LAND PURCHASES BEGINNING ALONG PROPOSED HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN ROUTE Texas Central Railway’s CEO tells Realty News Report’s Ralph Bivins that owners of some properties in the projected path of the planned Houston-to-Dallas 200mph rail line have already agreed to sell their land to the company, which is hoping to get started on construction of the 90-minute route next year. Tim B. Keith says he’s “encouraged with the progress” of what he refers to as the project’s “voluntary land purchase program.” He notes that “Texas’ Constitution and state statutes have long granted eminent domain authority to railroads such as Texas Central, as well as pipeline companies, electric power companies and other industries,” but calls eminent domain “a last resort.” The line’s Houston station is now planned for “the area along the 610 Loop between 290 and I-10″ after a Federal Railroad Administration review rejected the idea of a Downtown stop because of projected high costs and environmental impacts. [Realty News Report; Houston Public Media; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Tokaido Shinkansen Tokyo-Osaka line: Texas Central Railway
Whatever’s in store for the 136-acre former KBR site along the the Ship Channel at 4100 Clinton Dr., CityCentre developer Midway now looks to be involved. Documents filed with the county clerk’s office near the end of May reveal that Cathexis Holdings recently sold the site to KBRN, an entity connected to Midway through a recently minted corporate partnership (and officially located down the hall from Midway’s CityCentre office.)
And might Midway — which also heads the team that turned failed Downtown Mall Houston Pavilions into GreenStreet, and is developing the Kirby Grove park-and-office-building complex along the banks of the Southwest Fwy. in Upper Kirby — have some big office-shopping-residential-and-park-y plans in mind for this vast property, which lies about a mile and a half downstream from Downtown? A couple of clues are out there:
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Sold on the Ship Channel
The custom home and office building of Heights homebuilder Fisher Homes at 832 Yale St. is currently up for sale or lease. Construction on the just-under-15,000-sq.-ft. building south of 9th St. wrapped up near the end of 2014; the property listing indicates that availability started in January of this year.
Amenities at the Morrison Heights and Studemont Mid-Rise developer’s mixed-use space include an indoor basketball court, downtown views from the above-3rd-story rooftop terrace, and various conference rooms. Floorplans of the building show the middle-of-the-house driveway (which provides access to the backyard parking lot) separating a 437-sq.-ft. apartment (circled in dotted red below) from the main structure:
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For Sale on Yale
The deal is sealed on the University of Texas’s purchase of a 100-acre hunk of land south of South Main St. as of last Friday. The sale marks the first concrete move toward UT’s planned Houston campus, though closings on the parcel patchwork comprising the rest of the 300-ish ac. likely won’t wrap up until early 2017, according to a press release from the school’s Office of Public Affairs.
The sold land is a forested tract northwest of the wiggly intersection of Willowbend Dr. and Buffalo Spdwy.; the property is split along a northwest-southeast diagonal by a linear drainage feature which makes an appearance in those preliminary campus designs (shown from the north in the image above).
That land was owned previously by Buffalo Lakes Ltd., an entity associated with UT grad John Kirksey of Kirksey Architecture. A plan for a Buffalo Lakes master-planned community (see below) was drawn up more than 4 years ago by Kirksey for the same space:
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South Main Master Plans
Confirming a rumor Swamplot noted last week, the HBJ’s Roxana Asgarian reports that “one of the largest residential developers in Houston” has plans to transform two-thirds of the site of former pedestrian shopping district Westbury Square into 100 to 125 townhomes. Camelot Realty Group’s Tom Cervone tells Asgarian a group of developers going by the name of Villas at Westbury Square has the property on West Bellfort near Chimney Rock and West Bellfort under contract from its longtime owner, Alfred Antonini.
All 11 remaining Westbury Square buildings — including the longtime home of the Company OnStage theater group — will be torn down in 30 days, the real estate agent says. Two of the more dilapidated structures from the complex were demolished last year; the Home Depot next door (visible in the distance in the photo below) was built on land that previously belonged to the complex.
