The sale of the Garden Oaks Baptist Church parking lot, which a developer plans to convert into a shopping center, remains on track and could be finalized within the next two months.
Patrick Barry with Gulf Coast Commercial Group said the company has applied with the city to re-plat four lots on the North Shepherd Drive property for commercial use. Upon approval, it plans to close on the property by May.
“We’ve already gotten all the signatures we needed in order to release the existing deed restrictions, and now we’re in the platting process with the city of Houston,” Barry said.
The path to completing the sale has been more than a year in the making as the church and Gulf Coast entered into agreement in February 2018. Gulf Coast plans to build a 17,200 square foot retail development, called Lot 14 Shopping Center, at 3201 N. Shepherd Dr.
In 1973, Section One of Garden Oaks allowed the church to convert four lots from residential use to religious use. Gulf Coast needed permission from Section One residents for a zoning change converting the use of those lots from religious to commercial.
“I think Gulf Coast worked with the committee very well,” Garden Oaks Civic Club committee co-chair Carrie Arnett said Tuesday. “There were some bumps along the road and some processes for collecting signatures I think could have been a little cleaner or crisper, but on the whole I think the committee felt this agreement was good given the circumstances.”
Last May, Gulf Coast Commercial briefly halted the sale and listened to neighbors’ concerns about noise abatement and traffic, among other things, in efforts to lessen the negative impact a retail development would have on abutting homeowners. During the course of the feedback period, the civic club committee and Gulf Coast agreed on a number of terms, including a sight and sound wall, restrictions on building height, lighting and signage, as part of a declaration that will replace existing deed restrictions once the lots are commercialized.
Following those agreements, Gulf Coast began circulating a petition in November 2018 to release existing deed restrictions and develop the lot, which required signatures from homeowners totaling 50 percent of the total front-lot footage over the last several months.
“We weighed a lot of options. This is something I think provides reasonable protection considering the unique situation of those lots,” Arnett said. “It will have restrictions that lay down a foundation of protection for homeowners. We know there are people who won’t agree with us, but we hope those who don’t are willing to be neighborly and understand the time and effort put into this.”
With signatures in hand, there is a public hearing scheduled for 2:30 p.m. April 11 in front of the Houston Planning Commission that would approve the partial re-platting of the church’s four lots adjacent to Garden Oaks Section One, according to a letter mailed out to residents on March 18.
“We haven’t changed our design, our building, tenants, or anything – we just need to go through this with the city of Houston,” Barry said. “Nothing has changed from what we told the neighborhood (in November).”
Should the planning commission approve re-platting and Gulf Coast can close on the property in May as expected, it will then take a few months for Gulf Coast to obtain building permits. If all goes according to plan, construction should begin in July or August, and the company hopes to have tenants opening in the first quarter of 2020.
“Right now, we have two restaurants lined up as well as a coffee shop,” Barry said. “Unfortunately, we had to go through the process of re-platting through the city, so that’s pushed our opening back a little bit. We’ve got good tenants in line and we’re ready to go, it’s just taken a bit longer to get our plat done and get our permits.”