HOUSTON – It is official – Houston City Council has passed the Koehler 380 agreement with an 11 to 4 vote. Some would say it is a win for Wal-Mart, others call it a start to revitalizing an historic neighborhood.
After the opposition stated their case and rallied people to stand up to the agreement which would allow for, among other things, the building of a new Wal-Mart in Houston’s historic Heights neighborhood, city council has ended their fight. The Koehler 380 agreement is actually an agreement between the City of Houston and a developer known as Ainbinder Heights, LLC. The city will now have some assistance in improving the area’s streets and sidewalks; they will have little to no say in the building of a new Wal-Mart. In a press conference following the council vote, Mayor Anise Parker states “It’s not the end of the process; it’s the end of the 380 agreement.” While Mayor Parker says she has done what she felt would be the best for the city and neighborhood, opponents feel she and the council members have sold out to the big corporations, allowing an historical district of Houston to lose its Norman Rockwell- like feel.
The truth is many areas, including the Heights does need revitalization. This area may have once been a lovely part of town but has fallen to yet another section of Houston that needs some real TLC. In an economy like this, that TLC may just have to come in the form of this 380 agreement. While I understand the upset over another Wal-Mart springing up in such an area, I also understand the possible benefits. Mayor Parker feels that the city and citizens will be able to have some say-so in how Wal-Mart proceeds with development, there will be no binding agent to force the corporation to uphold or even solidly address their concerns. Citizens fear the addition of a Wal-Mart will create a rise in crime and detract from the area’s look and feel.
Realistically, this agreement seems to be much better for the developer than the city. If Wal-Mart and the developer truly want to listen to the concerns of citizens and the council, this could be a great plan. This agreement has the potential to upgrade the area, bring additional business as well as much needed jobs into the area, and provide a store that many are finding to be one of few they can even afford these days. If the corporation and developer have no real plan of hearing what the city has to say, citizens will be up in arms to fight them. In a situation like this I’d think the companies involved may see the benefit to doing their best to keep the people on their side. Since the Mayor and city council have decided for us, we will just have to wait to see if the payoff of this agreement will actually benefit the citizens over the corporations. With a little luck and good business sense, this could end up a win for the people.