A Swamplot reader sends the photo at top showing new Korean barbecue signage up on the Louisiana and Elgin St. spot that Holley’s Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar left in late 2017, following a 4 year run inside. The inbound chain has most of its restaurants in southern California, with additional locations in Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, and the north Dallas suburb of Carrollton.
Any and all rumblings you may have heard coming from inside the former Greensheet building on Main St. lately should have now ceased, at least for a little while: Demolition and abatement inside the 5-story structure are done and the architects at Metalab studio are thinking over a redo of it that’ll include “creative office space” and “probably retail, food and drink on the ground floor,” writes the firm’s principal Joe Meppelink (adding that before Greensheet moved in, the 1955 structure was occupied by IBM.) That roster of tenants should feel right at home next to the other mixed-use buildings that Australian developer Caydon has said it plans to build between the former Greensheet building and the condo tower — dubbed The Midtown — that it topped out earlier this month 2 blocks to the south, between Drew and Tuam streets.
Inside, the upper-story windows of the office building frame a view of the upper-Midtown skyline:
Just because the St. Joseph’s Professional Building isn’t getting a pair of massive exterior arms doesn’t mean it isn’t getting some of the more, um, professional building upgrades you might expect to see in an office structure. Boxer Property CEO Andrew Segal tells Swamplot that the company — which bought the building last year — is adding wine storage to its basement and plans to start work soon on a restaurant for its ground floor. It’ll go at the base of the red brick podium where a couple of cherry-pickers have been spotted in recent months shoring up deteriorating portions of the brickwork. (In place of the illuminated crosses Boxer removed from the building’s upper facades about a year ago, some sort of “fun graphic” is still planned, according to Segal.)
On the 8th story — part of which is shown above — new collaborative office space and adjacent amenities have already cropped up:
The interior is dark and the patio umbrellas drawn tight at Bagby St. bar Sterling House where there’s been “no business activity for over 2 weeks,” reports a vigilant Swamplot tipster. Absent the drinking crowd, the structure’s gone back to looking a bit more like it did before trading up its run-down domestic existence for entry into the Midtown bar scene in 2016. In order to effect the switch-up, workers gutted and largely reconstructed the building, adding a fire escape onto its south facade and new fencing around its outskirts. They also extended the upstairs porch to hug the entire second-story of the building. (Previously, it ended at the edge of the canopy shown on the left, above the business’s dangling signage.)
The house’s namesake: Ross S. Sterling, co-founder of Humble Oil Company and, later, Governor of Texas from 1931 to 1933. He never actually owned 3015 Bagby St.; members of his family did. And even with the recent renovations, it’s a long way off from that other white house (9 bedrooms, 15 baths) he’s remembered for over in La Porte across the Ship Channel from his Baytown factory.
Last year, Boxer Property told reporters it wanted to do something “iconic” with the St. Joseph’s Professional Building along the Pierce Elevated. Well, how about this idea: bringing the 18-story Midtown office building to life by attaching 2 massive, swinging arms to its east and west sides. Boxer engaged The Art Guys (Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth) shortly after purchasing the building in September 2017 to make it happen. They worked on the project in secret, dubbing it The Walking Building. It had an estimated budget of $2.8 million.
Alas, the vision of a giant robotic pedestrian attempting to cross a busy section of I-45 into Downtown was not to be. Boxer informed The Art Guys 2 months ago that it would no longer pursue the project.
The arms would have swung back and forward roughly once a minute, making for a somewhat leisurely gait:
Ever notice that the Wheeler-Ave. side of the Midtown Sears (shown above) doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the building? It’s become even clearer since all that beige metal cladding was stripped off the structure earlier this year. Upon its removal, the biggest revelations were cascading green, red, and blue art-deco tile mosaics (shown here) running from top to bottom on every side of the building, except the Wheeler one, where the array of facade openings pictured at top are a bit less architecturally refined despite their prominent positions overlooking crosstown traffic.
So, what gives? Well, it turns out that Sears’s south side wasn’t all that visible when the building opened in 1939. Back then, Wheeler was just a narrow side street off Main and did not flow directly into Richmond as it does now, explains Preservation Houston’s Jim Parsons. Richmond, a much larger thoroughfare, also dead-ended into Main St., across from the Sears and just north of where Wheeler began. You can see the missed connection in the 1950 street map above.
