05/15/17 10:15am

DOWNTOWN TO GET A SECOND FOOD HALL, THIS TIME ABOVE GROUND The former Gulf Oil building at 712 Main St. (now the JPMorgan Chase bulding, currently getting made over along with its nextdoor companion-in-rebranding as The Jones on Main) will get a new food hall, a rep from Lionstone announced last week. Greg Morago reports in the Chronicle that Midway and Lionstone are still seeking vendors for the space (and that the current name, The Food Hall on Main, will probably change). The hall will take up about 20,000 sq. ft. of the Chase building’s lobby, making it about 3 times larger than the leafy Conservatory that opened last spring some 2 blocks away — one of the few parts of Downtown’s underground food scene open after daytime business hours. The revamp to the pair of buildings will also include an art deco cocktail lounge. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 712 Main St.: elnina via Swamplot Flickr pool

05/12/17 3:45pm


In between showing off various multicolored interchange tangles, the new flyover preview video of the huge changes proposed for I-45 North and the downtown freeway circuit glides viewers by a handful of areas where freeways will dive underground — while splicing in some new renderings of the tops of those tunnels-to-be as they could look, if somebody wanted to pay up to turn them into a park. (The animation is careful to emphasize once again that said parks would have to be developed and funded by a source other than TxDOT — and so far, there are no signs that anyone has stepped up.)

The rendering up top shows the would-be-parallel sections of 45, 59, and SH 288, running behind the convention district where 59 sits now — the whole bundle would be pulled down below flood grade and covered up, evidently with concrete if the park thing doesn’t work out. (A clip of just that section of the 10-minute animation is included above; a tiny rendered version of the Cheek Neal Coffee building can be spied along the edge of the freeway, though SEARCH Homeless Service’s new building one block north isn’t specifically drawn in next to it.)

The video also gives the section of 59 from Main to San Jacinto streets the same burial and dressup treatment:

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Bridging the Gaps
05/11/17 12:30pm

A siteplan and the latest renderings of Melbourne-based Caydon Property Group’s residential highrise, planned in place of the now-erased mental health building and lowrise mural canvas at 2850 Fannin St., show a bit more clearly how the 27-story structure might look amid its more squat Midtown neighbors (not counting that other highrise planned a few blocks down Main St.). The aerial view of the site shown here (tilted so that Main St. is horizontal, with Downtown off to the left) shows the building’s footprint in yellow, alongside the light-rail line and Midtown Park to the west.

One of the new drawings of the project also depicts what appears to be a closeup of the Drew St.-facing side of the building, with a good deal more than just the typical rendering entourage: the block across the street is shown with another multistory development in place of what’s currently a parking lot by the Art Supply on Main lowrise, and a section of the street itself is shown fully pedestrianized.

Neither of these changes make an appearance in any of the other zoomed-out renderings, however:

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Drawing Out Drew St.
04/26/17 11:00am

Rendering of DC Partners Allen Pkwy. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Rendering of Tianqing Group/DC Partners Allen Pwky. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

New renderings of the hotel-office-condo-retail hodgepodge in the works on the northern segment of the former city park and waste incinerator site at Allen Pkwy. and Gillette St.  were released into the digital wild by DC Partners this week. The buildings appear smoother and sleeker overall than some of the possible early depictions turned up last August (like the Downtown-facing view shown second above for comparison), though some elements of the cluster also appear a bit shorter and stouter. The main tower along Allen Pkwy. has been given a twist in the middle, with a floorcount appearing to number somewhere in the 40-plus range; the lowrise retail complex next door is shown with a bridge over the parkway leading directly into Buffalo Bayou Park.

Perennial rendering sleuth Urbannizer also dug up a different view of the new scene over on HAIF, showing how the whole bundle would fit in amid the Federal Reserve complex, the park, and the section of Fourth Ward surrounding what’s left of the Freedman’s Town Historical District:

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Like a Bridge Over Allen Pkwy.
04/24/17 4:00pm

Proposed Blossom Hotel on Lehall St. at Bertner Ave., Cecil Street Courts, Houston, 77030

1128 Lehall St., Cecil Street Courts, Houston,  77030The little house on the corner with Lehall St. is no longer standing in the would-be shadow of that hotel planned on the 7100 block of Bertner Ave. (seeing as it’s no longer standing at all). Developers with Zhejiang Blossom Tourism Group Houston had originally sketched up a 9-story hotel with a footprint dipping around the holdout corner lot. Adolfo Pesquera notes over at VBX that the latest plans now show a 16-story structure, and an expanded footprint of the site was okayed for commercial use by the planning commission after the property sold.

Here’s a glance back at what the hotel looked like in its earlier iteration, minus a few floors and motarboards:

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Sprouting South of Brays Bayou
04/19/17 12:30pm

801 W. 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008
Here’s a ghost-dotted sketch of what may soon inhabit that empty lot at the northwest corner of W. 11th and Nicholson streets; Adolfo Pesquera notes over on VBX that the project’s developers may break ground soon. (That’s both figuratively and literally — there’s a fair bit of concrete and asphalt removal involved in the job.) The medical-themed project is catty-corner from the 2-story building already housing the Heights Clinic (along with a Stewart Title office). There should be some kind of grassy buffer between the 31,010-sq.-ft. building and and the rail-turned-trail Heights hike & bike path running along Nicholson to the east, as well as a bit of open to the west toward recently opened Presidio:

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Doctoring Heights
04/13/17 11:00am

Design Options for Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park, 6446 Sewanee St., West University, TX, 77005

6446 Sewanee Ave., West University, TX 77005Sunday’s the deadline for giving the city of West University some honest feedback on which of 3 proposed park layouts you think would best flatter this residential lot at 6446 Sewanee Ave. — along with any specific details you like about the other 2 options. The home’s former owner, architect James M. Hughes, passed away just over a year ago; Hughes bequeathed the property and some funds to West University for conversion into Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park (named after his mother, who bought the empty lot back in 1928).

Option A of the choices highlights the corner lot’s time as a residence by adding a rocking-chaired, freestanding front porch as an entryway (though of a totally different design from the existing front porch). That option would also include a partial outline of the house’s foundation:

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Sewanee Ave. Parking
04/06/17 11:30am

Retail Center planned for 628 E. 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

628 E. 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

628 E. 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008Retail plans along the stretch of E. 11th St. west of Beverly St. look to be moving in a more concrete direction once again — SRS has started advertising available square footage in a double-decker strip center planned on the eastern half of the block. The design for the site has been totally overhauled since the original ads for a Park Place on 11th development (the weathered signage for which is still hanging around on the property, and has been for the better part of a decade.)

The potential footprint of the retail space spreads all the way from Beverly St. to just east of metals brightener Bright Metals of the Heights.  A leasing siteplan shows the center insulated from the 11th St. traffic by a breathable dual layer of parking spaces — and even a triple layer on the Beverly St. side:

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2X 11th
03/29/17 4:30pm

BIG I-45 DOWNTOWN REROUTING, GRAND PARKWAY EXPANSION GET GO-AHEADS Proposed Changes to I-45, I-10, and I-69, HoustonYesterday was a big day for Houston freeway expansion and reconfiguration: On Tuesday, the Texas Transportation Commission gave the go-ahead for construction to begin in late 2020 on the first of 7 separate projects that will move I-45 from the west and south sides of Downtown to its east side, paralleling U.S. 59 behind the George R. Brown, reports Chron transportation writer Dug Begley. Separately, the commission also selected design and construction crews for the next segment of the Grand Parkway, from I-69 near New Caney to I-10 east of Baytown. How grand that section of the Grand Parkway actually ends up being may depend on your perspective: This segment of the Houston area’s fourth ring road is expected to cost $1.25 billion and open in 2022 — but the tollway will have only a single lane in each direction. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Diagram of I-45 rerouting: TxDOT  

03/22/17 11:00am

HOUSTON BIKE PLAN UP FOR A VOTE AGAIN THIS MORNING AMID MORE CALIFORNIA-IZATION FEARS Existing High Comfort Bike Lanes, Houston Bike Plan ca. March 2017This morning’s city council meeting has the Houston Bike Plan back on the docket, following the most recent round of public-input-based tweaking to the plan (as well as a delay of the vote, which was initially scheduled for earlier this month). Over in the Chronicle Dug Begley recaps some of the arguments being made for and against the years-in-development guidance plan, which have a bit of a chicken-vs-egg flavor: do only 0.5% of Houstonians bike to work because safe-feeling bike paths are scarce outside of certain Inner Loop neighborhoods? Or are those areas where the active bikers are already clustered the only ones where bike path improvements are warranted? Councilman Greg Travis, one of the folks who pushed back the vote at the last council meeting, told Begley he does see a need for some kind of bike safety improvement plan, but adds that he’s “not sure this is the plan for Houston. We’re not Amsterdam or San Francisco, and we don’t know what’s needed here, really needed.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Map of existing ‘high-comfort’ bike paths: Houston Bike Plan Interactive Map

