Restaurateur Wanted

Hot Heights development seeks restaurant to cultivate 'sunken garden'

Hot Heights development seeks restaurant to cultivate 'sunken garden'

Heights Village development sunken garden drawing
The "sunken garden" could be a draw at Heights Village. Courtesy of Heights Village

By any measure, Yale Street is becoming a hot destination in the Heights. Over the past couple of years, the addition of the Heights Mercantile mixed-use development and new bars like Eight Row Flint and Better Luck Tomorrow have transformed the sleepy stretch from I-10 to 11th Street into a major culinary destination.

Now, a veteran real estate developer thinks his new property will be the next phase in Yale Street’s evolution, and he’s looking for the right tenant to bring the Heights its next dining destination.

Over the course of the last several months, Robert Downs has transformed a lot at 500 Yale into a shopping center he’s calling Heights Village. It will be home to a couple of service-oriented businesses like a dental office or a nail salon, as well as two restaurants. At one end, Downs has already signed La Vibra, a new taco concept with roots in Mexico City, but he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for at the other end. 

“I’ve talked to Ford Fry, but they picked up the Treadsack property,” Downs says. “”I’ve talked to Cherry Pie Hospitality. I’ve been talking to everybody.”

What he’s been talking about with these restaurateurs is a space that’s between 2,500 and 4,000-square feet for the center’s second restaurant. It overlooks an area on the property that was once occupied by a home with a basement. In the developer’s opinion, that space could be home to a raised patio that overlooks a sunken garden. As depicted in the drawing above, it could become the sort of destination that defines a restaurant. Still, finding the right operator has been difficult. 

“We would love to have a nice Italian restaurant where the customers would have three or four glasses of wine, spend a $100 and leave. [I don’t think] that’s going to happen,” Downs says. “We’ve turned down something really raucous. This isn’t a place for 20 and 30-year old guys. Families can walk here.”

In terms of rent, Downs expects to charge $45 per square foot plus $12 in triple nets, but he’s offering a slightly different approach to the tenant improvement allowance that reimburses operators for some of their buildout expenses.

“We agree to a number, depending on what it is. Insteads of the owner putting that money up and drawing it down, we’ll allow for reduced rent,” Downs said. “These guys got reduced rent for 60 months. All different kinds of ways of making a deal.”

Downs anticipates his phase of the construction will be complete by the end of May. A future tenant would need to get plans submitted to the City of Houston for approval before beginning construction. Realistically, the future restaurant probably won’t open until next year — just in time for spring patio weather.