By Charlotte Aguilar
Houston Methodist healthcare has begun the process of trying to redevelop the old Randalls supermarket property — more than 3 acres of high profile Bellaire commercial real estate zoned as a downtown “urban village” — into a multi-story medical office building and parking garage to consolidate local Methodist-affiliated doctor’s offices and services.
Page Architects presented the Bellaire Planning & Zoning Commission with three concepts Sept. 8 for a potential planned development in the 5100 block of Bellaire Boulevard — also bordered by Bissonnet Street — under the Urban Village Downtown (UVD) zoning category. The agenda item was not part of a formal application but an exploratory move after discussions with the city’s development review office.
One commissioner warned, after the presentation, that as shown, the concepts would face “very much an uphill battle with the residents of Bellaire.”
Methodist’s preferred option of the three would demolish the Randalls and replace it with a 173,000 square-foot medical office building with four- and two-story sections up to a height of 75 feet and a five-story, 230,000 square-foot parking garage with 634 spaces.
The second option would construct a 106,000 two-story building with parking underneath plus a garage, while the third features a three-story, 110,000 square foot building and separate four-story garage.
In all three options, the square footage of the parking garage exceeds that of the office building. The Wells Fargo Bank is not part of any of the options, and the Subway sandwich shop would remain under two of them, including the first preference.
The UVD zone was created in 2014 as a means of developing a walkable multi-use downtown area in the heart of the city, with varied housing, retail, dining and office options. In the description of the UVD in the public hearing announcement, it was described as “intended to reinforce a ‘small town feel’” in the city’s center. Rezoning was followed by a $70,000 overall zoning study in 2016 that grew out of a beautification effort throughout the city and included community feedback in which about 1,000 residents participated.
The presentation’s three options bore little resemblance to those visions of the UVD and appeared more like a supersized version of the three-story Bissonnet Medical Plaza and four-story parking garage that looms over the northeast corner of Bissonnet Street and Newcastle Drive.
While repeatedly described by the presenter from Page as upgrading the “level of community healthcare” in Bellaire, it also was depicted as a convenience to Methodist to combine its existing, scattered facilities. A spokesman for Methodist said the actual uses were yet to be determined, including a possibility of emergency medicine.
While commissioners were limited in their comments because the presentation was preliminary, two expressed reservations about what they saw.
Jaime Perkins said she had already received one letter of protest and suggested integrating “more community aspects” into the project to avoid the “uphill battle.” She called a medical office building at the site “a very hard sell.”
Vice Chair Mike Baker was troubled by the size of the parking structures. “I’m not excited about the idea of a parking structure sitting at the corner of the heart of the city,” he said. “Parking structures just aren’t very aesthetic.”
Chair Weldon Taylor asked if the medical building was what “the UVD (is) really trying to achieve” in regards to a small-town lifestyle. “I’m not sure how that’s specific to Bellaire,” he said.
A city-recorded video of the meeting can be accessed here.