Neighborhood battle brewing over planned retail building project

August 1, 2011 3:30:48 PM PDT
Plans to build a new office and retail building near the museum district are dividing a community just south of downtown.

It all centers around the so-called "Parc Binz" project planned at Chenevert and Binz.

Since there is no zoning in Houston, we often run into these types of situations. Museum Park is what many of its residents would call a transitional neighborhood, meaning the older building are being torn down to make way for newer ones. While change there may be inevitable, one longtime homeowner isn't convinced it's always for the better.

A longtime resident of Museum Park, Carl Gibbs has watched his neighborhood grow.

"It's an area of nice, older homes. It was one of the first nice neighborhoods in Houston," he said.

Gibbs fears the charm that drew him there all those years ago may be in jeopardy, if developers have their way. Balcor Commercial bought the small apartment complex next to door to him, along with a lot on Binz. A plan is in the works to build a six-story office and retail building in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It's called Parc Binz. Gibbs believes it's going to create a traffic nightmare.

"In the morning, rush hour and from 3 to 5 in the afternoon, people trying to turn in and out of the retail space would be just unreal," Gibbs said.

But the project is moving forward. The city's planning department recently granted a re-plat of the land from single family to commercial. Balcor insists it's trying to be a good neighbor.

The company's broker told us, "We look forward to developing the area both economically and aesthetically. Additionally, we are taking ever step to ensure the project works to meet the neighborhood's needs."

"I think that change is exciting and having new shops or places to live is good for any neighborhood," resident Liz Cooke said.

But Gibbs isn't budging. He claims he was approached and practically frightened into selling his house but declined. This, he says, is his home.

"It's just not a commercial area. It's a residential area. That's the beauty of it," Gibbs said.

As this process moves forward, the developer says he will continue to reach out to the neighborhood and gather suggestions from homeowners on issues like increased landscaping, lighting and safety improvements.

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