Down but not out: Meyerland's retail market may present opportunities for revival

A neighborhood grocery store for 40 years, Belden’s closed in January. Its owners cited declining business following repeated floods in the area. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
A neighborhood grocery store for 40 years, Belden’s closed in January. Its owners cited declining business following repeated floods in the area. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

A neighborhood grocery store for 40 years, Belden’s closed in January. Its owners cited declining business following repeated floods in the area. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

In mid-January, residents in the Meyerland area watched the owners of Belden’s grocery store, a staple in the community for 40 years, close its doors for the last time.

“It’s really a blow to the community,” said Terry Cominsky, a Realtor and president of the Greater Meyerland Super Neighborhood, a group of civic clubs representing the area.

“The store did a lot for the nearby apartments, but those have been struggling, too.”

The closure is seen by some as the latest aftershock of Hurricane Harvey, which came after back-to-back years of flooding in 2015 and 2016 that worsened the area’s reputation for being flood-prone. Census data shows the population of 77096, the main Meyerland ZIP code, has shrunk to its 2010 population level, while nearby ZIPs have grown at a steady clip.

Meanwhile, efforts by other residents to shore up community engagement are taking root, and retail industry experts say the area still has fundamental strengths that could lead to a revival.


Retail trends

Before Belden’s shuttered, the area suffered the loss of its original H-E-B location at Chimney Rock Road and South Braeswood after it took on water during Hurricane Harvey.

The lot sat vacant for years, prompting nearby resident Michael Babajanov to kickstart efforts to launch a farmers market—which marked six months of running every Saturday and Sunday in January, rain or shine. He followed that success with the debut of a food truck park on Jan. 4.

“We’re following the ‘crawl, walk, then run’ approach,” Babajanov said. “We were crawling; we’re starting to walk; it’s starting to take off.”

He said the community has showed up, and as the only market open both Saturdays and Sundays, he is able to serve more people, including more of the area’s Jewish population.

“My goal is to revitalize the corner of Braeswood and Chimney Rock,” he said. “It’s a shame businesses aren’t thriving here. It is not for lack of community support.”

Jason Gaines, senior vice president and retail division leader with NAI Partners, a commercial real estate firm, said the challenge is that nearby areas, including Bellaire, West University and even the Galleria, are able to attract more retailers that can claim to serve the area of Meyerland. He said the firm was close to landing deals with LA Fitness and later with Aldi grocery stores for a Meyerland-area location, but those fell through because of proximity to other locations.



“What some of these national retailers don’t realize—and what we try to remind them—is that Houston is densifying, and you can have multiple locations of stores two miles apart,” Gaines said.

Another challenge is getting the right mix of demographics and redevelopment of properties to attract newer, higher-rent-paying tenants, he said.

“The area needs more younger families; it needs some turnover to get the right mix,” Gaines said. “But it’s an attractive area, and it will get there.”

Looking for a turnaround

Kominsky points out that Project Brays, due to be completed in 2021, could go a long way toward alleviating flood concerns.

“The bayou is almost done, and I think we’re all curious to see what that will look like when the next storm comes in,” she said.

While there are vacant lots and abandoned properties throughout Meyerland awaiting buyout funds, elevation projects, repair grants or to simply get sold, other homes are turning over, and new homes are gradually being built.

“It’s not a ghost town by any stretch; let’s not pretend that it is,” Babajanov said.

However, he said the area needs to take steps to attract new growth.



“Everything needs a facelift. When you give a fresh look to something, it changes everyone’s opinion and view, and people react differently because the energy is positive,” he said.

That is why Babajanov is actively working to assemble a group to try to purchase the old H-E-B property and find a use that will generate some interest in the area.

Across the street, at the now-vacant Belden’s lot, residents hope an exciting project can come in to help rekindle hope in the area. At a recent meeting of the Greater Meyerland Super Neighborhood, residents’ hopes included a food hall; an alternative to H-E-B, such as Trader Joe’s; or even an alternate location for a Houston Public Library branch.

In the longer term, the area will need to experience a full residential recovery and revival before it will see the kind of redevelopment that is taking off in areas inside the Loop, Gaines said.

“The Heights had a similar problem. The residential market had profoundly changed and changed so quickly. But we had a working-class retail environment, thrift stores and auto shops. The retail changes 10 years later, and it’s so different now,” he said. “I would not be surprised if in a few years, a developer looks at this area, sees that it’s underserved and it becomes very attractive.”
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


MOST RECENT

Houston ISD interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan announced the district's 2020-21 reopening plans July 15. (Screenshot via HISD)
Houston ISD reopening: 10 things to know about the 2020-21 plan

"It’s going to take a lot of flexibility … but we’re going to do right by our children and right by our staff," interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan told reporters July 15.

The way elections are run and voters are registered in Harris County could look different following the 2020 elections, as Harris County Commissioners Court has begun exploring alternatives to the county's current democratic system. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County begins exploring voter registration, election alternatives

The way elections are run and voters are registered in Harris County could look different following the 2020 elections, as Harris County Commissioners Court has begun exploring alternatives to the county's current democratic system.

Houston ISD will hold online instruction for the first six weeks of the 2020-21 school year. (Community Impact staff)
Houston ISD to begin 2020-2021 academic school year online for first 6 weeks

All students will begin the school year virtually when classes begin Sept. 8.

Oak Ridge High School held graduation for an audience of family members in two ceremonies with social distancing measures in place. (Courtesy Conroe ISD)
Teachers, parents express concern about what 2020-21 could hold for Houston-area schools

As school districts throughout the Greater Houston area begin to release details about what in-person and virtual learning options will look like in the fall, questions remain for local parents and educators.

online
Gov. Abbott: Texas Education Agency to extend online learning option for school districts in 2020-21 school year

Texas school districts may be able to continue online learning for longer than three weeks, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.

Walmart and Sam's Club leaders announced in a press release July 15 all stores nationwide will require shoppers to wear a face covering beginning July 20. (Courtesy Walmart)
UPDATED: Kroger joins Walmart, Sam's Club in requiring face coverings in all stores

Additionally, all Walmart stores will have a single entrance beginning July 20.

Terry Leavitt-Chavez has been appointed as Evelyn’s Park Conservancy’s new interim park administrator. (Courtesy Evelyn’s Park Conservancy)
Evelyn’s Park Conservancy appoints new interim park administrator

Terry Leavitt-Chavez will be the interim park administrator.

The Texas Renaissance Festival returns to Todd Mission for its 46th season Oct. 3. (Courtesy Texas Renaissance Festival)
Texas Renaissance Festival to offer limited number of date-specific tickets July 18; face masks encouraged during 46th season

Should the festival season be canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, all tickets will be honored for the 2021 festival season, or guests may request a refund, according to festival information.

A voter shows up to vote at the Moody Park Community Center on election day in Harris County. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
HARRIS COUNTY ELECTION UPDATES: All voting centers fully closed, no lines remain as of 9 p.m.

Along with 150,000 ballots cast throughout the two-week early voting process, total voter turnout broke records for primary runoffs in the county.

Republican candidates Joe Danna and Paul Day faced each other in a primary runoff for Harris County sheriff July 14. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
ELECTION RESULTS: Joe Danna wins Republican primary for Harris County sheriff

Republican nominee Joe Danna is set to face incumbent Democrat Ed Gonzalez in November's general election for Harris County sheriff.