Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Big Tex Storage

I’m strangely almost nostalgic for a controversy like this.

A group of Heights residents are lobbying legislators to protest the development of a storage facility at the site of the former Stude Theater, which was demolished after the property was purchased late last year.

The residents held a protest on Feb. 6 at the former theater.

The protest comes after a petition was formed by a community group called Stop BigTexStorage that, as of Feb. 6, is almost at its 5,000 signature goal. The petition calls for the Houston City Council to stop the permitting for Big Tex Storage Heights at 730 East 11th Street because they believe the project is poorly suited for its location and will have a negative impact on the community.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee also attended the protest. Lee suggested the city look into a compatibility ordinance and for the developers to meet with the community to try and find a common ground.

“I know these homeowners are angry about the fact that they have something being constructed where they didn’t have any input, any acknowledgment that this is a community, a community of families,” said Lee.

[…]

“We don’t know of any historically appropriate seven-story storage facilities,” SBTS said in a statement. “Our concern is with the size and function of the structure. It will be large and not contribute in a meaningful way to the neighborhood streetscape, and in any form, will detract greatly from the charm of the neighborhood that so many moved here for… We want them to realize the depth of anger about this project and the breadth of support for opposing it,” said SBTS in the statement. “We elected them to represent all our interests, not a select group of developers.”

This location is about a half a mile from my house, on a surprisingly small property. I had a hard time picturing where this place was supposed to be when I first heard about it because it just didn’t seem like a storage facility, which I imagined would be a full city block in size, could fit into this space. Clearly, that’s one reason why they’re building vertically. It still seems weird and out of place, but as The Leader News notes, that’s life in Houston for you.

Houston City Council member Karla Cisneros also has expressed disappointment over a project she called “so out of character” for the community, even though the proposed storage facility would be outside of her district. The council member who serves the area, Abbie Kamin, did not criticize the project directly but pointed out Houston’s lack of zoning laws and encouraged residents to push for more neighborhood protections.

Unfortunately for the thousands of petitioners who oppose Big Tex Storage, there is little they can do to prevent the business from setting up shop in the neighborhood. The property is located just outside one of the seven historic districts in the Greater Heights, meaning developments there are not required to adhere to the design standards of a historic district.

Margaret Wallace Brown, the director of the city’s Planning & Development Department, said the property owner and developer, Bobby Grover of Grover Ventures, has followed all the city’s laws and protocols and has nearly completed the permitting process, with only the fire marshal left to sign off on it. Wallace Brown said the property was platted as an unrestricted reserve in December, with no variance request and no notification to nearby residents required.

Grover said in December, when an 81-year-old theater-turned-church was demolished at the site, that construction for Big Tex Storage was scheduled to begin in March and be complete by January 2022.

“There is nothing that will stop him unless he decides not to do this,” Wallace Brown said. “He is following all of the City of Houston rules.”

Grover, in a statement, indicated he could be willing to address the concerns of the neighborhood, saying, “We look forward to working with Heights residents and organizations on this project.” He said the storage facility is being designed to complement the architectural character of the Heights, with “honed brick, la Habra stucco and architectural metal panels,” but did not respond to a question about whether he would be willing to reduce the planned height of the structure.

Big Tex Storage has existing locations in Montrose, River Oaks and Garden Oaks, with the latter self-storage facility located at 3480 Ella Blvd.

[…]

Even if Heights community members cannot convince Grover to reduce the scale of the Big Tex Storage development, residents have means of preventing similar projects in the future. Kamin said she plans to partner with the HHA on a presentation for residents next week that will outline the city’s planning and permitting processes as well as the tools homeowners have for protecting the character of their neighborhoods.

One of those tools is seeking a historic district designation from the city, which requires the support of at least 67 percent of property owners in a proposed district. According to Roman McAllen, the city’s historic preservation officer, such a designation likely would have prevented the demolition of the old building on 730 E. 11th St. and would have required the upcoming development to conform with the scale of surrounding structures.

“However, there isn’t a (historic) district there,” he said. “Unfortunately, the theater was not landmarked.”

I like the idea of historic designations where appropriate, but there was nothing special about the old theater, which was later a church, at least from the outside. It was a nondescript box that had nothing going on. Maybe it was different on the inside, or maybe there was something special about it and I’m too much of a troglodyte to have noticed it. Be that as it may, I’d rather see it be replaced by something that adds to the neighborhood – housing, retail, dining, that sort of thing – but that’s the way it goes in the parts of town where anything is more or less allowed to go. Honestly, I’m puzzled how a storage facility can be economically sensible in a high-property-value area like that, but what do I know.

If you are the petition-signing type, there is a petition for this. I expect construction to start on schedule, barring weather delays, and I expect to be fully annoyed by the construction activity blocking the sidewalk and likely a lane of traffic on West 11th, but it is what it is.

Finally, I can’t let this go by without noting the similarity of the Big Tex Storage monster to the iconic Ashby Highrise, which remains the gold standard for scary cartoon buildings. And thinking about the Ashby Highrise led me to remember the greatest parody of such a movement I’ve ever seen and its accompanying iconography, the classic Get Ashby High sign. I saw that nailed to a telephone pole on Shepherd near Bissonnet however many years ago, and I knew I needed to take a picture of it. I pulled onto a side street, parked and ran over to snap that shot. Good thing I did, because it was gone a couple of days later, and I never saw another such sign again. Always take that picture, kids, that’s the moral of the story.

Related Posts:

25 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I can’t help but see parallels between the folks who got run out of the Heights when it gentrified, the folks who recoiled at seeing multiple 3 story box homes arise on former single family home lots, the folks who saw change and progress rolling in, and knew that was the end of their ability to live in the Heights because of increased property taxes, and the current denizens recoiling in horror about this mini storage.

    Embrace change, y’all! Isn’t that the whole concept of being a progressive?

    Out with the Star Spangled Banner, in with the ‘black national anthem!”

    Out with a period correct, small movie theater, in with a ginormous mini storage!

  2. David Fagan says:

    I like the movie theater building.

    If people are only concerned about this area post gentrification, then that says a lot. No one was wanting to preserve the neighborhood before, but now they want to save something? To little, to late.

  3. voter_worker says:

    Back in the 30s, my aunt and uncle bought a fine little bungalow in “not quite The Heights”, on one of the numbered east-west streets inside the rectangle formed by Studewood, E 11th, Michaux and White Oak Dr. By ’94 they had both passed. The house was sold to a young couple who then sold it to a builder around ’03 and within a year it was gone and replaced by what then seemed a monstrosity but is now common, the giant multi-storey faux old house almost completely filling the lot. A lot of us old-timers back then thought “The Heights” was on the fast track to hell. The moral is, unless you are in a well-protected enclave, your neighborhood will change. If you are not wealthy or living among those who are, you will suffer from freeway expansion projects, concrete batch plants, toxic air emmissions, neglected infrastructure, lower tier city services, food deserts, etc. Your neighborhood will sooner or later be Ashbied unless you and your neighbors have that rare level of clout that stopped the storied high rise.

  4. Lobo says:

    TRANS IN MONTROSE: FROM “FREAKY FOODS” SHELL TO BIG TEX

    This story makes me nostalgic about Swamplot. The 2nd anniversary of its regrettable demise coming up in March. Cause of death was never announced.

    There was ample coverage of the Big Tex in in Montrose (1810 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77098) at the time, although no NIMBY movement emerged there. The Big Tex project was out of character with Montrose too, unless perhaps you wish to describe the essential character of Montrose as hetero: hetero as in heterogeneous. The site there was previously a Shell Gas station cum convenience store.
    http://swamplot.com/the-old-freaky-foods-on-richmond-ave-is-boarded-up-and-looking-forlorn/2014-12-12/

    Many more lots on Richmond Ave and Lower Westheimer have since undergone complete metamorphosis. Numerous large old houses and other structures have been demolished as the process of “transformative urban renewal” is ongoing. Does anyone remember the blue-barrel Lucky Burger, ultimately unlucky (now Oui Banh Mi)?

    Kudos to Kuff for filling the void left by the cessation of Swamplot as an active blog — and chronicler of the de-authentication of historic neighborhoods — at least in part.

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    The people who live in the Heights are curmudgeons who want to dictate what property owners can do with their lots. The thing of it is, the people who are protesting this are likely living in a giant “loft” construction (which is nothing like a real loft in NYC), a house totally contrary to the character and history of the Heights. They are eating at chi chi restaurants, that now sell alcohol due to the residents voting to end the dry laws at the behest of HEB, which put in its new HEB, that gleefully drove out the Fiesta, thus completing the white privileged transformation of the Heights, and now that white privilege flexes its muscles to further control the housing and business climate in the Heights.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    The ironic thing about this is, the only person who actually saved a historic Houston structure, in place that I can remember, is Ed Emmett, who saved the Astrodome from being demolished, even though it’s a rusty relic that has no commercial value at this point.

    So a Republican was responsible for preserving history, and here’s Sheila Jackson Lee and the rest acting as if they care about a demolished theater cum church and a new, property tax generating mini storage being built.

    The property, as a church, was generating ZERO property taxes. The property as a mini storage, will generate LOTS of property tax that can be spent on fixing potholes, buying firetrucks, employing firefighters we know personally here at OTK, doing flood control improvements, etc.

    You would think the denizens of Houston would welcome their new, taxpaying neighbor.

  7. Lobo says:

    DOES THE ASTRODOME QUALIFY AS HISTORIC? … OR JUST AS BRUTALIST UNDER THE EVERYTING-IS-BIGGER-IN-TEXAS MANTRA?

    Bill: There *are* successful examples of historic privately-owned buildings being repurposed and generating property and other taxes. Case in point: The Art Deco theater on S. Shepherd @ West Alabama. Previously a book store, now a Trader Joe’s.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alabama_Theatre_(Houston).
    In that textbook example of historic-preservation, there was denizen mobilization to “discourage” the owner from tearing it down.

    The Art Deco Theater on Lower Westheimer was also successfully re-purposed, at least for a few years. Alas, El Real Tex-Mex Cafe is now permanently closed.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    I remember the Alabama theater being repurposed as a record store for a while. I bought records there. I remember also going dancing at Numbers, and eating at a little restaurant called The Pot Pie, both in Montrose. I remember going to the original House of Pies on Kirby, eating at the Chuy’s around the corner on Westheimer, and seeing shows at the playhouse south of the House of Pies, can’t remember the name now. Greater Tuna? A Tuna Christmas? Someone here will remember that. I also remember seeing Midnight movies at the theater on Bellaire Blvd a mile or so inside the Loop 610. Where else were you going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show or The Wall?

    Everyone here probably has fond memories of Astroworld as well. It’s fun to take trips down memory lane, but the Heights theater/church has already been razed. It’s over. Now all that’s left to do is ‘build back better,’ with a high tax generating mini storage.

    Lastly, Jason is right on point about the vanishing legacy of dry areas in the Heights, and also running off the Fiesta that was there on Studewood. The liberal yuppies that took over the Heights didn’t give a crap about historic dry areas, they wanted their HEB, they wanted the Fiesta, a vestige of the poors that were run out, gone, vanished. Mission accomplished.

    You’d think they’d value having a mini storage in a neighborhood with zero lot lines, limited parking, and no where for residents to stash all their stuff. I’m betting within a few months after completion, the new storage buildings will be 90+% occupied.

