02/09/16 4:30pm

Strip Center at Fondren Rd. and US 59, Sharpstown, Houston, 77074

This might be the last recorded view of the slightly peaked facade of the former Loehmann’s Clothing storefront, on the land owned by Houston Baptist University’s for-profit Beechnut Street development company at the southwest corner of 59 and Fondren Rd. A reader noted the green construction fencing late last month around part of the shopping center building that once housed $1.09 CD, Fondren Doctors Medical, and Libreria Cristiana on its narrow frontage-road-facing north end; the shot above looks southwest past the edge of the free-standing Mattress Firm on the center’s corner (right), next to the Shell station and the Burger King.

The strip was issued a demolition permit on the 26th, and by yesterday afternoon, much of the structure was being scraped up by an excavator and its handlers:


All Part of the Master Plan
02/09/16 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A 64-STORY HOLDOUT TO UPDATING THE HOUSTON VERNACULAR Williams Tower, Uptown, Houston“I’ve wondered why this building has maintained its old name socially but other buildings in town haven’t. Many residents still refer to the building as Transco Tower instead of Williams Tower. The name change was in 1999. Why don’t folks in Houston call the JPMorgan Chase Tower the Texas Commerce Tower? The Bank of America Building is formerly known as the RepublicBank Center, the NCNB Center, and the NationsBank Center. Enterprise Plaza used to be called the Southwest Bank of Texas Building. Gulf Tower became Chevron Tower and is now the Fulbright Tower. I guess because the building is [one of] the tallest in Houston, and the most recognizable.” [Walker, commenting on Why the Williams Tower Beacon Was Off Last Fall] Photo: Russell Hancock

02/09/16 12:00pm

Regency House, 2701 Westheimer Rd., Houston

Regency House, 2701 Westheimer Rd., Houston

Today Swamplot is sponsored by condos that happen to be for sale in Regency House. Thanks for supporting Swamplot!

As far back as 1951, when he announced plans for a 15-story co-op on the site of what is now the Huntingdon, developer Bill Dickey had wanted to build a highrise in the area now known as Upper Kirby. But it took 2 more attempts, a change of site, and more than a decade for that to happen. The 13-story Regency House apartment building, designed by the architecture firm of Turner & Geyer on the former site of the Avalon Mill & Lumber Co. at 2701 Westheimer Rd. just west of Kirby Dr., finally opened in 1962. It featured a gas pump in the garage, a hair salon, a private restaurant/club on the penthouse level (the Napoleon Club), and a bowling alley. (Dickey moved into the building’s top floor and opened an office there too.) If you ignored the 1926 Plaza Hotel on Montrose, it was Houston’s first suburban building taller than 3 stories to sprout west of Main St.

The building was converted to condos in 1980. The Napoleon Club later became office space for Mid-Main developer Bob Schultz; it’s since been converted into a private residence. Among the building’s roster of current and former residents are the proprietors of the Sloan/Hall boutique across the street; interior designers Barbara Hill and Brent McCaleb; Tootsies owner Mickey Rosmarin; Wayne Smith of Wayne Smith Jewels; restaurateur Benjy Levit, and PaperCity publisher Holly Moore — which might help explain the regular appearance of Regency House interiors in that publication and several local and national shelter mags.

If you’re interested in poking around the building for yourself, visit the upcoming open house in Unit 12BC. It’s scheduled for Sunday, February 21, from 2 to 4 pm.

Got a building with a bit of history you’d like to see Swamplot readers pay attention to? Contact us about our Sponsor of the Day program.

Sponsor of the Day
02/09/16 11:30am

Scaffolding on the Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056

A more senior representative of the Williams Tower’s property management office wrote in yesterday with a correction to Friday’s note about the recent return of the rotating spotlight at the top, after another employee told Swamplot that the beam had been off while a new bulb was being hunted down. In fact, the source tells Swamplot, the entire beacon fixture has been replaced, as part of a redo of the tip of the tower itself.

