12/18/14 4:38pm

BIG NEWS ON WASHINGTON AVE memorial-heights-apartments-studewood300Archstone Memorial Heights, that 556-unit apartment complex at 201 S. Heights on 23.4 acres of Washington Corridor land (seen here pre-renovation 2 years ago), has been sold. The buyers? Midway Cos. and the Lionstone Group. Midway is perhaps best-known locally for its mixed-used CityCentre development and the Hotel Sorella. [RE Business Online; Photo: Charles Kuffner]

12/18/14 2:00pm

bella-terraza-exterior

That opulent Italianate edifice at 2840 Chimney Rock Rd. that formerly housed the Bella Terraza (later Villa Rinata) reception hall has been sold by former uneasy business partners and willing courtroom foes Stephen Montieth Clarke and Harris L. Kempner III, but the property at 2840 Chimney Rock is still generating litigation. This time around, Clarke’s attorney Brantly Harris is suing Kempner’s attorney Robert E. Bone.

The suit has but one, well, Bone of contention, but it’s a wee bit knotty:

bella-terraza-stairway

Clarke and Kempner were limited partners in 2840 Chimney Rock LLC, the entity listed as the property’s former owner.

bella-terraza-chapel

Harris claims that in order to facilitate the building’s sale, Bone communicated to Clarke, in writing, that he — Harris — had approved letting the building go for $1.65 million with no money down. “This was libel,”claims Harris, who filed the suit pro se. “In fact [Harris] did not even know the property was being offered for sale, and would not have recommended Clarke’s approval of the sale if he had been so informed. The purpose of [Bone's] lies was to defraud Clarke and thereby benefit Kempner.”

Clarke continues: “Defendant’s defamation of Plaintiff has caused Defendant intense mental anguish, and sleepless nights.”

The suit seeks damages not to exceed $100,000. Bone has yet to file a response.

Court records show that in addition to the civil trial and ensuing appeal linked in this article, Clarke took Kempner to court again in 2011, alleging that Kempner had misappropriated funds and failed to insure the building, resulting in out-of-pocket Ike damage expenses. That suit was dismissed in 2012.

bella-terraza-exterior-dining

A West University-based catering company now owns the building, now open as Dukessa Houston.

dukessa-houston

Though all members of the same dynastic Galveston family, Harris “Branch” Kempner III is not to be confused with his son, Harris “Reed” Kempner, nor his father, Harris “Shrub” Kempner, husband of “Peaches” Kempner.

Photos: Yelp (La Villa Rinata); Dukessa Houston / Plum Tree Studios (Dukessa Houston)

Courts
12/18/14 10:45am

BEN KOUSH: ADDING A 4-STORY ‘GAS TANK’ TO THE ALLEY’S ROOF NOT MY IDEA OF PRESERVATION 10-alley-theater-houston-archpaperCiting it as epitomizing Houston’s ineptitude in historic preservation, architect and former Houston Mod president Ben Koush soundly lambasted a May rendering of the Alley Theatre’s ongoing renovation by Studio Red, of Summit-into-Lakewood transformation fame. Koush saves most of his bile for the planned gridded fly-loft rising 4-stories above the theater’s roofline. “The original building evoked a castle,” Koush writes. “In the drawing, the new fly loft looks looks like a gas tank or grain storage bin dropped atop that castle. One can only wonder why Studio Red’s insistent design was not more restrained. Studio Red has since pulled the rendering from its website, calling it “a terrible fisheye view of the fly loft that completely distorts what it will look like.” Distorted or not, the fly loft’s metallic appearance will contrast with Ulrich Franzen’s Brutalist concrete design, and Koush contends that such an essential alteration of the Alley is not the sort of project that groups like Houston Mod and the Texas Society of Architects should be lauding. [Gray Matters; previously on Swamplot] Photo: The Architect’s Newspaper.

12/18/14 8:30am

sunset coffee building

Photo of the Sunset Coffee Building: Marc Longoria via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
12/17/14 5:05pm

KemahTxJimmieWalkerRestaurantCASTRO-&-MCKEOWN-copy

With the U.S.-Cuba cold war finally melting away, it’s as good a time as ever to point out a few key sites from Fidel Castro’s trip to the area, and those associated with Houston’s Robert Ray McKeown, the machinist-turned-international businessman-turned-peripheral figure to the JFK assassination. McKeown was also Castro’s best buddy on Galveston Bay, and a man who claimed to have met Lee Oswald in San Leon and sipped beer with Jack Ruby at Jimmie Walker’s Edgewater Restaurant in Kemah.

The story begins in Houston in 1950. McKeown, then 39, was a machinist with his own shop in Pasadena. One day his ship came in: an inventor approached him with a plan for a machine that could clean coffee better than any other before it. McKeown built the machine, and apparently several more, and the two men went into business. McKeown trolled the coffee ports of Latin America for sales, which eventually lead to him moving to Santiago, Cuba during the administration of president Carlos Prío Socarrás, who would become a friend.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Cold War Picaresque
12/17/14 1:45pm

It’s a new era for Houston.

And with this year’s Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate, we aim to identify the Best Sign of the New Houston.

Based on your prescient nominations, we’ve compiled the official ballot. But what’s the most defining sign of where the Bayou City’s bound? You tell us!

You can vote for your favorite by leaving a comment below this post or through email, Facebook, or Twitter. You can do all 4, too — as long as you follow these rules. That includes one minor tweak to this year’s awards — we’ll only be counting votes submitted via the first 2 methods from voters who’ve signed up for the Swamplot email list. (If you haven’t done so already, you can join it through this link or the box at the top left of this page.) Just don’t forget to tell us why the neighborhood you selected is getting your vote.

Now allow us to introduce the official nominees for the Best Sign of the New Houston:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

The 2014 Swampies
12/17/14 12:00pm

3704-fannin-st

Next up at 3704 Fannin, known to some as the old Evelyn Wilson Interiors building, The Vanderbilt Sports Lounge.

It’s a block or two from the bustling Ensemble MetroRail stop and the under-construction Mid Main mixed-use development.

Once complete, the Vanderbilt promises 55 teevees airing football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, boxing, and UFC, an “upscale menu,” and a third-floor cocktail lounge with a panoramic view of the city.

The building is owned and being renovated by Cody Lutsch of Fat Properties Property, a frequent Swamplot commenter and until now, known more as a purchaser of aging Inner Loop apartment buildings.

Lutsch sent us a few pics of the Vanderbilt’s ongoing renovations, along with a few “before” shots:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Fannin The Flames
12/17/14 10:30am

THE SPJST IS NOT CZECHING OUT OF SHADY ACRES, ACCORDING TO LODGE CHAIRMAN spjst-beall-st-300entryTalk of an upcoming sale of the SPJST Lodge #88 is no more than just talk, according to the lodge’s chairman of the board Mildred Holeman. “The consensus has been that it will not be sold at any price,” she tells the Houston Chronicle‘s Craig Hlavaty, referring to an ongoing mail-in election to decide whether or not the Czech heritage fraternal organization, dance hall, party venue and once-a-week bingo parlor will remain on the 9-acre Shady Acres site at 1435 Beall St. it will have occupied for 50 years next year. Holeman, 88 and a real estate agent, also dishes details on the property’s suitors: townhome developers who have offered the organization $10 million. Long-term lodge member Lindsey Michalak-Kindall did not share Holeman’s assurance of a secure future for the lodge. She tells Hlavaty that the explanation letter and ballot went out too late for members to learn of the one and only meeting to discuss the possible sale — last weekend, only a day or two after most members received the letter and ballot. She also characterized the letter as “doom and gloom” and blase about what would happen to the lodge if the property was sold. All ballots must be in the organization’s Temple, Texas head office by December 31, with an announcement of the election’s result coming at January’s Houston membership meeting. [Houston Chronicle, previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox.)

12/17/14 8:30am

highland village

Photo of Highland Village: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

Headlines
12/16/14 3:00pm

The list of official nominees for the next category in the Swamplot Awards for Houston Real Estate is parked here! It’s the award for the Best Mobile Food Vendor Location in and around the city.

Where’s the best go-to spot for H-Town grub-on-the-go? And what makes it that way? The nominees in this category were picked out by Swamplot readers. Now it’s time to look over the menu and vote for the winner.

You can vote by leaving a comment below or through email, Facebook, or Twitter. You can use all four methods (once each) to vote — but that’s the limit. Please note that this year we’ll only be counting votes submitted via the first 2 methods from voters who’ve signed up for the Swamplot email list. (If you haven’t done so already, you can join it through this link or the box at the top left of this page.) When you vote, please tell us why you think your pick should win.

The nominees for the 2014 Best Mobile Food Vendor Location are . . .

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

The 2014 Swampies