What about our neighborhood?

Our neighborhood lacks affordable land for large-scale retailers, but that doesn’t mean developers aren’t trying to find it — even if it’s more difficult and more expensive here than in other parts of the city.

Take the former Timbercreek apartments’ site at the northeast corner of Skillman and Northwest Highway, for instance.

“Trammel Crow raised the whole site out of the flood plain,” says Scott Wynne, vice president-finance for ING Clarion Partners, a real estate investment management company. “There were millions of dollars invested in it before it went vertical.”

The result will be a double-decker Walmart and Sam’s Club, JC Penney, Chick-Fil-A, Whataburger and more.

Another large site ripe for redevelopment is the former Steakley Chevrolet dealership just across Skillman. But the current owners have been trying to sell for nearly three years and still haven’t received an offer they like.

What’s more likely to happen is urban infill over time. Retailers are well aware of the wealth it takes to buy a house in our neighborhood. It’s the reason Whole Foods amped up its presence by opening the Lakewood store in March 2009, and the reason the grocer still is paying rent on its former location on Lower Greenville.

“They have about two or three years on their lease agreement, and they won’t give it up because they’re afraid I’ll give it to another grocery store,” says Mitchell Rasansky, a real estate investor and former city councilman who owns the property and thinks it would be a great location for a Trader Joe’s.

Our neighborhood also is likely to attract more mom-and-pop shops and non-chain restaurants, thanks in part to the success of the Andres Brothers along Henderson Avenue. The stretch between Ross and Central has blossomed over the last couple of years with more new boutiques and eateries than neighbors can keep track of.

“Rents there are measurably higher if you go east,” says Robert Young, referring to Knox. Small businesses like to turn a profit, he says, and “paying higher rent doesn’t get them there.”

Young also gives the example of Urbano Café’s move from McKinney Avenue to Bryan and Fitzhugh, right behind Jimmy’s Food Store — “a niche market. The neighborhood is a little dicey, but the product is good, and the feel is good.”


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