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BUYER OF CHRONICLE COMPLEX DOWNTOWN NOT EXPECTED TO CRUSH IT JUST YET The deal could still fall through, cautions Ralph Bivins, but real estate development firm Hines is in the middle of negotiating a purchase of the Houston Chronicle’s complex and parking garage at 801 Texas Ave. downtown. Expected sale price: “more than $50 million, perhaps as much as $55 million.” But Bivins doesn’t think Hines is ready to knock down the structures and build another of its downtown office developments on the 99,184 sq. ft. of land on 2 blocks right away. Instead, he writes, the company “appears to be seeking to lock up a prime skyscraper development site for future years.” [Realty News Report; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Walter P Moore
WESTBURY SQUARE HEADED FOR SALE, EXILE OF REMAINING TENANTS A sales contract is pending on the remaining portions of faded pedestrian shopping district Westbury Square, a note posted to the home page of The Company OnStage and sent to the group’s subscribers announces. The note does not address rumored plans to divide the purchased site near the intersection of West Bellfort and Chimney Rock into more than 100 townhome lots, but does indicate that completion of the sale will likely bring an end to the company’s 33-year residency at 536 Westbury Square (pictured here). The theater group is postponing the announcement of its upcoming season, and says it is looking to relocate. Two buildings in the complex were torn down early last year. [The Company OnStage; previously on Swamplot] Photo: The Company OnStage
The complicated transaction that allowed the city to sell the 10.52-acre brownfield site along Allen Parkway between the Federal Reserve building and Allen Parkway Village to an apartment developer was concluded in late April, the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi reports. Alliance Residential paid $39.9 million for the property along Gillette St., where the city began operating a solid waste incinerator in the 1920s and later converted the site for use as its fleet maintenance facility. The company immediately sold the northern 6 acres to an unnamed private investor; Alliance now plans to build a 365-unit apartment complex on the southern half of the property, fronting Gillette and West Dallas St.
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$150 HOUSE SELLER EXPECTS TO REFUND 500 IDENTICAL OFFERS The real estate agent who’s been trying to sell his Heights bungalow for $150 tells reporter Paul Takahashi that — barring an “incredible surge” of new applications and fees before the June 13 deadline — he’ll be refunding the approximately 500 $150 offer fees he’s received so far for the property. For now, he says, he’s organizing his emails to filter out the more than 1,500 essays he received from would-be homebuyers who somehow got the idea that Wachs would sell them the 2-bedroom, 1-bath property even if they didn’t submit the required fee from the 500 or so who followed his instructions. All that sorting is “a time-consuming and boring” task, he tells Takahashi. Wachs had hoped the application fees would add up to the unspecified amount between $265K and $550 he figures his family’s home at 213 E. 23rd St. is worth. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo: $150 House
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO SELLING THIS HEIGHTS BUNGALOW FOR $150 Three weeks since the announcement, and with a little more than a week remaining before the June 13 deadline, more than 2,000 essays have come in from would-be buyers requesting that Heights real estate agent Mark Wachs sell his Heights bungalow at 213 E. 23rd St. to them for one heartening reason or another. But writing in The Leader, Kim Hogstrom reveals a more curious development: The vast majority of the applicants either can’t or don’t want to follow Wachs’s instructions — or never bothered to look at them too closely. Only about 500 of the submitted 200-word essays came with the required $150 application fee. With enough fees coming in from also-rans, some fortunate buyer would be able to purchase the 2-bedroom, 1,056-sq.-ft., 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow for just $150 (plus title and closing costs) — and still allow Wachs to receive what he thinks the house is worth, which he hints is somewhere between $265K and $550K. On the website he set up for the offer, Wachs states that application fees will be refunded if he doesn’t end up with a buyer using this method; he also indicates he might extend the deadline. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Mark Wachs