The current work on the top started in November 2014 and includes the replacement of the “apex roof” (consisting of the sloping panels directly beneath the beacon, and the vertical panels directly below those, above the start of the glass skin). The above photo shows those vertical panels missing late last spring as the swap was underway. The new spotlight turned on in late December, and final touches to the roof should be done by March, if the weather cooperates.

Here’s what the roof looked like back before the work began:


Spotlight on the Roof
02/09/16 10:30am

Vehicle Recovery for Operation Submerge, Gulfgate, Houston, 77023

If you are the owner of the bottom half of a red Ford Ranger left in Brays Bayou near Wayside Dr. some time in the last 20 years, your vehicle may be waiting for you in HPD’s impound lot. The pilot program intended to test out a procedure for fishing out the 127-or-so vehicles mapped beneath the surface of a few of Houston’s waterways reeled in its 20th and final car over the weekend before the $49,500 project grant ran out.

The removals started near the Wayside bridge over Brays Bayou in late January, then moved upstream of the crossing of Lidstone St. on the 29th; last Friday, operations jumped down to Sims Bayou to score a few final sets of wheels. Harris County Flood Control District, which oversaw the fishing trips, tweeted that project executives will now meet to discuss future removal plans and compare notes on the process, which involved divers from Saltwater Salvage submerging to attach giant yellow floaties to the sunken vehicles:


Stirring Up Mud in Gulfgate
02/09/16 8:30am


Photo of Spring Valley: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

02/08/16 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A TALL TALE OF A THIRD WARD 6-PACK Townhomes“I’m one of those townhouse dwellers in the Third Ward, and one of my six-pack neighbors got around the problem of obstructed views in a literal sense: She built an observation deck on top of her house that’s only accessible by a ladder. Good for views . . . bad for late-night, outdoor drinking.” [Evan, commenting on Comment of the Day: Jockeying for Position in Houston’S Vertical Future] Illustration: Lulu

02/08/16 12:00pm

New Signal at Dunlavy St. and Allen Pkwy., Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, 77019

The metal arm of a future traffic signal is now reaching out of the ground across a few westbound lanes of Allen Pkwy. at the intersection with Dunlavy St. The new crosswalk will protect foot traffic on the way to bayou-side party-venue The Dunlavy and to the Adath Yeshurun Cemetery next door.

The stoplight fits into the larger plans to revamp Allen Pkwy., in part intending to dial down the road’s speeds from not-quite-freeway to next-to-a-park levels. The redo also aims to make it simpler for both cars and people trying to make their way to all the new park infrastructure and improvements along Buffalo Bayou.

A drawing from early last year shows the plan view of the finished intersection at Dunlavy:


Crossing Over
02/08/16 9:30am

TEXAS A&M WEIGHS HOUSTON EXPANSION AS UT COLLECTS LAND FOR ITS PLANNED CAMPUS UT Houston Campus Site, Buffalo Lakes, HoustonFollowing the University of Texas’s recent start on buying up that land in southwest Houston for a proposed campus of yet-ambiguous-purpose, Texas A&M is now sizing up the city as well, writes Benjamin Wermund of the Houston Chronicle. A&M president Michael Young suggested that those watching the university’s plans for the Houston area “stay tuned” as the school weighs strategy. UT’s November announcement that it would buy around 300 acres at W. Belfort Ave. and Buffalo Spdwy. triggered responses from University of Houston supporters including Texas senator John Whitemire. Whitmire’s December letter to UT chancellor Bill McRaven cited fears that a new UT Houston campus would pull resources and top-tier faculty away from U of H, in part due to the structure of the state’s Permanent University Fund allocations (which go only to UT and A&M campuses). Young, however, suggested that backlash over UT’s ongoing purchases south of Reliant was premature (as, perhaps, was UT’s broadcasting of its plans): “I guess I’m a little confused about the spat at the moment, because I don’t know that UT has really said what they’re going to do,” Young told the Chronicle. “So far it’s a land deal, and I must say an amusing one, because I didn’t know you announced you were going to buy property before you actually bought it.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Conceptual rendering of UT Houston campus: Houston Public Media

02/08/16 8:30am


Photo of Amegy Bank’s new headquarters: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool