03/24/08 11:25pm

Rendering of Proposed Hines Office Building Adjacent to First Baptist Church, Houston

A reader directs our attention to this proposed 16-story office building facing the south side of the Katy Freeway, just outside the Loop — on the current site of a Houston’s First Baptist Church parking lot.

Hines plans to build the office building and an 11-level, 1,500-car parking garage on the lot, which the developer would lease from the church. The congregation has already voted to authorize church representatives to finalize and sign a 99-year ground lease for the property.

The garage would help solve the church’s chronic parking problems: According to the HFBC website, 300 cars currently park off-site on weekends. With the Hines development, the church would lose the 480 spaces in the lot now available during the week, but gain 1,500 spaces for church use on weekends and after office hours.

Below the fold, lots more images of the proposed office building and garage on HFBC property.


03/14/08 4:00pm

Former Post Office at 2601 Baylor St., Sunset Heights, Houston

East Sunset Heights Methadone Clinic Ad

This Methadone Clinic graphic was posted today on the Medusa Properties website, and conveys in slightly different fashion the same news we received in our email from a Heights-area reader:

The oh-so-neighborly Mr. Jared Meadors did *not* receive the variance he requested for the Baylor St subdivision.

Photo of 2601 Baylor St. and Methadone Clinic Graphic: Medusa Properties

03/14/08 8:44am

From Abc13’s Wayne Dolcefino:

To get the winning hand, it helps to have the luck of the draw. Maybe that’s what Michael Surface has.

In January of 2005, one of his corporations buys an old H-E-B store on Antoine. The appraised value — $1. 2 million.

Two months later, Harris County announces it’s looking for a big building to replace Commissioner Lee’s Annex A in the same neighborhood that Michael Surface now owned his old H-E-B.

Maybe it was just a lucky hand for Mr. Surface. But years earlier, he was the guy in charge of Harris County’s building department.

(Hey, isn’t this the same guy who brought in the proposal to redevelop the Astrodome into a hotel? Good thing he’s outta there, so that deal can go forward!)

. . . tax records show [Surface] sold the [H-E-B] building and land to a corporation called HC5815 for $2.2 million. That corporation, in turn, got the winning hand months later. The head of that corporation was David Blumhardt from Dallas, who we’ve learned got the winning hand in at least nine Harris County real estate deals. His local representative on the Antoine project was the guy whose name we found on a worn out real estate sign — Jason G. Hall, Weston Partners, Ltd.

Where have I heard that name before?

Jason Hall used to work for Michael Surface at Harris County. Now, his real estate operation is located in Michael Surface’s offices.

When Jason Hall worked for the county, one of the projects he evaluated was 2525 Murworth. It’s now the home of Children’s Protective Services, part of a $35 million county real estate deal developed by Michael Surface just months after he left county government.

After the jump: a longer view!


03/04/08 11:47pm

706 W. Sawyer St., Old Sixth Ward, Houston

It’s a little old bungalow on a small lot . . . but it’s clean and green inside! The sellers of this 2-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath, 960-sq.-ft. home say they’re trying to get this Sixth Ward home LEED certified:

The 1920 facade has been preserved, but when you open the door, its all about 21st century. The hm has been renovated using non toxic materials, low VOC paint & sustainable design materials.

A neighbor who watched the work reports the house was sold to the current owners as a teardown:

It was a nasty, dirty, filthy, funky house with a garage in the front yard. They tore the garage off the front, moved the house around on the lot a tad, and have done an outstanding renovation.

Plus: the neighbors are very very quiet, says our correspondent. The house is next to Glenwood Cemetery.

Read on for more pics, from before and after!


02/26/08 4:31pm

According to a report by Jennifer Dawson in the Houston Business Journal,, the first new spec office building built in the Galleria area in more than 25 years will be . . . a 20-story tower that was designed 15 years ago!

In the early 1990s, [Novati Group CEO Ken] Moczulski ran Transworld Properties, a developer of office, industrial and multifamily properties. Transworld owned the land at 1600 West Loop South at that time, and commissioned Ziegler Cooper Architects to design an office for the site.

“We had planned a building,” recalls Moczulski. “It was all designed.”

The economy turned south, he says, so the facility did not get built. . . .

Last year, Novati co-founders Moczulski and Fernando De León start looking in the Galleria area for an office development site. Moczulski approached Landry’s about buying the West Loop land because, as in the 1990s, he still thinks the location and high visibility make it a good site for an office building.

To top it off, Novati is saving months of development time by dusting off the original plans from Ziegler Cooper. The only design changes needed are those to make the 475,000-square-foot structure eligible for certification as a green building.

