April 14, 2009
What next for Wilshire Village?

Nancy Sarnoff runs an obituary for the Wilshire Village apartments, which are slated for demolition now that they have been officially declared a fire hazard.

A historic Inner Loop apartment complex, once slated for a high-rise redevelopment, was shut down last week after city officials ordered residents to vacate the property.


The complex is the 1940s Wilshire Village apartments at the corner of West Alabama and Dunlavy, one of three Federal Housing Administration-insured garden apartment complexes built here and the only one still in existence, according to architectural historian Stephen Fox.

In 2005, the owner announced plans to tear it down and possibly build an upscale tower in its place.

Matt Dilick, a commercial real estate developer who controls the partnership that owns Wilshire Village, said the demolition process will start "relatively soon."

"The buildings are unsafe, and for numerous years prior groups have not kept the buildings maintained or the property up to city code," he said. "The dilapidated buildings are an eyesore to the public and to the numerous homeowners and businesses in the area."


As far the property's redevelopment, "plans have not been released," said Dilick, adding that the prime site is best suited for apartments, shops and a hotel.

Okay, an apartment is obvious; one hopes this one will be better maintained than the Wilshire ultimately was. Shops I can see, as long as they figure out how to incorporate parking. The other side of Dunlavy is a strip center anchored by a Fiesta, so more shops would fit in just fine. But a hotel? And was this really considered a good spot for a high-rise? I can't see it. Dunlavy is a narrow little street. It's not particularly close to an entrance or exit on 59, which would seem to be a negative for a hotel. It's not far from Greenway Plaza or the Museum District, but as far as I know there's no shortage of hotels in those areas, certainly not one acute enough that it would need to be relieved by new construction there. It's all bungalows in the immediate area, so anything over three stories would stick out like a sore thumb. Basically, it's analogous to the Ashby Highrise, with slightly better vehicular throughput potential and probably less political clout. I don't see how a hotel makes sense, and I don't even see how a developer might see how a hotel makes sense. Am I missing something?

Actually, there is one possibility: The Universities line will have a stop at Dunlavy, so the area will have very easy access to light rail. Maybe that figures in to the calculation. Whether that's the case or not, I hope whoever redevelops the property includes improvements to the sidewalk, as that will make getting to that rail stop much more pleasant. And hopefully whatever does get built there will be at least mostly done before the U-line is in place, so that stretch won't be all torn up while people are trying to get to the station. Swamplot has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 14, 2009 to Elsewhere in Houston

"Basically, it's analogous to the Ashby Highrise, with slightly better vehicular throughput potential and probably less political clout."

You must be joking. They obviously have quite a bit of political clout given the fact, which has left quite a few who have dealt with Neighborhood Protection speechless, that the city moved to condemn this "dangerous" complex so quickly. No warnings to the owner, no citations issued to the owner, just red tags and eviction notices.

As for the issue of "traffic impact" that probably isn't an issue here unless one of the V&E attorneys lives next to the property and objects to whatever plans the owner has for the property.

The complex had problems but most wonder if they were not minor instead of major - the only thing anyone is sure of is that the owner wanted to clear the land for something. In reality, the complex was probably more structurally sound than some of the newer complexes. It just didn't have what the newer complexes have. Lots of units producing lots of income.

His right. But the way he exercised those rights are what have raised the questions. The real question is whether we will see development of the property or a fenced-in eyesore. These are not the best times for developers of these large parcels. Unless of course there's assistance from the city. Maybe there's another TIRZ being planned to help out another political insider?

It's a shame to see it torn down. It's a shame to see so many pieces of our past torn down. But that appears to be the Houston way. If you can make a better profit or build a bigger house, tear it down. History be damned!

Posted by: Baby Snooks on April 14, 2009 12:32 PM
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