08/19/16 4:15pm

Raising Cane's, 1902 Westheimer Rd., Vermont Commons,  Houston, TX 77098

Catty-corner to the middle school both formerly and henceforth to be known as Lanier, another spat of place-name confusion is brewing: A reader notes that the Raising Cane’s (whose Vermont Commons branch sits on the corner of Hazard St. and Westheimer Rd. on the lot previously vacated by Martha Turner Properties) has been pledging its affections to Midtown. But is the message one of tribute or defection? “Do they think they’re in Midtown?” wonders the tipster. “Is there something else I’m not getting?”

Photo of Raising Cane’s at 1902 Westheimer Rd.: Swamplot inbox

Midtown Creep
07/12/16 4:15pm

1931 Fairview St., Vermont Commons, Houston, 77019

TABC Notice at 1931 Fairview, July 2016A different kind of sign has popped up at the corner of Fairview Ave. and Morse St., notes a reader — the 1961 building that formerly housed McGowen Cleaners (shown above earlier this year decked out in NewQuest Properties sales banners) now sports a notice that the new owners have applied for a handful of food, beverage, and mixed drink permits from the TABC. The sign names Vibrant Living LLC as the applicant for the licenses; an entity by the same name (headquartered in the address of office and retail developer Barnhart Interests) purchased the 3 adjacent lots at the corner from former Cleaners owner and operator George Groschke in May.


What’s Cooking in Montrose
03/29/16 11:00am

1931 Fairview St., Vermont Commons, Houston, 77019

Just a few blocks northwest from the ballroom in the works on Woodhead, a reader sends a shot of the former McGowen Cleaners at 1931 Fairview St., now up for sale by NewQuest Properties. The cleaners closed shop on Friday the 13th back in November, though they allowed straggling clients to come by for their left-behind clothes through the end of last year.

The once-actually-on-McGowen business’s 3090-sq.-ft. former building (on a 15,000-sq.-ft. lot) is surrounded to the north and east by townhomes, and by older homes and duplexes to the south and west; 1 block down Fairview is the former Te House of Tea, which the reader reports just got a new parking lot where its back garden used to be. NewQuest’s  sales flier for the McGowen Cleaners property also shows the Te’s spot tagged for a new restaurant:


Fairview Fare
05/30/14 12:45pm

Marfreless, 2006 Peden St., River Oaks Shopping Center, HoustonThe former operators of Marfreless — the oh-so-dark bar that hid behind the unmarked blue door under the stairs in back of the River Oaks Shopping Center for more than a decade until shutting down in the middle of last year — filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the group that later renovated the space and opened a bar of the same name inside it in January of this year. In essence, the suit claims that the bar’s current operators are imposters, and are using the Marfreless name in its former leased location — and claiming to have reopened it — without permission. “Marfreless was temporarily closed in March of 2013, when it transitioned to new ownership, the third in its distinguished lifetime,” reads the new Marfreless website, created by the bar’s current operators. But the lawsuit claims that isn’t true. “Despite these representations by Defendant,” reads a filing by Marfreless Ventures, LP, “no such ownership transition has ever taken place.”


The Lawsuit Behind the Bar
05/12/14 11:30am

THE RIVER OAKS SHOPPING CENTER’S NEW PARKING METERS Parking Meter at Peden St. at McDuffie St., River Oaks Shopping Center, HoustonHooded, solar-powered parking overseers have arrived on streets surrounding the River Oaks Shopping Center on West Gray St., reader James Glassman notes. Here’s a photo of a meter dressed in a blue cape, awaiting orders to undress on Peden St. at McDuffie. [Previously on SwamplotPhoto: James Glassman

04/02/14 2:15pm

2244 Welch St., Vermont Commons, Houston

2244 Welch St., Vermont Commons, HoustonThere’s what looks to be a moving truck parked in front of the home at 2244 Welch St. today, right next door to the building site at 2229 San Felipe St., where a giant crane is already in the process of constructing a 17-story Hines office building across the street from River Oaks. UH professor Richard Armstrong, who with his family rented the home, had complained to the media last month that the continual noise and diesel fumes and earth-moving going on next door was making it difficult to live there. A couple weeks later, Armstrong announced that financial assistance from Hines would help him move to a new home in Pearland. “This individual story may have ended,” a neighbor notes to Swamplot, “but there are many more neighbors left to deal with the ongoing noise and construction paraphernalia.”

Photos: Swamplot inbox

River Oaks Neighbors
03/24/14 11:00am

View of Home with Highrise Construction Crane Next Door, 2244 Welch St., Vermont Commons, Houston

The UH professor whose experiences living next door to the vacant-lot-turned-highrise-construction-site across the southern border of River Oaks made for a colorful teevee news report and an EPA complaint has called an end to his protests of the rumbling, diesel fumes, and building and patio cracks caused by the giant crane that showed up next door (pictured above). With an unspecified amount of financial assistance from Hines, the developers of the 17-story office tower going up at 2229 San Felipe, Richard Armstrong and his family will be moving from 2244 Welch St. to a new home in Pearland early next month.

His media appearances “got the attention of Hines and Gilbane Construction,” Armstrong reports in a letter posted to an online news group focusing on the tower’s construction. “Fundamentally, there isn’t much that can be done,” he writes, “given the pace and scale of this construction. . . . We have loved this house and the neighborhood — up until December. This is a wonderful pocket for people who want access to everything the inner loop has to offer. Unfortunately, other people are discovering our secret. So we’ll just have to roll with the changes.

It appears that Armstrong’s “roll” will be bankrolled — at least in part — by Hines.


Neighbors Helping Neighbors — To Move Away
03/11/14 4:45pm

Details of 2244 Welch St., Next Door to Construction Crane for 2229 San Felipe Office Tower, Vermont Commons, Montrose, Houston

Details of 2244 Welch St., Next Door to Construction Crane for 2229 San Felipe Office Tower, Vermont Commons, Montrose, HoustonWhat more quintessential closeup image of Houston is there — the kind you really aren’t likely to come across too many other places — than the one that shows a 17-story office tower under construction right next door to a single-family home? So when you hear of a Montrose resident complaining that the huge and noisy construction crane planted just a few feet beyond his fence to construct the “boutique” building at 2229 San Felipe is causing cracks in the concrete patio and the interior walls of his home, that the smell of diesel is overwhelming whether he’s in the back yard or inside on the ground floor, and that the fumes and noise from the regular Saturday concrete pours cause regular headaches for family members — well, it kinda does make you sit up and pay attention, if not simply to marvel at the unique properties of Houston development regulations and practices that allow such remarkable juxtapositions in our midst.

Still, the owner of the home at 2244 Welch St. might be forgiven if he doesn’t get so philosophical about the wondrous scene arrayed before him. “No representative of Hines has EVER come to us to express any concern about what they are doing,” he wrote over the weekend to an online newsgroup. “Even the construction workers admit they are not comfortable with the position of this crane. So everyone else got paid off, just not us I guess.”

This past Saturday, he filed a report about the situation with the EPA. What happened next?


Next Door to 2229 San Felipe
03/07/14 10:30am

Shepherd Place Office Tower, 2323 S. Shepherd, HoustonWhy would patrons at Rita Wanstrom’s Roaring 60s bar at 2305 S. Shepherd Dr. — just north of Fairview — regularly retreat to the bathroom to put their pants on backwards? In the late 1980s, the site of the nightspot, along with a few neighboring buildings, was replaced with the Shepherd Place office tower pictured above (an enterprise that reportedly bankrupted former governor John Connolly and a few other investors in the project). But back in the uh, roaring sixties, the bar was a famed lesbian hangout — subject to regular police raids focused on female zipper placement.


Lesbians in the Roaring 60s
02/28/14 1:30pm

LAWSUIT WON’T STOP CONSTRUCTION OF HINES’S SAN FELIPE TOWER — AT THIS TIME Aerial View of Proposed 2229 San Felipe Office Tower, Vermont Commons, HoustonYesterday a Harris County judge issued an order denying the request of some neighbors of 2229 San Felipe across from River Oaks for a temporary restraining order halting construction of the 17-story Hines office tower going up on that site. The neighbors had filed suit last week, complaining that (among other things) the building would interfere with their privacy, cause unreasonable traffic delays, devalue their own nearby properties, and erode the character of the neighborhood. “Unfortunately, Harris County does not make transcripts of arguments at the hearing available online,” writes the tipster who sent Judge Michael Gomez’s order to Swamplot, “but this could be a sign that Judge Gomez may be less receptive to the Plaintiffs’ arguments than those that were heard in the Ashby highrise case.” Maybe. Twice on the signed order, after the word “denied,” the judge added in the phrase “at this time” by hand. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Hines

01/17/14 12:15pm

Construction of 2229 San Felipe Tower, Vermont Commons, Houston

Aerial View of Proposed 2229 San Felipe Office Tower, Vermont Commons, Houston“They are definitely moving forward” on construction of the office tower at the corner of Spann St. and San Felipe between Kirby and Shepherd, a Swamplot reader reports from the scene across the street from River Oaks. Neighborhood complaints or no, Hines is ready to roll on its 17-story 2229 San Felipe development (portrayed in an aerial view among its low-rise neighbors at right). “They have scraped the land, built a cover over the neighbors garage, and fenced this property,” our correspondent reports. And oh, yeah: A crane has arrived.

Photo: Loves Swamplot. Aerial View of 2229 San Felipe: Hines

Sticking Up, for River Oaks
01/10/14 11:15am

Apartments, 2233 Welch St., Vermont Commons, Montrose, Houston

A passer-by sends this photo showing the scene this morning at the site of the Chateau Ten scaffolding accident that took place a few days before Christmas. The plank-covered Mercedes is gone, but the neighboring apartment building at 2233 Welch St., still wearing its recent quoined stuccover, doesn’t look much worse for the dust-up — does it?


Flashing News Update
12/23/13 10:15am

Scaffolding Collapse, Chateau Ten, Spann and Welch Streets, Vermont Commons, Houston

A reader who happened to be on the scene Saturday morning when scaffolding collapsed on the side of the Chateau Ten condo building going up at the corner of Spann and Welch streets just south of River Oaks sent Swamplot these photos and a report shortly after the incident. The Randall Davis development is under construction behind the empty lot on San Felipe on which Hines is planning to build a 17-story office tower:

“I did not see the collapse, but I heard it . . . It sounded like an explosionpower went out immediately.” The correspondent reports running out to find scaffolding for the 6-story building down, “completely covering a house (and Mercedes) and scaffolding bits were dangling from power lines. I called 911. I don’t think anyone is hurt.”

What could have caused this construction accident?


Stucco, Interrupted
10/03/13 12:00pm

DEAR HINES: WE’D SETTLE FOR A RESIDENTIAL MIDRISE, PLEASE Happy relationships are all about compromise, and even though Hines doesn’t seem that interested in budging on this one, maintaining that it will begin construction before the end of the year on that 17-story office building on the corner of San Felipe and Spann, concerned neighbors have organized a petition addressed to Gerald and Jeff requesting that that project be swapped out for something more “in keeping with our neighborhood,” a 3- to 6-story “residential development.” [Change; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Stop San Felipe Skyscraper