07/06/17 10:30am

THE NATIONWIDE MCMODERN INVASION HAS BEGUN, AND THE UPPER KIRBY AND GREENWAY PLAZA AREA IS ITS GROUND ZERO “The typical McMansion follows a formula: It’s large, cheaply constructed, and architecturally sloppy,” writes Kate Wagner on Curbed. “Until around 2007, McMansions mostly borrowed the forms of traditional architecture, producing vinyl Georgian estates and foam Mediterranean villas.” But Wagner, who regularly dissects and ridicules the housing type on her McMansion Hell Tumblr page, notes that McMansion purveyors of late have increasingly begun borrowing, distorting, misunderstanding, and enlarging aspects of a newer type of home. “We are witnessing the birth and the proliferation of modernist McMansions: McModerns,” she writes. Where can we find these sleek new specimens? “In cities, McModerns are frequently constructed in rapidly gentrifying areas, such as the Greenway/Upper Kirby neighborhood in Houston, where $1 million, five-to-10-bedroom, builder-designed McModerns have been increasingly sprinkled among houses selling for $200,000 to $700,000: an earmark of speculation based on the increasing land values brought by rabid development.” [Curbed] Photo of 3003 Ferndale St.: HAR

06/06/17 3:00pm

THE UNDERAPPRECIATED RICHES OF HOUSTON’S ANTIQUE SET “Someday,” antique dealer and appraiser David Lackey muses to intrepid radio reporter Allison Lee, “the Millennials . . . may be horrified when their children want mahogany furniture and doilies and figurines.” But for now, Lackey seems resigned to the great generational decline — and accompanying price drops — in the market for antique furniture: “There are half as many antique shows in Houston as there were 20 or 30 years ago,” he tells Lee. “Traditional English and American furniture, overall, has fallen maybe 50 to 75 percent.” Lackey operates his business out of the Antiques of River Oaks antiques megashop (pictured above) in the home-furnishings-themed shopping center at 3461 W. Alabama north of Greenway Plaza, but he’s also out and about, soaking up the zeitgeist: “I go into more estates — or I’m working with older people and they’re selling a lot of their stuff because they say their kids and grandkids do not want it. They’ve made it very clear. The younger generation, for the most part, is not very interested in formal candlelight suppers. They don’t want silver, china, crystal, because they don’t intend to entertain that way.” [Houston Public Media] Photo: David Lackey Antiques & Art  

06/01/17 11:30am

A couple of projects on the near and more distant horizons at the corner of Weslayan and W. Alabama turned a reader’s head this week as he passed by the short-skirted base of the 2929 Weslayan highrise. To the west, a sign posted alongside the parking lot of the half-moon-footed 2900 Weslayan office midrise bears a rendering of a new retail building PMRG is planning for the site. A few more views of the 6,500-sq.-ft. project make a somewhat rosy appearance in the new leasing materials for the space:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Sneaking Some Peeks
05/22/17 12:30pm

The pointy glass Gardens of Bammel Lane conservatory isn’t the only structure on the block southeast of Bammel Ln. and Earl St. getting picked up and hauled elsewhere as part of the block’s cleanout for the 26-story Villa Borghese condo highrise. A handful of Cherry House Moving trailers were spotted on the site this weekend, hanging around and under several of the bungalows on the block (which date between 1900 and 1950 per the county’s records, and were used most recently as commercial spaces). As of Saturday, the conservatory structure (shown above in wedding attire) had already departed the site (presumably headed for its new home at the Madeley Gardens events space in Conroe).

