02/10/16 5:00pm

I-45 Reroute and Greenspace Conceptual Plans from September 2015, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A dotted line runs right along the inside edge of the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company’s former roasting plant at 2017 Preston St. at the corner with St. Emanuel St., which was declared a protected city landmark today after starts to the building’s redevelopment by new owners last year.  The line marks the proposed right-of-way for TxDOT’s plans to reroute I-45 alongside 59 and send the Pierce Elevated out to pasture, as shown in update documents released in September. The 1917 building shows up as a beige box at the corner of Preston and St. Emanuel in the above capture from the project’s interactive online map system, and the seafoam green highlighting to the left indicates the newly planned frontage roads that would run to the west of it.

But the Cheek-Neal building itself actually doesn’t appear to be on the chopping block. The blue highlighting indicating the future path of freeway lanes skirt the western edge of the structure (though they appear to engulf the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen across Congress St. to the north). Moreover, a cross-section through the I-45-59 bundle specifically shows the building in place, with the frontage road to the east and the freeways tucked out of sight below ground level:

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Preservation on Preston
02/10/16 2:00pm

Yesterday’s unexpected acceleration of the parking garage demolition at Corporate Plaza hasn’t stopped plans to continue the ongoing deconstruction at Kirby Dr. and 59. An office worker across Kirby caught video of the narrow remaining slice of the 7-story structure tipping over and collapsing onto the excavator that had been tugging at a spot on the 5th floor.

The video (which also contains running commentary and a few surprised expletives) shows the other excavator and the rest of the demo team gathering as the dust clears to check on the operator, who emerges from the machine unscathed moments later. A Cherry Companies spokesman told CBS that the demolition work would continue as scheduled despite the office park’s attempt to turn the tables.

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Turnabout at 59 and Kirby
02/10/16 12:00pm

Single-Family Market Data from West U Real Estate Website, February 9, 2016Today we’re sponsored again by Judy Thompson, Exclusively a Buyer’s Agent. Thanks for your continuing support of Swamplot, Judy!

Are you ready for the latest stats on Houston residential real estate? They’re here! Judy Thompson compiles and updates them regularly on the West U Real Estate website, which she’s operated since 2003.

The site provides regular updates of Houston residential market conditions for homes in 10 separate price ranges in 19 popular Houston Zip Codes. Thompson’s color-coded assessments take into account the amount of inventory currently available and the pace of sales in the previous 12 months. The charts show whether by each calculation the current market favors buyers, sellers, or neither (a “normal” market). Here’s the the latest overall chart.

You’ll find more gray cells showing up now than last time, which accounts for the appearance of more homes on the market. But the single-family market in the areas she covers still favors sellers, Thompson notes.

A separate chart on the site plots the average of the weighted averages from the market conditions chart, attempting to illustrate the change in housing inventory in 6 MLS areas over time. That chart shows a bit of an uptick from the last month, but the average inventory is still currently just under a 6-month supply, according to her latest data.

More detailed figures for each Zip Code are provided on separate charts. If you’re tracking real estate values in any of the areas she covers, you’ll find her site to be a helpful resource. Thompson has worked as a buyers’ agent exclusively since 1997.

Got some figures you’d like to run by Swamplot readers? Talk to us about becoming a Sponsor of the Day.

Sponsor of the Day
02/10/16 11:30am

Demolition of St. Nicholas School, 10420 Mullins Dr., Willowbend, Houston, 77096

An early morning post-deconstruction photo of the Mullins Dr. campus of the St. Nicholas School, just north of the Centerpoint transmission easement paralleling Willowbend Blvd. half a block to the south, was snapped by a reader yesterday. A representative of the school tells Swamplot that the 4-ish-acre property has been sold, and that townhomes are apparently in the works for the land.

Demolition permits were issued in two parts this week — here’s a shot of more cleanup going on this morning:

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Clearing the Board in Willowbend
02/10/16 10:30am

COMMENT OF THE DAY: UPPING THE VOLTAGE ON HOUSTON’S DOWNTOWN VIEWS Electric Blue Skyline” . . . I wonder, if the property management companies downtown would illuminate the Houston skyline with LED lighting, how cool it would look? With Houston’s strong artistic community, it would be great to see a curated lighting of the skyline that’s different when you drive in from every angle. As they stand in the dark every night, you can’t at all see the pyramid atop Heritage Plaza, the outlines of the “kissing” Pennzoil Place towers, or hardly see the three tiers and spikes of Bank of America. At night, the Energy Capital of the World’s skyline is hardly . . . yawn . . . energetic.” [Austin, commenting on Shining a Little More Light on the Williams Tower Beacon, Now Back in Action] Illustration: Lulu

02/10/16 9:45am

CITY OF HOUSTON WATER UTILITIES WEBSITE HACKED OVER THE WEEKEND Hacked City of Houston water utilities webpageA reader sends a screenshot of the Houston water utilities customer service website as it appeared around 1 AM on Sunday. A source working for the city confirms that the page was briefly redecorated over the weekend; the hack was reported around 5:30 AM that Sunday and resolved later that morning. Prior to discovery of the switchup, all links to city information and services were replaced by a black screen that appeared to spin into place, containing only the graphic shown here, a few online handles taking credit for the takeover, and a short message taunting the site’s administrators. A cached version of the nonfunctional but admittedly edgier homepage was still accessible through a Google search for the page as late as yesterday afternoon. Screen capture: Swamplot inbox

02/10/16 8:30am

downtown

Photo: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
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:

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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