Hey, maybe it’s one of those towers that kinda looks like a tall glass cylinder is bulging out from the center? That was a hot nineties look, wasn’t it?

02/26/08 8:36am

Still from Video of The Titan, Randall Davis’s Proposed Condo Tower on Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, Houston

If you’re looking for clues to help you figure out what the McDonald’s on Post Oak is gonna look like when it gets rebuilt, the flashy new website for the Titan doesn’t help much. There’s a video that shows Randall Davis’s latest theme-heavy condo tower from all sorts of dramatic angles, but it never answers the question most of us have been asking since the project was announced last fall: How, exactly, is the drive-thru gonna fit next door?

Davis told the Houston Business Journal last September that the new McDonald’s would be a “long, skinny building” facing Post Oak, between the Titan and the new Alexan Post Oak apartments directly to the north. In the new video, though, there are no Golden Arches, and camera angles artfully block the most direct views of that portion of the building site.

There’s no mention of the McDonald’s on the Titan website. There is, however, a welcome second confirmation that another fine food establishment will be built down the street at Boulevard Place:

A newly planned Whole Foods Market, only half a block away, places hard to find gourmet items at your fingertips.

Okay, so it’s just advertising copy. But it’s recent!

After the jump, more views of the Titan — none of which show where the real Big Macs are gonna live.


02/25/08 10:26am

Fence at Elgin and Louisiana Advertising the Mix @ Midtown, Houston

More details about Crosspoint Properties‘s expanding developments at the corner of Elgin and Louisiana in Midtown: Catty-corner across Elgin from the building that’s already under construction is this new fence advertising the “Mix @ Midtown.” The Chronicle‘s Nancy Sarnoff writes that Crosspoint — whose owners also rule the High Fashion Home/Fabric empire down the street — is planning an additional 50,000 square feet of retail space in the recently fenced block, though construction won’t start until 2009 at the earliest.

A commenter on HAIF suggests announcing the Mix might be a good way to drum up more interest in 3201 Louisiana — the building that’s already going up. A 24 Hour Fitness “Super Sport” — which will include a basketball court and swimming pool and occupy the entire second and third stories of that building — is the only tenant Crosspoint’s George Levan is mentioning. Still available, apparently: retail space on the entire 25,000-sq.-ft. ground floor.

Photo: HAIF user ricco67

01/30/08 3:14pm

Legacy at Memorial 25-Story Apartment Tower in HoustonThis is the best image we’ve been able to find online of the 25-story apartment tower about to go up at the site of the former Ed Sacks Waste Paper Co. at 440 Studemont, just north of Memorial Dr.

And it makes you wonder: Do these out-of-town developers really know what they’re doing here? First they give the project a name — “Legacy at Memorial” — that makes it sound like a funeral home, in a town where death is already a major industry. Then . . . they think Houston residents will stand for 15 percent of the units in the combination highrise-lowrise development being marketed as “affordable housing.” But weirdest of all . . . it looks like they forgot to give their building a theme!

Memo to Legacy Partners and your California retiree funders: Your tower is going up against some aggressively themed competition. When renters can go next door and feel like they’re in Italy, or go down the street to get a little stucco taste of New Orleans, or cross Allen Parkway for a full-fledged Beaux-Arts Alamo resort revival, just who do you expect is going to want to want to live in an apartment that looks like . . . a building in Houston, Texas?

More on the tower that forgot to put on its clothes and makeup . . . after the jump.


01/28/08 12:37pm

If you were wondering why the four-year effort to redevelop the Astrodome seemed like it was being run by the Keystone Kops, here’s a small piece of information that might start to explain a few things: Michael Surface, who up until a few weeks ago was chairman of the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., has been indicted on corruption charges:

In order to secure business from the city of Houston, prosecutors allege, Schatte and Surface bribed Monique McGilbra, the city’s director of building services under then-Mayor Lee Brown, and hired her boyfriend, Garland Hardeman, as a consultant.

McGilbra pleaded guilty in 2005 to accepting bribes and has cooperated with prosecutors on the indictment.

According to the indictment, Schatte, 59, and Surface, 47, gave McGilbra free use of Schatte’s California condo, tickets to professional football games and a box containing champagne and $1,000 in cash. They also paid Hardeman more than $40,000 in consulting fees — $7,800 of which he funneled to McGilbra.

This is, of course, the same Michael Surface who decided to run a “competition” for the right to redevelop the Astrodome more than four years ago with this screwy premise: Ideas would only be considered if they were proposed by developers who had experience with projects of a similar size; but developers with experience on projects of a similar size would not be considered unless their ideas were considered acceptable. And yes, he’s the same Michael Surface who kept pushing the “winner” of the competition — Astrodome Redevelopment Corp. — to change its proposal from a space-themed amusement park to a convention hotel. And who gave them, during all that time, exclusive rights to negotiate a deal.

