11/22/17 11:00am

The vacant former-ice-house-turned-furniture-store at the corner of W. 15th St. and Prince St. appears ready to serve drinks again: Gregg Goldstein and Katz Coffee owner Avi Katz, the proprietors of the almost-ready-to-open Golden Bagels and Coffee on White Oak and Oxford, bought the former El Viejo Mexico Custom Furniture spot at 1701 W. 15th spot over the summer. (The furniture shop has since decamped outside the South Loop, at 4114 Belk St. near Cullinan Park.)

More has changed in this corner of the Heights near Shady Acres since the building’s ice-house days: “Nearly every home in a block radius has been torn down and 3 put in its place since the time that bar was there,” a neighbor tells Swamplot. Now posted to the façade of the 1,344-sq.-ft. structure: a TABC license application for mixed-beverage permits at this location — under the name of Birdocks 50 Fifty.

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Birdocks 50/Fifty
11/21/17 4:15pm

Coming soon to the 1,500-sq.-ft. building on the corner of N. Main and Pecore St. where El Taquito Rico dealt tacos until its closure in May: a new restaurant serving drinks. The building sits on a narrow triangular property at 3701 N. Main, just west of I-45. Puro Mente LLC is listed as the applicant for a variety of TABC permits, including one for late-night service, on the notice taped to the building’s front window, shown in the photo below:

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Rico Puro
11/21/17 3:30pm

Leo Tanguma‘s 240-ft.-long, 70-character 1973 mural slowly peeling from the southern facade of the former Continental Can Company warehouse in the East End (pictured above in 2013) was whitewashed over the summer. Mario Enrique Figueroa Jr. — better known to Houstonians as Gonzo247 — is now hard at work on the Chicano-art landmark’s replacement: creating with a small crew a mural of the same name, size, location, characters, and intention. These recent photos show the progress so far:

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Gonzo, Not Forgotten
11/21/17 2:15pm

Medistar is planning to build its 550,000-sq.-ft. medical tower right next to the InterContinental Houston Medical Center hotel and the Greystar apartment highrise it is already constructing on the west side of South Main St. The aerial photograph above, looking south toward the Texas Medical Center campus on the east side of South Main, shows the apartment structure under construction on the west side of the block and the shorter hotel tower also in-progress behind it, fronting the street. North of that construction, the photo shows a yellow highlight around the former Best Western Plaza Hotel at 6700 South Main. That hotel is now scheduled to be replaced by the new 20-or-30-something-floor medical tower pictured at the top of this story.

A single ground-floor lobby facing Old Main St. will serve both the 357-unit hotel and the 375-unit apartment building. Retail and restaurants are planned for the new medical tower’s street level. A skybridge, visible in the rendering below, plugs into the south side of the tower just above its garage level and is intended to connect the hotel and apartments to the medical tower:

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TMC Medical Tourism Hub
11/20/17 2:00pm

The metal dome situated street-side at the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral on the corner of Yoakum and Kipling for just under a month has been lifted and installed atop the church’s sanctuary. The photo at top shows the dome in its earthly state just over a week ago. Members of a crowd that watched its ascension early Saturday morning snapped pictures showing the half-sphere, now sheathed, being placed via crane on top of the metal dock that now exalts it:

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Annunciation Orthodox
11/20/17 11:00am

LIBERTY KITCHEN NOW FREE FROM GARDEN OAKS 5 months after a grand reopening to celebrate the end of road construction along Alba Rd. that had been hindering access to the restaurant, Liberty Kitchen Garden Oaks has shut down. Last night was its last meal. The restaurant had opened at 3715 Alba Rd. in June 2016, taking over a renovation of the property (and demolition of an adjacent Quonset hut to make room for parking) originally intended to house a Facundo Restaurante. “We debuted a new menu, a new beer garden and a new parking lot in an effort to revitalize patronage” after the road construction ended earlier this year, write the owners of Liberty Kitchen. But that wasn’t enough, and Hurricane Harvey “served as an additional financial hurdle company-wide.” The Liberty Kitchen Heights, San Felipe, and Memorial City locations remain open; the Little Liberty in the Rice Village closed this past March. Photo: Oksana W.

11/17/17 4:45pm

The doors aren’t open yet, but the windows are in at Beaver’s’s 10-year-old bar and barbecue joint on the corner of Sawyer and Decatur St., closed since early July. The photo at top shows 3 of the 4 new holes in the wall, including one cut straight through the building’s name tag, preserved in the image above from before the bar closed. The 2,500-sq.-ft. den was originally scheduled to reopen in September. A second location on Westheimer just east of Fountain View Dr., larger than the original, has been in business since January 2.

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Old Sixth Ward
11/17/17 2:00pm

MOSAIC SOUTH TOWER ONLY NOW GOING BY HANOVER HERMANN PARK The 29-story, 394-unit glass apartment building at 5927 Almeda Rd. known as the Mosaic South Tower, and before that the Montage, and before that the south tower of the Mosaic, shall henceforth (or until it sells again, probably) be known as the Hanover Hermann Park. (It’s pictured at right in the above photo.) Last week PGIM, the real estate division of Prudential Financial, bought the building, which fronts Hermann Park and backs up to 288 — along with the retail portion of the building’s gone-condo identical twin immediately to the north, still known not-at-all-confusingly as the Mosaic on Hermann Park. The seller was Winthrop Realty Liquidating Trust, which (in case it’s not obvious from that company’s name) is in the process of selling off every property it owns. In case the name change wouldn’t be enough of a clue, a note sent last week to residents by the seller indicates that the building will now be managed by the Hanover Company. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: elnina, via Swamplot Flickr pool

11/17/17 11:30am

Previously visible only to airplanes, drones, satellite-image sleuths, and Phillips 66 employees on sufficiently high floors of their adjacent offices: the soccer field with encircling track and enclosing fence pictured here atop the energy company’s parking garage, with Beltway 8 in the background. An additional artificial-turf practice area exists off camera to the left.

Phillips 66’s campus was completed last year at 2331 CityWest Blvd., along the Beltway at Westheimer, and includes 2 office towers as well as the parking center. The main office buildings sport their own recreational facilities: a yoga studio, spin workout hall, basketball court, and outdoor putting green.

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Pitch Roof
11/16/17 2:45pm

Teevee station KHOU is giving up on its 3.2-acre bayou-side home on Allen Pkwy. after repeated flooding and will soon be listing it for sale, according to a staff member’s Facebook post. The organization did file a permit for $594,740 worth of restoration work after Harvey between August and October, and hired 2 services to help with the clean-up — including Lewisville-based MrRestore, pictured above outside the building on August 30. Before Harvey, the studio enjoyed a 16-year dry run bookended by waters from Tropical Storm Allison back in 2001.

The 52,000-sq.-ft. studio, home to Channel 11 for 57 years, took on 5 ft. of water during the recent storm, forcing its staff to relocate broadcasting activity 3 times within the same day: first to a second floor conference room, then 2 blocks east on Allen Pkwy. to the Federal Reserve Bank, and finally to Houston Public Media’s office on Elgin St. just off I-45, where the news operation has now been headquartered for just over 2 months. That co-location wouldn’t be permanent, KHOU meteorologist Brooks Garner reported last month, although he indicated at that time that the station had not as yet decided whether to return home or seek a new venue.

Photos tweeted out by KHOU reporters of their original home showed the building at 1945 Allen Pkwy. taking on water during the storm. Here’s what the lobby looked like:

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Anchors Away
11/16/17 11:30am

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s animated video (above) on the explosions at the Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby recounts the steps taken by the brave workers stuck in charge of the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. But a few angles less charitable to the company’s emergency planning effort aren’t included — possibly because they’d be a little more involved to animate. For example, the noxious fumes that emanated from the first fire, on the night of August 31, which according to a lawsuit filed later Arkema gave no warning about — and sent 23 people to the hospital, many of them vomiting and gasping for cleaner air.

And another detail: The remote detonations of 6 trailers containing unrefrigerated organic peroxides were carried out by the Houston Police Department’s bomb squad. “The entire police operation was conducted without warning the public,” write the Houston Chronicle‘s Matt Dempsey and Jacob Carpenter. “Until the documents were released earlier this month by the EPA, the public didn’t know who performed the controlled burn, or how it was done.”

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Reefer Madness
11/15/17 3:00pm

It’s official: the 255-ft.-long drive-thru car wash at Buc-ee’s’s new Katy location off I-10 at Cane Island Pkwy. now qualifies as the longest in the world, according to Guinness World Records. Traversing the tunnel takes cars about 5 minutes, during which time in-wash light effects entertain. Don’t have a dirty car of your own in Katy? There are videos.

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Buc-ee’s World Record
11/15/17 10:15am

Construction is almost complete on a missing link between the bike paths lining Buffalo Bayou Park and the Heights Hike and Bike Trail, according to passer-by Christopher Andrews — who snapped the above photo from the southern span of the Main St. bridge, looking towards the back of the UH–Downtown campus. The purple curve just north of Allen’s Landing marked on the map below is the segment of the bayou trail that’s in the works. You can see where that portion will intersect the Heights trail, marked below in gray, after it crosses White Oak Bayou’s southerly meander to the east of UHD:

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Downtown Link
11/14/17 2:45pm

Site work has begun on the block of Birdsall St. just north of Memorial Dr., where demolition of the 2-story buildings comprising the former 57 Off Memorial apartments was finished up a couple of weeks ago. The photo above, sent to Swamplot by photographer Sonya Cuellar, shows a view of 160 Birdsall St. looking east in its current naked condition; Birdsall in the foreground and Venice St. on the right. The vacated portion of the Malone St. block beyond is also part of the project.

Going up in place of the 120 apartment units knocked out by the excavators: Jonathan Farb’s new City Place Memorial Park apartments, which renderings show would follow the pattern of Farb’s City Place Midtown apartments, only taller because the garages will be underneath and with more prominent cornices and balconies: 4 wood-framed stories will sit on top of 2-level concrete parking garages fitted with courtyard swimming pools on their decks. It’ll have 264 units in 2 separate buildings.

Photo: Sonya Cuellar. Rendering: Farb Homes/Wallace Garcia Wilson Architects

Farb Homes
11/14/17 11:45am

More new features are imagined for the center of Houston than just the new Green Loop highlighted in the just-released Plan Downtown proposal. There’s also a mysterious new Downtown island. Where did it come from?

It’s the result of digging the long-whispered North Canal Channel Bypass, a re-linking of White Oak and Buffalo Bayous north of Downtown. Existing bends and narrow banks along the 2 bayous just east of Main St. restrict the flow of stormwater during flooding events. According to reports, engineering studies have estimated that cutting a straighter diversion channel to bypass the oxbow could reduce flooding Downtown by 3.5 ft.

But digging a new canal while maintaining the existing path of the bayou would create an island out of the area just north of Commerce St. An imagined map of the area in Plan Downtown’s report (rotated so North is aimed down and to the right) shows what car and pedestrian bridges might link it to the mainland:

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Plan Downtown