05/24/17 3:30pm

It doesn’t take effect until August — but a new sales permit looks to have been okayed last month for 160 W. Gray St., bearing the name The Ginger Man – West Gray. The Rice Village bar has previously established outposts in locales as far-flung as Austin, Dallas, and Plano (and claims a somewhat looser connection to a trio of spots in New York and Connecticut), but a West Gray location would be the chain’s second spot inside the Loop(s). That spot, meanwhile, is still the home of Junction Bar & Grill, just north of the W. Gray Y with Webster St. — though the building itself (shown above) was listed for lease on LoopNet earlier this spring. Prior to the turn of the decade, the space previously went by The Wet Spot. 

A recent-ish photo from the lease listing (above) shows off the wrapping up of the Dolce Living apartments next door.  Not pictured, just beyond the duo of homes visible to the east below: the charred skeleton of Fuzzy’s Tacos, which was cleared out some time after its November flameout. 

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Midtown Fourth Ward Junction
05/23/17 1:00pm

The Dallas-based real estate and restaurant developers at Syn Hospitality Group are hoping to have a Houston branch of flag-slathered bar and restaurant America Gardens open later this year (as rendered above), part of their in-the-works Midtown Common development over on Caroline St. just north of McGowen. The group went after some early city approvals earlier this year to bundle together a handful of property parcels on the block into the edgy unreserved shape shown above. That footprint, mostly sticking along Caroline but stretching across to claim a bit of frontage on Austin St. as well, leaves out the buildings occupied by Core Church Midtown, which is squeezed between the auto and auto accessory pairing of Fast Traffic Auto Work and Austin Radio and Speedometer. 

The group has released a few renderings of the first planned restaurant’s red-white-and-blue-bedecked interior, as well as its large outdoor patio:

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Dallas Comes to Austin St.
05/18/17 1:30pm

A permit was issued yesterday to knock out some walls at the former medical clinic at 820 Holman St., remodeled back in 2015 into abbreviated-French-themed nightclub VrSi. The club (shown here as it looked in its early days) seems to have stopped promoting itself right after Mardi Gras, and a new business name for the address was registered with the county clerk’s office late last month: Holman Draft Hall. That new moniker is still connected to VrSi co-owner Andy Aweida, part of the group that owns nearby Wooster’s Garden and used to own those demolished Kirby funeral parlor bars; the same folks are also behind the Heights Bier Garten, which opened last month in the former Longhorn Motor Company spot on N. Shepherd (now full of parked picnic tables):

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Signs of Life on Holman St.
05/11/17 12:30pm

A siteplan and the latest renderings of Melbourne-based Caydon Property Group’s residential highrise, planned in place of the now-erased mental health building and lowrise mural canvas at 2850 Fannin St., show a bit more clearly how the 27-story structure might look amid its more squat Midtown neighbors (not counting that other highrise planned a few blocks down Main St.). The aerial view of the site shown here (tilted so that Main St. is horizontal, with Downtown off to the left) shows the building’s footprint in yellow, alongside the light-rail line and Midtown Park to the west.

One of the new drawings of the project also depicts what appears to be a closeup of the Drew St.-facing side of the building, with a good deal more than just the typical rendering entourage: the block across the street is shown with another multistory development in place of what’s currently a parking lot by the Art Supply on Main lowrise, and a section of the street itself is shown fully pedestrianized.

Neither of these changes make an appearance in any of the other zoomed-out renderings, however:

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Drawing Out Drew St.
05/10/17 3:30pm

In other grocery-apartment-midrise news, the 2-story hole for the below-ground parking component of the planned Pearl-branded apartment midrise with built-in Whole Foods looks to have touched bottom, and a tower crane on the site has reached its full height. Some of the construction site’s fence decorations have been swapped out with newer renderings, too — the latest drawings show a zoomier design and a new color scheme (this one falling more in the slatey-grey-brown range, compared to the doughy yellows picked out for the older drawings):

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Pearly Gates on Smith St.
04/13/17 1:30pm

Former Tree at Axelrad Beer Garden, 1517 Alabama St., Midtown, Houston, TX 77004Swapping in for the tubelight-bedecked elm that’s been standing in the middle of Axelrad Beer Garden at the corner of Almeda Rd. and Alabama St.: this way-past-sapling Shumard red oak, carefully trucked, tipped, and dropped into place earlier this week, as captured in the Yakety-Sax-tracked video montage above. The changeover comes at the end of the original tree’s years-long shuffle toward death, per the bar’s telling: the group was advised to evict the tree when they first started setting up the space — as it was already old, and had been hit pretty hard by that tire-revealing 2011 drought — but opted to keep it around for a few years instead.

Following a recent lightning strike from which it would never quite recover, the tree finally lost enough branches that the bar owners opted to put it out of its misery:

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Series of Tubes in Midtown
02/14/17 1:45pm

A diner catty-corner from Bagby Park yesterday evening captured the slow drama that unfolded as an in-transit temporary building was backed slowly up Bagby St. (at least maintaining the suggested orientation of the 1-way street, if not the intended direction of travel). The video above shows the building as it backs through the signalized intersection (to the audible distress of a would-be oncoming sedan), squeezes through the cars parked curbside (seemingly avoiding all vehicular scratches, but grazing a tree), then turns east down westbound Gray St. toward the eternally shining beacon of the St. Joseph Professional Building, accompanied in its wrong-way progress by an entourage consisting of a police escort, tow truck, and and a small excavator hitching a ride.

