By Betsy Denson
Kathryn van der Pol’s Liberty Hoepfl Garage, located at 4610 N. Shepherd Dr., is a near neighbor to the former Sears department store. She said she has documented the site’s decline since it closed over the summer.
“The Sears lot has already attracted trash, piles of discarded furniture, (and) graffiti has been painted over once,” she said.
Because there are no imminent plans for the property, the concern is the downslide will continue. Late Tuesday afternoon, one person was sleeping on a bench underneath the iconic Sears sign along Shepherd, and another was sitting in a nearby shaded area next to the building.
Houston City Council member Abbie Kamin, who represents the area in District C, said she urges residents to report any nuisance or code enforcement concerns with vacant properties to 311 and to her office as a follow-up.
“I want to encourage business and economic development in this area, and responsible redevelopment is the priority,” Kamin said. “I hope to see something creative and beneficial to the community come to this location.”
The wish list from residents includes everything from a Target to a Trader Joe’s, even as people miss the Sears of yesteryear.
“When I was little we lived on Fisher Street by Garden Oaks Elementary,” Jeanette Black said. “My mother did not drive a car so we walked everywhere. We shopped at Woolworth in the Garden Oaks shopping center, then JC Penney – where ALDI is – and then it was Sears for popcorn and candy. Just a short walk but great memories. My mother also took my girls to Sears for popcorn many times when they were growing up. And all our appliances were Kenmore and all my dad’s tools were Craftsman. And Sears had Santa.”
Imelda Gorman Johnson said the property had been in decline, even when it was still a Sears.
“It’s (kind of) looked abandoned in part since we first moved into Garden Oaks in 2003,” she said.
In van der Pol’s perfect world, the site would house Heritage Classical Academy, a proposed tuition-free public charter school. Van der Pol sits on the board.
“It would be an excellent location,” she said. “It is large enough for a kindergarten through eighth grade (with) outdoor space for athletics …and still (would have) room for other commercial/residential development.”
Regardless of what happens, she said the bus stop with the Sears sign must be preserved.
“It is iconic and part of our community history,” she said.