32 OF 77 HOUSTON AREA RADIO SHACKS ARE ON THE CLOSURE LIST ALREADY Will that Radio Shack near you be closing, now that the electronics chain has declared bankruptcy? Probably. Of its 4,000 U.S. stores, up to 1,750 appear to be slated to become locations for mobile phone company Sprint. Separately, Radio Shack released on its website a list of 1,784 “potential store closures” — without noting explicitly if the identified locations, listed in 3 separate tranches, were headed for rebranding or outright shuttering. 32 of those stores are in the Houston area. [Quartz; list] Photo of Radio Shack at 4367 Kingwood Dr. (not on the closure list): Ms. Ruby O
COMMENT OF THE DAY: POLLUTION CREDITORS “It’s good to see that the Feds will help clean up the CES Environmental Services site. I’m of the opinion that bankruptcy law should be revised to require that environmental clean-up be paid for before creditors can be paid. It would help in cases like this, but it would also make lenders push dirty industries to clean up their act. Companies with bad environmental records would feel it in their ability to get credit.” [ZAW, commenting on Predicting Houston Real Estate Hotspots; Drinking Water from Lake Conroe] Illustration: Lulu
CAMERA STORES CRYING WOLF Didn’t the country’s biggest retail camera chain already declare bankruptcy and close a bunch of its Wolf Camera and Ritz Camera stores in Houston? Yeah, but that was back in 2009; now the successor company is going down that path again, a couple years after bouncing out of bankruptcy protection. In a news release, the company’s restructuring officer makes it all sound like part of a pretty picture: “To achieve our strategic vision of a super-store chain offering unique value-added services . . . it became necessary to implement this vision through a Chapter 11 filing.” Ritz Camera & Image, which has its headquarters in Maryland, is “evaluating which of its 265 stores to close, including at least three stores in the Houston area.” [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot]] Photo of Rice Village store: Wolf Camera
DIGGING OUT FROM HEAVEN ON EARTH Updated task list for the investor group that bought the dilapidated and long-vacant Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. at Travis St. Downtown 3 years ago: 1) Pay off $4.2 million mortgage on property; 2) work way out of bankruptcy (declared just last week, to avoid foreclosure); 3) close on $22 million construction loan to redevelop the 31-story former Holiday Inn (and later Days Inn) into an “as economy class as possible” hotel. Meanwhile, New Era Hospitality — the group that bought the property in 2008 from a fund connected to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi — recently spent around $30,000 to secure the building, after receiving a stream of municipal citations for “dangerous building parts, visual blight, unsecured entrances, and signs of urine and bodily fluids.” The project’s general contractor tells Purva Patel that plans to turn the gutted property into an “upscale” hotel have been scaled back. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: arch-ive.org
COMMENT OF THE DAY: BORDERS BIDS YOU ADIEU “Do what I did at my store when they announced it was liquidating in February. Immediately unplug the wi-fi router. Immediately section-off the cafe with caution tape. Immediately move all of the seating off the sales floor. This isn’t the time to lounge around, it’s the time to buy shit and get the fuck out. It’s also not the place to take your morning shit anymore, so make sure to also permanently close the restrooms to the public.” [Chris, commenting on Borders Liquidation Sales Begin]
BORDERS LIQUIDATION SALES BEGIN Starting today: going-out-of-business sales at all Borders bookstore locations nationwide, including the 6 hereabouts: on West Alabama at Kirby, in Meyerland Plaza, in the Galleria, in The Woodlands, Webster, and at IAH. Books-A-Million is in talks with the bankrupt chain to assume the leases and inventory of as many as 30 Borders locations, but none of them are in Houston. The only possible Texas takeover on the list is in San Antonio. [Washington Post] Photo: Pedro Vit
BORDERS SHOWDOWN Only one bid came in for bankrupt bookseller Borders Group by Sunday’s deadline — and it’s from a liquidator. An auction of the company’s assets is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon; going-out-of-business sales could begin as early as Friday. Back in February, Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch said his company might be interested in taking over a few of the remaining 400 Borders locations. Six of them are in Houston. [Publisher’s Weekly; Lynch statement; previously on Swamplot]
Whatever happened to that Park 8 condo tower, hospital, and strip-mall development planned for Beltway 8 next to Arthur Storey Park, just south of Bellaire Blvd.? The Chronicle‘s Purva Patel surveys the wreckage of the self-styled “Land of Oz”: The highrise project has long been in bankruptcy, the contractor and lender are battling over ownership of the land in court, and 2 different groups of investors and condo buyers are suing developer David Wu for their investment losses (totaling more than $2 million), alleging he has or had no intention or ability to complete the project, and that he misled them about funding and leasing commitments. Neither Wu nor his attorney would respond to the reporter’s questions.
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GULF FREEWAY OUTLET MALL SITE: UP FOR GRABS? A possible complication in those plans to put a new 95-store outlet mall between the Big League Dreams sports complex and the Bay Colony shopping center west of the Gulf Freeway in League City: The Galveston County Daily News‘s Laura Elder reports that the 35 acres of land Tanger Factory Outlet Centers was hoping to purchase out of bankruptcy for $8.7 million will be going up for auction instead in just 10 days. A bankruptcy court ordered the sale last week. Tanger announced the project in January, just days after the Simon Property Group announced its plans to build another outlet center, the 100-store Galveston Premium Outlets, just 4 miles to the south, in Texas City. [Laura Elder’s Buzz Blog; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Tanger Outlets
59 BORDERS: THE END Late addition to the Borders Books store closing list: The company’s 27,483-sq.-ft. store at that retention-pond-by-the-freeway shopping center in Stafford, Fountains on the Lake. The Stafford location is expected to be the only Houston-area casualty of the company’s bankruptcy, and is scheduled to close by “late May.” It and 2 dozen other stores around the country were added to the 200-store axe list at the end of last week. [Revised closing list (PDF); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Melissa M.
HOUSTON’S BORDERS WILL REMAIN OPEN As expected, the Borders Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today and announced the closing of 200 of its 644 bookstores nationwide. Nine of the announced store closings are in Texas, but Houston survived this round of cuts. All 7 Houston-area stores — on Kirby at West Alabama, in the Galleria, Meyerland Plaza, the Baybrook Mall, at IAH, in Stafford, and the Woodlands — will remain open. [Wall Street Journal; list of store closings; previously on Swamplot]
CLOSING MORE BORDERS Liquidators are already bidding to run going-out-of-business sales for as many as 200 Borders and Waldenbooks bookstores nationwide, ahead of an expected bankruptcy filing from the book retailer that could come as early as Monday, reports the WSJ’s Mike Spector. Closings of an additional 50 of the chain’s total 674 stores could come later, according to sources who spoke to Spector and reporter Jeffrey Trachtenberg. There are 7 remaining Borders locations in the Houston area — in the Galleria, Meyerland Plaza, on Kirby at West Alabama, in Bush Intercontinental Airport, in the Baybrook Mall, at Fountains on the Lake in Stafford, and in the Market Place Shopping Center in The Woodlands. The company closed its locations in the Willowbrook Mall, in Houston Center, in the Northwest Mall, and at Westheimer near Gessner early last year. [Wall Street Journal; previously on Swamplot]
WHERE THE ROYCE LAND WENT The Bryan farm-lending coop that ended up with 618 acres near Tomball after the collapse of Royce Builders has finally sold the property — to the Caldwell Companies, a land development and investment firm. Royce had planned 1,261 home lots in Cypress Lake Crossing, which is northeast of the intersection of Telge Rd. and Boudreaux and only a couple miles north of the sprawling Cypress home of former Royce president John Speer. (Speer’s Royce-built compound off Telge Rd., pictured above, now serves as the home address of one of his new ventures, Vestalia Homes.) “Bill Heavin, a land broker at Grubb & Ellis Co., says Royce Homes had completed quite a bit of development work on the tract, such as soil and water testing and the establishment of Harris County Municipal Utility District #416.
Royce Homes began seeking an investor or joint venture partner on the large tract in late 2006 or early 2007. . . . the asking price was $30,000 an acre, or $18.5 million.” [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot]
PARK PLACE APARTMENT FIBERFEST Workers from Inland Environments will be taking “extra precautions” with the demolition of 4 apartment buildings at the corner of Park Place and Telephone Rd., the mayor’s office promises. There’s plenty of asbestos to go around in the Park Place Apartments at 7410 Park Place Blvd., but the buildings, which have been sitting vacant for 20 years, aren’t considered structurally sound enough for the asbestos to be removed. A bankruptcy filing by the owner last week delayed the city-ordered demolition, but it’s now scheduled to begin at 9 this morning. Update, 2:10 pm: Now there’s video! And the dust is flying. [Mayor’s Office; previously on Swamplot]
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR JACK SACK SOON Bankrupted weight-loss guru Shaun Kelley, who abruptly shut down his fitness center on Voss near San Felipe last month and announced plans for a new business venture with “a major food company,” is also gone from Donald Trump’s multi-level-marketing scheme, where he had planned to promote “custom pharmaceutical-grade vitamins”: “Kelley says he’s no longer working with the Trump Network, but instead is moving yet another concept. ‘I have a new investor who didn’t want me to have anything to do with the gym anymore and we’re solely focused on the food industry,’ he says. ‘We’re currently in negotiations with Jack in the Box to offer a low fat healthy food for $3 to $7.’” [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot]