Articles by

Christine Gerbode

05/23/17 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ASPIRATIONAL HOUSTON DEVELOPMENT NAMING JUST AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE ‘Heights creep’ is to the 2010s what ‘River Oaks creep’ was to the 1980s/90s. Back in the 90s when I was living in a (moderately crappy) apartment near the corner of Kirby and Westheimer, anything between Buffalo Bayou, the West Loop, US-59 and Montrose might have been referred to as River Oaks. Hell, even the River Oaks Shopping Center isn’t even actually in River Oaks.” [Angostura, commenting on Putting the Heights Back In Its . . . Uh, Places; previously on Swamplot] Photo: River Oaks Theater

05/23/17 1:00pm

The Dallas-based real estate and restaurant developers at Syn Hospitality Group are hoping to have a Houston branch of flag-slathered bar and restaurant America Gardens open later this year (as rendered above), part of their in-the-works Midtown Common development over on Caroline St. just north of McGowen. The group went after some early city approvals earlier this year to bundle together a handful of property parcels on the block into the edgy unreserved shape shown above. That footprint, mostly sticking along Caroline but stretching across to claim a bit of frontage on Austin St. as well, leaves out the buildings occupied by Core Church Midtown, which is squeezed between the auto and auto accessory pairing of Fast Traffic Auto Work and Austin Radio and Speedometer. 

The group has released a few renderings of the first planned restaurant’s red-white-and-blue-bedecked interior, as well as its large outdoor patio:

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Dallas Comes to Austin St.
05/23/17 10:15am

New scribbles on a siteplan show a Sprouts Farmers Market marked in as a tenant for the planned redo of the former East Downtown Houston Post building over on Polk St. at Dowling Emancipation Ave. (Don’t get this spot confused with the former postal office Downtown, which is also being redeveloped by the Lovett Commercial folks — nor with the other former Houston Post building recently resuscitated by the Chronicle.) The leasing plan appears to show some new construction toward the currently empty Bell St. end of the double-wide block, making room for the Sprouts and for a few layers of parking garage. It also notes a drive-thru CVS on the northern side, along Polk:

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East of East Village
05/22/17 4:45pm

PUTTING THE HEIGHTS BACK IN ITS . . . UH, PLACES “In their rush to capitalize on the popularity of the district, businesses and developers have awkwardly assumed the mantle of the name ‘Heights,’ even though they’re clearly outside the zone of its accepted borders,” writes Jeff Balke this morning for the Houston Press. Where exactly are those accepted borders? And which variation means what? Balke suggests something between a taxonomical scheme and an etiquette lesson on selecting the proper name for whatever flavor of Heights, Heights-adjacent and Heights-aspiring territory you may be seeking to invoke — from the historic city originally spurring the name, all the way to the fringe territories of Katyville and the Heights Walmart. [Houston Press; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Swamplot inbox

05/22/17 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: I AM A METRO RIDER, I CONTAIN MULTITUDES “There are valid reasons for the increase in boardings, which sound like a lot but are only +4.65 percent year-over-year. FYI — a boarding is counted every time that a person steps across the threshold of a transit vehicle . . . To put things in perspective, that means that if I’m a park-and-ride commuter and I have to make 2 transfers each way every day of a 5-day work week to get where I’m going, I count for 30 boardings per week and 1,500 boardings per fifty-workweek year. It’d only take 60,000 of me to account for all of METRO’s users. That isn’t to try to generalize about their user base, but it is to demonstrate that not all boardings are created equal, and that the circumstances of even some modest fraction of super-users can easily help to make these big numbers possible.” [TheNiche, commenting on First Signs of This Year’s Sargassum Seaweed Invasion; Houston’s Top Crime Spots]

05/22/17 1:00pm

On the market again: the designed-it-himself 1959 home of Ralph Anderson (who worked on the Astrodome, as well as the retooled brutalist building now occupied by the Houston Chronicle). The home is iced on its Banks St. side in cream-colored patterned concrete and contains an airy courtyard center; the latest asking price is $839,000, down from $875,000 last spring. The property was a stop on houstonMod’s May Mod of the Month tour, which took place yesterday afternoon.

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Open House
05/22/17 12:30pm

The pointy glass Gardens of Bammel Lane conservatory isn’t the only structure on the block southeast of Bammel Ln. and Earl St. getting picked up and hauled elsewhere as part of the block’s cleanout for the 26-story Villa Borghese condo highrise. A handful of Cherry House Moving trailers were spotted on the site this weekend, hanging around and under several of the bungalows on the block (which date between 1900 and 1950 per the county’s records, and were used most recently as commercial spaces). As of Saturday, the conservatory structure (shown above in wedding attire) had already departed the site (presumably headed for its new home at the Madeley Gardens events space in Conroe).

