09/15/16 12:30pm

St. Elizabeth Hospital RFP, 4514 Lyons Ave., Fifth Ward, Houston, 77020

St. Elizabeth Hospital RFP, 4514 Lyons Ave., Fifth Ward, Houston, 77020 The cross still standing above the entrance of the former St. Elizabeth Hospital building can just barely be seen peeking out over the top of the structure in the color photo up top, included with some black-and-white historical shots in the Fifth Ward Community Redevelopment Corporation’s recent call for ideas on what to do with the place. The hospital at 4514 Lyons Ave. opened in 1947 and later gigged as a detox center, substance abuse treatment facility and halfway house before being bought by Riverside General in 1995. The structure was renamed the Barbara Jordan Healthcare Facility until it was shut down in 2014 when Riverside wasn’t able to make ends meet (financially or building-code-wise). The Fifth Ward redevelopment folks bought the property in April.

A site plan drawn up by Gensler shows the current layout of the property, including the original 3-story E-for-Elizabeth main building. Some now-doomed subsections and add-ons are shaded in red, and the convent building, which looks like it might stay in the picture if somebody makes a good case, gets just a warning coat of pink:


Rehab on Lyons
09/09/16 1:00pm

Cafeza at 1720 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston, 77007

As of tomorrow morning, any missed-the-memo visitors to the former Blank Slate Laser Tattoo Removal space at 1720 Houston Ave. will at least have the option to drink to forget (assuming that’s not what got them into trouble in the first place). Spanish-Latin-American-themed cafe Cafeza will open to the public around 6 a.m. with coffee, food, and wine on the menu. The shop is tucked into northern storefront of the 1925 building at the corner with Crockett St., with Belgium-minded companion Cafe Brussels occupying the adjacent space next door. The view above is from the Crockett side, where the scribbles-welcome Grateful Heart chalkboard hangs out these days:


European Influences on Houston Ave
07/26/16 1:00pm

Former Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Barbara Jordan Post Office, 401 Franklin St., Downtown HoustonThe former Barbara Jordan Post Office campus at 401 Franklin St. is on its way toward a new career (as highlighted by yesterday’s news that trippy music and art festival Day for Night will be hosted on the property this year). The new stage name for the 16-acre planned mixed-use space near Buffalo Bayou isn’t quite set yet — PaperCity says that Lovett has been calling the property Central Post, but an active Facebook account using the name Post HTX (and staking claim to the 401 Franklin address) has been posting photos of the inside and promising updates on progress at the site.

Demo permits for some interior walls were issued back in October after the property’s summertime sale last year. Those concrete fins on the outside of the post office’s Franklin-facing midrise section are creating the stripy light pattern visible in the interior shot up top; here’s more of Post HTX’s photos of the building, pre-redo:


Franklin St. Remake
07/20/16 12:00pm

4215 Washington Ave., Houston

A reader sends a set of quick driveby shots of the former home of Walter’s on Washington, which has been getting some cosmetic attention of late. After a 2009 relocation announcement, Walter’s slowly made its move to a former car and cabinetry warehouse on Naylor St.; the Washington Ave property was passed around to a few different owners (including corporate entities called Ay Papi and Carnegie Homes and Construction) before landing in the hands of The Mosaic Group in June of last year. Mosaic appears to have sold or transferred the property to one Joe F. West last August, but is still listed as the owner-slash-occupant of the space on the building permits that have been issued since then (including a few from as recently as May).

Mosaic also snapped up the empty lot next door last summer, which was bundled with the property during the August sale (and had been wrapped up together with the building behind the same now-absent construction fencing):


Up Next on Wash Ave
03/08/16 2:30pm

Renovation of Sunset Coffee Building at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A shiny new cistern is now in place at the former Sunset Coffee building at Allen’s Landing, which Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Houston First have been redeveloping into an office-topped boat-and-bike-rental spot.  The 1910 coffee roasting facility has once again donned walls after moving past a Summer 2014 minimalist phase, and is currently decked out in a muted Café du Monde orange.

