07/20/17 5:30pm

A Sunday field trip earned a reader a peek into the main sanctuary of the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral, now being cracked open so a dome can be placed on top (along with more seating down below). The renderings of the planned changes, shown here facing the corner of Kipling St. and Yoakum Blvd., have been updated since they were submitted last year for that variance request application:

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Montrose Revelations
07/20/17 12:45pm

As mentioned earlier today, more details on the plan to redo the 1940’s farmers market on Airline Dr. are now out — MLB released some sketches and site plans this morning, which the company says are meant to help turn the spot into a “destination retail experience.” The renderings show most of the gaps between the existing market buildings bridged by new rooftops and green spaces, connecting the structures into a single complex (some of which will likely get air conditioned for fish and dairy operations and the like).

It’s not totally clear whether some the existing buildings are actually going to be painted white, or if the details of planned finishes just haven’t made their way into the renderings at this stage of design — but the currently-yellow front of Canino’s can be spied rocking a pale grey skin in the sketches above and below, behind the market’s new double-height entry facade:

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The Canino’s Retail Experience
07/19/17 5:30pm

The revised word from H-E-B on a construction start date for the 2-story store planned at N. Shepherd Dr. and 23rd St. was August 25th, as of late last month. Until then, some of that empty space is being put to use by a small bonsai tree sales operation, a reader in the neighborhood reports. And in case anyone else in the area is looking for a place to crash briefly, a small pile of mattresses has appeared near the dumpster at the back end of the lot.

The footprint of the departed Fiesta building, meanwhile, appears to have let itself go during the long period of unemployment. As of yesterday the previously cleared spot was sporting a shaggy new look, accessorized with at least one snappy yellow tag noting the city’s disapproval of the new growth: 

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Business in the Front
07/19/17 1:30pm

The self-styled “House of a Million Parts” at 1225 Sawyer St. once known as Johnny Frank’s Auto Parts Company was torn to pieces last summer. Freshly applied to the chain-link fence surrounding the now-vacant lot: a new TABC notice, announcing to passers-by that an establishment named the Sawyer Ice House is hoping to sling cocktails on the premises before too long. The land is across the road from those arted-up rice silos on Sawyer St., which are across Edwards St. from the Shops at Sawyer Yards. It appears to be another of the projects in that neck of the woods that trace back to Lovett Commercial, which is working on parking lots and a slew of other developments in the area as well. Here’s what Sawyer Ice House might look like, per what appears to be the bar’s new save-the-name Facebook page:

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Car Lot Reincarnation
07/19/17 11:30am

Heads up, California-ization vigilantes: A diligent transaction sifter over at HAIF noted last night that In-N-Out Burgers recently bought 8373 Westheimer Rd. (currently home to a branch of public employment center Workforce Solutions in the parking lot of the nearby Walmart Supercenter on Dunvale Rd.). The 1997 standalone building is right around the corner from the AMC Studio 30, and sits in something of a Whataburger gap — not one of the 5 nearest Whataburger locations is closer than 1.7 miles by car. The space had been put on the market a few times in the last few years with no takers; the sale to In-N-Out went through in late May, per county records.

Noises have been made before about In-N-Out possibly moving to (or near) Houston, but CBRE VP Jazz Hamilton told the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser only this past February that he expected the chain’s first location to open by the end of the year — adding that Houston will “see [more locations] come in quietly . . . All of a sudden, they’ll start building all at once.”

Photo of 8737 Westheimer Rd.: LoopNet

Out and In on Westheimer
07/18/17 5:15pm

Currently listed for an undisclosed amount on CBRE’s website: a 10.69-acre chunk of the former Union Pacific railyard brownfield property previously sketched up for future conversion to the Hardy Yards mixed-use development. The section up for grabs appears to snuggle up to the west against a piece of land owned by Metro, whose Burnett Transit Center and light-rail Red Line are elevated above that semi-catching segment of N. Main St. tunnel; the parcel extends east to the new-ish segments of Fulton and Leona St., likely not too far from the spot where that rail car full of lithium batteries blew up back in April.