03/06/17 5:15pm

Site Plan of Katy Asian Town, 23119 Colonial Pkwy., Houston, 77449

The long-vacant lot above, near the northeast corner of I-10 and the Grand Parkway, is now being cleared and flattened to make room for the Houston area’s third Super H Mart, according to leasing materials a larger retail development being marketed as Katy Asian Town. Plans for the 16-acre site look to including a pair of smaller strip-style buildings and 2 pad sites, in addition to a long string of retail spots flanking the grocery store:

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Latest Grand Plans
02/07/17 12:45pm

HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN PUTTING THE BRAKES ON ALL THOSE LAWSUITS Map of Proposed Route of Proposed Texas Central RailwayThe company planning to build a bullet train between Houston and Dallas appears to be altering the legal strategy it had been using to try to get landowners to allow crews on their land to survey property along the proposed 240-mile route. Texas Tribune reporter Brandon Formby says Texas Central Partners has withdrawn 17 lawsuits across the state (including one in Harris County that had a trial scheduled for July) and settled 21 others that had sought court-ordered access. Officials of the private company now say they will seek an “open dialogue” with property owners about letting crews in. The company tells Formby it has already reached land-purchase options with more than 3,000 landowners, accounting for 30 percent of the total number of parcels it needs, and 50 percent in the 2 counties along the route adjacent to Harris County: Grimes and Waller. The company announced last week that the train is now expected to begin operating in 2023. [Texas Tribune; Houston Business Journal; previously on SwamplotMap of proposed high-speed rail routes: Texas Central Railway

02/06/17 4:30pm

memorial-heights-gate

The peculiar scene pictured above, of a freestanding but fenceless gate, greeted residents of the Memorial Heights Apartments near the corner of Washington Ave and Studewood late last week. Demolition of buildings 1 through 6 of the complex, on the northwest corner of the complex, for a planned new 5-story apartment complex atop a new H-E-B market, appears imminent.

In anticipation, workers have been constructing fencing (now attached to the above gate) that appears to be intended to surround a portion of the remaining parking lot of the remaining complex. There’s also this construction going up at the corner of Studewood and Washington Ave.:

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Approaching Buffalo Heights
01/05/17 4:30pm

Construction site at 1540 W. Alabama, WAMM, Houston, 77006Proposed Alabama Row Shopping Center, 1518 W. Alabama St., Montrose, HoustonA little brown box is now in place about where the gray and blue boxes of the Alabama Row retail strip are supposed to go, a reader notes. The construction trailer recently popped up inside the newish construction fencing now framing the long-empty lot along Mandell St. (across W. Alabama from the block holding the Menil Collection’s parking lot, and part of its bungalow herd). The new strip would sit just west of the 2-story brick house now holding cat spa and boarding facility Fat Cat Flats.

So far Alabama Row looks like it may be bookended by Vietnamese and burger joints, with room for some non-food offerings in the middle — that’s W. Alabama toward the bottom in the preliminary site plan below, with the strip’s parking tucked in back:

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Menil Munchies
01/04/17 12:15pm

1801 Richmond Ave. Demo, Richwood Place, Houston, 77098
1801 Richmond Ave., Richwood Place, Houston, 77098From beneath yesterday’s sunset glare off the new Big Tex Storage midrise on Richmond Ave, a reader captured the splintery wreckage of long-empty Cierra Interiors at the corner with Woodhead St. Plans to stick a new Starbucks in its place were submitted back in early November by an entity connected to experienced Starbucks constructor Vaquero Ventures, and the knockout of the building was officially sanctioned just before Christmas. Next door, the land opened up by Vaquero’s teardown of the pair of 2-story brick 4-plexes at 1823 and 1827 Richmond back in August looks to be marked for another Inner Loop outpost of oil change chain Take 5.

And one more door eastward, the former Ruthie’s Place on Richmond looks to be headed for new use by strip-center gelato shop Sweetcup, per some early-stage permits issued in November that note a bar-to-ice-cream-shop conversion. Sweetcup bought the building at 1829 Richmond in September after the bar’s early 2016 shutdown (in the wake of the passing of long-time former owner Ruth Vardilos). Here’s a shot of the whole corner taken in August, shortly after the apartment removal, showing Ruthie’s tucked next to Ely’s Beauty Salon on the far right:

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Richwood Place Replacements