Some of the bungalows have already been shuffled around on the block. The former law office at 2714 Sackett St. was spotted stripped of its hedge and address markers, with a moving trailer poking out from beneath the front porch:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Upper Kirby Shuffle
03/27/17 3:00pm

Houston City Club, 1 City Club Dr., Greenway Plaza, Houston

Houston City Club, 1 City Club Dr., Greenway Plaza, Houston

The Houston City Club, best known to passersby as that parking-garage-like building tucked deep in Greenway Plaza across Norfolk St. from Lakewood Church — and to members and guests as perhaps the best indoor tennis venue in the city — will be shutting down forever on June 12th. On the sorta-main-entrance side off City Club Dr. between Edloe and Timmons, the athletic club and event venue has this classic view onto the Greenway Plaza plaza between office buildings Greenway 9 and 11:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Club Turnover of a Life Time
03/23/17 12:00pm

Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

More angles on the ongoing obliteration of structures at the freshly former Exxon Upstream Research facility on Buffalo Spdwy. at W. Alabama St. come this week from one of reader MontroseResident’s more elevated perches. The most prominently visible act of deconstruction has been the shattering breakup of the parking garage in the campus’s northwest corner, due south of the now-mostly-reskinned River Oaks Luxury Apartments midrise on Westheimer (which was stripped down to the slabs in the last 2 years for retooling as The River Oaks condo tower, visible below on the far left):

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Crushing on Buffalo Spdwy.
02/28/17 11:30am

Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Pieces of the fencing surrounding the MacKie and Kamrath-designed ExxonMobil Upstream Research facility on Buffalo Spdwy. were spotted sprawled out on the grass yesterday along the campus perimeter after being plucked from their stations; more barriers are getting yanked up this morning, as seen in the second shot above. The property (which appears to have been transferred to the nonprofit Exxon Foundation in 2015 after the oil giant’s plans to offload the site were announced) was  sold this month to an entity directing its mail to real estate investment and development firm Spear Street Capital. A couple of readers report that other major shuffling around and cleaning out appear to have been going on at the facility for at least the last few weeks, with vehicles bearing the Precision Demolition logo making periodic guest appearances on the scene.

Across W. Alabama St. from the building’s more curvaceous end, the spot occupied until early last year by the empty shell of honky tonk Blanco’s has since been filled in with athletics stuff for St. John’s School:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Exxon Exit
01/04/17 4:15pm

Harlow's in Edwards Grand Palace 24, 3839 Weslayan St., Greenway Plaza, Houston, 77027

Harlow's in Edwards Grand Palace 24, 3839 Weslayan St., Greenway Plaza, Houston, 77027Tilman Fertitta’s Harlow’s Food & Fun arcade-bar-restaurant, located since the mid-aughts inside the southwest corner of the Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24 on Weslayan St., is now closed forever, a woulda-been visitor reports. The entertainment-complex-within-an-entertainment-complex shut down by New Year’s Eve, and signage has already been pulled from the main entrance (though the explanatory yellow placard shown here is still visible behind the space’s security grate at the other entrance). The Harlow’s website has already been scrubbed and redirected to the main Landry’s page; some folks operating out of a Landry’s-branded pickup truck were spotted this afternoon cleaning up at the scene (above).

The signage on the Norfolk St. side of the theater has been removed as well:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Grand Palace Exit
09/08/16 1:00pm

The Conservatory, Gardens of Bammel Lane/Gardens of River Oaks, 2807 Bammel Ln., Greenway, Houston, 77098

Looks like the glassy structure above will be jumping gardens, per the announcement last week from the wedding venue formerly known as the Gardens of Bammel Lane (which took the new name Gardens of River Oaks late in July). The conservatory building will head north to the Gardens at Madeley Manor in Conroe once the Bammel Ln. venue shuts down in December. The rest of the garden’s structures and landscaping will likely be removed by less delicate means to make way for the planned 26-story Villa Borghese highrise, depicted below with Downtown peeking over its shoulder from the east:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Conservatory Conservation
02/26/16 3:00pm

Demolition of Solvay America Building, 3333 Richmond, Greenway Plaza, Houston, 77098

A reader caught a glimpse of the 1992 Solvay America building taking some more nasty blows from a demo crew out back behind the new 3737 Buffalo Spdwy. office tower south of the corner with Richmond Ave. (That’s the 2727 Kirby condo highrise glancing over at the scene from the right edge of the shot, while the distant Huntingdon tower looks away.) [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Lufti Rukab

Octa-goner
02/25/16 3:00pm

Demolition of Solvay America Building, 3333 Richmond, Greenway Plaza, Houston, 77098

A rainbow sheen hangs at the foot of the Solvay America building as it crumbles back into the 3333 Richmond Ave dust from whence it came. A reader sends the above shot of the newly-stripped structure getting the ol’ hose-and-wrecking-ball treatment just before high noon today. The 1992 office building had its demo permit issued in late December; the building’s garage got one yesterday, just in time to join in on the fun.

