About that 11th/Yale Retail Site

There was some discussion last week regarding a proposed new retail development on 11th and Yale in The Heights.

After several years’ worth of hype about a “mixed use development,” the actual site plan turns out to be a strip mall with slightly better architecture. This isn’t so bad, as things go – strip malls are functional, and aesthetics matter. But there seems to be some misconception that walkable, street-fronting retail isn’t doable on a small infill site like this.

To clear things up, here’s an alternate site plan. (Click for a PDF.)

Many developers would spring for a design like this, were it allowed as-of-right. Instead, such a design requires two variances; for parking, and for the City’s 25-foot setback rule. Previous attempts at obtaining these variances have failed, so one can’t really criticize “Heights Central Station” for hewing to what Houston Code tells us is optimal site design.

5 thoughts on “About that 11th/Yale Retail Site”

  1. I’m in favor of eliminating both minimum setbacks and minimum parking requirements. I’m also in favor of people doing pretty much what they want with their property. That said, the revised site layout is a bit of a bait-and-switch.

    First, Chapter 42 allows for 5-ft setbacks without a variance. All the developer had to was move the buildings from the back of the property to the front.

    Second, the development as designed is 22k s.f. (in multiple levels) with 86 off-street parking spaces. The revised layout has a considerably larger footprint, and therefore about half as many off-street spaces.

    One way to walkable, street facing retail on a small-ish site, and still comply with CoH requirements, is 4601 Washington, with multi-level parking behind street facing ground floor retail and 2nd/3rd floor office space.

  2. Just for reference, if this site were in an urban village zone in Seattle, developers would build a 6-story building with 125 apartments, 20,000 ft2 of retail on the ground floor and 90 parking spaces in an underground garage (full lot coverage).

    This isn’t even a small site for urban infill, it takes up a full block along 11th Street.

  3. And instead of a parking lot behind them, now the people who live on 10 1/2th street get to suck down fumes and listen to the drive-through all day! Yay!

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