Press article, the FabSat was bad about paying its rent. For what it's worth.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 28, 2005 10:08 AM

The post reminded me of my all-time favorite music venue in Houston -- Club Hey Hey -- which used to be across the street from Rockefellers.

Posted by: Oscar on March 28, 2005 11:15 AM

I wish there were decent coffee shops on Washington. The only one I know of (I wish I knew the name) is on the south side of the street, between Studemont and Sheppard, and wasn't that good when last I went. It would help the neighborhood to have more places to walk to in keeping with townhome-style living.

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on March 28, 2005 11:20 AM

Of course there's still "Fat Cats", "Walter's", "The Rhythm Room", and probably one or two music venues I'm forgetting on Washington...

Posted by: Mike Switzer on March 28, 2005 12:45 PM

The Pig Stand deserves a nod whenever Washington Ave.'s being discussed -- I'll take its bacon-and-egg breakfast over any of the the foo-foo breakfast places in Houston any day.

Posted by: Oscar on March 28, 2005 2:43 PM

Is the Engine Room still open? Other than Walter's and the Rhythm Room, Washington certainly has fallen on hard times. I remember the heyday of Pat & Pete's BonTon--even the time they gave away free hotdogs and beer. It was bad beer, but it was free, dammit.

As far as developable spots, there's still many blocks here in the Montrose that have resisted gentrification. Fairview east of Lola's, once you get past all the gay discos but before you get into 4th Ward, is still run down and excellently located.

Once the economy picks up again, probably as soon as we get a Democrat back in the White House, I expect to see the last of the undiscovered pockets of the "Neartown" area getting yupped out.

Posted by: Bucky on March 28, 2005 3:04 PM

Hear, hear, President Lieberman!

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on March 29, 2005 6:51 AM

I've heard there is going to be Super Target built somewhere near Washington Avenue. Does anyone know if this is true?

Posted by: David Sanchez on April 6, 2005 5:21 PM

Just for the record, Urban Living sucks. They treat people like total crap, and doing business with them puts a taint on any properties being sold by them.

Posted by: Haile Jade on May 1, 2006 12:01 PM