Enlarge the photo for a 1954 view of Weingartens Grocery, now the Randalls site, thanks to Mike McCorkle. Find his photo history of Bellaire at www.bellairebook.com.
The Public Hearing by City Council on the Methodist Hospital application for a new development on the old Randall’s site provided a plethora of questions and information. The final meeting on this application is tentatively scheduled for July 17, 2023.
Written Comments can be submitted up to a few days before the City Council meeting, send them in care of our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some takeaways – a fair number of speakers and written comments oppose the purpose, size, and/or height of the development, but there were also a number of folks in favor, including local Methodist physicians and business owners. Some Methodist physicians currently office in the McGovern Building at 4710 Bellaire Blvd. They would relocate to this new building.
The Page Southerland Page representative explained that the development meets the intention of the Comprehensive Plan based on the current Urban Village Downtown (UV-D) zoning. The main building meets the property line on Bellaire Blvd and around the perimeter (zero setback).
What is proposed is a 3-story, 95,000 square foot medical office building with an attached 2-story garage plus three (3) detached single story retail buidlings. The developer desires to close the esplanade opening currently used to turn left into the existing parking lot to aid in access to the parking garage. Lot coverage, including surface parking, is proposed to be a maximum of 68%.
That UV-D zoning requires 2-story or taller buildings, zero setback for at least 75% of a building fronting the property line, and allows up to 90% site coverage.
However, there’s a perception that an office building does not follow the true spirit of the Comprehensive Plan. The following excerpt is found on page 2.9 of the Plan.
“Urban Village provides for the most intensive site development within the community, although the City’s recent rezoning initiative ensures that the nature of redevelopment activity in City Center is somewhat less intense (in scale, height, etc.) to maintain more of a “small town” downtown feel for Bellaire residents.”
Traffic patterns would change, with no left-turn access from westbound traffic on Bissonnet or Cedar. Vehicles will exit via right turns only from all ingress/egress points.
The current cut through for a left turn northbound on South Rice would be closed. Heavier than usual traffic is expected on South Rice, especially in the evenings when Methodist employees are leaving for the day. The parking garage would be accessed from South Rice.
My personal opinion? Apparently the owners of the Randall’s site have no desire to sell the property, and many developers who would be willing to build a scaled down development similar to the 2-story Town Center across Bellaire Blvd are unwilling to do so on leased property. So we could end up with a Halloween store. What would you prefer?
I see traffic flow as a problem, since we already have heavy traffic backups mornings and evenings on our major thoroughfares. And we have numerous medical facilities along the Loop.
Our zoning is free and easy. No flat 35-foot height or 15 or 20 foot setback for Bellaire’s downtown. Anything may be possible as a Planned Development, including tall buildings in the heart of our downtown area. It’s a wide open invitation to developers at the expense of adjacent residents along the commercial areas, and harms the image of our community as a city of homes and small businesses.
By the time City Council addresses the need to update the Comprehensive Plan, which was due over a year ago, and hopefully suggest changes to our commercial zoning districts, it may be too late to prevent this sort of development in the very center of our supposedly walkable downtown.
Public Comments to the Mayor and members of City Council may be sent to email@example.com.