12/09/16 12:15pm

ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE SAYS IT’LL OPEN 4 MORE HOUSTON SPOTS NOW THAT VINTAGE PARK IS OFF ITS HANDS Imperial Market, Sugar Land, TX  77478Alamo Drafthouse followed up this week’s confirmation that its Vintage Park theater is becoming a Star Cinema Grill by announcing that it plans to open 4 more Houston area locations. Details on where and when are still murky (other than a reiteration that plans for the Imperial Market spot in Sugar Land are still on), but a rep told Kyle Hagerty earlier this week that the company has already signed 3 leases. That may or may not include the 10-year lease signed back in 2013 for a spot in the long-stalled Regent Square development — which did get some permits this fall, as somebody at Morris Architects previously claimed would happen. [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed Alamo Drafthouse in Sugar Land: Imperial Market

12/09/16 10:45am

Midtown Entry Portal site, W. Gray at Matthews St., Midtown/Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Where exactly, these days, does Fourth Ward end and Midtown begin? That may be a little bit clearer before long (depending on how you define the 2) — a reader notes that someone looks to be getting ready to stake a visible claim for Midtown on the narrow strip of land at the crotch of Webster and W. Gray streets, just west of Matthews St. and the latest add-on to the Post Midtown Square development. (The yellow signage of that recently scorched Fuzzy’s is visible on the left.)

The silt fencing rimming the median segment as of late comes with a construction sign calling the spot “Midtown Entry Portal — Site 3.” That grassy sliver does sit at the end of a short but pointy finger of land jutting out of the northwestern boundary of the area’s tax increment reinvestment zone, which as of 2009 is shaped about like this:

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TIRZspotting
12/08/16 2:00pm

Pedestrian Bridge over White Oak at Durham St.

The section of bayou-hugging greenway trail running between Durham St. and Stude Park is getting the official OK tomorrow morning from Harris County Flood Control District and the Houston Parks Board. The photo above is of the pedestrian bridge across White Oak near Durham St. that previously supplanted the area’s “Bridge of Death” route; the segment opening tomorrow runs from that same bridge east along the bayou to the Studemont St. non-pedestrian bridge. The organizers are hoping would-be trail fans will use some means other than car to get to the ceremony location (off Studemont just north of I-10); if you have to drive, however, the invitation says you might be able to get a parking space across the freeway north of  Target.

Further east along the White Oak trail, here’s an updated view of how that link into Near Northside by the Leonel Castillo Community Center is coming along (taken in mid-November, once again from the same spot as that glitzed-up flood photo that made an appearance in Air New Zealand’s recent in-flight feature on Texas):

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Greenways Growth Spurts
12/06/16 5:00pm

Beacon Island Sales flier; League City, TX, 77573

Beacon Island (née Lighthouse Island, in its more pedestrian days) is up for sale once again, Brandon de Hoyos writes this week. The eponymous prison-striped beacon at the northern tip of the property has been in place since at least the late 1980s — by which time the 35-acre piece of land had also completed its transformation from Clear Creek shoreline to peninsula to full island, as channels were carved into the southern edge of Clear Lake to expand waterfront access. The land also currently hosts the roadways and underground infrastructure installed by woulda-been joint developers The Verandah Cos. and Crow Holdings, right before the housing market collapse and 2008 recession.

Current owner Isola Ventura previously had previously planned for a mixture of residential structures on the island, from townhome to highrise. The island has already been divvied up and okayed for those various  purposes by League City’s planning department, roughly as labeled below in the current leasing materials:

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League City Layouts
12/06/16 12:00pm

9230 Buffalo Spdwy., Houston, 77025

The ribbed tank hiding behind the tract excavator in the north-facing shot above will soon be going underground, per current plans at the corner of Durhill St. and Buffalo Spdwy. First Stop Food Store, the current occupant of the retail shell on the property, sits right across Buffalo Spdwy. from one of the 2 planned senior living facilities in the vicinity — that property is just out of the frame to the right, while one of the houses in the Pemberton Circle gated townhome cluster can be seen peeking over the fence on the left.

The 1950s convenience store building and property itself changed hands early last year. Here’s a shot from July, a few happy months before the parking lot breakup seen above:

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Tanking Up
12/05/16 5:00pm

Merchant, 1707 Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, Houston, 77056

The back-alley Post Oak strip center corner previously occupied by a franchise of not-quite-ice-cream purveyor Tasti D-Lite appears now to be operating under the banner of New Orleans-based Merchant Cafe, whose signature noun list was spotted over the weekend by a reader in the shopping center. The new cafe is catty-corner to Berryhill Baja Grill, and flanked by Five Guys Burgers and Fries and The UPS Store. The city planning department  started issuing permits for a remodel of the space by September of last year, though some appear to have been given the OK as recently as October. 

The vicinity’s softserve niche is currently filled by a branch of pay-by-the-pile California frozen yogurt shop Pinkberry, facing San Felipe right across Post Oak Blvd. Tasti D-Lite, meanwhile, appears to have largely pulled out of Houston altogether over the last few years, with a lone holdout franchise remaining in Katy.

Photo: jatorres

NY to NOLA
12/05/16 2:30pm

8153 River Dr., Park Place, Houston, 77017

8153 River Dr., Park Place, Houston, 77017A few readers were curious about the detached backyard room densely strewn with drawings of clowns and other cartoonish figures that made an appearance as Swamplot’s Home Listing Photo of the Day late last month. If you were waiting for more info on the property to make an offer, you’re too late — the place is already listed as under contract, along with the interior furnishings. Here’s a few more shots of the leftover memorabilia in the space, formerly known as Tootsie’s Birthday Hut:

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Hanging Around Out Back
12/05/16 11:30am

Construction at Shepherd and Allen st.

Now rising at 1202 Shepherd Dr., atop the former sites of the Sarco Enterprise used car lot and its various adjacent industrial-retail odds and ends: a 4-story self-storage building from Provident Realty. The Dallas-based developer (which is also behind the redo of the former Texaco building Downtown and its potential future companion highrise) bought the land in October of last year from an entity called Shepnett Holdings, which also owns the land across Nett St. at 1112 Shepherd  — on that site, the former graffiti-slathered home of relocated art and framing shop Alva Graphics is being converted into the burger restaurant initially planned for the ex-Ruggles Grill lot on Westheimer.

The Provident storage facility will be conveniently located about 4 minutes by car from the Uncle Bob’s Life Storage building that just opened along Washington Ave across from the former Wabash Feed & Garden store. A storage-atuned reader in the neighborhood sends a few more angles on the new building’s in-progress skeleton — the building extends from Nett St. toward the southern of Allen St.’s 2 parallel roadways, laid along either side of the Southern Pacific railroad line:

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Boxes of Brunner
12/02/16 5:45pm

JUSTIN YU TO CLOSE OXHEART, SPEND SOME TIME IN THE HEIGHTS Oxheart, 1302 Nance St., Warehouse District, Downtown HoustonNext in the line of succession for the corner spot at 1302 Nance St. currently occupied by Oxheart: . . . well, something else. So says James-Beard-ed chef and owner Justin Yu, who announced today that the restaurant will close on its 5th birthday in mid-March — to reopen with a new name, a redone interior, and former Oxheart sous chef Jason White at the helm in the kitchen. Eric Sandler notes that Yu will eventually be splitting his hours between the yet-unnamed redo of the Nance space, wine and whiskey bar Public Services in the Cotton Exchange building on Travis, and whatever he’s doing with Bobby Heugel over on Yale St., in the former home of Dry Creek Cafe. [CultureMap; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 1302 Nance St.: Ken L.

12/02/16 1:45pm

CITY WANTS TO CREATE HISTORIC DISTRICT TO PROTECT WHAT’S LEFT OF FREEDMEN’S TOWN HISTORIC DISTRICT Following last month’s sudden brick relocation incident, Mayor Turner has announced a plan to make a plan to create a “cultural district in Freedmen’s Town — one that would preserve historic churches, schools, and homes,” as Andrew Schneider describes it this week. A section of the Fourth Ward roughly bounded by W. Gray, W. Dallas, Genessee, and Arthur streets has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1985 as the Freedmen’s Town Historic District — but that national designation didn’t provide much local protection to the area’s architecture, and many of the buildings listed in the district’s nomination form to the register have since been demolished. Archi-historian Stephen Fox told Claudia Feldman back in February that a city of Houston historic district designation, however, would be different; Fox noted that “it might require gerrymandering to pick up the proper concentration of historic buildings. But it could be done.” [Houston Public Media and Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Freedmen’s Town Historic District sign: Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition

12/02/16 11:15am

Uncle Bob's Storage, 5700 Washington Ave., Washington Ave, Houston, 77007

Los Dos Amigos Mexican Restaurant, 5720 Washington Ave, Woodcrest, HoustonThe old Wabash Feed & Garden building on Washington Ave. may still be sorting out its current relationship status, and missing the company of Los Dos Amigos  and Premo’s Grocery (knocked down across the street last year) — but at least it’s no longer the only property on the corner with an out of date sign (as pictured in the shot above from a reader). The new Uncle Bob’s Self Storage across the street, which replaced Premo’s and Los Dos Amigos, is already waiting on a branding swap-out — the storage company acquired Life Storage in July and decided to take the new name, simplifying its box-of-boxes logo in the process. The 6-story storage midrise is set toward the corner with Malone St. where Premo’s stood, while Los Dos Amigos got the parking-lot treatment:

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All Boxed Up