HOW TO BUY A HOUSE IN THE HEIGHTS FOR $150 Or just pay $150 and don’t get a house at all! No, there are no missing zeros or Ks in that sale price, but there is a catch: Real estate agent and Houston Heights resident Michael Wachs says he’s accepting offers until June 13th, each accompanied by a nonrefundable offer fee of $150, for his family’s 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow at 213 E. 23rd St. The decision of which one to accept, he indicates, will be made by judging the best 200-word essay that accompanies it, not the offer amount. The required essay, he writes, should explain “why we should sell the house to you,” but include no names or identifying information: “The fee is nonrefundable if we find a buyer via this process. If we do not, we will refund the offer fee.” (He’s also discouraging his family and friends from applying: “It just would be fishy if our parents happened to have the best essay,” he notes.) Included on the website he set up to explain the sale — along with a handy form for collecting email addresses for his real-estate business and a bit of encouragement to support some hearing-aid legislation now under consideration in the Texas House — are a few photos of the property, a sellers disclosure, inspection report, and mold remediation certificate. Why’s his family selling? “We had longterm plans to fix-up our little place or build on the lot, but our baby is now going to school across the city and we don’t want to deal with traffic. (It’s a very Houston reason to move.)” HCAD values the 1,056-sq.-ft., 1920 home with 2-car garage on a 5,300-sq.-ft. lot at $394,129. [$150 House] Photo: Terrence Foster
RIVER OAKS BAPTIST SCHOOL BRINGS WAYWARD WESTHEIMER WALGREENS INTO THE FOLD A long-contemplated drugstore-to-Baptist-School handover finally took place last month. Back in January, Swamplot reported that the River Oaks Baptist School was in the process of buying the Walgreens at 3900 Westheimer Rd., in order to fit a “possible parking garage and secondary exit onto Westheimer” onto the 1.8-acre site. In announcing the transaction, however, the school hasn’t said precisely what it will do with its new digs — or when or whether the now-vacant drugstore building will be demolished. It is, however, developing a new master plan for the campus. The Walgreens relocated into the former Fresh Market across the street and on the other side of Weslayan — at 3745 Westheimer — in March. Photo: Swamplot inbox
TAKARA-SO COMPLEX BACK ON THE MARKET, THIS TIME WITH NEW UTH UPGRADE If you were thinking its purchase by a SoCal investment firm almost exactly 1 year ago meant the pseudo-Japanesee 1962 apartment complex at 1919 W. Main St. would be shielded from the evict-and-redevelop cycle for a few years, think again. Apartment Income Investors has put the Takara-So Apartments, which sit on most of the block surrounded by Hazard, W. Main, Colquitt, and McDuffie, back on the market — with a twist. Though on-site signs have not been changed, the complex is described as the Takara South Apartments in a sleek set of marketing materials produced by Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, the firm that’s marketing the 77-unit, 10-building, 1.22-acre property once owned by Allen Stanford. Why unload the storied complex now? So much has happened in a Montrose year: There’s that $2.05 million jump in the property’s tax appraisal. And maybe some profits to be made: Though no asking price is listed, included comps indicate the sellers are likely aiming for offers between $8 and $10.8 million. The purchase price was listed on company documents as $5.51 million. [LoopNet; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Newmark Grubb Knight Frank
HOUSTON CHRONICLE BUILDING GOES ON SALE TOMORROW, THE CHRONICLE REPORTS The Houston Chronicle’s 10-story downtown headquarters and neighboring parking garage will be listed for sale tomorrow — with the Hearst newspaper’s reporters and other employees still working away inside. “Chronicle executives said prospective buyers have already expressed interest in the property and that more are expected once word spreads that the building at 801 Texas and an adjacent parking garage are up for sale,” writes real estate reporter Nancy Sarnoff from somewhere inside the complex. Indeed, company executives have already suggested to her the story’s conclusion: “’This building is likely to be torn down and replaced with a modern skyscraper that will generate more revenue for the city. It’s in a prime location,’ Paul Barbetta, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Houston Chronicle Media Group, said Monday.” Chronicle employees will be allowed to exit the building and take their belongings with them to a revamped, smaller,
outside-the-Loop just-inside-the-Loop facility before that happens. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Walter P Moore
Is it Rice’s manifest destiny to extend its land holdings all the way from the Texas Medical Center to West U? The university already owns a bit of frontage on Kirby Dr., on West U’s eastern border, between University Dr. and Amherst St., but the holdings between that far outpost of the Village Arcade and the main campus are a little spotty. Two recent purchases — and accompanying demolitions — appear poised to make the swath more continuous, however.
This week occasioned the demolition of the house at 5606 Chaucer Dr., 2 blocks west of Rice Stadium, directly over the back fence from Little Woodrow’s on Morningside Dr. The home appeared in this morning’s demo report — along with a neighbor at 5608 Chaucer St. (at center left and left in the top photo). County tax records show that an entity connected to Rice purchased both houses late last year. (The second house is listed as 5612 Chaucer St. on the tax rolls).
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Tales of Chaucer