It’s not so surprising that new proposals for the Dome have begun to leak out in the few short weeks since Surface abruptly resigned his HCSCC post.

01/24/08 7:39pm

Stalls at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

For four years, the fate of the Astrodome has been chained to the proposals of a single company. Those proposals at first went in all sorts of different directions but lately have seemed to be going nowhere. And now, finally, the stewards of the Astrodome’s future have declared that Astrodome Redevelopment’s exclusive right to redevelop the Houston landmark will be coming to an end.

That’s great news, because all that exclusivity and secrecy and incompetence has overshadowed one of the best ideas ever suggested for reusing the Dome — which today can finally be revealed: Let’s turn the Astrodome into . . . horse stables!

Astroturf and tiered stadium seats would give way to more than 1,000 horse stalls and an arena with a capacity of at least 6,000. The vast open area where former Astros stars Jimmy Wynn and Jeff Bagwell hit towering drives would be turned into a three-story exhibition and stalling space, Shafer said.

Isn’t doing time as a livestock storage center the hallmark of a historically significant building? And it will make the next renovation so much more dramatic: “Can you believe it? Before they restored it, they used this thing for horse stables!”

After the jump, some reasons why this plan might have legs.


01/22/08 8:36am

Interior of 2103 Berry St., Third Ward, Houston, Under Construction

Renovate or demolish? It’s a false choice, really. Now you can do both!

If ever one listing encapsulated the essential paradox at the heart of the Third Ward’s uh . . . “resurgence,” it’s the one just posted for 2103 Berry St.

Contractors are hard at work completely renovating this Third Ward duplex . . . so that you can buy it and tear it down. Then you can start over and build brand-new townhouses! The brand-new listing features the construction-site photo above and the following description:


Who says you can’t have it all?

After the jump: Can’t we just slather the stucco over the exterior brickwork and call it even?


12/31/07 9:14am

After years of visionary stewardship, the man who created the brilliant plan to find a new use for the Astrodome has resigned from his post as chairman of the Harris County Sports & Convention Corporation.

Yeah, it’s a shock and a shame, too. Michael Surface had so many useful connections within the development community and county government.

12/21/07 4:15pm

Le Maison on Revere

Uptown renters: Were you planning on staying in your apartment for a while?

A sharp-eyed reader notes that ZOM — the developer of the Bel Air on Allen Parkway and the new Katrina Memorial apartments planned for Revere St. near Kirby and Westheimer (pictured above) — is also planning a 250-unit apartment complex somewhere near the Galleria. The company’s going to stick with its strategy of buying existing apartment complexes, demolishing them, building newer apartments in their place, and then selling them off, ZOM’s Trip Stevens tells Globe St.‘s Amy Wolff Sorter:

“It’s the only way to go in that submarket,” Stevens says. But then he adds real news:

Stephens says ZOM will do the same thing to get its third Houston project into the Galleria submarket. He says the closing for the existing apartment complex should occur late in the first quarter. The plan is to start scraping the three-acre site around midyear.

That’s information a few Galleria-area renters who live in three-acre apartment complexes will probably want to know.

12/13/07 3:01pm

Heights Village Parking Lot on Yale St., Houston Heights

Looks like a lot of pedestrian action going on in these marketing drawings for Orr Commercial’s new Heights Village, a five-acre restaurant, retail, office, and “upscale housing” development slated for the current site of the Sons of Hermann hall just south of I-10, between Heights Blvd. and Yale St. and an adjacent parcel abutting railroad tracks to the south.

Why, with all those people in the drawings walking to and fro, it looks like this development will have all the charm of a small old-town Main Street . . . or at the very least all the charm of an old small town that decided to build a multi-level parking garage, but still turned its Main Street into a parking lot anyway, just to hedge its bets.

After the jump: more parking-lot pedestrians!


12/13/07 10:10am

3840 Willowick Rd., River Oaks, Houston

Here’s the problem with these sleek houses on full-acre lots in River Oaks: They’re selling for too damn cheap! The gorgeous land at the southern boundary of Memorial Park fronting Buffalo Bayou at 3840 Willowick — hogged by this eighties-modern home designed by New York architects Stonehill and Taylor — got swept up for between $45 and $57 a square foot at the end of August.

At that price, wouldn’t your head be spinning with the themed-towering-mansion possibilities? Bring on the demo and stucco crews!

Well, the stucco and foam cornice pieces will probably take a while, but the big machines with the giant claws are on their way, according to this morning’s demolition report.

Photos, plans, and details of the house-that-got-in-the-way — including some fine examples of how to distract from a River Oaks land sale — after the jump: