12/05/17 3:30pm

There’s nothing left standing at Michelangelo’s Restaurant since its demolition yesterday — except for the tree that used to grow in its dining room, visible in the photo at top. The restaurant’s days had been numbered since March, when its owners sold the building and adjacent parking lot on Westheimer to a developer with plans to build a gym-anchored strip center.

The gym will be Houston’s first Spenga fitness studio, brought here by a Chicago-based chain that signed a 4,011-sq.-ft. lease for the replacement building’s entire second floor back in June. Here it is up above street level:

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Avondale
11/20/17 2:00pm

The metal dome situated street-side at the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral on the corner of Yoakum and Kipling for just under a month has been lifted and installed atop the church’s sanctuary. The photo at top shows the dome in its earthly state just over a week ago. Members of a crowd that watched its ascension early Saturday morning snapped pictures showing the half-sphere, now sheathed, being placed via crane on top of the metal dock that now exalts it:

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Annunciation Orthodox
11/01/17 4:15pm

Now sitting near the corner of Yoakum Blvd. and Kipling St. in place of the electronic sign for Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral: framework forming the new dome that will soon be mounted atop the structure’s sanctuary. The steel half-orb, meant to cap off a $12.5 million cathedral renovation and expansion project, has been under construction streetside since at least last week, as these pics submitted by Swamplot readers show:

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Annunciation Orthodox
10/30/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE TRIED THAT NO PARKING REQUIREMENTS THING BEFORE, IN AVONDALE “The urban fantasists who don’t believe in minimum parking should school themselves on the economic concept of the free rider and the common law concept of nuisance. They should also research a little of the history behind Houston minimum parking requirements. These regs did not emerge in a vacuum. I lived in Avondale, in Montrose, during the nineties, when it was home to no less than nine bars, multiple restaurants, and other adult businesses, all without parking and no parking requirements. Houston minimum parking requirements arose because of what was going on in Avondale and a few other neighborhoods inside the Loop. The patrons of these bars and restaurants did not and still do not live within Avondale. They all drove to Avondale because there was and is still no other way to get there. The bar owners did not provide parking, choosing instead to impose the costs of their patron parking on the city and the residents of Avondale (free rider). The patrons parked, imbibed, and then proceeded to be drunken asses all night disturbing the peace of the neighborhood (nuisance). Forcing the business owner to bear the costs of patron parking shifts the costs back to the business which benefits from the patronage. It is a reasonable requirement. It also alleviates the nuisance issue by keeping the drunks off the property of other businesses and residences.” [Jardinero1, commenting on Comment of the Day: What Parking Requirements for Bars Really Encourage] Illustration: Lulu

10/25/17 1:45pm

An intrepid mattress-store-monitoring reader notes that the Mattress 1 One (yeah, that’s how the company spells it out) in the northernmost spot of the strip center at S. Shepherd and W. Alabama across from CVS has closed down. Desperate mattress seekers need not worry, though: Plenty more outlets are available to pick up the slack. A note taped to the front door of the spot at 3101 S. Shepherd Dr., which despite the prominently placed Kensinger Donnelly FOR LEASE signs on the space insists that the location is only “closed for renovation,” directs would-be customers to the chain’s nearest still-open store: a full 3 blocks north on Shepherd, just south of Westheimer.

If that location doesn’t work for you, the Texas-and-Florida mattress chain lists a total of 16 Mattress 1 One locations within a 5-mile radius — though that includes the still-listed Shepherd-and-Alabama spot. And don’t forget competitor Mattress Firm, which has 18 locations of its own within that same area.

Photos: Margo

Mattrose
10/11/17 1:30pm

A half-decade after the demolition of its on-site predecessors, the retail building replacing the former Ruggles Grill at 903 Westheimer Rd. just east of Montrose Blvd. is almost complete. Going inside the new 6,536-sq.-ft. structure across from Uchi: a couple of Dallas imports.

