More on Archstone Memorial Heights

Missed this last week: Swamplot has some more news about the upcoming demo-and-rebuild of the Archstone Memorial Apartments on Washington and Studemont. Basically, Super Neighborhood 22, which encompasses that area, is not happy about the design that’s being proposed.

While members of SuperNeighborhood 22 support the redevelopment, they are concerned that the project’s suburban design — which calls for the back of the residential components to face Washington Avenue — is hurting efforts to transform the avenue into a walkable, pedestrian-friendly destination.

Monica Savino, a member of SuperNeighborhood 22, points out that Archstone was one of the first developers to come into the area 12 years ago when the Archstone Memorial Heights complex was built, and she’s disappointed that the developer isn’t cooperating with the new vision for the Inner-Loop area.

“This is an irresponsible way to develop in an urban area where land prices are so high,” Savino says. “It’s unfortunate that the project turns its back on a highly trafficked street that is currently undergoing a major revitalization.”

Savino says neighborhood groups have encouraged Archstone to include retail on the ground floor facing Washington Avenue. But, she says, Archstone hasn’t been receptive to the requests even though the company made a pledge in a public meeting to cooperate with SuperNeighborhood 22 and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 5 on the project.

The real shame here is that all the dense development going on along Studemont from Washington south to Dallas, and along Washington pretty much everywhere you look makes this project a prime candidate, in a perfect location, for pedestrian-friendly retail. I took some photos a couple of weeks ago along that stretch of Montrose/Studemont to document this trend, which I’ll get around to uploading to Flickr and blogging about some day after the primary, to show the massive changes there already, with so much more to come. Especially with the heavily-used park area down by the bayou along Allen Parkway (which as I understand it was originally going to be turned into private property; what a tragedy that would have been), this area is already attracting walkers and joggers, some of whom already live right there. What it lacks is places for these people to go to shop, eat, and otherwise recreate. Archstone would be doing everyone, including themselves, a favor if they provided more of that.

The bottom line is simply that this is an urban area in every way – it’s historic, it’s dense, it’s close to downtown, and it’s attracting residents who want to live in that kind of environment – and it deserves urban-centric development that fits it. Archstone, which was a forward-thinking pioneer in the 90s for building this apartment complex in the first place, is perfectly capable, and indeed has a track record elsewhere, of delivering something equally visionary now. I just hope they listen.

There’s another looming issue that we touched on before as well:

Meanwhile, Archstone has requested that the city abandon nearby Court Street so the company can incorporate the land into its project. Archstone claims the street is dangerous, confusing and lacks control signage.

But some residents are concerned that the abandonment of Court Street will cause increased traffic congestion.

Savino points out that any time a public right-of-way is abandoned and taken private, it limits options for mobility improvements.

Adding to the area’s density is a recently approved residential tower, an apartment complex and a parking structure just down the street from the Archstone site.

“It’s a shame that such a historic corridor could be turned into a high-speed area,” Savino says. “We don’t want to be the next Richmond Avenue. Their plans are creating a squandering affect on the neighborhood.”

Savino emailed me to say that the TIRZ is supporting the abandonment; see here (PDF) for the details. As I said in my previous post, the neighborhood is still looking for feedback from people who use this Court Street byway, especially folks who are passing through from elsewhere. Please email your comments, along with your ZIP code, to [email protected]. Thanks very much.

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One Response to More on Archstone Memorial Heights

  1. TAN says:

    I lived a collective 5 years of my life at Memorial Heights there – it was a true beachhead in a sea of futility that was that area at one time. The demographic (younger professional active) in that area has been extremly good for Archstone and vice versa, it would be a shame if the corporate big wigs don’t yield to the neighborhood and cultural change of that area. Here’s hoping Archstone does change — and we get Satellite Lounge, and the Aquarium back !!!

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