- 2121 Kirby Dr. Unit 25NW [HAR]
A new banner advertising a Christian’s Tailgate (pictured above) went up today on the vine-covered fence in front of the Amazón Grill at 5114 Kirby Dr., directly across from the Burger King between North Blvd. and Bissonnet St. The Cordúa Restaurants fast-casual outlet shut down yesterday after 15 years in the same location. The restaurants’ parent company, which also operates Américas, Artista, and Churrascos, plans to continue Amazón Grill as a delivery-only business.
As of today, the space is being renovated — with plans for a quick turnover and reopening as a fifth location of Christian’s Tailgate Bar & Grill on October 1st.
Sometime over the weekend the row of a dozen-plus street trees lining the west side of Kirby Dr. between W. Main St. and Colquitt got cut down, a Swamplot reader reports. This leaves the eastern front of the Kirby Collection construction site fronted by an alternating pattern of high and low streetlights and stumps. The wooden construction fence that stood for about a year just inside of the sidewalk in front of the mixed-use project is now gone. The photo above shows the view looking south now from the corner of W. Main St.
The removed “highrise” oaks had been installed 9 years ago with the reconstruction of Kirby Dr. — replacing the larger 20-year-old oaks that had been there earlier.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
THE INVENTION OF UPPER KIRBY Among Houston’s grids, strips, and cul de sacs, let a million neighborhoods bloom! Perhaps the story of how the area around upper Kirby Dr. came to be known as Upper Kirby can form some sort of template for this city’s vast numbers of undifferentiated districts just waiting to be branded? “We weren’t Greenway Plaza, we weren’t Montrose, we weren’t Rice Village,” Upper Kirby Management District deputy director Travis Younkin tells reporter Nicki Koetting. It was a section of town that lacked identity. “This nameless neighborhood, Koetting adds, “was the sort of place you drove through on the way to other, named neighborhoods.” One helpful step along the way: Planting the shopping areas with red phone booths. “The authentic British phone booths are an homage to Upper Kirby’s acronym, and actually operated as phone booths for a few decades until cellphones became the norm,” Koetting notes. “Now, the telephone booths are lit from within and locked, serving today as a visual indication to visitors that they’ve arrived in Houston’s own UK.” [Houstonia] Photo: WhisperToMe
THE NATIONWIDE MCMODERN INVASION HAS BEGUN, AND THE UPPER KIRBY AND GREENWAY PLAZA AREA IS ITS GROUND ZERO “The typical McMansion follows a formula: It’s large, cheaply constructed, and architecturally sloppy,” writes Kate Wagner on Curbed. “Until around 2007, McMansions mostly borrowed the forms of traditional architecture, producing vinyl Georgian estates and foam Mediterranean villas.” But Wagner, who regularly dissects and ridicules the housing type on her McMansion Hell Tumblr page, notes that McMansion purveyors of late have increasingly begun borrowing, distorting, misunderstanding, and enlarging aspects of a newer type of home. “We are witnessing the birth and the proliferation of modernist McMansions: McModerns,” she writes. Where can we find these sleek new specimens? “In cities, McModerns are frequently constructed in rapidly gentrifying areas, such as the Greenway/Upper Kirby neighborhood in Houston, where $1 million, five-to-10-bedroom, builder-designed McModerns have been increasingly sprinkled among houses selling for $200,000 to $700,000: an earmark of speculation based on the increasing land values brought by rabid development.” [Curbed] Photo of 3003 Ferndale St.: HAR
Developer Giorgio Borlenghi may have just shelved plans to build the 26-story condo tower he had dubbed Villa Borghese on the 1.43-acre site a block south of Westheimer at Bammel Ln. and Earl Ln., but work clearing the property of the 15 separate cottage-y structures that once stood in the way of the now-on-hold project has not stopped. A reader sends pics of the scene from last Thursday, as workers from Cherry House Moving mounted the houses-turned-shops-and-offices surrounding the shuttered wedding venue known as the Gardens of Bammel Lane onto steel rails and prepared them for exit:
Another round of changes appears to be on the horizon for the oft-swapped Asian fusion joint just south of the former Alabama Theater, a reader notes — a leasing sign advertising the shopping center’s (only) restaurant endcap spot was spotted behind the center along W. Alabama St. last week. The space has been serving under the banner of Maiko Bar + Bistro since 2014 (reportedly acting as a test kitchen for the restaurant’s Austin location of similar name); Maiko replaced short-lived Onaga Pan Asian Bistro, which took over from Zake Sushi Lounge.
