Articles by

Jenny Staff Johnson

03/09/11 11:24am

For sale by owner: One flat-roofed Memorial Mod, decaying in leafy solitude — it’s been uninhabited for the last several years. The home was commissioned in 1954 by Bernhardt O. Lemmel, who came to Houston to head the art department at the University of Houston, and his wife, who served as the general contractor. Designed by M. Bliss Alexander, the 2-bedroom home features all those midcentury greatest hits: clerestory windows, a multi-sided fireplace, terrazzo, and sliding doors facing its wooded lot.


02/25/11 5:53pm

YES, THE LOVETT INN SALE IS STILL ON Despite rumors to the contrary, Hostelling International USA was granted a parking variance by the city for the Lovett Inn and plans to convert the Montrose B&B at 501 Lovett St. into a hostel are moving forward, says organization spokesperson Mark Vidalin. No permitting problems with the city have cropped up, Vidalin says, though the organization’s option period for buying the building has been extended. Lovett Inn owner Dan Lueken says the sale is still on, but declined to say when the option period would end or when a closing might take place. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Bart Vis [license]

02/14/11 12:12pm

Apple signed a lease last month on a storefront in the Highland Village Shopping Center, a source tells Swamplot. Houston’s first-ever not-in-a-mall Apple Store is heading for the street-front retail block that houses Paper Source and Sprinkles Cupcakes, across Westheimer from the old Tootsies, in a location that formerly housed the Gap. But which side of that building? There’s evidence of construction activity on the west end of the block (shown in the foreground above), but rumors dating from last summer — as well as the “partial” exterior demo permit for the space that appeared in this morning’s list of demolitions — point to the east side of the structure, adjacent to the shopping center’s Drexel St. driveway. That’s where this older map from Gary Allen’s Apple retail fan website had placed it:


02/02/11 12:02pm

Here’s a rendering showing the future of the Kroger now under renovation at 3300 Montrose. The construction will be contained entirely within the store’s current footprint — though a 2,400 sq.-ft. mezzanine “lounge” will up the store’s interior space to more than 43,800 sq. ft. Kroger spokesperson Kristal Howard says the changes to the store will improve the layout and allow changes to the food offerings, including an increased emphasis on “perishables.” The design comes from Houston’s CDA Architects, the folks who brought you the Costco at Greenway Commons, the Kroger on West Gray, and that yellow Walgreens at the corner of T.C. Jester and W. 18th.

What about parking? Has Kroger had its eyes on the land under the derelict office building across Hawthorne St. at 3400 Montrose, which Scott Gertner’s Skybar left last year — followed by everyone else in the building? “We have not been in communication with any nearby properties concerning an expansion of our Montrose store,” Howard says.


01/26/11 4:42pm

The Lovett Inn bed and breakfast may soon become a Montrose crash pad for globetrotting youngsters. Owner Dan Lueken tells Swamplot that he’s in negotiations to sell the 1923 home of former Houston Mayor Joseph C. Hutcheson to Hostelling International.

Lueken says the property at 501 Lovett St. is under contract, but that a closing date has not been determined, and that certain negotiations about the property are “ongoing.” Lueken has owned and lived in the Lovett Inn for 7 years. “They approached me,” he says, “And I decided to move on and do other things.” If the sale goes through, this will be Hostelling International’s second hostel in Texas. The organization manages a network of 60 properties in the U.S. and many more around the world; the nearest location is in Austin. Visitors of all ages are allowed to stay at HI properties (a membership is required), but the organization says the majority of its guests are between 18 and 30.


01/14/11 5:09pm

The only part of M.D. Anderson’s Houston Main Building at 1100 Holcombe Blvd. being demolished today is a “coach canopy” outside the structure, cancer center spokesperson Laura Sussman tells Swamplot. Removal of the canopy will allow workers to extract a large mural from inside the space before the building is demolished. Sussman couldn’t confirm when demolition of the 18-story former Prudential Life Insurance Building would take place, but a source tells Swamplot it’s been scheduled for the middle of February. Mournful modernists, you have a few more weeks to get the building’s obituary in order.


01/13/11 2:26pm

Sometime before
the Christmas holiday last year, “high winds” caused a part of one of the wind turbines mounted to the top of downtown Houston’s Hess Tower to “detach” from its mounting point. “Two pieces of the debris fell to the street. Nobody was injured,” Hess Corporation spokesperson Mari Pat Sexton tells Swamplot today. Sexton had no comment on circulating rumors that one or more of the the pieces struck a car on the street.

The incident helps explain why the whirling turbines, installed as a featured element at the top of the new 29-story tower last summer, have been silent since mid-December. In the photo above, taken by a HAIF commenter shortly before Christmas, the turbines appear to be missing. “After the event occurred, (the turbines) were locked down,” Sexton says, adding she is unaware of the turbines’ current status or whether there are plans to replace them. “The building is still under construction.”

The Gold LEED certified skyscraper, named Discovery Tower until Hess signed on to lease the whole thing 2 years ago, sits at the northern edge of Discovery Green, a short walk from Minute Maid Park. It was developed by Trammell Crow, designed by Gensler, is the thirtieth-tallest building in Houston, and was the first in town to feature — and draw some power from — wind turbines. Here’s how they looked (and sounded) last year, before the incident:


01/12/11 11:49am

Highland Village owner Haidar Barbouti “probably didn’t get hung up on the legal nuances” of how to shake Tootsies free of its Westheimer store when its lease ended, a source explains to Swamplot. But both he and Tootsies owner Mickey Rosemarin are ready to move on. Now that the court skirmish over the eviction and the store’s subsequent request for a restraining order have been formally resolved in Tootsies’ favor, Rosmarin’s clothing boutique will be able to stay at its Highland Village location through the end of the month. At which point, according to a store spokesperson, “The store will close one night and open the next business day” at West Ave. The new mixed-use complex at Kirby and Westheimer reportedly lured the retailer into a lease with generous terms: forgoing base rent in exchange for a percentage of Tootsies’ sales.