12/26/18 9:30am

NEEDVILLE WATER TOWER WILL STAY STANDING FOR NOW ON ACCOUNT OF IT MIGHT BE COVERED IN LEAD Needville’s city council appeared unmoved by local preservationists’ 2-year campaign to repaint and rehab the town’s signature WWII-era water tower earlier this month when it voted 3-2 to demolish the, um, patinaed structure. But just last Friday, 2 people with land near the tower took a new approach to preserving it, arguing in district court that the structure’s worth saving not just for its looks but because lab tests, their attorney wrote, showed that its exterior “was coated with six layers of lead-based paint,” each containing a high level of the chemical. A temporary restraining order granted against the City of Needville the same day now bars anyone from toppling the tower until “safety protocols are established by competent experts,” to ensure that “no environmental contamination” will result from the teardown. (“The contractor hired by the city council is a nice guy,” one of the plaintiffs, Rick Sinclair, told the Chronicle’s Kristi Nix, “but I don’t believe he is licensed or accredited to handle this level of lead abatement.”) A hearing to consider the lawsuit is now set for January 19. According to the plaintiffs, “Restoration coating systems have been identified” that would protect the tower while also sealing in the lead. [abc13] Video: Picture Perfect Productions

12/24/18 10:15am

For the past 2 weeks, workers have been gutting the gray-painted 1940s bungalow at 1408 Sul Ross St., opposite the Rothko Chapel. In some cases, they’ve chucked the removed house parts in the dumpster that’s parked in the driveway.

In other cases, they’ve been saving them for reuse by stockpiling them inside:

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Special Exhibition
12/21/18 4:00pm

The view from the Wallgreens parking lot at Westheimer and Weslayan St. has been a bit more scenic than usual this week since the 55-and-up Georgian apartment complex across the street started collapsing in order to make way for the new complex Crescent Communities wants to build in its place. So far, the set of 3 parking canopies that once buffered the building from Westheimer appear to have vanished. And the front façade of the building has been punched through, opening up the complex’s inner courtyard to the outside world.

Residents got some insight into what would be replacing their 114 units back in April when a letter giving them 6 months to vacate indicated that retail would be included in the new construction. Since then: silence about what those retailers might be. If they do end up flocking to some portion of 3.4-acre property, their likeliest location would be on Westheimer, in between the corner Cadence Bank branch and Frank’s Americana Revival restaurant that bookend the lot.

Photos: Philip Alter (demolition); Georgian Apartments (apartments)

Emptied Out of Empty-Nesters
12/17/18 3:45pm

The new owner of the Pasadena’s tallest empty building has 2 items on its agenda for the 1962 structure: air it out and tear it down. For nearly 2 decades, the 12-story office tower at 1002 Southmore Ave. — originally known as the First Pasadena State Bank building — has managed to get by untouched by those who want it gone. (It came this close to vanishing in 2005 when the city issued a demolition permit for it, but a new owner scooped it up before anything went down.) In June, the city filed a lawsuit demanding that the property owner demolish the tower or reimburse the city for taking matters into its own hands. The defendant did neither, and instead passed the building off in October to the Pasadena Economic Development Corporation — which, having secured financial help from Pasadena’s city council shortly after the sale closed — now plans to go through with the teardown.

It’ll cost about $2.5 million to get rid of structure, the private development group estimates, after having negotiated the terms of its demise with various demolition and asbestos abatement contractors. According to the PEDC’s meeting minutes following the purchase: “the roof leaks so badly that water has gone through the whole building.

When Houston architectural firm MacKie & Kamrath designed it for what was to become the commercial center of Pasadena in the early ’60s, the challenge was to make something “that signalled the former Strawberry Capital of the World‘s transition into the era of manned spaceflight,” according to the Chronicle’s Lisa Gray. It became an icon in town — showing up on school report cards and in the logo for the city’s chamber of commerce — and beyond, as a notable waypoint between downtown Houston and NASA’s then-new manned spaceflight facility further south off I-45.

Looking from closer up, you can see the corner holes in the building’s cantilevered roof overhang:

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Breaking the Bank Building