03/08/18 11:00am

Make no mistake about the signage now up along Hwy. 6 across Schiller Dr. from the Aldi near Westpark: the travel stop it’s announcing is Nebraska-born Bucky’s — not the Texan Buc-ee’s. Construction vehicles are now pushing dirt around west of the Highway 6 RV Resort where the new complex plans to go.

Last year, Buc-ee’s filed a lawsuit against Bucky’s to stop the transplant from moving ahead with plans to build at least 6 new Houston-area locations. One Bucky’s is now open on NASA Pkwy. in Nassau Bay, but besides that, all other operational Bucky’ses are currently out of state: in Omaha, St. Louis, and the Chicago area.

Across the street, Twistee Treat Westpark is flanked by Golden Corral and a Take 5 Oil Change, and backed up by a Palace Inn:


The Buc Stops Here
03/07/18 1:30pm

Skinny Rita’s is about halfway through its last stand in Montrose this afternoon, thanks to the excavator now parked on what used to be its patio. The health-minded Mexican restaurant at 607 W. Gray St. sat vacant since its owners closed the place down last February. Nine months later, The Platform Group snatched up the former cantina along with its neighbor, the Traci Scott Hair Salon (visible beyond the wrecking arm in the photo at top), where business is proceeding as usual despite the racket next door.

A few more angles on the tear down show piles of rubble getting ready to overflow the patio fencing:


Montrose Pair Minus One
03/07/18 12:00pm

New possibly aquatic-themed street and sidewalk art is bubbling up on Amherst St. west of Kelvin Dr. in Rice Village. The photo at top views a few of the freshly-laid, not-quite-concentric circles from outside the Everything But Water swimwear store that occupies part of the recently renovated retail building on Amherst St. The designs are being placed there by Crossroads Decorative Pavement — whose truck is on site in the photo above looking toward Kelvin.

Here’s a view of what’s under foot on the southern bank of Amherst:


Moistening the Pavement
03/06/18 4:30pm

New protective barriers of ankle-high concrete have been added around the curbs that already front each corner at the intersection of Tuam and Hutchins streets, slowing down traffic and speeding up curb-to-curb travel times for pedestrians crossing at the crosswalks. The additions were put there by the city’s Complete Communities initiative, a project Mayor Turner launched last April to focus in its initial round on adding infrastructure to 5 neighborhoods: the Third Ward, as well as the Second Ward, Near Northside, Gulfton, and Acres Homes.

The photo at top — Tweeted out by an observer heading southbound through the Third Ward along Tuam — looks down the street to show all 4 new pedestrian pockets including the one in the left foreground that sits outside the northeast corner of Emancipation Park. That portion of the park is where its playground lays out as indicated in the map above.

A view looking east from inside the park shows what the kids’ corner has to offer:


A Concrete Solution
03/06/18 1:15pm

10-STORY CELL TOWER WANTS TO SPIKE UP ALONG FIFTH WARD RAILROAD TRACKS A new cell tower is proposed behind a warehouse on Schweikhardt St., just north of where the road ends at Clinton Dr. Vertical Bridge Development, an entity that manages towers for telecom companies, filed an application with the city’s Tower Commission for permission to build the 100-ft. tall structure just north of the train tracks that cross Schweikhardt late last year. The tracks are more or less the dividing line between the industrial zone that spreads out along Buffalo Bayou between Hirsch Rd. and Route 90, and the residential portion of the Fifth Ward that extends south of I-10. City rules require a waiver for towers to be built in residential neighborhoods, and in order to get one, the owner of the 1.5-acre lot where the tower is proposed argues that the parcel is deep enough for the antenna to hang back far from the road. Still, however, the nearest residential property would be just over 200 ft. away from the new sky wire. [Houston Tower Commission Agenda] Photo of signage at proposed tower site: Swamplot inbox

03/06/18 11:15am

Longtime Upper Kirby resident Chateau Domingue has packed up the floor tiles, doorknobs, and candlesticks at its former W. Alabama St. showroom just west of Edloe St. and left for a new location in Timbergrove. An entity connected to energy businessman Douglas Foshee bought the building that housed the antique furniture and building materials store at the end of 2016. Fencing went up around the site last week, and on Friday, a permit was filed to disconnect the structure from the city’s sewer system — typically a sign that a demolition is imminent.

Chateau Domingue’s old location is abutted on one side by a complex of warehouse buildings that runs south from W. Alabama toward the middle of the block. At its new location on W. 12th St. between Hempstead and Seamist Dr., the showroom is now hugged entirely by industrial structures.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

03/05/18 4:45pm

Now that construction work on the new retail structure Braun Enterprises is developing at 311 W. Gray has headed indoors, a collection of building permits up on the window near the building’s northwest corner names one of its occupants: Me’Lange Restaurant. Last spring, the Chronicle reported that a second location of Kirby fast food spot Viet’s Express would move into the new strip alongside an office of Feather & Fur Animal Hospital. Back then, the 18,221-sq.-ft. plot just west of West Gray Cleaners on the corner of Taft St. was still just a vacant lot; construction began later in 2017.

A parking lot that runs lengthwise behind the building wraps around its west side as it heads for the curb cut on W. Gray:


Cultural Melange
03/05/18 4:15pm

Yet another sign of incoming retail is up on the Mid Main Lofts, where both Kura Revolving Sushi Bar and a 9Round kickboxing gym made their marks last week. Big Mike’s Entertainment LLC is the applicant named on the TABC notice that’s posted on the apartment building’s Travis St. side, near the corner at Holman and across the street from the Holman Draft Hall bar. The photo at top — taken by a Twitter user who’s been monitoring street-level activity outside the Lofts — shows where the storefront is situated, just north of the entrance to the garage that occupies nearly all of the complex’s frontage along Travis.

Photos: Natalie W

Big Mike’s
03/05/18 3:00pm

Changes are now slated to turn the Highland Village building at 2701 Drexel Dr. that Kate Spade took off from last year into what Sweet Paris Crepes & Café is calling its flagship location. The French pastry chain with 2 locations in Houston (and one in Mexico) plans to stuff a 136-seat restaurant into the former boutique just south of Westheimer in the fashion depicted at top, although some of those chairs will sit outside on the patio that’s planned in place of current slant parking spots. The fiery neon display behind the store’s transom window — pictured above with the lights off — will be removed, as will the lifesavers grids up above the storefront’s windows. Inside, the location’s 2,364 sq. ft. will include both a regular eating area and a private dining room.

Rendering: Sweet Paris Crepes & Café. Photo: Swamplot inbox.

03/05/18 11:45am

A new banner is up in place of La Baguette’s lettering in the Mekong Center — on Milam St. between Drew and Tuam — announcing the coming Fukuoka Sushi Bar & Grill. The former Vietnamese sandwich shop shuttered in the space at the end of last year, leaving a void between Pho Saigon and the dentist’s office in the L-shaped retail center which includes parking on its roof. When the new raw fishery moves in at 2808 Milam, it’ll bring the Mekong Center back to full occupancy.

Photos: Chibuike O. (Mekong Center); Natalie W (Fukuoka Sushi Bar & Grill)

Below the Parking Pad
03/02/18 4:45pm

Excavators have begun clawing at the ballroom that sits behind the La Colombe d’Or hotel’s main building on the corner of Montrose Blvd. and Harold St. — in order to make way for a new apartment tower. Demolition began on the structure formally and formerly known as Le Grand Salon de la Comtesse in late January after portions of its rococo interior — including oak paneling, gold-framed mirrors, and chandeliers — were catalogued, extracted, and shipped to an offsite storage facility by teardown crews.

That’s just about the reverse of how those interiors got there in the first place. La Colombe d’Or owner Steve Zimmerman bought the furnishings — crafted in the 1730s for members of the French royal family — in 1995 from the son of oilman John Mecom Sr., who’d kept them stored in a blimp hangar he owned at the former Hitchcock Naval Air Station of Hwy. 6. He’d been stockpiling other French home goods (including one of Marie Antoinette’s bathrooms) for more than 30 years. Once Zimmerman got ahold of the decor, he built the less pedigreed stucco structure at 3410 Montrose Blvd. behind the hotel building where the items served as a backdrop for weddings, corporate functions, and the occasional speech.

In this view of the neighboring 30-story apartment tower now known as the Hanover Montrose (previously 3400 Montrose), the Colombe d’Or and its ballroom can be seen at the bottom left:


Montrose Stack-Up
03/02/18 2:00pm

Repairs on PJ’s Sports Bar’s patio have the outdoor space back up and running after a sports car hopped the curb near the corner of W. Gray St. and Stanford and nearly totaled the seating area in January. One driver was hospitalized, but there were no major injuries at the scene pictured above; it was past last call when the accident occurred. The bar’s patio, however, remained in pieces for nearly 2 months after emergency workers removed the projectile.

Now, only one pre-crash item remains absent from the bar’s frontage at 614 W. Gray: the fluorescent crosswalk sign shown on the ground in the photo below:


High-Speed Corners
03/02/18 12:30pm

Newly-released case files from the Houston Police Department include a investigator’s official best guess at how Mary Cerruti’s skeleton ended up in a 5 ft.-9 in. by 1 ft.-7 in. space between the walls of her bungalow: a plank in the attic collapsed, writes detective T. Fay, sending Cerruti down into the 8-and-a-half-foot tall opening where she became trapped and died. The photo above — one of 235 police took at the scene — shows the hole in the floorboards where her remains were found to the right of the attic door.

Cerruti, the former homeowner, was an opponent of the Yale at 6th apartments that eventually encircled her bungalow at 610 Allston St. On an afternoon last March — reports the Chronicle’s Emily Foxhall, who’s been all over the story as it’s developed — firefighters responding to a 911 call from the new renter who’d discovered the remains arrived at the address and busted open the wall from the house’s first floor. Fay, the detective, speculated that the spot in the wall housing the bones might once have been a linen closet, sealed off by renovations.

A missing person’s report filed 2 years earlier in 2015 — after Cerruti first disappeared — suggested that the remains were likely hers. But with the bones and a few other items as the only evidence police could recover from the scene, there wasn’t much for them to investigate. There were no signs of foul play at the bungalow, and no reason to believe someone was out to harm Cerruti. The only thing police had left to do was wait for forensic identification — which the medical examiner announced last month.

Photo: Houston Police Department via Emily Foxhall

A Hole in the Attic
03/01/18 4:30pm

Here’s a drawing showing some of the potential new waterways now being considered for the 35-acre tract that sits east of WetnWild SplashTowns aquatic amusement park on the North Fwy. The just-under-50-acre park opened just north of the Louetta Rd. exit off I-45 in 1984 as Hanna-Barbera Land. In 2014,  Premier Parks took the place over from Six Flags and tapped New York-based Aquatic Development Group to renovate its attractions and infrastructure — including the entrance shown above. The same firm is now brainstorming designs for the adjacent parcel, which  — when it’s hydrated — will nearly double the park’s size.

Here’s a look at some of the current waterworks from above:


03/01/18 3:30pm

THE ARMY CORPS SAW ALL YOUR ADDICKS AND BARKER LAWSUITS COMING — 23 YEARS AGO A 1995 Army Corps of Engineers memo obtained by the Chronicle shows that the agency considered the possibility that dozens of lawsuits could be filed against it by flooded homeowners both upstream and downstream from the Addicks and Barker dams. “Given the nature of the expensive homes that would be flooded and the quality of legal representation these owners could afford, there is always the possibility of an adverse ruling,” but the likelihood of such an outcome would be low, it concluded. Those downstream from the reservoirs would have a weak case, the memo argued, because their home values benefit from the dams in the first place. And those upstream — inside the Addicks and Barker flood pools — would have to prove that flooding wasn’t just sporadic, but “frequent and inevitably recurring to amount to a taking of interest in property.” Regardless, says the document, “it would be prudent for Harris County to make sure owners, future developers, and future buyers are put on notice that they are in a reservoir.That didn’t happen. [Houston Chronicle; memo] Photo of Barker Reservoir Near Addicks Clodine Rd. after Harvey: Kyle Steck