07/09/15 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: RISE OF THE MEMORIAL CITY MONSTER Memorial City Mall, Houston“Does any else remember the old Memorial City Hospital that used to sit on the east-bound Katy Freeway feeder (west of Gessner)? It was once just a small 3 stories tall. Then they built 3 more floors on top of those, making it 6. Then it kept growing/morphing until it turned into the crazy space alien tower that it is today. Memorial City Mall has similarly morphed and changed continuously over the past 3 decades, constantly changing its footprint, accessibility, and façade. I would love to see some sort of time lapse of all the changes. With this expansion across I-10, I’m envisioning an eventual network of skywalks spanning the freeway to connect it all, like a great big vampire squid.” [Superdave, commenting on Memorial City Prepares To Cross the Katy] Illustration: Lulu

05/22/15 12:45pm

Map of Paragon Outlets Houston, I-69 at Reading Rd., Rosenberg, Texas

A vote of Rosenberg’s City Council this Tuesday made it official: Paragon Outlet Partners will be building a sprawling outlet mall called the Paragon Outlets Houston on the southeast side of the Southwest Fwy. at Reading Rd. in the eastern reaches of Rosenberg, just southwest of the Brazos Town Center and Brazos Town Crossing shopping centers and FM 762, and 10 miles down I-69 from Sugar Land. Construction of the 400,000-sq.-ft. first phase is expected to begin this summer and finish in November of next year.

Map: Paragon Outlet Partners

Factory Direct to You
04/24/15 4:30pm

FOOD TRUCK GOING FOOD COURT The Rice Box Food Truck, HoustonNext venue for the 2-truck Chinese-food-about-town hotspot known as the Rice Box? A non-mobile location in the food court at 5 E. Greenway Plaza, Alison Cook reports: “[Owner John] Peterson has signed on Jim Herd’s Collaborative Projects to design a Rice Box Greenway prototype that will set it apart from its more conventional neighbors. Under a crimson sea of 80 Chinese lanterns (one of the visual totems on the original Rice Box truck), informal barstool seating will range across a counter overlooking oscillating video panels and a custom tea bar. The menu will appear on its own video screen. Red roof tiles from China have been ordered to construct an awning over the counter. ‘It’s one step closer to the White Dragon Noodle Bar,‘ jokes Peterson, referring to the Blade Runner food stand that was his visual inspiration for the Rice Box truck. (All he and Herd need to do is rig some kind of periodic rain showers.)” [Food Chronicles] Photo: The Rice Box

02/10/15 11:00am

Construction of Galleria Jewel Box, Galleria, Houston

Construction crews have begun digging into the surface parking lot along Westheimer in front of the Galleria for the construction of the fancy new pad site building mall owner Simon Properties is referring to as the “luxury jewel box.” Foundation work for the structure, which will sit in front of the Cheesecake Factory and house as many as 3 high-end retailers (Cartier and Chanel are portrayed in renderings of the structure from early last year), will be a little tricky — because underneath the surface parking lot lies the Galleria’s multi-story Blue Garage.

A Swamplot reader sends in the above photo showing the scene as it appeared yesterday; here’s the same view with a bit more of a zoom-out:


Digging Deep
01/16/15 11:00am

Proposed Hotel Alessandra, Dallas and Fannin Streets, GreenStreet, Downtown Houston

If the giant 25-story-tall question mark built into the profile of the Hotel Alessandra — the Modern tower pictured above, planned for a spot directly behind the XXI Forever store along Fannin — spurred any of you to wonder when or whether construction of the promised residential expansion of GreenStreet (formerly Houston Pavilions) might begin, here’s an answer: Next Monday, MLK Day, workers will begin blocking access to the urban mall’s center court at 1201 Fannin St. and other areas to begin demolition work. Their target: The much shorter structure that once housed the Houston Pavilions’ Yao’s restaurant, owned by family members of Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, which stands in the way.