On the right, on the side closer to the Smoothie King drive-thru, will go the first out-of-Dallas location of the East Hampton Sandwich Company chain. On the left, next to the side parking lot and the Woman’s Home’s Cottage Shop, will be the second Houston location of Velvet Taco. Sandwiched between them is a 1,120-sq.-ft. space that appears to be still available, according to leasing documents — perhaps for a third wheat-wrapped-lunch spot of north Texas origin.

A 57-spot parking lot wraps around and in back of the building:

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Dallas Comes to Montrose
10/09/17 10:45am

The anticipated departure of Hyde Park gift shop Corazon from its perch at the corner of Fairview and Waugh has been delayed by 3 months at least. Although the property it sits on has been sold to a new owner interested in building a trio of townhouses, demolition of the former smithy, antique store, and glass-blowing studio won’t take place this year: Corazon now has a new short-term lease that runs until December 31st and will convert to a month-to-month status after that.

If the lease does get extended for a few months into 2018, it’ll mark the store’s 20th anniversary at 2318 Waugh Dr. In either case, it’ll probably be an awkward extended goodbye: A clearance sale begun in August on the store’s current inventory of Lucha Libre masks, guyaberas, and other items from South and Central American artisan cooperatives is ongoing, but popular items will probably be restocked for the holiday season. The store’s owner is searching for a new location.

Photo: Corazon

Townhome Fodder
09/18/17 11:15am

The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.

The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:

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Silt Deposits
09/12/17 10:30am

Here, courtesy of a Swamplot reader, are a few exterior views of the building at 1318 Westheimer after its weekend fire. “The damage is pretty severe,” Shawn Bermudez wrote on Facebook Saturday evening. The owner of Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which shut down in this location last September, had been renovating the property in order to reopen it as a bar named Present Company. That work was a month from completion, Bermudez estimates. Among the additions to the former 1950s home: new steel doors and windows. And here’s a view showing the current state of the new piggyback patio added in back:

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Bar and Grill
09/08/17 5:00pm

WHAT THE HARVEY FLOODING DID TO BUFFALO BAYOU PARK “Please know that Buffalo Bayou Park was designed to flood, although we did not anticipate three historic flooding events in 1-1/2 years,” Buffalo Bayou Partnership president Anne Olson remarks drily in an email update this afternoon. So what’s the damage? “The bottom two thirds of the park are still under water, and we expect that they will remain so for several more weeks as water is released from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Due to these circumstances, it is difficult for our staff to assess the impact the flowing water has had on the footpaths and landscape in these areas. We do know that the Johnny Steele Dog Park, which is still submerged, will be closed for two or three months.” Water and sediment that flooded the Buffalo Bayou Cistern is still draining, slowly, but the electrical system installed when the long-hidden underground space was made available for tours and art installations appears to be working. The Wortham Fountain and the trail lighting system have been damaged, Olson reports. The Bayou City Adventures kayak kiosk at Lost Lake and the Bike Barn at Sabine St. has been shut down for the remainder of the year at least; areas east of the Sabine St. bridge are mostly still underwater. But Olson reports landscaped areas in the upper areas of the park, where trails have already reopened, survived with only a small amount of damage: “We are extremely fortunate that the Lost Lake and Wortham Insurance Visitor Centers did not take on water. Both facilities are open and the Kitchen at The Dunlavy is operating with normal hours. Food trucks also are back in the entry court at Sabine Street from Thursday-Sunday.” Update: The Bike Barn at Sabine St. has resumed normal hours as of September 9. [Buffalo Bayou Partnership] Photo: Adam Brackman.  

08/16/17 4:00pm

Maybe that for-lease sign up in the window at Tila’s Restaurante and Bar on the Shepherd Curve for the last few months worked: The restaurant closed for business on Sunday — after 20 years at the same location. Owner Tila Hidalgo reports on the restaurant’s Facebook page that her business was given 25 days notice to vacate the property at 1111 S. Shepherd Dr. — it will be out of the space entirely by the end of the month.