Some of the bungalows have already been shuffled around on the block. The former law office at 2714 Sackett St. was spotted stripped of its hedge and address markers, with a moving trailer poking out from beneath the front porch:

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Upper Kirby Shuffle
05/19/17 5:15pm

 
It’s not clear yet whether there’s much more planned in the way of cosmetic changes for the Travis- and Commerce-facing sides of the new parking garage being wrapped up now at the corner of Franklin and Milam streets. (That’d be the 2 sides, shown above, that didn’t get the skirt of fake windows and storefronts along the sidewalk level, meant to help the building “blend in” with its surrounding Main Street Market Square Historical District companions.)  A reader checking up on the structure from a nook in the nearby Bayou Lofts building tells Swamplot that the crane used to construct the garage was removed in the last few weeks; the photo up top was snapped before that happened.

Okay — so the 2 flat concrete sides may blow the garage’s cover for building sleuths peering over from Main St. or Buffalo Bayou. But the lack of disguise does leave very little standing in the way of some kind of later jazzing up, whether that’s commissioned or not.

Images: Michael Partney (photo); Powers & Brown (rendering)

Straight Up Downtown
05/19/17 11:45am

The light at the end of the N. Main St. tunnel beneath the Union Pacific Line was obscured for a bit this morning where the northbound side of the road re-emerges into tossed-coffee-cup range of the Burnett Transit Center light-rail stop (atop the topmost overpass in the shot above.) The semi that briefly plugged the hole looks to have scraped its way through the entire length of the tunnel before getting stuck at the northern exit. Transtar pinned the stopup to about 10:38 this morning; not much had changed as of 40 minutes ago (see below), but the road is now marked by professional traffic-watchers as cleared. 

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Yards from Hardy Yards
05/19/17 10:30am

ELYSIAN VIADUCT WORK UNEARTHS HISTORIC HOUSTON HERITAGE TRASH PILE The real value of the long-buried dump uncovered by the ongoing replacement of the Elysian St. bridge over I-10 and Buffalo Bayou, write Doug Boyd and Jason Barrett this week in the Chronicle, is in the opportunity it provides “to document the often-unwritten parts of our industrial heritage.” The dump, apparently built up over the early half of the 1900s in a former gully, serves as a springboard for the authors to talk trashHouston, they write, was one of the first cities to adopt widespread municipal garbage incineration, and lagged decades behind as most cities chose to stop doing it out of concern for public healthSpots like the one under Elysian St., they add, help fill in the gaps of knowledge of what happened to all the other trash that didn’t end up in a city incinerator or landfill — and who tended to live nearby. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot]  Photos: Adam J Williams

05/18/17 4:00pm

HUNKY DORY AND BERNADINE’S ARE SHUTTING DOWN NEXT WEEK AFTER ALL The scandal– and bankruptcy-embroiled Treadsack Group just announced that both Hunky Dory Tavern and Bernadine’s are closing next week. After the company announced in late March that both restaurants would stay open for the time being, the last day of action for each is now set as May 24th. The expanding group of Killen’s meat vendors announced on Monday that it had snagged Bernadine’s chef Graham Laborde (who stepped in to run Hunky Dory’s kitchen too, after Richard Knight left in February). No related updates from also-in-Chapter-11 Down House, or any of the other restaurants in the group. [Previously on SwamplotPhoto: Hunky Dory

05/18/17 3:00pm

LYFT PREPARES TO DIVE BACK INTO HOUSTON, WOOS DISGRUNTLED UBER DRIVERS AT IAH Barring an out of character veto from governor Greg Abbott, that Texas law that Uber and Lyft have been angling for (the one that would stop cities from requiring more stringent background checks on their rideshare drivers, like Houston did) should go into effect shortly, now that the state Senate has passed the measure with more than 2 thirds support. Lyft pulled out of Houston in late 2014 over the local rule change, while Uber just made some noise about doing so. Meagan Flynn reports for the Press that a Lyft rep was spotted in a waiting lot at IAH on Monday passing out business cards to Uber drivers, some of whom were on a brief strike over wages and company policies. The rep said the company would be back in town soon, if the bill becomes law; the company has also put out a few job ads for Houston operations staff. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Radiant Fountains sculptures near IAH: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool