It’s been a long road, but the story of the Garden Oaks Baptist parking lot sale could be nearing its conclusion.
According to Patrick Barry with Gulf Coast Commercial, the sale of the Garden Oaks Baptist Church parking lot might be closed prior to the end of this year – should all go according to plan – after a few bumps in the road.
In 1973, Section One of Garden Oaks allowed the church to convert four lots from residential use to religious use. Upon the agreement, however, the church and Gulf Coast – who entered into agreement to buy the property from the church back in February – needed the section’s permission for a zoning change converting the use of those lots from religious back to commercial. 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.
Barry and Gulf Coast then embarked on an education campaign to collect enough signatures to go through with the sale. In May, however, news broke that Gulf Coast had pumped the brakes on the conversion in response to concerns from neighboring Garden Oaks residents garnered during the campaign, stepping back to provide information to a then-newly-formed resident committee.
“I think Gulf Coast has been receptive to homeowners’ concerns. Although there was some initial resistance and disagreements along the way, Gulf Coast has been willing to work with the Committee to discuss and agree on restrictions for the parking lot,” committee co-chair Carrie Arnett said.
For several months, the committee has been tasked with collecting information from homeowners regarding concerns about the development – including, among other things, increased traffic – as well as what they would like to see as Gulf Coast Commercial would proceed. Now, following months of consideration, the Committee and Gulf Coast have agreed on a number of terms, including a sight and sound wall; restrictions on building height, lighting, and signage; hours of operation restriction; and prohibition of a number of specific types of businesses. During June, July, and August, Barry said Gulf Coast Commercial met with the committee, using those meetings to be a sounding board for their concerns and incorporating those concerns into the development as well as the declaration of restrictions that will replace the deed restrictions. After conferring with an independent urban planner and attorney and after weighing other possible outcomes for the parking lot, the Committee worked with Gulf Coast to add and extend terms for the Declaration.
“These restrictions should lessen the impact on abutting homeowners and on all of the Section 1,” Arnett said.
“It wasn’t necessarily about what the building would look like, but how it buffered sounds and lighting with the residents behind it,” Barry added. “Not only are we physically building and leasing this thing differently than we were before, but all these restrictions [us and the committee] have agreed to are in a declaration that goes with the property no matter who owns it.”
The committee will soon send out a letter to Section 1 residents detailing the agreement and improvements made. From his understanding, the Garden Oaks Civic Club will endorse the project. Gulf Coast Commercial will subsequently send its own letter echoing the sentiment out in the following days.
Once the company reaches the threshold necessary to release existing deed restrictions – specified as 50 percent of the total front lot footage – Barry said its goal would be to close on the property by the end of 2018. Development would then begin as soon as possible.