Clearing Yao’s Away
11/20/14 3:15pm


As of December 1, Galleria tenants and workers who park in the Blue Garage fronting Westheimer (labeled “Construction Zone” in the above site plan) will have to find another place to stash their rides. Explains an official “communiqué from the management office” of Unilev, operators of Galleria Tower II: “This relocation is to due to impending construction by Simon Properties of a free-standing retail structure that will be erected on the surface lot directly above the Blue Garage.” That structure will be going on the 14,000-sq.-ft. pad site in front of the portals to the Cheesecake Factory; it’ll be known colloquially as the “luxury jewel box.” Simon Properties intends the building to house up to 3 high-end retailers.

A user going by the name of JJ18 posted these renderings of the proposed structure to HAIF back in March:


10/07/14 12:00pm

BIGGER GALLERIA APPLE STORE FOR BIGGER IPHONES OPENS THIS WEEKEND Apple Store Closed for Construction, Houston Galleria, HoustonOnly a few weeks after beginning sales of a pair of embiggened iPhones, Apple is ready to unveil its latest enlargement: the newly expanded Galleria Apple Store. That’s it hiding on the second level in the photo at left, behind the 60-ft.-long black wall. A grand reopening is scheduled for this Saturday. The store moved to a temporary location over the summer to allow for the widening, described in detail here. [Previously on SwamplotPhoto: David Ruiz

07/29/14 1:00pm

Interior of GreenStreet, Downtown Houston

Swamplot reader Marc Longoria has pics of some of the greenery added recently to the revamped interior of the former Houston Pavilions mall downtown, now known as GreenStreet. The rebranding of the mixed-use complex, which extends 3 blocks east from the Main St. rail line in a Discovery Green-ish direction, signifies more than just the infusion of cash from the new owners who are rescuing the project from bankruptcy, the Midway Companies (the folks behind CityCentre) and Magic Johnson’s Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds: There’s the notable addition of striped-green roofs over the escalators (above), for one thing. And more new plant-ish color has been added nearby:


Artificial Turf, Salads, and More
06/13/14 11:30am

Aerial View of Planned Construction at the Galleria, Houston

Sure, there are plenty of highrise towers to live in in the Galleria . . . area. But what if you want to live in the Galleria mall itself? As in, step out the front door and take in a little Burberry, L.K. Bennett, or Apple Store, maybe still in your Neiman Marcus PJs? The folks at Simon Property Group, the mall owners, began mentioning the possibility of a 300-unit residential highrise at the corner of West Alabama and Sage last fall, when they announced the big Galleria III redo (going on now), which is scooting Saks Fifth Avenue over to the former Macy’s spot fronting Sage and open up about 100,000 sq. ft. of new retail space in its wake. And now they’ve gone and shown on a map where the new tower might go.


Mall Residential or More?
09/06/13 10:00am

Remember that unusable and really vague tip sent to Swamplot back in January? The one promising that a “major (non-residential) Houston property is about to make a significant change”? And it wasn’t Macy’s? Well, the in-the-know tipster now reports, we can let that cat out of the bag, since the Houston Business Journal and Houston Chronicle already have: The “Houston landmark” the tipster couldn’t tip us off about is the Galleria — which, it was announced yesterday by developer Simon Property Group, will be undergoing extensive renovations and partial demolition to create about 100,000 new sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space.

The plan calls for the Galleria III portion where Saks Fifth Avenue is currently located to be demolished — though the tipster says the Philip Johnson façade will be maintained — to make room for a bumped-out food court (shown in the rendering above). That freed-up Saks space will provide room for 35 new retailers and restaurants. Meanwhile, Saks will be moving into the Macy’s spot on Sage, and that Macy’s will be merging with the other Macy’s on Hidalgo. (Makes sense.) Also, a standalone box will be built in the parking lot for a few tenants who can afford to be more conspicuous to the stop-and-go crowd on Westheimer.


