A look at NewQuest’s plan to “WoW” Houston

Howdy folks, and welcome back to Houston Historic Retail! Today, we’re taking a quick look at arguably the most prominent development in Houston right now, West on West. WoW, as it’s abbreviated, is a project spearheaded by local developer NewQuest, which looks to redevelop a forty-year-old shopping center on Westheimer. Their plan came to light over a year ago with the announcement of a new 99 Ranch Market in the shopping center. While the full scope of the plan was not known at the time, it was obvious from construction that major changes were in store. When this center was originally built in 1983, this portion of Houston was still a patchwork of rural and suburban areas. While land had been developed further out, the area around and North of Alief stayed rural well into the 80s. The choice of location was about halfway between Westchase and West Oaks Mall, which was nearly complete at the time. The center was originally anchored by Feldman Furniture, a local company, and was supported by a large burst of growth in the area. In 1989, five years after opening, Feldman relocated to West Oaks Mall in a decision that would seemingly doom the company, which would only last a year after moving, proving that especially early on during West Oaks’ chic period in the 80s, the mall was very unfit for the area. On the other hand, the temperature at the Westheimer Pavillions was much warmer. Only months after Feldman left, CompUSA, or Soft Warehouse are they were known back in the day, took over their former space. The hot new IBM Clone store was just getting started, and this was their third location overall. For years, CompUSA would remain in the space until moving their flagship Houston store in 2004 to a newer shopping center up the road in front of Royal Oaks. The anchor spot would sit vacant for years until Goodwill reopened it as Houston’s first Computer Works location, which would close in 2015. The Pavillion Center would host several other memorable tenants, like Chi-Chi’s Mexican Restaurant and Blockbuster taking up the endcaps. An ever-persistent Armstrong McCall Beauty Supply has even continued to operate through the renovations. Outside of a few Beauty Supply stores, though, this center was largely vacant by 2020, suffering from years of neglect.

The concept behind West on West (which I think should be called West on Westheimer…) is to change the center up. The space is being promoted as a new Asian Town, as evidenced by the tenants. While definitely closer to Chinatown than Katy’s Asian Town, WoW could be considered an “in-between” to the two shopping districts. This is not the first center in the area that Newquest has signed on Asian tenants. In the mid-2010s, the company renovated Ashford Village on nearby Dairy Ashford and signed Japanese Supermarket chain Seiwa as the anchor there, and has been signing on new Asian tenants since then. Changes made to the shopping center are not only in tenancy but in design as well. One downside to this portion of Westheimer, and a possible cause of the center’s woes, is access issues. The median of Westheimer, which was initially an open-access turning lane, was upgraded to a raised concrete median with directional turning lanes a few years ago, limiting entry and exit options. Newquest’s solution appears to have been to demolish a portion of the center. The Northwest corner was demolished, and a driveway to Overbrook Lane along the rear was added. The improved access is helpful, but it could also become a nuisance with people using it to cut through from Westheimer to the residences behind the shopping center, but this could be dettered with proper traffic control. I tried reaching out to 99 Ranch Market to confirm an opening date but did not receive a response. However, if I had to make an estimate, it would be soon as employees appeared to be training during my visit. According to recent reports, the center is at least 90% leased. Time will tell if it is a success, but so far, it’s looking good.

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