Video: Swamplot inbox

Temporary Night on the Town
02/10/17 2:45pm

Former City of Houston Code Enforcement Building, 3300 Main St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

Those Swamplot commenters who’ve been taking particular and unabashed pleasure in the long, slow demise of the former city code enforcement office at 3300 Main St. may also enjoy the shot above of the flooded pit spotted recently where the Mod office building once stood. Reader Diaspora (who sent in the photo late last week) suggests the site as potential competition for the folks behind the Houston Needs a Swimming Hole campaign, which Kickstartered a feasibility study a few years ago (and also passed around an illustration of an optimistically blue-watered bayouside beachfront, shown below):

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Lakes of Main St.
02/02/17 11:45am

Midtown Entry Portal work site, Brazos St. at I-45 and Pierce St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Midtown Entry Portal work site, Brazos St. at I-45 and Pierce St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

Some of the intermediate developmental stages of the pointy new hill between the Pierce Elevated and the old Mr. Peeples spot raised a few questions in the mind of a nearby reader (chief among them: whether the Midtown Redevelopment Authority was constructing an ark.) A few photos from last week (including the top shot above) showed what appear to be wooden forms heralding the pouring of a concrete landscaping wall. A set of new shots from this morning paint a more complete picture of the site, showing a cargo of several new trees now settled in place in the gentle concave curve behind the structured hill’s prow (as seen in the second shot above). Beyond the wall, the other side of the mound appears to have been dotted with ornamental grass:

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Piling It On Off Bagby
01/20/17 11:00am

Demo of former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building at 2850 Fannin St. and its many murals are now rubble, a reader notes. The shot above catches the destroyed structure next to Sebastien Boileau’s Preservons la Creation mural across the street on the back of 2800 San Jacinto St., juxtaposed with what appears to be some carefully timed oncoming traffic to add that dramatic glow to the painted figure’s outstretched spray paint can. The reader also caught one of the excavators climbing atop its defeated adversary earlier in the day, beneath the giant cross of the St. Joseph Professional Building:

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Cycles of Midtown
01/17/17 4:45pm

Demo of 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The building at 2850 Fannin St. (seen here across the Main St. light-rail tracks next to the recently gassed Art Supply building) has been split into pieces as of this morning. A reader on the scene caught sight (and footage, above) of several excavators simultaneously scraping away at the scene, with aid from a small bulldozer. Here’s a few more views of what was left of the structure and its extensive paint job:

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Parting Shots
01/13/17 5:15pm

Fannin at Dennis streets, Midtown, Houston, 77003

Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Before being shooed away by fire department folks near the corner of Dennis and Fannin streets around noon yesterday, reader and art blogger Robert Boyd managed to snap a shot of the hole dug recently along the sidewalk. “You might be able to see that the fire fighters were wearing gas masks,” Boyd notes, surmising that the digging was related to the gas lines for the under-deconstruction former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building building a block further south (shown above); the digging apparently also caused the gas leak that triggered the shutdown of several nearby streets for part of the day. Boyd reports that the folks in the Art Supply on Main building, located between the digging and the demo site, “were totally cut off for most of [the day]. HFD showed up and asked up all to stay inside — we could get out of our parking lot, but not back in.

The emergency crews departed mid-afternoon, shortly after Boyd snapped a more elevated shot of the fire engine (evocatively juxtaposed with a signal-red stop sign and a rare view of fall-esque Houston foliage):

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Sights and Scents of Dennis St.
01/12/17 3:45pm

Murals at former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The colorful faces behind the chain-link fencing surrounding the former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority building at 2850 Fannin St. have been joined this week by a few pieces of bright yellow knock-down equipment. Permits came through last week clearing the site for clearance in advance of a planned 27-story apartment highrise going by the name Main Midtown. The tower was okayed for a parking variance in late October, as part of which Australian developer Caydon Properties agreed to install over 200 bike spaces. 

The long-empty MHMRA structure got its last hurrah this fall when much of the street-level wallspace was painted over in tan, making way for new muralage. A nearby resident buzzed around the site recently taking some final snaps of the paintings (like the one featured at the top of the page) before the demo gets going in earnest — here’s a sampling below:

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Midtown Breakdown
01/12/17 11:30am

Midtown Entry Portal work site, Brazos St. at I-45 and Pierce St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

More signs of the Midtown Redevelopment Authority’s current 3-part landscaping project: the large hill being crafted where the long I-45 exit ramp into Pierce St. hits Brazos St. Bid documents for the project also mention landscaping walls, accent lighting, and decorative stone as part of the rest of the plan for the spot. The newly elevated site sits east across the I-45 offloader from the former home of high-gloss steak and seafood house Mr. Peeples, which shut down back in March. The Bagby-facing building, which served as a Boy Scouts of America office prior to the restaurant makeover, is still up for lease; a marketing flier advertises all 3 stories as up for grabs, along with the 8,702-sq.-ft. basement. Here’s the full frontal:

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Moving Up in Midtown
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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