by Cynthia Lescalleet
For the Leader
For residents near Yale and 6th street, Independence Day fireworks were nothing compared to the sparks flying when news of another proposed apartment complex came to light July 5.
A heads-up notification from District C Council Member Ellen Cohen’s office to various residents, land use groups and neighborhood organizations told of Trammell Crow Residential’s proposed plan to build a second upscale apartment complex in the area. Reportedly dubbed “Alexan Yale,” the development would be located on Yale between 5th and 6th streets.
The 4.9-acre site is currently home to Fixtures International and is a block south of TCR’s further-along luxury apartment project, Alexan Heights, which fronts Yale St. at 6th and 7th streets.
TCR did not respond to requests for information on the proposed Alexan Yale.
As described in Cohen’s letter, however, the new project is “expected to include four stories of units over two levels of parking, with one level of parking below grade. TCR has the site under contract and is currently performing preliminary due diligence, and they expect to close the purchase of the property by the end of the year. Once TCR establishes a site plan and unit count, they will perform a new traffic study that will include roadways and intersections included in their previous TIA, while also including new intersections on Yale St., Heights Boulevard, and I-10, as well as pedestrian counts.”
“Horror, shock and disbelief” are among the reactions of neighborhood residents, said Roxanne Davis, a founding member of the neighborhood advocacy group West Heights Coalition.
“We are disappointed to hear of yet another extremely large project in an area without sufficient infrastructure for the initial one,” she said, particularly since WHC reps had asked TCR earlier this year if it other projects were in the works in the immediate area.
A second apartment complex would likely compound any traffic, safety and density concerns the neighborhood had with the first one, she said. WHC had, for example, estimated Alexan Heights’ 361 units would generate 500 cars following roughly the same peak commuter hours and southbound destination: I-10.
One area resident noted that the population of either complex would exceed that living in the single-family homes within the five-block area around them.
Traffic on Yale Street already stacks back six blocks from I-10, Davis said. Cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets encounters narrow roadways without curbs.
Tails on the trail?
WHC is also concerned about safety in the neighborhood as well as around the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, which still has no protected crossing of the thoroughfare, she said.
That TCR’s plan for Alexan Heights does not include a dog relief area within it perplexes residents, she said, though TCR reportedly has told WHC that dog owners have access to the nearby trail for that function.
Long-term ownership of the Alexan properties also has WHC on alert, Davis said, since TCR can build, then flip its complexes.
Neighborhood chatter and postings to community-zoned social media, such as NextDoor.com, have registered shock, frustration and outrage. Some remarks ponder whether the developer was working the 5th Street site during discussion of its Alexan Heights project.
Others wrote of their frustration with Council Member Cohen for not standing up for residents in this matter.
Cohen said in an e-mailed response that one of District C’s hallmarks is its “incredible level of development.
“When a new complex is being introduced within an already-developed community, I know the residents will have concerns regarding the impact on traffic, safety, and infrastructure in their neighborhood. However, in a state with strong property rights and in a city with no zoning regulations, there are few ways in which a Council Member can affect development.”
She said her goal is “to ensure that the quality of life of my constituents remains high, and the best approach is to bring the developers and the residents to the table to address their concerns and attempt to find ways to compromise for the betterment of the community.”
Houston Heights Association’s Land Use Committee also received the letter July 5. LUC Chairman Bill Pellerin noted in a weekend e-mail to committee members how the new project is in addition to the TCR project between 6th Street and the bike trail on Yale Street.
“There was a lot of effort on the part of citizens near the first project to limit the size of the project (through opposition to variances). The LUC was involved in that we set up a meeting between the developer and the citizens.” However, he, LUC and HHA take no position on the development.
WHC reps said the group will be organizing for better communication and understanding of both projects. For updates, visit www.westheightscoalition.com.