  9. voter_worker says:

    hey Bill, from your list of places I’m pretty sure we might have been in the same place at the same time at least once. The theater doing Greater Tuna was Radio Music Theater (now the Music Box Theater). I would be in The Bookstop and Cactus Records at least once a month if not more. House of Pies and Numbers every Saturday night for a while. Could you refresh my memory about The Pot Pie? As for The Heights, I was bummed out when the Fiestas closed, especially the one on Studewood. I’m sure your prediction that the storage place will be popular is correct.

  10. mollusk says:

    The Fiesta on Studewood was gone long before HEB expanded into the Heights, replaced by assisted living.

  11. Bill Daniels says:

    Voter,

    I went to high school with the now owner of Cactus. As to the Pot Pie, it was on lower Westheimer, south side, a few blocks west of Montrose Blvd. It was a wood framed, house style restaurant with great Italian food, reasonably priced. In addition to Numbers, you probably remember Sam’s Boat, and Club 6400.

    You probably remember seeing plays at the Music Hall, and hard rock shows at the Colosseum, too. I always thought it was funny when the theater crowd AND the rock crowd got out at the same time, the well heeled Houstonians grabbing their purses a little tighter and giving the side eye to the rock fans, as everyone proceeded to the underground parking garage to get their cars.

    I saw TUTS performances at the Music Hall, and bands like Blue Oyster Cult at the Colosseum, and don’t remember a big furor when that complex was torn down. I also remember Party on the Plaza, too, right across from Jones Hall. Fun times.

  12. Jason Hochman says:

    mollusk, the Fiesta on Studewood was gone for a little while before HEB opened on Shepherd, that is correct, but the HEB on Shepherd replaced the Fiesta that was there. This was historic. The second oldest Fiesta in the world, it had been there since1972. It sold all kinds of dry goods as well as groceries, a remembrance of the days when going into town was a big deal, and the locals who didn’t drive could shop in the neighborhood for work clothes, shoes, tablecloths, toys, and such. It was kind of like a Target or WalMart on s smaller scale. Plus it had a taco stand with aguas frescas,and always played great music, whether it was Tex Mex or old time rock n’ roll.

    HEB claimed that it wouldn’t build its new store there without being able to sell alcohol and wanted to change the setback in order to have more parking. Instead the new HEB is two stories, the first level is only a pharmacy and parking, the second is the store and parking. The Fiesta was much more sustainable, surviving without excess parking and without selling beers. I wish it could come back but it won’t

  13. Lobo says:

    FROM FIESTA TO H-E-B, WITH NOSTALGIA

    The erstwhile Fiesta in Montrose (Dunlavy) was a bit shabby but beloved. The Susanne now sits on that lot, with 5 or 6 levels of luxury units whose occupants have a much better shopping option right across the street on the grounds of what was a run-down apartment project dating from the 1920s (Wilshire Village Garden Apartments), along with the former Fiesta aficionados in the neighborhood. It’s an example of urban renewal for the better where the higher density also brings in the purchasing power to support a better grocery store. To its credit, H-E-B preserved several of the mature trees in the parking lot. Note that two competing grocers, Randalls on the corner of Shepherd and Westheimer and Kroger on Montrose Blvd have both since closed.

    http://swamplot.com/montrose-fiesta-on-dunlavy-will-close-forever-in-less-than-a-month/2012-06-26/ (with no less 53 community comments)

  14. Bill Daniels says:

    Since we’re waxing nostalgic today, here’s a place we used to frequent that I bet Manny has been to also:

    getting menudo (the soup, not the musical group) late night on the weekends at Taqueria Del Sol on Park Place. Mmmm!

  15. voter_worker says:

    Lobo, the Dunlavy Fiesta started out as a Weingarten’s and then became a Safeway/AppleTree prior to becoming Fiesta. HEB is posh now but they entered the Houston market as H-E-B Pantry, which nobody shopping at a Houston HEB now would recognize as being the same chain. The old neighborhood market, Moore’s, on W 11th in The Heights became an H-E-B Pantry in the 80s. The Montrose Kroger was sitting on property too valuable to be a grocery store and I think it was destined to close, HEB or no HEB. The Randall’s at Shepherd Square has become a Target. Houston would not be Houston without this dynamic of constant change.

  16. Manny says:

    Never been to that taqueria Bill; I did visit the Piggly Wiggly on Westheimer.
    I visited the Alabama Theater numerous times, Worked at a Good Year Store on 11th street during college, and a gasoline station that used to be on the corner of Gray and Shepherd. Helped build those apartments that were across from Piggly Wiggly. Visited a few bars on Montrose. Bill, I am more American than you will ever be. I went to two country-western clubs that were near the Galleria. Had my first Buffalo burger at the Hobbit Hole that was on Shepherd.

    https://youtu.be/U0Y0_bCcg34

  17. Bill Daniels says:

    I remember the Hobbit Hole. My friend convinced me to eat there once. Wasn’t that down the street from Marfreless? Haven’t thought about that place in years.

  18. Manny says:

    Not in the Heights but did visit numerous times that Hippie haven that was by the bayou, Market Square.

    https://offcite.rice.edu/2010/07/Cite_82_Hippie-Landing.pdf

    Went to Gilley’s in Pasadena numerous times, where I listened to some of the best Country Western Stars of the 70s.

    I am not even from Houston Bill, I am from Corpus Christi. I go to Houston via Oklahoma.

  19. Manny says:

    And then there was the Red Bluff drive-in theater where I would occasionally go. The KKK headquarters were across the street from the drive-in.

    http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/31545

    “It’s a homemade billboard, white with hand-painted black letters. It’s been there for more than a decade. A relic, some could argue—a holdover from another time. The sign has faded some, taking a beating from hundreds of South Texas storms. But cruising along at a cautious speed on Highway 225, Jay can see the words quite clearly from his car window: Pasadena, Texas. ‘Proud Home of the Ku Klux Klan.'”

    Did you ever visit the KKK headquarters Bill or their bookstore?

  20. C.L. says:

    Well that didn’t take long. By the 16th comment in, here comes Manny with the attacks. T’was a nice trip down memory lane until then.

    #TrueToForm

  21. Manny says:

    C.L. always nice to see a racist like you join the fray protecting your fella racist, that would be Bill.

    I guess his inquiring into my visiting the only “Mexican” place was not racist, right C.L.

    It is no different than my asking if he visited the KKK bookstore, C.L.

    C.L. why not just stay on the sidelines where you belong, you don’t even have half the brain Bill does, but you are just as racist as he is.

    Another mind that I command, it even counted the comments. I read the comments and would have ignored them until Bill through in a racist comment about me. I will quote for you C.L. because you are the dumbest person to post on this forum.

    “Since we’re waxing nostalgic today, here’s a place we used to frequent that I bet Manny has been to also:

    getting menudo (the soup, not the musical group) late night on the weekends at Taqueria Del Sol on Park Place”

    I am now wondering if you visited the KKK bookstore in Pasadena, did you C.L.?

  22. Manny says:

    threw in

    CL: Why would Bill suggest that I may have visited a “Mexican” place but not the others?

    I was going to ignore you, but I don’t think so. Anytime you insert stupidity, I will point it out.

  23. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    Believe it or not, I was trying to throw you an olive branch, mentioning things we all, as Houstonians, have in common. Just because most everyone who posts here is white, it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy home made tamales at Christmas, doesn’t mean we don’t go to quinceaneras for our friends’ daughters, or enjoy a good bowl of menudo after a night out drinking. Del Sol is an institution in the Southeast side, just like the Telwink Grill on Telephone. I figured maybe you’d been there.

  24. C.L. says:

    I’ve been to Del Sol more times than I can count….

    -Gabacho

  25. manny says:

    Nope never been to any of those places, why would you assume I have.