- 708 W. Clay St. [HAR]
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:
The 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?
The 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.
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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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.
The 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):
The 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:
SCENES FROM A PUBLIC-ISH MEETING OF THE MONTROSE MANAGEMENT DISTRICT Yesterday’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
A 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
French-Canadian-Ukrainian-Texan fusion restaurant Riel is still being installed at 1927 Fairview St., formerly home to Te House of Tea and Trudy’s Boutique Re Sale at the corner with Woodhead St. A reader snagged the shot above yesterday afternoon, showing the former mid-60’s retail strip dressed up in green construction fencing and still sporting that above-it-all street number signage. Ex-Reef chef Ryan Lachaine last said in September that the place should be opening some time next month.
Photo: Mosaic Clinic Dermatology
This morning a reader spotted some cleaning out going on at the Westheimer Rd. storefront of BJ’s Oldies Antiques. The shop isn’t closing down, a rep tells Swamplot — just moving next door for a month or so (into the storefront spot formerly occupied by now-on-Taft-St. Cool Stuff) while some building repairs get finished up. The shop’s current location — immediately east of Empire Cafe — is a metal rooster’s throw from where owner Becky Pieniadz ran the business in the 1990s out of a section of the flea market at 1733 Westheimer (directly across the street from Empire). The shop moved down the street for a few years to the building down the road at 1435 Westheimer (currently occupied by bedding store Biscuit) before downsizing back to the 1700 block in 2013.
Photo: Carson Lucarelli
The Richmond Ave branch of La Tapatia at the corner of Woodhead St. is back in operation this week after the late summer toasting of its 1969 building, a few readers report. Up top is a shot of the July 22 response from the Houston Fire Department (whose Station 16 is located a convenient half-block away across Richmond at the corner with Dunlavy St.). That’s Fairmont Museum District looking on worriedly from the background; the poop-scrutinizing Richwood Place apartment complex’s older half would have had a clear view of the action from the western turret.
Photos: Marcie Newton (top), James Glassman (sign)
The remaining 2 thirds of the vacant Richmont Square complex are getting a few exterior decorating touches, a reader notes — among the increasingly wild parking lot median strips, many of the trees lining the Richmond-facing parking lot are sporting some new ribbons as of last week. The complex’s final tenants received an early-spring everybody-out notice, with the promise of demolition left hanging some time after the now-past May 1 move-out deadline.
What’s planned next for the space, once the last of the late-1960s apartment buildings are cleared out? Some clues come from the campus master plan map released in the Menil Collection’s 2014 annual report — 2 separate blocks south of the under-construction Drawing Institute are depicted where Richmont Square’s leftovers still stand, respectively hosting a wiggly-trailed park and a pale blue rectangle labeled for “future mixed-use” development:
Some yellow and white stripes have appeared recently at the northwest corner of Shepherd Dr. and Richmond Ave., just north of the similarly colored Subway signage. The upside-down Vs mark the spot where Honey Art Cafe is setting up shop in the former home of Ace Cash Express, next to Cigar Emporium in the retail strip bookended by Mattress Overstock and Accents By Phillipe. Longtime readers may be interested to note that the storefront is being painted up and built out by art duo Lulu Lin — which includes the same Lulu whose doodles and digital paintings often jazz up Swamplot’s Comments of the Day.
The pair is pulling their Houston Art Lessons business out of its River Oaks Shopping Center home to expand both the size and scope of operations under the new name; on top of regular classes, plans for the new space include gallery shows, artsy food and drinks, and meetups for creative types. The cafe is also looking for a leg up from the local Internet — the duo’s Kickstarter campaign, which is offering sweets, art, and classes in trade for some help with buildout costs, is running from now through early September.
An evening update on that wood-adorned metal structure at 2512 Woodhead St., behind The Upper Hand salon: all of the slats are in place along with the LIFE HTX signage, and the company appears to have hosted its first event in late May. The venue’s website says that the 4,000-sq.-ft. space can hold up to 250 people, though you’ll have to start hiring extra security guards if you tip past 100. The setup also allows renters to project the giant images of their choice onto the interior walls (or just hang things on them instead).
The space is across Woodhead from the Eagle Express Cleaners, the AZ Food Mart, and Bravo Key & Lock, at the Shamrock gas station: