06/14/13 3:00pm

Houston builders Westin Homes seems to be expanding into the luxury replica spaceship playhouse market — at least this summer, anyway, hooking up with HomeAid Houston to imagineer something like what you see here and display it this June and July at Minute Maid Park. (That’s Astros mascot Orbit peeking out, as though a tad reluctant to deboard.) Of course, the playhouse isn’t just for show: It’ll be raffled off, with proceeds going to HomeAid, and it’ll eventually find its way to someone’s backyard, where the lucky winners will enjoy its

. . . space-themed amenities such as a cockpit complete with swivel seats, ‘rocket booster’-framed windows, a 32” wall mounted LCD TV, an XBox, an MP3 player, an iPod docking station with speakers and interior detailing . . . air conditioning and electricity.

It doesn’t appear that the playhouse will be suitable for actual space travel — but there’s always next year. (As Astros fans well know.) Most recently, the nonprofit HomeAid started construction on those 8 single-mothers’ duplexes on W. Bellfort in Meyerland on St. John’s Presbyterian property.

Rendering: Westin Homes via HomeAid Houston

12/09/09 2:41pm

What’s getting in the way of county commissioners extending the clear zone around Minute Maid Park with a much-needed 27-car county parking lot at the corner of Texas Ave. and Austin St.? Well, there was the owner of a Galena Park chemical business who shouted from the back of the room at yesterday’s commissioners court hearing that he wanted to buy the building sitting on that land — the 1923 Hogan-Allnoch Dry Goods Building at 1319 Texas Ave. — and turn it into a nutcracker factory or something. Plus, darn it, the building is getting less valuable as time goes by!

The building has gone to auction twice. In 2007, the minimum bid was set at its appraised value of $3.25 million. For a September auction, the appraised value was lowered to $1.98 million. There were no takers at either auction.

Lawrence Chapman of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance said the most recent auction used an outdated 2008 appraisal and that a new appraisal would bring in an even lower price tag that could save the four-story building from demolition.

Art Storey, the county’s public infrastructure director, estimated the building would cost $150,000 to demolish, but as much as $5 million to restore.

And so the latest delay: Commissioners voted to circle the block for another 3 months — and get another appraisal in the meantime.

Photo: Flickr user telwink [license]