04/05/13 9:56am

Houston Pavilions is to be renamed in honor of 2 urban features the troubled 5-year-old Downtown outdoor mall had so far shunned, its new owners announced yesterday: greenery and streets. The newly dubbed GreenStreet appears to be taking a few cues also from Discovery Green, the younger but far more successful urban attraction a few blocks to the east. Midway, which with Magic Johnson’s Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds bought the 3-block-long mixed-use center out of bankruptcy last August (and the adjacent parking garage on Clay St. between Main and Fannin a few months later), plans 6 to 9 months’ worth of renovations to the property as well, to turn it into a CityCentre-style event hub.

The new design, by Houston architects Muñoz + Albin and the Office of James Burnett, a local landscape firm, will try to soften and connect the 3 separated interior courtyards and make them come across as more park-like. Additional changes won’t exactly make the famously inward-looking mall turn itself inside-out, but they do appear to make a few stabs at poking through to Dallas St., adding signage, storefront windows in some places, and a few outdoor seating areas along its northern edge.


07/18/12 12:39pm

Does the conversion of 2 former Borders Books locations (or at least part of them) into some sort of medical facility constitute a trend? Texas Children’s Pediatric Associates is building a clinic in the former Borders mezzanine space in the not-in-River-Oaks Centre at River Oaks at the corner of West Alabama and Kirby. And Kelsey-Seybold announced yesterday it’ll be turning the former Borders store in Meyerland Plaza — along with the long-vacant Planet Music space above it — into a new medical clinic and pharmacy. Of the 72,000 sq. ft. in the new “Multi-Specialty Care Center,” 27,000 will be used as warehouse space, according to a company press release.


06/20/12 11:37am

Dancers ranging through the 100,000-sq.-ft. former JCPenney at the West Oaks Mall — now known as the West Oaks Art House — “got pretty vigorous,” explains local art blogger Robert Boyd, who attended one of the inaugural performances in Houston’s newest, largest, and loneliest independent arts facility. One of them kicked the hole in the wall pictured at right. No grief from the free-range arts center’s laid-back L.A. landlord, though: “I kind of love the hole in the wall,” Pacific Retail’s Sharsten Plenge tells him. “It is like a souvenir of the energy that Suchu graced WOAH with.” (Yes, Plenge is an artist herself.)


05/31/12 2:13pm

The very first event at the brand-new West Oaks Art House takes place this Friday night, when the Suchu Dance company performs its first work in the eerie fluorescent-lit cavern left behind by JCPenney when it gave up on its freestanding building at the West Oaks Mall in 2003. The performance kicks off the appropriately named Big Range Dance Festival. It’s not just the repositioning dance of the vacant mall department store: 16 Suchu dancers will range around the enormous space in a piece called “Afternono.” To counter claims that this event is a bit too “way-out” for Suchu’s usual East Downtown audiences, the company is commandeering a trolley-style bus to bring audience members from the Spring Street Studios north of Downtown to the West Houston mall at Westheimer and Hwy. 6.

LA artist Sharsten Plenge, who’s been working to transform the abandoned 100,000-sq.-ft. store into some sort of arts center — in part by offering free rent to artist groups willing to venture so far from their usual haunts and set up shop or exhibits there — tells Swamplot she hopes the inaugural Suchu performance (as well as additional ones on subsequent Saturday afternoons) “marks the beginning of what we hope to be many more unique projects” in the building, which now bears the acronym WOAH.


05/11/12 9:34am

CITYCENTRE OWNER BUYING HOUSTON PAVILIONS Houston’s Midway Companies, along with an unnamed New York Partner, is set to acquire Houston Pavilions from the receiver who took over the Downtown mall last year, according to a report in today’s HBJ. Reporter Jennifer Dawson notes reports to the bankruptcy court indicate that the development’s retail space is now 66 percent leased, and the property has a positive cash flow — before debt service. In the year before its default, Pavilions’ original developer made no payments on its original $120.6 million 2007 loan. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Haynes-Whalley