The soon-to-be-formerly 8-story building is backed up against the 18-story office tower at 3737 Buffalo Spdwy. which wrapped up construction in November. Solvay has already shifted its offices over into the upper stories of the new tower, making way for construction of that 20-story hotel-slash-apartment highrise that was planned for the demolished building’s spot.

Meanwhile, the grove of oak trees northwest of the new construction seem to have weathered the construction as intended, and now stars prominently in PM Realty Group’s leasing brochure: 

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Breaking News
06/23/15 12:30pm

Prince's Hamburgers, 3899 Southwest Fwy., Houston

Prince's Hamburgers, 3899 Southwest Fwy., HoustonYou can see the “SORRY WE’RE CLOSED” sign on the door at Prince’s Hamburgers at the end of the feeder-road-facing shopping center at 3899 Southwest Fwy. in the photo at the top, sent to Swamplot by a reader. This Prince’s near Weslayan hasn’t been open for about a month, but the local chain still lists the location on its website, and at least one employee at another location was told by a manager that the site will reopen soon. Meanwhile, the Chronicle‘s Syd Kearney appears still to be waiting for a call back from the company’s management for info on the closure. All equipment inside appears to have been removed, a passer-by tells Swamplot.

Photos: Joe Carl White (door); Prince’s Hamburgers (store)

Toast
05/28/15 4:30pm

FLOOD NIGHT AT THE EDWARDS CINEMA GREENWAY PARKING GARAGE Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24, 3839 Weslayan St., Greenway Plaza, HoustonSUV-deprived Woodland Heights resident Mimi Swartz explains how she and her husband came to spend the very wet night of May 25th reclined in the front seats of their Honda Civic in the parking garage of the Edwards Greenway Grand Palace 24 at 3839 Weslayan St. — with a flank steak thawing in the wayback. They were on their way to a dry, refrigerator-equipped hideaway at the Hotel Derek when a stalled train and some high water blocked their tracks: “Next thought: About 0.7 miles to the south was a multiplex. We could catch a late show. Afterward, surely, the rain would have stopped and the water receded. If not, this place at least had covered parking. All during the 10:45 show of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ — four other rain-soaked refugees had had the same idea — I couldn’t help thinking that if we’d had a truck like that of Charlize Theron’s character, I’d be asleep in bed instead of wondering how someone had managed to digitize her arm out of every shot. By 12:45 a.m., the rain had not stopped. For a while, we stood in the parking garage beside the car, and I tried to snap cellphone photos of the lightning. The street below us displayed an impressive current. Finally, John and I got in the car and put the seats back as flat as they would go. Thirty years ago, this would have been exciting.” [NY Times] Photo: Cinema Treasures

04/24/15 4:30pm

FOOD TRUCK GOING FOOD COURT The Rice Box Food Truck, HoustonNext venue for the 2-truck Chinese-food-about-town hotspot known as the Rice Box? A non-mobile location in the food court at 5 E. Greenway Plaza, Alison Cook reports: “[Owner John] Peterson has signed on Jim Herd’s Collaborative Projects to design a Rice Box Greenway prototype that will set it apart from its more conventional neighbors. Under a crimson sea of 80 Chinese lanterns (one of the visual totems on the original Rice Box truck), informal barstool seating will range across a counter overlooking oscillating video panels and a custom tea bar. The menu will appear on its own video screen. Red roof tiles from China have been ordered to construct an awning over the counter. ‘It’s one step closer to the White Dragon Noodle Bar,‘ jokes Peterson, referring to the Blade Runner food stand that was his visual inspiration for the Rice Box truck. (All he and Herd need to do is rig some kind of periodic rain showers.)” [Food Chronicles] Photo: The Rice Box