On the other side of the site, meanwhile, the Residences at Hardy Yards apartments are under construction, per photos from the Zieben Group published back in May:

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Near Northside Reallocations
07/18/17 1:15pm

That excavator (pictured above) spotted poking around outside of the former House of Deréon Media Center last week may have disappeared at the end of its brief staredown with a larger than life representation of Beyoncé Knowles and the Destiny’s Child crew — but the structure still looks to be on the chopping block after all, if the demo permits issued yesterday are any indication. Group 1 Realty, an arm of the auto chain that owns nearby Advantage BMW alongside the Pierce Elevated, bought the land last fall from Mathew Knowles; the company also looks to have been snapping up a smattering of other properties in the immediate vicinity since at least early 2015. 

Photo: Jordan

Demo Crews To Get In Formation
07/18/17 10:45am

Does tearing down historic Houston architecture run in the family? The 1930’s house built for Harry C. Hanszen at 2945 Lazy Lane Blvd. (which showed up on Wednesday’s Daily Demolition Report last week) did in fact get the full knockdown treatment over the weekend, a couple of stunned readers tell Swamplot. The River Oaks home, designed by architect John F. Staub, was owned for a few decades by John Mecom Jr.; more recently, it was sold in 2014 to Matthew B. Arnold, per county records. The 5-acre-ish lot sits right across the road from Bayou Bend, and from the Lazy Lane spot where the historic home known as Dogwoods used to stand — before former Enron trader and experimental drone surveillance funder John D. Arnold knocked it down to make room for a boxy replacement. (Staub also designed Bayou Bend, and collaborated with Birdsall Briscoe on the Dogwoods design.)

It’s worth noting that the Hanszen house was majorly added-onto between 1979 and 1981, back when it was owned by the Mecoms — and it was largely stripped of its original interiors during that time, archi-historian Stephen Fox tells Swamplot. It’s now been stripped of its exteriors as well — which previously looked like this:

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Bye Bye by Bayou Bend
07/17/17 11:15am

Having a little trouble navigating through that 5-bedroom house at 4302 Colony West Dr., packed full of a dizzying array of odds, ends, puppets, paintings, and plants? Never fear — here’s a walkthrough of the property, which has been an object of fascination for well over half a dozen Swamplot readers this morning (several of whom laud the home’s potential as a horror movie setting). That sentiment is fueled at least in part by the full spread of mannequins and large dolls dispersed throughout the various settings of the home (from front yard to back, floor to ceiling, and in various states of undress). Let’s start with the lone capped figure standing guard at the gate to the 2-acre property, just listed for $1.275 million:

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Hanging Out by Jones Creek
07/14/17 5:30pm

Here’s a view from last week of the former Express Wheel & Tire kiosk in Oak Forest, in the midst of its transformation into a yet-to-be-identified coffee drive-thru along Ella Blvd. at W. 34th St., at the eastern end of the shopping center redo Revive Development is working on at that intersection’s southwest corner. Demo crews are removing the overhang connecting the front canopy to the small building behind it. Renderings of the finished development on the Revive website show the canopy is meant to remain — to shade a few prime parking spaces at the eastern end of the development:

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W. 34th St. and Ella
07/14/17 9:15am

MORE HOUSTON RETAIL BREAKUPS: ALFRED ANGELO BRIDAL CALLS IT QUITS Bridesmaid- and wedding-dress store Alfred Angelo appears to be shuttering all 62 of its locations nationwide, amid reports of a possible sudden bankruptcy filing. That would leave the Galleria-area Al’s Formal Wear all alone — it sits next door to the Alfred Angelo Bridal in the strip shopping center at 1801 Post Oak Blvd. It should leave the Al’s Formal Wear in the Baybrook Square shopping center kinda lonely too — it faces the Gulf Fwy. right next door to the Alfred Angelo Bridal at 1201 W. Bay Area Blvd. in Webster. The third Houston-area Alfred Angelo location — pictured above in the Commons at Willowbrook shopping center, across from the Willowbrook Mall at 7550-A FM 1960 West — is a little more sequestered from its tuxedo counterpart: Alfred Angelo sits between a DSW Shoe Warehouse and a Ross Dress for Less; the Al’s Formal Wear is wedged between a Panda Express and a Beck’s Prime on the opposite side of the shopping center parking lot. [abc13] Photo: Alfred Angelo Bridal

