HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – The Meyerland community lost more than homes when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston last year. It lost its H-E-B grocery.
The H-E-B void will be filled in late 2019 when a new, elevated store is completed at Meyerland Plaza, at the corner of Loop 610 and Beechnut in southwest Houston.
“We can’t build it fast enough,” Scott McClelland, President of H-E-B Houston told a large crowd of Meyerlanders Thursday.
His enthusiasm was met with universal applause from a crowd composed of many homeowners who lost their homes in the Meyerland neighborhood where 1,900 of the 2,300 houses suffered heavily at Harvey’s watery hand. Some of them were rescued by boats off of second-story rooftops.
H-E-B’s $35 million, 96,000-SF Meyerland Plaza store will have ground-floor parking and on the first floor and a grocery store on the second floor with a skybridge connecting to the second floor of the adjacent JC Penney.
“The store will be as good as we know how to build it,” McClelland surmised, in front of the standing-room-only crowd Thursday night at Lovett Elementary in Meyerland. “It will have a modern feel – the escalators, which take 26 seconds to ascend to the top, will be timed so that your cart will go up next to you.”
The 950,000-SF Meyerland Plaza center is owned by a partnership of Bellaire-based Fidelis Realty Partners, led by Alan Hassenflu, and BlackRock Realty Advisors of New York.
McClelland and Alan Hassenflu, head of Fidelis Realty Partners, shared their plans for a new H-E-B store in Meyerland Plaza.
“I came to Houston in 1988 and I’ve wanted to own Meyerland Plaza since 1989,” said Hassenflu. “Ed Wulfe (the former owner of Meyerland Plaza) did such a fabulous job, taking it from the old mall that it was to a great shopping center. We wanted to take it to the next level and for that, we needed a grocery store. When we bought it in 2013, we began figuring out how to get a grocery store in there – that element was missing.”
McClelland told the audience of 400+ Meyerlanders that he does not do cookie cutter stores. He showed several drawings of the proposed store, which features ambient natural light streaming in from the roof. “The sunlight warms the overall feel of the store,” he said.
H-E-Bs do best in the inner city, explained McClelland, who has been an executive with the San Antonio-based grocery chain for years. “We are not building a second Central Market in Houston. What we have done is borrow liberally from Central Market and begun to make stores look more like them.”
“In Houston, we tailor our H-E-Bs aggressively to clientele,” McClelland said.
The two-level Meyerland Plaza grocery will have a pharmacy and curbside pickup at street level, with a kosher bakery, a coffee shop, New York style bagels and cheese and meat section upstairs. “There will be a full service seafood section, along with sushi, a large produce section with organics and more than 1,600 wine labels. He and his team met with the Chabad House and Levi Donin on Wednesday to review requirements for Kosher offerings, both in the kosher bakery and throughout the store.
McClelland insisted, “Meyerland’s been good to us since 1993, (when they opened the HEB Pantry store on S. Braeswood at Chimney Rock that has flooded several times) and if anything, we’ve underserved Meyerland. In recent years, you had to swim to it to get to it.”
The new H-E-B store will have a second-story parking deck, in addition to street-level parking below. Meyerland Plaza has a number of restaurants, banks and big-box retailers including Best Buy and Office Depot.
A number of Meyerland citizens had comments.
“I wanted to ask him if they were thinking about sustainability issues in using compostable, biodegradable, or recyclable packaging,” says Meyerlander Janice Rubin. “The same concept could be applied to a plan to compost the waste from the produce department.”
Janus Lazaris said she had circulated a petition with more than 250 signatures, requesting new sidewalks on the edge of the center. “What are your plans to put in sidewalks on Endicott? It’s great you can spend thousands of dollars on art in your stores. Wouldn’t it be nice to spend a few thousand to build a sidewalk?”
Cheryl Hoyal, a Realtor with Keller Williams Memorial said, “I am hoping they will take into account pedestrian mobility in their site design and access from the neighborhood to the plaza. Walkability is a key attribute in urban/suburban development today and they haven’t appeared to give it any consideration. Bike parking would also be great to see incorporated.”
What will happen to the old H-E-B Pantry store on S. Braeswood, which did not re-open after Hurricane Harvey?
“We do not own that store, we are merely a tenant of Brixmor so we can’t comment as to its future,” says Lisa Helfman, Director of Real Estate for H-E-B.
McClelland said he’d received a letter from a resident asking him if he could put in a good word with Trader Joe’s. “I admit, I have never received a letter like that before and I wrote back, ‘I’m not going to lobby for you to bring in a competitor.’”
Other H-E-B updates:
Bellaire: McClelland said its new 70,000-SF Bellaire store under construction at 5130 Cedar and Bissonnet will open June 28, in time to buy your Fourth of July hot dogs. The two-story project is just west of South Rice. At the Bellaire City Council meeting this week some Bellaire merchants expressed concerned about how the new store will impact parking in Bellaire’s commercial district.
Tanglewood: Fidelis Realty has hired HFF to sell its Tanglewood Court, an H-E-B-anchored shopping center on a 12-acre site at the corner of San Felipe and Fountainview. Fidelis developed the fully-leased 125,000-SF retail center, which opened in 2014. HFF’s Rusty Tamlyn, who represented Ed Wulfe in the 1997 sale of Meyerland Plaza, is marketing the Tanglewood Court center for Fidelis.