06/20/17 11:15am

You may remember that the scootin’ of Texas Junk Company and its boot collection out to Moulton, TX, started up early last fall; while the snake-bedecked garage structure on Welch St. at Taft has been pretty much closed since last November, the building itself was finally marked as up for lease over the weekend, a reader tells Swamplot. That’s following in the wake of April’s sale of the property to a corporate entity bearing the Texas Junk Company name in county records — but tracing back address-wise to the owner of nearby Fairview St. bar Boheme. (The Boheme folks also appear to have purchased the 2-story brick building across Welch to the north in 2013 — and were previously purported to be working on Brewheme Brewery about 6 blocks to the southeast at 2505 Mason St.) The city okayed a permit for some reroofing work in April as well.

Photo: MontroseResident

Junk Co. Refurbishment
06/19/17 2:30pm

YOU WON’T HAVE THE MENIL COLLECTION TO KICK AROUND FOR MOST OF NEXT YEAR Are you one of those architecturally sensitive types who has long suspected that the worn, squishy pine floorboards of Renzo Piano’s Menil Collection building were meant to serve as some sort of metaphor for the tenuous and uncertain nature of Houston’s oft-muddy groundplane? (Plus, they’ve got those underfloor AC registers interrupting it every few yards.) Well, good for you! — but tough luck: Beginning late next February, reports Molly Glentzer, the building will close for 8 months so that those well-worn floors can be refinished. Why should the job take so long? “The staff will continue to operate as usual from the upstairs offices, but some gallery walls will have to be dismantled and the collections shifted through the building during the sanding and finishing process.” Come November 2018, will the experience of walking through the museum be just as exquisitely unstable as it is now? Maybe not: “The leveling mechanisms under the wooden air-conditioning grills in the floor are also being upgraded,” Glentzer warns. Hurry and visit now, while it’s all still worn and creaky! [Houston Chronicle] Video of Sosie Merritt stomping on Menil floors, 2009: Brandon & Kristen Merritt [license]

06/15/17 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THERE’S MORE MONEY IN HISTORY “First of all, this really doesn’t make much difference, as the original art moderne lines of this center were destroyed several years ago with the addition of gun turrets on the corners of the buildings. What I do find interesting is that Weingarten talks about the alterations as being financially responsible decisions to their shareholders. Yet this is the 3rd oldest intact shopping center in the US, and the only two that predate it, AFAIK, are Highland Park Village in Dallas and Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Both of those have owners that have restored them to essentially their original designs and have enjoyed much increased property values. In the case of Highland Park Village, Henry S Miller (a Dallas developer) bought HP Village in the later ’70’s as it was very run down and dumpy, and had the foresight to restore its original Spanish Colonial design and garner a better tenant mix. Though his company no longer owns it, HP Village commands far higher square foot rents than River Oaks Shopping Center. All this is to say that if Weingarten had invested money in restoring their property 10-15 years ago, they probably would have a more valuable asset today.” [ShadyHeightster, commenting on The Other River Oaks Shopping Center Knockdown Hearing Scheduled for This Week] Rendering of proposed alterations to River Oaks Shopping Center, 1997 West Gray St.: Aria Group Architects for Weingarten Realty Investors

06/14/17 11:15am

Across and a little bit down the street from the site where the company proposes to tear down an already altered section of the River Oaks Shopping Center and erect a 29-story apartment tower with 2 floors of underground parking, Weingarten Realty has more plans to make changes to the landmark art deco center. At the corner of West Gray and McDuffie, the company wants to tear down the 2-story western end of the south half of the 1948 section of the shopping center — which now houses a California Pizza Kitchen and the remains of the Evolve Fitness Studio upstairs (and was previously the site of a Birraporetti’s with Sherlock’s Pub above it) — and reconstruct the section as a 12,730-sq.-ft. Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille with significantly taller first and second stories.

The design, by Chicago’s Aria Group Architects, “will maintain historical features” of the building at 1997 West Gray St., the submitted plans (PDF) explain. But not exactly in the same order. Stick-on stone facing was stuck onto lower portions of this section of the art deco structure in 2007 when it was given a new stucco-batter coating and turned into a CPK; the new design shows a tall curved panel of limestone wrapping the corner, but this time on the higher second floor, suspended above a rebuilt portion of the center’s signature curved soffit.

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Raising Perry’s Steakhouse
06/13/17 1:30pm

FINGER COMPANY POKES INTO THE MONTROSE DISTRICT LAWSUIT FRAY A corporate appendage of the Finger Companies has filed a document to add itself as a plaintiff to one of the lawsuits trying to shut down the Montrose Management District, Nancy Sarnoff reports this week for the Chronicle. The company’s Museum Tower along Montrose Blvd. sits a few blocks south of US 59 in a narrow south-pointing offshoot of the district’s boundaries, making it one of the property owners assessed a regular tax; Sarnoff writes that Finger’s new filing zeroes in on that 2016 petition to dissolve the district, which proponents say has garnered signatures from property owners of about 80% of the district’s land area; the filing claims that the district has been trying to invalidate individual signatures in an effort to bring that total back down below the required threshold for dissolution. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Museum Tower

03/14/17 11:30am

Shopping Center at Westheimer Rd. at Montrose Blvd., Montrose, Houston, 77006Shopping Center at Westheimer Rd. at Montrose Blvd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Swamplot’s elevated tipster with an eye on the Westheimer Rd. scene — just east of the Montrose Blvd. Smoothie King — sends some update shots this morning of the ongoing construction of a planned Ruggles-replacing restaurant-retail combo, half of which looks slated for fill-in by a Velvet Taco branch. The Dallas chain will take over a 1-and-a-half story piece of the center, next to the areas highlighted in orange above; Edge Realty is currently leasing the rest of the space in the center, which will attempt to hide some of its parking from prying sidewalk eyes:

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Grill Gone Gray
03/02/17 3:00pm

2901 S. Shepherd Dr., WAMM, Houston, 77006

1618 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006The body-oriented retail strip across from the recently browned-out Alabama Theater has just swapped second-or-more-hand clothing retailer Buffalo Exchange into the spot by Kipling St. last occupied by Centre Fitness Fusion, a reader notes. (Centre Fitness took over from Orange Shoe Fitness, which itself succeeded bike shop and implicit fitness purveyor Cycle Spectrum.) Buffalo Exchange joins Epique Massage next to Darque Tan, separated only by a driveway and some parking spots from Demeris Bar-B-Q.

And what of the old Buffalo Exchange spot, recently spotted sporting a variance request notice out front?

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Fashion Recycler Recycling
02/16/17 12:45pm

Rendering of 528 Westheimer Rd., Avondale, Houston, 77006

Construction in August on Paul Qui's Aqui, 520 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006The pointy building rendered above (and shown here as well in an intermediate building stage last year, as construction began at 520 Westheimer Rd.) has just been confirmed this week as the planned site of Paul Qui’s rumored Houston restaurant, to be called Aqui. The depiction of the restaurant by lower-case Austin design firm a parallel architecture (the same firm that designed Qui’s then-eponymous spot in Austin) was spotted by a reader at the site early last March, shortly before Qui picked up a couple of drug and assault misdemeanor charges which tacked a question mark onto the timeline of future plans and openings.

Following the chef’s rehab stint, Qui Restaurant in Austin has since closed and reopened as Kuneho; the self-described former-drug-dealer-turned-James-Bearded-Top-Chef-champ hinted at his connection to the building at 520 Westheimer on social media a few days ago. The spot is wedged between Indika and The Cat Doctor.

Images: a parallel architecture (rendering), Swamplot inbox (photo)

Here’s Aqui
01/17/17 10:45am

Hamburger Mary's Houston ad

The latest ad for the in-the-works Houston franchise of restaurant and periodic drag venue Hamburger Mary’s includes a collection of cartoonified downtown landmarks (among them Pennzoil Place and Bank of America Center), with an Astrodome tacked onto one side of the abbreviated skyline for good measure. As to where exactly the restaurant and bar is settling in — what with the old Mary’s spot already taken, and all — permits have been issued for the Converse St. end of the strip center at 2409 Grant St., a block east of Montrose Blvd. That’s where not-safe-for-work clothing and accessories shop Hollywood Super Center previously operated, before moving next door into the former Hollywood Investments & Realty space):
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Marys of Avondale
01/13/17 10:45am

Lighting testing of 59 bridge

Upate, 4pm: The text has been updated to clarify the bridge’s color capabilities and include more info on current setup from the design firm.

