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

08/07/17 3:00pm

A section of John Nova Lomax’s new Texas Monthly essay on Montrose’s continuing “it was better in the old days” rap chronicles a sequence of prominent changes to the neighborhood from the last decade. That it’s possible to find at least one Swamplot story corresponding to each noted example speaks to the longterm vigilance of this site’s tipsters — if not the author’s research methods. (Lomax in fact wrote a few of our stories himself; he’s a former Swamplot contributor and editor.)

Here’s the passage, altered by a peppering with Swamplot links to provide an annotated and illustrated version of Montrose’s recent journey from former counterculture haven to . . . uh, former counterculture haven:

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You Were There
08/07/17 10:30am

THE DEATH, LIFE, AND CONTINUING OBITUARY OF MONTROSE, STILL TEXAS’S ‘COOLEST NEIGHBORHOOD’ Nostalgia for Montrose’s good old days as a counterculture hub has a history almost as long and involved as the neighborhood itself, curator of Houston lore John Nova Lomax points out in a new essay for Texas Monthly. “I’ve heard generations of these death-by-gentrification declarations. Hippies might tell you it died around the time Space City! went under in 1972,” he writes (Lomax himself was “conceived in Montrose by hippie parents, in a house on the corner of Dunlavy and West Alabama.”) “There have almost always been laments about rising rents: In 1973, Montrose was featured in Texas Monthly’s third-ever issue, with folk singer Don Sanders fretting about a mass exodus of creative types brought on when area leases topped a whopping $100.” Since then, however, the losses have only mounted: “Gentility has encroached on Montrose from the snooty, River Oaks-lite Upper Kirby district to the west, while Midtown’s party-hearty bros have invaded from the east and north. Property taxes and rents have both skyrocketed; despite the oil downturn, it’s almost impossible to find a one-bedroom for less than $800 a month. Having gained more acceptance from society at large, the LGBT community has scattered to neighborhoods like Westbury and Oak Forest. Bohemians have fled to the East End, Acres Homes, and Independence Heights — the gentrified Houston Heights no longer an option — or have left Houston altogether.” [Texas Monthly] Photo of house across from Menil Park, 1999: Alex Steffler, via Swamplot Flickr Pool [license]

06/28/17 3:00pm

The latest of Gensler’s renderings of that midrise parking garage planned atop the recently evacuated location of nightclub and drag venue Meteor shows the structure rocking a swath of greenery in place of the decorative bicycles pictured across the facade in earlier drafts. Cara Smith reports in the Houston Business Journal this week that the garage is one of the projects that Gensler is “future proofing” — that is, designing with an eye to an eventual decline in Houston parking garage needs, whether spurred by the rise of self-driving cars or other shifts in transportation patterns. The firm was featured by Web Urbanist last month in an article discussing some of its other current garage projects, some of which are being outfitted with conversion-minded utility hookup spacing, as well as ceiling heights suited to something other than car stacking; modular features like easy-to-tack-on facades and removable ramps are also in the mix.

There appear to be 6 retail spots in the foot of the garage that will be ready for tenants before such time as the rest of the garage might hypothetically be repurposed (along with a slew of other spaces in the development, per Edge Realty’s leasing flier):

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Prepped for Obsolescence in Fourth Ward
06/27/17 3:30pm

Courtesy of a smartphone-bearing reader, here’s the scene from this morning on the often-quiet Montrose corner of Harold and Mulberry, directly across the street from the Bering Memorial United Methodist Church. The single-story brick bungalow dating from 1938 at 1502 Harold St. is a goner. Croix Homes has a permit to build a new house on the site.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Crushed in Montrose
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