09/27/17 2:30pm

Here are a couple renderings from the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture in Austin of the new 3-story building the firm is designing for the corner spot at 2132 Bissonnet St. in Boulevard Oaks. A representative of the Platform Group, the building’s developer, tells Swamplot an “all-day cafe/coffee shop” is being planned for the ground floor, and that the upper 2 floors will contain “boutique office space.” The cafe won’t be a Gringo’s Tex-Mex, but the developers do have a connection to that restaurant chain: The Platform Group is headed by a son and daughter-in-law of Gringo’s owner Russell Ybarra.

In the top rendering, the 11,300-sq.-ft. building is shown lining Shepherd Dr., with an L-shaped parking lot wrapping around it. A patio with outdoor seating will go in front of the structure along Bissonnet St. The Houston office of SWA Group is designing the landscape.

Here are views of the current site from similar angles:

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Remaking Boulevard Oaks
09/27/17 1:00pm

If you’ve ever wished you could watch a wrecking ball go wild inside a convenience store, here’s your chance. A crowd gathered outside the former 4949 C-store at the corner of Bissonnet and Shepherd over the weekend to watch artist Trey Duvall’s kinetic demolition installation in action. The installation features wrecking balls connected to computer-controlled motors mounted on the ceiling wreaking havoc on what remains of the interior. Or, as Duvall puts it, “Two high-torque mechanized double pendulums . . . impact shelving systems, soda machines, retail racks, drink coolers, and walls to create an evolving and unpredictable landscape of detritus.

If you can’t stop by for your own personal evening viewing of any portion of the 15-day-long endeavor (it’ll be in action through October 6), there’ll be live-streamed video of the action available online. You can watch nightly from 6 to 9 pm from a link on the project website.

This video by Duvall shows some of the first blows:

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Watch the Wrecking Ball
07/05/17 9:30am

HOW THAT NEW HOUSTON LOOK KEPT MAKING ITS WAY FROM OLD EUROPE “I have always felt that this North Boulevard house was the one that changed the way Houston looked at decor and antiques,” writes West U design blogger Joni Webb about a stucco mansion in Broadacres by Rice University architect William Ward Watkin, who designed it in 1923 for a drug-company executive after a 4-month inspirational European tour. The property at 1318 North Blvd. later served for more than a decade as the home of Tootsie’s founder Micky Rosmarin, who died after a heart attack last month; it’s now up for sale for $4.75 million. “Back in 1995,” Webb writes, “it was featured on the cover of Veranda and I think it was this house that marked the true beginning of the Houston Look — the white slipcover, seagrass, antique filled aesthetic whose origins I attribute to designer Babs Cooper Watkins . . . it launched Watkins into prominence.” Watkins, Webb explains, “used antiques in a casual way, her interiors were never about a hands-off approach. She mixed in religious relics and priceless antiques with vintage chairs slipcovered in inexpensive plain linen. She repurposed outside garden elements to be used inside the house. And Babs was one of the first ones who favored dramatic paint treatments that turned ordinary sheetrock into centuries old grottos.” Watkins passed away in February of last year. But Webb recalls how the home launched a store — and a whole new Old World orientation for Houston interiors: “The Veranda photoshoot not only created a new aesthetic, it also created a new partnership and the Watkins Schatte antique shop on Bissonnet was born.” The shop (still at 2308 Bissonnet, but now known as Watkins-Culver Antiques) “was an instant hit and during those days, lines would form when a new shipment was unveiled.  Everyone wanted to see what Babs and Bill [Gardner] and Annette [Schatte] had bought in Europe.” [Cote de Texas; previously on Swamplot]

05/22/17 1:00pm

On the market again: the designed-it-himself 1959 home of Ralph Anderson (who worked on the Astrodome, as well as the retooled brutalist building now occupied by the Houston Chronicle). The home is iced on its Banks St. side in cream-colored patterned concrete and contains an airy courtyard center; the latest asking price is $839,000, down from $875,000 last spring. The property was a stop on houstonMod’s May Mod of the Month tour, which took place yesterday afternoon.

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Open House
01/13/17 10:45am

Lighting testing of 59 bridge

Upate, 4pm: The text has been updated to clarify the bridge’s color capabilities and include more info on current setup from the design firm.

Hazard St. Bridge Lighting TestsThe curvy crossings over Hwy. 59 east of Spur 527 have been caught on camera glowing at passing drivers this week as workers test out the new colored lighting systems. Sarah Gandy of Gandy² Lighting Design tells Swamplot that the plan is to have all 6 bridges lit nightly by the first week of February as the pre-Super Bowl hullaballoo ramps up, but that final tweaks and adjustments are still being made (as seen here).