Hazard St. Bridge Lighting TestsThe curvy crossings over Hwy. 59 east of Spur 527 have been caught on camera glowing at passing drivers this week as workers test out the new colored lighting systems. Sarah Gandy of Gandy² Lighting Design tells Swamplot that the plan is to have all 6 bridges lit nightly by the first week of February as the pre-Super Bowl hullaballoo ramps up, but that final tweaks and adjustments are still being made (as seen here).

Gandy tells Swamplot that the bridge’s color patterns are still being programmed, and that they’ll soon be capable of a full range of groovy multi-tone modes like those shown in renderings previously released by the Montrose Management District (shown below):

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Pre-Super Bowl Exhibition
12/20/16 10:45am

Montrose Management District marker, W. Dallas at Montrose

Montrose Management District marker, W. Dallas at MontroseThe Montrose Management District reports that the first of its shiny new neighborhood marker signs went up over the weekend at Montrose Blvd. and Dallas St., despite the recent movement in the ongoing lawsuit between the organization and the group of property owners petitioning to dissolve it. The case, which was filed in 2012, is still open, though the judge recently filed a handful of findings and judgment documents stating that not all of the signatures that went into forming the district were valid, and that the agency must pay back the $6.5 million it’s collected since then. The district has said it has no plans to do that any time soon, and intends to keep on keepin’ on until any appeals wrap up, which could be years from now.

The signage is part of the sundry prettification projects the district has planned for the neighborhood, which include redoing the colored lighting on the bridges over US 59 — thanks to a funding assist from the city, TxDOT, and the Houston Galveston Area Council:

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Sightings on W. Dallas
12/13/16 11:15am

SCENES FROM A PUBLIC-ISH MEETING OF THE MONTROSE MANAGEMENT DISTRICT Montrose District Bike Houston Bike Rack, Montrose, HoustonYesterday’s mid-day Montrose Management District monthly meeting involved a good deal of waiting around, Nancy Sarnoff reports, as more than a dozen of the Montrose property owners who signed the most recent petition to dissolve the district showed up to chat publicly with the organization’s board members. Some of the owners who had planned to speak reportedly left before doing so, however, as the board started the meeting with a closed executive session that the group’s past agendas and meeting minutes imply usually happens near the end of the monthly sessions. Sarnoff writes that once the board opened the meeting back up for public comments, “many of those who spoke made a similar plea: ‘Accept my petition or drop me from the assessment rolls.‘” A rep from the district says the recent court findings that some of the district’s founding documentation is invalid won’t cause any changes in the organization’s immediate plans (nor cause them to return any of that collected $6.6 million) until any upcoming appeals are finalized; while a final judgment document has been signed in the current case in the 333rd District court, the proceedings are still technically ongoing, as the MMD filed a document last week asking the judge to please change his mind. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of bike rack in Montrose: Montrose Management District

12/01/16 11:00am

Montrose Management District boundaries

Montrose District Bike Houston Bike Rack, Montrose, HoustonA judge in Texas’s 333rd district court signed off on a finding this week siding with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that the Montrose Management District has been illegally levying taxes within its boundaries (shaded in blue above). Per state law the district only needed 25 signatures from would-be affected property owners to form in 2011; the case went to court back in 2012 after around 988 other property owners within those boundaries signed petitions to shut the district down.

The court’s freshly filed judgement document says that the formation of the district required the initial sign-on of 25 property owners who would be subject to the taxation by the new district; the court ruled that although the district did have 26 signatures, 3 of those folks weren’t actually taxed for all of the years the district has been in operation — dropping the number of valid signatures down to 23, and rendering the basis for the district’s authority moot. The judge also says the district must now pay back the money collected so far — around $6.59 million.

Map and photo: Montrose Management District

Taxing Outcome