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Now on Wheels
08/10/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE HYDE PARK SALES AND CLEARANCE RUSH “My family moved out of Hyde Park four years ago, and it’s incredible how much the neighborhood has changed in that time. Yes, I know change is inevitable and can be for the better, but this neighborhood has changed at a breakneck pace. I’m pretty sure at least half of the houses/buildings along Commonwealth and Waugh have been torn down since we left (admittedly some of them really needed to go, given the terrible shape they were in). I guess this will be added to the heap.” [Courtney, commenting on Corazon Now Being Removed from Its Big Red Dot Spot at Waugh and Fairview] Photo of Corazon, 2813 Waugh Dr.: Margo

08/10/17 12:45pm

Corazon — your Hyde Park source for guayaberas, Lucha Libre masks, and other assorted crafty and gifty south-of-the-border imports — has lost its lease and will be leaving its longtime spot at the northwest corner of Waugh and Fairview within a month, store owner Chris Murphy reports. The 6,250-sq.-ft. lot it sits on, which includes a recently demolished property at 1410 Fairview, is now under contract after being marketed as a redevelopment site.

Corazon moved into its current home in 1998 — from a location in the former Gramercy Apartments on Montrose Blvd. across from Bell Park (where the Museum Tower now stands). The corner spot at 2318 Waugh Dr. has a craft-y history: Previously a furniture refinishing shop, the building reportedly earlier had gigs as an antique store, a glass-blowing studio, a general store, and a smithy. Murphy says he expects it to be demolished — and replaced with townhomes.

The structure is perhaps best known to passers-by, however, as a frame for the fifth-ever red dot, painted by Red Dot Boys (and former Houstonians) Robert Ramos and Rick Carpenter, as shown here in this undated image from the Red Dot Boys website:

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Folk Art History
08/09/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MONTROSE HASN’T EVEN HIT PUBERTY YET “I regularly walk around in Montrose. I’ve also been to many urban neighborhoods in the northeast which are as close to 100% gentrified as you can get. I’m talking Greenwich Village in NYC, Beacon Hill in Boston, Georgetown in DC. Montrose is not anywhere close to that level of gentrification. It won’t even be there in 20 years. Right now, you can still walk around Montrose and see loads of old 60s and 70s garden complexes with $700 a month apartments. There are plenty of trashy convenience stores, rundown strip malls, and vacant lots. And yes, there are still plenty of young artists and musicians who live in the area and hang out in areas like the Menil plying their craft. Any neighborhood where a lot on a major commercial street can sit vacant for over a year is not that gentrified yet. Okay, so yes. Montrose is obviously gentrifying. It’s different from how it was 20, 30, 40 years ago. That’s part of city life–places change, some people move out, other people move in. And eventually, maybe in a few decades, if Houston doesn’t get destroyed in a hurricane or become the next Detroit due to economic collapse, Montrose probably will become the kind of bland-ish upper crust West U-ish neighborhood people act like it already is. But here’s the reality: It’s not there yet, and it won’t be for quite awhile.” [Christian, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: The Creative Destruction of Montrose] Illustration: Lulu

08/08/17 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: THE CREATIVE DESTRUCTION OF MONTROSE “No one likes it when a fun edgy neighborhood like Montrose gentrifies. Seeing original funky local haunts replaced by chains and high end destinations is like losing an old friend. But this process of gentrification is actually good in the long run because each generation gets a new chance at building a home for the local counterculture. Without that cycle of displacement and rebirth, the counterculture becomes entrenched and turns into an establishment culture within the counterculture. Rising rents in Montrose pushed out lots of artists. But it also created demand for studio space that gave birth to the 1st Ward arts district and great new developments like the Silos. And the same dynamic is playing out for bars and clubs popping up all over the east side. The counterculture lives on and thrives when each generation has a chance to find their own voice by converting a forgotten part of the city into the next counterculture hub. In the end, the kids are alright. They just need a push out into the wilderness every few decades to keep things fresh.” [Old School, commenting on The Death, Life, and Continuing Obituary of Montrose, Still Texas’s ‘Coolest Neighborhood‘] Illustration: Lulu