It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the 2 streets were joined through a partial annexation of the Delman Theater property at 4412 Main, catty-corner southwest of the Sears:
ESCAPE ROOM CHAIN NOW GETTING SETTLED IN MID MAIN LOFTS
The latest tenant cropping up in the Mid Main Lofts’ Main-St. side: Project Panic, a 3,395-sq.-ft. escape room venue. Judging from the size and layout of the chain’s other Houston location at Fry Rd. and Park Row Dr. — home of zombie-apocalypse-, ski-resort-, abandoned-school-, and hospital-themed challenges — the new spot will probably house multiple rooms. It’s going in between KuraRevolving Sushi Bar’s corner restaurant off Holman St. and the recently-opened URBN Dental office a few doors south of it. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of Mid Main Lofts’ ground floor: LoopNet
This recent aerial survey of Australian developer Caydon’s 357-unit Fannin St. apartment tower between Drew and Tuam streets shows just how much it now sticks out from the rest of Midtown’s surrounding flatlands, the buffer between Downtown and the Med Center. Though the apartment’s planned 27 stories aren’t complete yet, it’s already one-upped everything in the nearby building-scape — most dramatically, the tiny park structures that occupy the superblock on the other side of Main St.
And there’s more where that came from: The developer still plans to get started on 2 more adjacent towers — in place of the departing Art Supply store and on the block that’s bounded by McGowen, Fannin, Dennis, and Main streets. Both will include all kinds of street-level retail (depicted in renderings that have now been scrubbed from the internet) and should begin rising after the apartments going up now are complete.
With the former Shelor Motor Company building at 1621 Milam St. all but doomed to meet the wrecking ball, historian Stephen Fox digs through some old Chronicle clips to remind us that there’s still a few other old car dealerships lurking down south in Midtown. Sure, they may not be as pedigreed as the ill-fated building to the north, but get this: One of them still sells cars! It’s Midtown Cadillac at the corner of Main and McGowen streets, shown at top. Architect Harvin C. Moore — the brains behind more than 84 homes in River Oaks, as well as Rice University’s chapel — designed it for Sam White Oldsmobile (pictured above), which opened inside in the early 1950s, according to Fox. Sam White and its successor Rice-Menger occupied the building until 1985. It’s been a Cadillac dealership since Don Massey took it over in 1999, followed by Stewart and then Central in 2012.
Catty corner to it, Midtown seafood spot REEF was originally a dealership, too. Built in 1952, the building opened as Smith Chevrolet Co.:
The map above shows the land (in red) that Rice is confirmed to have grabbed around the Midtown Sears (orange) it bought out last October, including 2 new parcels (green) it snatched up through holding companies within the last few months. In an email sent out to university staff on Monday, Rice U. President David Leebron said the school “will ultimately redevelop approximately 14 acres of Rice-owned property,” near the Sears building into what it’s calling the Midtown Innovation District. So what are the latest spots it’s gotten its hands on? The first, catty-corner to the Sears building itself at the corner of Wheeler and San Jacinto, is Jack in the Box‘s nearly half-acre lot; Rice bought it in August.
More recently, the school pushed east by picking up 4201 Caroline St., the brick office building shown below that occupies a quarter-acre directly next to Fiesta:
Spotted on the Instagram story for a not-yet-open venue calling itself The Gypsy Poet: TABC signage going up where it plans to move into Core Church Midtown‘s former home at 2404 Austin St. It’s the fifth liquor-purveying establishment planned for the block — bounded by McIlhenny, Austin, McGowen, and Caroline streets — in the past year-and-a-half, none of which are open yet. But which together have now succeeded in reserving almost all of the space there for themselves.
According to its pastor Jim Stern, Core Church had been negotiating to move into a smaller spot at the back 2404 when the landlord tabled that option and switched its current lease over to a month-to-month agreement. Shortly after, in mid-February, the church was given 60 days to hit the road. It left in mid-March. “I am wondering if we were ‘pushed’ out because of the bars,” Stern tells Swamplot.