October 29, 2005
Kaplan's followup

Today's Chron has a fuller story on the closing of longtime Houston Heights department store Kaplan's-Ben Hur, which I noted last week. It's mostly a nostalgia piece, with quotes from the currnt owners and several faithful customers, but what caught my eye was this:

Closing the store allows the family to sell the property. Greenwood King real estate agent Erik Fowler, who is not involved, estimated the land alone, about 85,000 square feet, could be worth from $1 million to as much as $2 million.

The question is what would be built there to replace it. Here's a map to the location of the store. On the one hand, it's well situated for some kind of high-end retail. Yale is a busy street, the area is close to many residential neighborhoods, and the many antique shops on 19th and 20th Streets already bring in a stream of people with some disposable income burning a hole in their pockets. The main problem is parking. Kaplan's doesn't have much, and spots on the nearby streets go quickly. I don't know that any business which would have to rely heavily on the residents who will mostly walk there, as Kaplan's did, will be able to generate the kind of cash flow necessary to cover its monthly note or lease. Maybe a strip center would be able to do it if it had the right mix of shops in it. It's not a slamdunk is all I'm saying.

Residential property is a possibility. You could fit quite a few $300-500K homes on those 85,000 square feet. The main problem is that, well, it's in a mostly commercial area fronted by a busy street. I just don't know how appealing that would be to too many folks who are in the market for a three-bedroom house. I don't think there's no buyers for what would go up there, but I do think it's a smaller segment.

What would be interesting is if someone decides to go for a mixed-use property like you now see in Midtown: a multistory building with shops or eateries on the ground floor and apartments or (more likely) condos above it. You'd still have to solve the parking issue, but depending on how you design the place you might be able to tack on a small garage on the back, for use by both residents and customer. It's all a pedestrian-friendly area, so that would work in your favor as well, and the benefit of condos over larger houses is that it'll be more attractive to the single and childless couple buyers who'd have fewer objections to living near traffic than parents would.

Anyway. Worth keeping an eye on once the Kaplan family officially puts it on the market.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 29, 2005 to Elsewhere in Houston | TrackBack