01/08/18 1:30pm

Is the site of shuttered gay bar Montrose Mining Company destined to become a parking lot for nearby restaurant Baba Yega Cafe? The new owner of Baba Yega, developer Fred Sharifi, bought the 39-year-old bar on the corner of Pacific and Grant streets from longtime proprietor Charles Armstrong last month. When the bar closed in 2016, Armstrong said he was working on plans to bring a new restaurant to the building within 18 months. A sign posted on the door of 805 Pacific St. now directs would-be patrons to one of Armstrong’s other hangouts across Pacific — JR’s Bar & Grill. Above that flyer, a notice from the city dated December 14 — 2 days after the 2,809-sq.-ft. building was sold — tells its owners to stop all unpermitted plumbing and structural work on the site.

Sharifi has now purchased at least 5 Montrose properties within the last 2 years, including Baba Yega, Montrose Mining Company, and 3 sites slated to be part of a project he’s developing on Fairview Ave.one of which was home to Armstrong’s nightclub Meteor. In addition to his projects in Montrose, Sharifi also owns Hungry’s Cafe in Rice Village.

Armstrong still appears to own a vacant, 6,648-sq.-ft. property that wraps around the east side of Montrose Mining Company:

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Old Gay Bars of Avondale
01/05/18 4:30pm

Here’s the pungent wastewater that’s been flowing through a Swamplot reader’s backyard on Stoney Creek Dr. for just over a month, according to the homeowner. The waterway pictured above — dubbed Ditch #W-151 by Harris County Flood Control — parallels Gessner on its way south from Memorial City Mall, passing through portions of Bunker Hill Village and Whispering Oaks before emptying into Buffalo Bayou. For about 3 quarters of a mile along that stretch, the ditch cuts through the backyards of homes on Stoney Creek, where owners have complained about this and similar movements in the past.

Residents suspect the issue might have to do with the sewer repair work now underway at multiple sites upstream from their neighborhood. The photo below shows a temporary pump conducting liquids across Plantation Rd., just south of Memorial City Mall’s frontage along Barryknoll:

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Waterfront Property
01/05/18 12:30pm

How’s this for a twisting story line? An architect commissions a famous artist to create a site-specific drawing in a house he has built for himself. The artist, who never touches his own works, creates exacting instructions that installation artists follow to create the 30-ft.-tall artwork in the living room of the home. The artist dies. A few years later, the architect dies, offering his home and the majority of his extensive art collection to a local but world-famous museum of which he was a trustee. The museum decides to sell the home and add much of the art to its collection, but there’s a problem with the wall drawing. It can’t be moved, and the museum is stymied by a restriction: It is not allowed to sell any artwork that has been bequeathed to it.

Here’s where the plot — and the drywall mud — thickens: the museum, unable to remove the artwork from the home without destroying it, comes up with an alternative plan. It will plaster over the drawing, rendering it unrecoverable.

Years later, the purchaser of the home is telling this story to a houseguest — who in a fit of curiosity grabs a dull knife and starts chipping away at the wall. The white coating flakes off. To his and his host’s surprise, a tableau of blue, red, and yellow appears: a fragment of the original drawing underneath.

What is this? The first 20 minutes of a new Wes Anderson movie, an episode of Columbo, or the setup for a Siri Hustvedt novel? No, its just the state of play at 1202 Milford St. in the Museum District. The artist is Sol LeWitt. The museum is the Menil Collection. The home is the former residence of Houston architect Bill Stern. And the plotline is still in progress:

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The Unerasing
01/04/18 1:15pm

THE PROPOSED NEW RULES FOR ROOMING HOUSES A new PowerPoint presentation put together by the city’s Administrative and Regulatory Affairs department details the requirements that the city is proposing putting in place for rooming houses — places where 3 or more unrelated people live together. Among the standards that could be laid down for the unregulated buildings: requiring them to apply for annual permits, instituting building code inspections, and mandating the facilities have framed beds, posted and practiced fire evacuation plans, accessible fire extinguishers, working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and first aid supplies. Mayor Turner announced last May that he was planning on stepping up regulations for the shared homes after a fire at one such facility on Griggs Rd. just east of OST killed 2 boarders in March. The city is presenting the proposed changes at a meeting in the Near Northside next Wednesday. New regulations for houses serving elderly, disabled, and formerly-incarcerated people are also up for consideration. [Administrative and Regulatory Affairs] Photo of rooming house at 4411 New Orleans St.: Roominghouses.net

01/02/18 4:30pm

Flower Child — the health-minded restaurant that announced it was coming to Houston back in October — will take over the space that houses women’s clothing boutique BB1 Classic in the Cafe Express building at Uptown Park. Bidding is already underway for construction that will turn the 2-story, corner-side store into the new restaurant, whose owners already run North Italia and True Food Kitchen, both located in the same shopping center just south of Uptown Park on Post Oak Blvd. at the corner of San Felipe St.

Ads for a moving sale were posted on the high-fashion retailer’s Facebook page last Thursday. BB1 Classic’s current location opened in 2003. Before that, the store had spots in Memorial City, south of Uptown Park on Post Oak, in River Oaks, and in the Galleria.

Photo: BB1 Classic

Dining in Style
01/02/18 12:30pm

Quick, what’s the most vaulted bank in all of Houston? Easy: the lofty Bank of America branch on the ground floor of the Bank of America Center at 700 Louisiana St. Downtown (pictured at top) — so grand, so postmodern, so . . . unleasable. Philip Johnson designed the 12-story high banking hall to resemble “a sixteenth-century Dutch guild hall, albeit one scaled to be seen from the freeway at sixty miles per hour,” writes Joel Warren Barna in a history of the project included in The See-Through Years. But now big changes are planned for that empty space:

“We’re just going to kind of slip in these two floor slabs,” Jeff Sydness of Sydness Architects tells the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser. Sydness was hired by M-M Properties to reconfigure the lower levels of the 56-floor tower, which was built in 1983. So: Lower ceilings ahoy! New mezzanines are now being planned to colonize the banking hall’s towering overhead emptiness. The new structures, edged with glass walls, will fill much of that air-conditioned but unused airspace with workstation- and cubicle-ready office platforms:

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Loft Office
12/29/17 11:00am

What’s happened to this storied Walnut Bend Mod by Robert Pine from the 1960 Houston Chronicle Parade of Homes since it last appeared on Swamplot in 2010? Well, it finally soldfor $120K — the following year. (In 2014, it traded hands again, for approximately $287K, without making an appearance on MLS.) Also, new windows were cut into the living room and master bathroom, adding openings to the once-blank stone-faced walls on the front facade. There’s also this brand new screened-in patio, inserted between the carport and the main house in back, like so:

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Eyes on the Street
12/27/17 4:30pm

THE WINKLER DR. WAREHOUSE NOW STUFFED WITH STUFFED ANIMALS Five estates’ worth of formerly wild game, as well as some other frontier-themed trinkets, are now sitting in the TexMAX Auctions warehouse at 9367 Winkler Dr., 3 miles northeast of Hobby Airport, ahead of an auction taking place there on January 20. Craig Hlavaty reports that in addition to the brown bear, black bear, and grizzly bear full body mounts, the 700-animal herd includes: “tigers, jaguars, and a few pygmy hippo mounts from animals that died of natural causes on a wildlife estate. Some of the mounts date back to the early ’80s, according to [John Brommel, the organizer of the auction].” There are also: “Six sets of ivory tusks which were acquired before Jan. 18, 1990, making them legal to buy and sell.” [Houston Chronicle; auction sitePhoto: Taxidermy King Auctions

12/27/17 2:00pm

Everyone likes a good comeback story: 2 N. Braeswood houses a few doors down from the West Loop are rising above their floody circumstances with the help of wood-framed columns placed below their foundations. The photos above show 4718 N. Braeswood, just outside the West Loop, lifted on stilts months after Hurricane Harvey showered it with attention. The house’s chimney has been removed, leaving a gap in its street-facing facade.

Two doors down, 4710 N. Braeswood now sits at a similar elevation:

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Stilted Homes
12/27/17 12:30pm

The pile of mangled disco parts beyond the fence pictured at top is all that remains of the less-than-2-year-old La Roux nightclub building at 4011 Washington after crews brought down the house last week. In March, a real estate company connected to Zadok Jewelers bought the entire 39,000-sq.-ft. block on Washington between Leverkuhn and Jackson Hill St. La Roux was evicted earlier this year.