The no-longer-see-through structure is back to limiting the view from the Harris County Jail across the bayou (visible on the far right, above). A set of stairs are in place alongside the new cistern, along with railings around what appears to be the planned rooftop terrace.


Nearing Launch at Allen’s Landing
03/04/16 4:30pm

Proposed Mellow Mushroom, 1919 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A reader notes a notice of an application to sell alcohol posted on the door of the former Dealer Sales building at 1919 N. Shepherd Dr. The HBJ reported last August that Atlanta-based pizza-and-recently-burger chain Mellow Mushroom leased the space at the corner with 20th St. from serial redeveloper Braun Enterprises. The chain, which dropped its first Houston-area spore up in Spring, appears to be sprouting its second location within the somewhat ambiguous boundaries of the Houston Heights’ nominally dry zone.

The pizza place may provide more savory counterbalance to the sugar-laced shopping strip just to the south on the same block — where Fat Cat Creamery, Hugs & Donuts, and Smoothie King all nestle in with Finch Properties and hair salon Black Sheep Parlor along 19th St., sheltered by N. Shepherd-facing Ka Sushi. Renderings released last year for the redeveloping building show the Mushroom popping open in line with some additional retail space; the strip could also get lawyered up:


Sober News on N. Shepherd
01/19/16 4:30pm

Encampment removal at Louisiana St. and Congress Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

The encampment under Louisiana St. (shown above) was dismantled earlier today; a reader sends both now-you-see-it and now-you-don’t shots. The camp was previously tucked above the south bank of Buffalo Bayou, about halfway between Sesquicentennial Park and Allen’s Landing.

The removal appears to have been carried out by workers for Houston First, responsible for maintenance of public venues such as Miller Outdoor Theater and the George R. Brown Convention Center, along with a list of downtown parks that includes Sesquicentennial and the Sabine Promenade. Houston First also works on marketing and branding for the venues (and more generally for “the Houston product”) in partnership with the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Here’s what the spot looked like after today’s clear-out:


Gone Downtown
12/08/15 11:30am

Melrose Building, 1121 Walker St., Houston, 77002

After more than 2 decades of abandonment, the Melrose Building at 1121 Walker is getting some TLC: a total makeover as part of conversion of the building to a Le Meridien hotel. Permits were issued the week of Thanksgiving to begin a complete overhaul of the interior; the exterior will receive an update as well.

The remodel will attempt to restore the youthful good looks of Houston’s oldest Modern skyscraper — as shown in the rendering below, the renovation will bring back the building’s original color scheme:


Going Retro
12/02/15 9:00am

Ivy Lofts Showcase Warehouse, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, Houston

Ivy Lofts Showcase Warehouse, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, HoustonThe muffled whir of power tools could be heard last week through the razorwire-topped fence and metal siding of the former Leeland Wholesale Grocery, south of Leeland St. between Live Oak and Nagle. The 10,000-sq.-ft. warehouse is being converted into a sales center and showroom for the Ivy Lofts micro-unit condominium highrise, which will eventually spring up on the same city block. The warehouse will be outfitted with several full-scale models of the project’s adorably tiny floorplans, which start at a dorm-room-reminiscent 300 sq.ft. An Ivy Lofts marketing representative for the project assured Paul Takahashi of the HBJ that the lack of wasted space in the units “will change the way Houstonians live.”

Developer Novel Creative Development anticipates opening the sales center in April and selling all of the planned tower’s units before demolishing the warehouse as contractors break ground on the highrise itself in June. Plans for the tower (shown below from the south) include 7 floors of parking, ground-level retail space, and various recreational nooks:


