COMMENT OF THE DAY: TEXAS CENTRAL’S PARKING GARAGE ISN’T JUST A SIDE GIG
“Site plans of both stations (Houston and Dallas) make it clear that the revenue model for this project isn’t selling train tickets — it’s selling parking. This site is ideal for that purpose: there’s no where nearby (walking distance) to compete for parking revenue, and it has a much cheaper land cost than Downtown. If you’re going to make the station 80 percent parking garage, why bother spending the extra money running it all the way to Downtown?” [Angostura, commenting on What Texas Central’s Proposed Houston Bullet Train Station Looks Like in Place of the Northwest Mall] Conceptual rendering of Houston bullet train station from W. 18th St.: Texas Central
RALPH BIVINS: BULLET TRAIN DEVELOPERS HAVE THE NORTHWEST MALL UNDER CONTRACT (BUT IT’S ALL A BIG MISTAKE)
Veteran real estate writer Ralph Bivins reports that Texas Central already has the Northwest Mall site it proposed for Houston’s bullet train station under contract. Only a few retailers are open now in the shopping center, including the Palais Royal department store and Thompson’s Antique Center of Texas. A gas station and Burger King also sit at the northeast edge of the mall’s parking lot on the corner of W. 18th St. and the busy West Loop S. — which Bivins worries is about to get busier: “Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to be dumping an additional 10,000 or 20,000 train riders a day into the Northwest Mall area? The dumping ground that could really use them, he says, is getting snubbed: “Where is the dream for a world-class train station in downtown Houston? It should have restaurants, retail, hotels, nearby residential – and connections to light rail, buses and commuter rail.” [Realty News Report, previously on Swamplot] Conceptual rendering of bullet train station on current Northwest Mall site: Texas Central
The video at top put out by Texas Central pans around the what’s now the Northwest Mall and its parking lot to show a new double-arched bullet train station and parking garage replacing them in the crotch where W. 18th St. and Hempstead Rd. meet the West Loop. Texas Central chose the 45-acre site over 2 others it was considering just south of the mall for the Houston terminus of the planned Houston—Dallas rail line. The terminal building — coded orange in the site plan above — sits between Hempstead and a new road that’s proposed just north of it. The parking garage would be located inside the gray zone indicated between W. 18th and the new street.
Elevated train tracks enter the station after crossing over a new extended segment of Post Oak Rd. Looking southeast from W. 18th St., one of Texas Central’s conceptual renderings of the site shows the tracks tracks heading into the terminal, next to the parking garage:
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Park and Ride
One of these 3 spots revealed in a report from the Federal Railroad Administration will be the planned site for the Houston-Dallas high-speed rail line’s Houston terminal. All 3 are near the intersection of the 610 Loop and the BNSF rail tracks that run parallel to Hempstead Rd. just south of 290.
In the map at top, the station takes the land directly north of the Northwest Transit Center, where an industrial complex home to Icon Electric, Engineering Consulting Services, and others exists now. Hempstead Rd. is shown fronting Northwest Mall at the top of the plan.
Another proposal puts the station in the spot where the mall is now:
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Bullet Train Station
MUD AND WATER AT THE PINE CREST GOLF COURSE
Tomorrow City Council is scheduled to approve a new municipal utility district for a proposed development on the Pine Crest Golf Course at Gessner and Clay Rd. in Spring Branch that would include enough new homes to house 800 residents. MetroNational is selling the 116-acre site to Meritage Homes. “The district would be served by the City’s regional plant, West District Wastewater Treatment Plant,” reads the agenda item. “The nearest major drainage facility for Harris County Municipal Utility District No. 552 would be Buffalo Bayou, which flows into the Houston Ship Channel.” [City Council; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Pine Crest Golf Course: Meritage Homes
The basic structure of a new bridge crossing from one side of the Conrad Sauer Detention Basin to the other in the northward expansion of Memorial City is now in place, this recent photo (above) from reader Marc Longoria shows. The bridge will be part of Mathewson Ln., which developer and property owner MetroNational is extending from Conrad Sauer Dr. eastward over the detention basin and connecting to Gessner Dr., as shown in this recent construction photo:
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Memorial City Marches North
“We will not have a kitchen ourselves,” writes the proprietor of Cobble & Spoke, the new craft beer bar planned for space H, almost to the corner of the 1900 Blalock strip center at the northeast corner of Blalock St. and Campbell Rd., in response to a reader query earlier today on Facebook. “However there is a restaurant on site that you will be able to order with right at the bar & have the food delivered right to your table!” That restaurant is Simply Greek, just 6 storefronts down the L, past Precisions Research, a couple of vacant spaces, Ideal Furniture, Creatures of Yoga, and Senpai’s Cards.
At the opposite end of the center is the Stop n’ In convenience store paired with the pair of gas pumps that front the parking lot. Cobble & Spoke promises a selection of wines and craft ciders as well. Neighborhood riders who want to lock up their bicycles will be accommodated too, the bar’s owner notes: “We will have a bike rack out front & even some dedicated space inside.”
Photo: Silvestri Investments
Craft Beer and Imported Food
A branch of Taiwanese pastry chain 85˚C Bakery Cafe looks to be headed to the strip center endspot right next to the 99 Ranch Market at the intersection of Blalock Rd. and I-10. A permit to remodel the former East West Bank branch into a bakery was issued in December; Weingarten now has the shop listed in on its own leasing materials for the strip center (marked down for the spot closest to the grocery store, in the siteplan above).
Meanwhile, Eater Houston’s Amy McCarthy made note of a note of a coming soon banner for the chain over somewhere over in Chinatown this morning; the company has also been posting job listings since last fall for Houston-area warehouse positions, so multiple stores could well be in the works.
Images: Weingarten Realty (top); CBRE (bottom)
Spring Branch Branches
A BUNCH OF NORTHWEST MALL’S TENANTS MAY SHUT DOWN THIS MONTH Swamplot hasn’t heard back from the management office of borderline zombie shopping center Northwest Mall yet to confirm plans for the structure — but some of the mall’s tenants have been advertising their own impending closure, including alcoholic cake shop Bundt Cake-a-holic (which is currently trying to crowdfund its own relocation). Rumors on Reddit and The Leader suggest that a few shops like Thompson’s Antique Center of Texas and the in-mall College of Healthcare Professions will stay open, but that most of the tenants are getting booted for remodeling by March 31st. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Northwest Mall: Moni
AN EERIE SURVEY OF NORTHWEST MALL’S APACHES, ALCOHOLICS, AND CHRISTMAS CAST A spiritual throwback to John Nova Lomax’s semi-regular walkumentaries of various Houston neighborhoods is part of January’s edition of Texas Monthly: an account of his recent trek through sorta-back-from-the-dead shopping center Northwest Mall. Lomax ponders the center’s past, present, and future while interviewing the locals (like the photo-ready Santa and elf team) and collecting dramatic snippets of eavesdropped conversation outside the mall’s Alcoholics Anonymous meeting facility (located not too far from the alcoholic bundt cake shop). Lomax writes that he sees the decidedly not-as-decrepit-as-it-used-to-be complex, complete with mysteriously closed Southern Apache Museum and $2 hurricane simulation tube, as a “window into modern, cosmopolitan Houston,” noting that “today’s Northwest Mall is more identifiably Bayou City than it was in the boom times. Where it was once just another outpost of corporate American capitalism, it is now as diverse as the city around it. . . . What you will find among these [one-off shops] you will find nowhere else, and the scenes you will take in are often exotic, quirky, or somewhat spooky — and occasionally some combination of all of the above.” [Texas Monthly; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Northwest Mall Entrance C: Moni
The new lessees of 7710 Long Point Rd. — formerly home to all-Mex-no-Tex Otilia’s Mexican Restaurant — announced last week that they’ll be filling the spot with a craft beer bar and restaurant called The Branch. The folks in charge appear to be former Hay Merchant-slash-Underbelly catering head Madeline Cabezut, current Hay Merchant bar manager Kyle Pierson (though Hay Merchant itself is not involved in the project), and former Miller/Coors spokesmodel Amanda Mixon. An entity linked to serial redeveloper Braun Enterprises bought the place last year, after Otilia’s 2014 for-real-this-time shutdown. The trio formally leased the space around the end of September, and plan to have the place open early next year.
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Branching Out to Long Point Rd.
KARBACH SALE: SPRING BRANCH INDUSTRIAL STREET NAME TO BECOME ANHEUSER BUSCH BRAND Word comes from both parties this morning that local craft beer staple Karbach Brewing Co.will be bought by global beer conglomerate Anheuser Busch-InBev (also currently in the process of buying parts of fellow megabrewer SABMiller’s holdings). The 5-year-old microbrewery, which rapidly outgrew its original warehouse setup on Karbach St. in the industrial sliver between 290 and Hempstead Rd. just outside the Loop, added a new restaurant and more brewing equipment (with room for further future increases) as part of a 2014 overhaul of the property. The brewers told Chris Crowell in April that the annual output had reached around 55,000 barrels by the end of last year; based on their estimated expansion capacity, it doesn’t look like AB-Inbev’s plan to bump up production to 150,000 barrels per year by 2019 would require any major property changes or a move — just some retrofitting. [Anheuser Busch; Previously on Swamplot] Image of new brewery building at 2032 Karbach St.: Andrew M.
Comically large ceiling fixture purveyor Big Ass Solutions (the Kentucky-rooted parent company of exactly-what-they-sound-like Big Ass Fans and Big Ass Lights) will be opening its first not-on-the-internet retail space in the West Loop II office-warehouse strip at 1224 N. Post Oak Rd., Mike D. Smith reports. A statue of the company’s donkey mascot will mark the company’s territory in Suite 120, between Yellow Rose Distilling’s whisky operations at the west end of the building and Appliance Parts Depot to the far east. The 1980s office park (pictured above in listing photo form) is nestled in among the cluster of business spaces and warehouses to the northwest of the West-Loop-I-10 junction, across N. Post Oak to the northeast of the all-in-a-row Edwards Marq*E complex, Awty International School, and Beth Yeshurun cemetery.
Here’s a quick peek from last week at work going on inside of the showroom-to-be, currently getting prettied up for the public:
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Cooling It on N. Post Oak