07/13/17 1:45pm

Houston doesn’t show up anywhere in Attom Data Solutions latest rankings of the nation’s home-flipping hotspots, but zoom into the heatmap accompanying the company’s first-quarter report and you’ll find some interesting neighborhoods highlighted. Attom defines a home flip as a single-family home or condo that sells twice within a 12-month period in arms-length transactions (as recorded in public sales deeds). From January through March of this year, it counted 14 flippy transactions in the 77088 Zip Code — which is bounded roughly by I-45, W. Little York, the Tomball Pkwy., and Houston-Rosslyn Rd. and includes Acres Homes — accounting for 18.7 percent of sales in the area — the highest percentage in Houston. Next-strongest home-flipping hotspots: 77096 (Meyerland and Westbury), with 10 flips accounting for 13.7 percent of sales; 77089 (Southbelt and part of Pearland) also with 10 flips totaling 12.2 percent; 77373 in Spring with 22 flips (but only reaching 11.6 percent); and 77018, (Garden Oaks and Oak Forest), which saw 11 flips, or 9.4 percent of that area’s transactions.

Acres Homes for Sale, Twice
07/13/17 10:45am

5 SLIM CHICKENS CAUGHT CROSSING HOUSTON BORDER The Slim Chicken drive-ups in Katy, Cypress, Spring, and Humble will soon be joined by 5 new locations of the restaurant franchise inside the Houston city limits. First up: wings and Texas-shaped waffles will become available at 9850 Louetta Rd. in Vintage Lakes, right by Aldi and just down the street from the fast-food mecca known as Vintage Marketplace. A Kingwood location at 30255 Loop 494 should open later this summer, though it isn’t clear if the Arkansas-based chain is counting that location as one of its 5 genuine Houston spots. [Eater Houston] Photo of the Slim Chicken opened late last year at  9255 FM 1960 Bypass Rd. in Humble: Edwin R.

07/12/17 1:15pm

Sure, the Texas Junk Company has decamped from its longtime spot at 215 Welch St. — and the building has been put up for lease. But even with a whitewashing the building still shows its recent provenance. Well — somewhat. The corner-hugging brick structure’s new coat of white paint, which appeared over the weekend, now covers over some of the painted signage, artwork, and uh, beauty marks that once festooned its façades. But not all. Carefully avoided by the painters and still visible on the structure are the Texas Junk Company sign and its accompanying snake mascot facing Welch St. (pictured above) and the cactus-and-mesa tableau on the Taft St. side:

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Releasing East Montrose
07/12/17 11:00am

WHAT COULD GO UNDER WHEN I-45 MOVES UNDERGROUND AND EAST OF DOWNTOWN Jeff Balke tallies some of the expected carnage just east of Downtown should TXDoT proceed with its planned rerouting of I-45 from the west side to the east side of Downtown, widening the path of that stretch of Hwy. 59 (aka I-69) to Saint Emanuel St. Among the establishments expecting to have to shut down or relocate as a result of the expansion: the Bayou City Barber Shop, Vietnamese restaurant Huynh, Ahh Coffee, Tout Suite, one building of the Ballpark Lofts, low-income housing development Clayton Homes, a couple of nonprofits, SEARCH Homeless Services’ new building, the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen — plus other assorted bars, barbecue joints, artist spaces, and office space. Among the questions Balke keeps hearing in reference to plans to put this portion of a new I-45-69 combo below grade, possibly (only if separate funding can be found) with a greenspace “cap” planted on top of it: “why [would] a freeway would be constructed lower than street level in a city that floods with seeming regularity, particularly when the highway in question is a hurricane evacuation route? TxDOT is quick to point out that we already have roadways below grade throughout the city that have not suffered major flooding problems since Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, which broke records and is widely considered a 500-year flood. Still, flooding is something the agency appears to have taken seriously. ‘No matter the situation, there’s a potential for flooding,‘ [TXDoT spokesperson] Perez explains, ‘but with anything below grade, additional pumps and detention ponds come into play.’ [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Rendering showing possible park behind GRB: HNTB and TxDOT