Houston Community College plans to close its Pinemont Campus, leaving a 63,489 square foot shopping center mostly vacant.
While speculation will commence about the ultimate fate of the space at the southeast corner of Ella Boulevard and Pinemont Drive, Brixmor, a publicly traded real estate investment trust that invests in shopping centers, is playing it close to the vest.
“We do own the entire center and we are still working on the plans for its future at this time,” said Michelle Bauer, a senior leasing representative.
An HCC statement said it plans to close the Pinemont Campus, located at 1265 Pinemont Dr., when its lease expires in August. The HCC Board of Trustees approved the closure of Pinemont in October 2018 and said a smooth transition for the community, students, faculty and staff is the priority.
“Enrollment at the Pinemont Campus has been declining for years and there is no indication this trend will reverse,” the statement said. “Created in a former strip center in the late 1990s, the instructional environment, physical condition and range of services at Pinemont are below state standards and below newer HCC locations, peer institutions and student expectations.”
Even if enrollment picked up, officials say, there are other nearby HCC campuses, mainly the Northline and Acres Homes campuses, which are within a 10-minute drive of Pinemont.
HCC spokesperson Mike Edward said the school is looking to make a “long-term investment” in the campuses owned by HCC.
There are no specialized programs offered at the Pinemont location. According to Library Services College Director Gwen Richard, the location, which is an electronic resource center, is used primarily for student research.
“HCC remains involved and invested in the area and is a strong continuing partner not only of the Greater Heights Area Chamber of Commerce, but the Pinemont community as well,” said Heights chamber president Jacob Millwee.
The other existing tenants in the center, which was built in the 1970s, include Oak Forest Cleaners, Family Dollar and Beauty Supply. According to Harris County Appraisal District records, Brixmor also owns the stand-alone building occupied by Hartz Krispy Chicken On Pinemont as well as the gas station at 1295 Pinemont Dr.
A staff member who answered the phone at Oak Forest Cleaners said that business is staying put for now.
The total square footage of land Brixmor owns along that stretch of Pinemont totals almost 450,000 square feet, or a little more than 10 acres. The appraisal value for the total land in 2018 was a little more than $5 million.
Although growth has been much slower at Pinemont and Ella as opposed to the bustling corner of 34th Street and Ella, there have been a number of developments in the area in past years, such as the 13 single family homes that Abundant Homes Living recently built in the 5000 block of Ella, just up the road from the HCC Pinemont campus. The homes are being offered in the low to mid $400,000s.
There’s also the redeveloped Pinemont Pavillion, at 965 Pinemont Drive, which houses Ploughman’s Deli and Marchese’s Take-Home Kitchen, among others, and the small shopping complex at 5135 Ella Blvd., which is home to Maria’s Tacos and other newer tenants. Pario Novo’s Andre Reed was the developer for both of those and said he believes in the potential of the area.