Gandy tells Swamplot that the bridge’s color patterns are still being programmed, and that they’ll soon be capable of a full range of groovy multi-tone modes like those shown in renderings previously released by the Montrose Management District (shown below):

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Pre-Super Bowl Exhibition
09/07/16 4:15pm

Ashby Highrise Site, 1717 Bissonnet St. at Ashby St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston

The gates are wide open this afternoon at 1717 Bissonnet, notes Mike Bloom, who sends along a few pictures of today’s excavator-vs-concrete action at the scene. Some workers and some pipes can be seen hanging around as the operator cracks into a bit of former parking lot on the northwest corner (a survivor of the Maryland Manor demolition back in 2013).

And a permit related to foundation and sitework were issued this week, following the smattering issued for some electrical and fire line work back before June’s appeal ruling (which declared that the surrounding neighborhood can’t be awarded damages for a project that hasn’t actually been built yet.) Might some deeper digging be on the way?

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Stirrings at 1717 Bissonnet
09/02/16 4:45pm

4949 at 2132 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston, 77005

Former Sunrise Grocery at 2132 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston, 77005The land at the northeast corner of Shepherd Dr. and Bissonnet St. (not far down the street from closing-this-weekend Kay’s Lounge) has been sold to an entity using the La Porte corporate address of traditionally freeway-hugging Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen. The mid-1980s convenience store (formerly a Sunrise Grocery) and its 0.35 acre property were put on the market at the start of the summer; the sale closed a little over 2 weeks ago. Word through the NextDoor grapevine is that the building won’t be a Gringo’s, but might be replaced with a 3-story retail-office-space combo once the convenience store’s lease runs out around Halloween.

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2132 Bissonnet
07/20/16 1:30pm

BUCKHEAD: ASHBY HIGHRISE IS STILL HAPPENING, BUT THAT’S STILL NOT ITS NAME Ashby Highrise, 1717 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, HoustonChronicle reporters Nancy Sarnoff and Erin Mulvaney spend some time on this week’s Looped In podcast dissecting some circuitous answers from Matthew Morgan and Kevin Kirton, developers of the multifamily project commonly known as the Ashby Highrise (which, as Morgan is quick to point out, has never been dubbed anything other than 1717 Bissonnet except by neighborhood opposition campaigners). In the wake of Buckhead’s recent court appeal victory,  the duo of duos touches on the project’s permitting history with the city, the ambiguous but active state of current plans, and the unexpected financial and emotional tolls of pushing a project forward through an unprecedented decade of protests (ranging from giant personalized signage aimed at the pair to that grim reaper sighting on Bissonnet).  [Looped In Podcast from the Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of 1717 Bissonnet St.: Buckhead Investment Partners

07/01/16 10:00am

Ashby Highrise construction site, 1717 Bissonnet

Texas’s Fourteenth Court of Appeals overturned part of the previous decision on the Ashby Highrise case yesterday, declaring that no, the developers of 1717 Bissonnet don’t have to pay the tower’s would-be neighbors $1.2 million as compensation for property value losses. Nor do the highrise planners have to cover for all those legal fees incurred by the various stages of the case — the homeowners are back on the hook for those as well, along with all costs incurred by the appeal.

The judges declared that even if the property values in the nearby homes did decrease, and even if that decrease was because of the proposal for the highrise, the homeowners can’t ask for compensation for property value drops caused by mere plans for a future “nuisance” — damages can only be awarded after said “nuisance” actually exists.

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Potential Appeal
02/22/16 2:45pm

1638 Banks, Houston, 77006

An uncovered courtyard is the centerpiece of this former home of Astrodome and ex-Houston Post building architect Ralph Anderson, who designed the 1,805-sq.-ft. space and lived there leading up to his death in 1990.  The 2-bedroom 2-bath house features floor-to-ceiling windows and brick floors arrayed around the central atrium, which held a large tree until early last year.  The 1959 home, now housing a much smaller tree in a courtyard planter, went on the market a week and a half ago at $875,000.

The front door is set into a patterned concrete wall:

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A Tree Grows in Boulevard Oaks
12/03/14 4:45pm

5331-cherokee-02

5331-cherokee-01

Now approaching the Big 1-0, an artsy 2004 contemporary by architect Allen Bianchi has been on the market for a month (this time), bearing a $2,799,000 asking price. A previous listing in the summer of 2013 briefly sought $100K more for the property. The 5,595-sq.-ft. home is planted at the crossroads of Cherokee St. and Sunset Blvd., just north of Rice University. Houston’s headlining art museums are three-quarters of a mile to the east. The house of stucco, glass, and steel is itself a bit of a gallery.

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The South Side of the L