The club’s entrance was off Leverkuhn:

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La Roux-ined
12/26/17 3:45pm

There’s a new outdoor stairway zig-zagging its way up to the top of the Raven Tower’s above-ground spot at the northwest corner of the White Oak Music Hall complex. The elevated bar opened in January 2016 on North St., just off N. Main east of I-45, but shut down in May of that year after its developer decided to address accessibility issues through renovations. It only received a certificate of occupancy — allowing the venue to operate as a bar — in April of this year.

Railings and landings are still missing from the new stairway. Inside the podium, an indoor stairway wraps around a central elevator shaft that rises from the base of the tower up to its peacock-blue penthouse.

Here’s a view of the tower from beyond an adjacent concert venue, one of several surrounding the White Oak Music Hall’s main building:

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WOMH and Friends
12/22/17 2:00pm

With the recent move of G&G Model Shop, the strip mall at the corner of Shepherd and the eastbound 59 feeder road has become a senior center for stores that spent time in Rice Village back in the day. The photo above shows the 72-year-old model shop — a popular destination for Rice and UH architecture students, as well as model train enthusiasts — 2 doors down from fellow old-timer Times Barber Shop, which opened its original location in the Village before relocating 3 times and landing in strip center just north of Boulevard Oaks in 2007. G&G sold its 2522 Times Blvd. spot — home to the shop for 63 years — on August 17 and closed down 2 days later. The new location opened on August 29 in the 2029 Southwest Fwy. storefront abandoned several years ago by ticket reseller Ticket Connection.

Nan’s Comics and Games, pictured above to the left of G&G’s new location, was also a Rice Village tenant in the mid-60s before replacing Blue and Gray Pizza at 2011 Southwest Fwy. in 1988.

A sign from Pipeline Realty now lists the former G&G site for lease:

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G&G Model Shop
12/21/17 4:45pm

The first ever H-E-B with a skybridge connection to a neighboring JCPenney is indeed on its way to Meyerland Plaza. The grocery chain’s new 95,000-sq.-ft. building will replace its previous store at South Braeswood and Chimney Rock, which flooded during Harvey. Some of the land that the H-E-B is taking over is occupied now by the BBVA Compass bank branch building at the mall-turned-shopping-center’s northwest corner, although the store will extend back all the way to the existing JCPenney, far southeast of where the bank branch sits now.

The rendering at top shows the grocery store’s second-story entrance; like the new stores under construction in Bellaire and the Heights, this one will sit on top of a parking deck. The second rendering shows the structure fronting a driveway that heads into Meyerland Plaza from Beechnut St. A replacement BBVA Compass branch is planned inside the new complex.

Below, a view of the store’s reinforced northwest corner just across Endicott from an off-camera Chick-fil-A on the right:

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Bright Red Corners
12/21/17 3:15pm

Renderings now up on Lyric Market’s new website reveal more of what’s planned for the parking-garage food hall. The image at top shows David Adickes’s self-playing cello sculpture ascended atop a new pedestal at the corner of Smith and Preston streets. Behind the artwork, outdoor seating and what the website describes as a private terrace back up to the food hall’s main entrance. The new structure, currently under construction, is shown on the left of that rendering — adjacent to the existing Lyric Centre office tower.

Here’s a full view of the completed parking garage from across the intersection of Preston and Louisiana:

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Downtown Food Hall No. 4
12/20/17 3:00pm

Architect and townhome builder Parra Design Group is showing off its almost-complete new headquarters building at 4619 Lyons Ave. in the Fifth Ward. The 7,815-sq.-ft. office-warehouse complex sits on the corner of Lyons and Schweikhardt St. The firm’s offices are on the 1,500-sq.-ft. second floor. (That’s Camilo Parra doing his scale-figure impression on the balcony in the photo above.)

No other tenants are in the building yet. A statement from the firm, which moved its offices from Rice Military, indicates that the building’s double-height atrium space will be made available to the new building’s neighbors for “meetings and other activities.”

A 2-story brick section fronts Lyons Ave. A view from the Schweikhardt side shows the back portion of the building, a larger single-story warehouse-style space that Parra will use as a work area and to store building materials and supplies:

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Fifth Ward