Any swapouts in the space will follow in the wake of some more skin-deep touchups the shopping center received back in January — the pastel rainbow forehead of Trader Joe’s was redone in a monotone grey-brown, as was the pale yellow block behind Petsmart‘s logo:
Has any former Wendy’s drive-thru — or really, any fast-food joint anywhere — ever had such an illustrious culinary afterlife as the one that once stood at 2300 Westheimer, halfway between Kirby and Shepherd? The standalone burger stand never left us — it just went upscale, time and time again: To Torcello’s. To Armando’s. To Dish. To Two Chefs Bistro. To Beso. To Palazzo’s Trattoria. To 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. (Did we miss any?) To the Harwood Grill.
Then there was the time last year when it was supposed to go Berryhill. But that was not to be.
Instead, this extremely mutable property is now on its way to becoming a champagne-themed restaurant called a’Bouzy (pronounced as you’d expect).
The structure now being finalized at the once-on-Cleburne-St. Cleburne Cafeteria’s space at 3606 Bissonnet St. is notably bigger than the single-story building it’s replacing — a 2-story steel frame went up around the beginning of February, and the restaurant is shooting to open in its newest home by the end of the summer. (The view included here of the old building shows it just shy of the restaurant’s 75th anniversary, last spring; the shot up top shows progress on the new building just shy of the fire’s 1-year anniversary in late April.) Other reasons why this round of recovery has taken longer than the 3-month closure that followed the restaurant’s 1990 fire at the same address: Owner George Mickelis tells Katherine Feser this week that (relatively) new regulations and inspection requirements have drawn out the process, too.
NICE PARK IF YOU CAN GET TO IT, AND OTHER HOUSTON ENCAPSULATIONS George Ristow’s take for OffCite on the recently unveiled public-private redo of Levy Park? It’s become “one of Houston’s best outdoor public spaces” — as long as you can get yourself there: “The park is tucked away from view, dwarfed by the Kirby Grove building, which undermines its connection [to] Richmond Ave. (bringing visitors from Upper Kirby). Although there are sidewalks immediately surrounding the park, no sidewalk exists on either side of Eastside St. between the park and Richmond. Just one block south of the park, the Southwest Freeway, with a right-of-way as wide as the park itself, walls off West University’s upper reaches as if it were an international border crossing. Consider the Olive Garden restaurant, surrounded by a typical suburban parking lot, built within the same time period as the Levy Park facelift just on the other side of the freeway. Here we have Houston in a nutshell: a state-of-the-art destination public park next to a 19-lane freeway next to a chain restaurant, with no way to walk between them.” [OffCite; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Levy Park Conservancy
The pointy glass Gardens of Bammel Lane conservatory isn’t the only structure on the block southeast of Bammel Ln. and Earl St. getting picked up and hauled elsewhere as part of the block’s cleanout for the 26-story Villa Borghese condo highrise. A handful of Cherry House Moving trailers were spotted on the site this weekend, hanging around and under several of the bungalows on the block (which date between 1900 and 1950 per the county’s records, and were used most recently as commercial spaces). As of Saturday, the conservatory structure (shown above in wedding attire) had already departed the site (presumably headed for its new home at the Madeley Gardens events space in Conroe).
Some of the bungalows have already been shuffled around on the block. The former law office at 2714 Sackett St. was spotted stripped of its hedge and address markers, with a moving trailer poking out from beneath the front porch:
The folks at Rim Tanon (the Thai place that recently replaced the former Blue Fish House sushi spot on Richmond) send word that the hole-spangled brick, asphalt, and rubble parking lot at the center of the Portsmouth Square restaurant clump has been freshly paved over. The spot, which won top honors on a 2011 list of Houston’s worst restaurant parking lots, was resurfaced from Richmond to Portsmouth St. just in time for Tax Day. Above and below are a couple of damp shots of the lot circa some 2010 gawking:
Michael Morrow (that’d be the -morrow in kinneymorrow architecture) sends along this update from his latest visit to Westheimer Plumbing & Hardware’s showroom at 3600 Kirby Dr., which turned out to be still closed in the wake the February incident that shut it down temporarily. (You know — the one where a driver hit the wrong pedal and fell off the 7th story of the nextdoor River Oaks Tower’s parking garage, landing on and through the roof of the strip mall.) A somewhat incredulous but friendly note on the door from the hardware store’s owner says that, though the 17-year-old driving luckily sustained surprisingly little injury, the showroom has been pretty roughed up, including severed water, sprinkler, and electrical lines (not to mention the hole). The note says that the business is currently operating out of its warehouse on E. T.C. Jester Blvd., and will be back in its spot on Kirby as soon as possible. (Neighboring sugar pusher Dessert Gallery, however, reopened just a few days after the accident in early March.)
The damage to the parking garage itself is still visible from ground level: