In a 2015 story, The Leader fact checked reports that Garden Oaks Baptist Church was selling the parking lot across the street from the church at 3206 N Shepherd Drive. While it was not true in 2015, in 2018 it is a different story.
The church and Gulf Coast Commercial Group recently sent an open letter to the homeowners of Garden Oaks Section One, stating Gulf Coast’s intention to buy the parking lot, contingent on its rezoning, which the section would need to approve.
The letter states that the church is under contract to sell the property located on the west side of North Shepherd between Chase Bank and Gabby’s BBQ. Gulf Coast would like to build a retail center with possible restaurants, but because of a 1937 deed restriction that applies specifically to Garden Oaks, Section One, “all lots are to be used for residential purposes only, along with a prohibition on the sale of alcoholic beverages. Also included in the restrictions is a prohibition on the use of signs, billboards, posters or advertising devices of any character on any lot in Garden Oaks without prior consent.”
In 1973, Section One of Garden Oaks allowed the church to convert four lots from residential use to religious use. Now the church and Gulf Coast want the section’s permission to covert the use of those lots from religious to commercial. The letter also proposes removing the prohibition of the sale of alcohol.
The letter states: “At the time of sale, a new alcohol restriction will be placed on the property that will limit the sale of alcohol associated with a restaurant to not exceed 50 percent of total sales. This would allow Gulf Coast to lease to a trendy restaurant purveyor but prevent a bar or parlor establishment including a liquor package store or convenience store selling alcohol for offsite consumption.”
Patrick Barry of Gulf Coast Commercial tells The Leader that they must get permission of 75 percent of Section One residents to convert the usage of the property and that the sale is pending their approval. Gulf Coast has hired a consultant to oversee the education process and the collection of signatures.
“We will start out with a mail out and go door to door,” said Barry, who said he hopes to have the required number of signatures in the next 45 days. “We will probably have some community meetings too.”
Barry notes that Gulf Coast does a lot of retail centers where the anchor is a grocery store but that the development on North Shepherd would be different.
“The anchor might be a restaurant or another main user,” he said. “We’ve got feelers out to tenants but don’t want to get too excited yet.”
Carlos Tovar, the communications director for Garden Oaks Baptist, said that they had hired their own consultant to do a facilities assessment and a recommendation was made to sell the parking lot. After that, a strategic planning team from the church began to meet and pray about a decision and also started soliciting feedback from members. When members seemed amenable to it, the church put out feelers to developers.
Tovar said that after Gulf Coast was identified as the preferred buyer, a “combo renovation” was one option considered, where upgrades would be made to existing church buildings, many of which were constructed decades ago. But for now, just the sale of the parking lot is on the horizon. He said any changes to church buildings would take into account their history and the member’s attachment to them.
The removal of the prohibition of alcohol sales as described in the letter is different from the city ordinance banning the sale of alcohol within 300 feet of churches, public schools, and hospitals. Tovar said that the city has come out once to measure existing businesses but to his knowledge has not yet measured distances from the parking lot.
“This process has been going on for more than a year,” said Tovar.