Ivy Lofts Sales Center
05/12/15 5:00pm

Former Houston Post Facility, 2410 Polk St. at Dowling, East Downtown, Houston

Former Houston Post Facility, 2410 Polk St. at Dowling, East Downtown, HoustonA number of readers have sent in pics of the sign just posted by Lovett Commercial in front of the former Houston Post building (the earlier one, not this one seeing a Chronicle redo) at the corner of Polk and Dowling in East Downtown. A company connected to Lovett owner Frank Liu purchased the former newspaper facility from the Houston Chronicle a year and a half ago. It encompasses the entire double block bounded by Polk, Dowling, Bell, and St. Charles streets. The signs advertise a restaurant-and-shopping rehab for the facility at the 2410 Polk St. address, which sits on 3.32 acres — looking something like this:


Retail and Restaurant Redo
05/11/15 4:00pm

2101 Polk St., East Downtown, Houston

Who’s been tagging the former Malloy’s Register Company building at the corner of Polk St. and St. Emanuel St. in East Downtown with Simpsons graffiti, an assortment of wheatpaste posters, and a TABC license application? The building’s future tenants, who bear the mysterious name The Secret Group. For now, The Secret Group has been arranging and promoting a series of comedy and music performances in various spots around town. But come November, the promoters plan to open up their own native bar, comedy club, and music venue in the building at 2101 Polk St.


El Barto Was Here
04/13/15 12:30pm

Offices of KinneyMorrow Architecture, 2219 Kane St. Old Sixth Ward, HoustonMarked down from 2314 to 2219 Kane St., KinneyMorrow Architecture’s new office in an old structure now on the corner of Sawyer St. is definitely not a house any more. Blame the slot.







House Moves
02/20/15 11:45am

NO PARKING VARIANCE FOR HEIGHTS MERCANTILE RETAIL REDO ON 7TH AND YALE Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsDespite a recommendation from the planning department staff to allow the development to proceed with significantly fewer parking places than required by ordinance, the planning commission yesterday denied a parking variance for the proposed Heights Mercantile mixed-use building complex along 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd., the longtime site of a warehouse complex for the Pappas Restaurant group. The Finial Group, the project’s developers, had hoped to be allowed to count 58 existing head-in public parking spaces along 7th St., many of them fronting the MKT Hike and Bike Trail, toward the development’s off-street parking requirements. [Previously on SwamplotRendering of proposed new building along Yale St.: Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

02/05/15 12:45pm

Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston Heights

Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsResidents near the section of 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd. have been discussing plans to turn the group of warehouse buildings long held by Pappas Restaurants into a 4-building “creative neighborhood and shopping destination” called Heights Mercantile. The Finial Group, which bought the properties from Pappas and a few other landowners last year, hired Austin architect Michael Hsu to come up with plans for renovating 3 of the buildings lining 7th St., tearing down the long warehouse lining Yale St. and replacing it with the new 2-story structure pictured above. The new project is a joint venture between Finial and a local investment firm called Radom Capital.

A notable feature of the 1.4-acre site plan is 3 stretches of head-in parking along 7th St. The plan shows 36 spaces on the north side of the street, facing the row of wooden bollards lining the hike-and-bike trail converted from the path of the former MKT rail line and 2 banks of 11 spaces in a row on the opposite side. Although head-in parking configurations dominate in some portions of the city (Rice Village, for example), new stretches of more than 4 spaces in a row have been prohibited by city regulations for decades.

The Pappas warehouses have head-in parking along 7th St. The developer not only wants to preserve and adjust that arrangement for the new development, but is asking the city to count these on-street spaces toward the required number of off-street spaces. The planning commission is scheduled to rule on the associated parking variance application this afternoon.

Here’s a site plan:


Retail Revamp
12/29/14 2:15pm


Looks like that long-vacant, wheatpaste poster-festooned former service station and repair shop in the heart of the Houston Heights will finally be reincarnated. Eater Houston’s Jakeisha Wilmore is reporting that Morgan Weber and Ryan Pera, the team behind Revival Market and Coltivare, have snatched up the former Citgo at 1039 Yale St., an address less than a mile from both Coltivare and Revival. Exactly what Pera and Weber will be dishing out in lieu of unleaded and 10W-40 remains to be seen; a spokesman told Wilmore that the rumored restaurant’s concept is still secret.

Photo: Jakeisha Wilmore

Combustibles To Comestibles