06/23/17 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WAIT, THERE’S AN OPEN SEARS IN MIDTOWN? “No joke, I’ve lived here for 4 years now – always in Midtown – and I had no earthly idea that the Sears at Richmond and Main was actually an open and operating retail location until I read the comments on this post. It looks abandoned from the street! Mind blown.” [RS, commenting on Southeast and Southwest Houston Sears Stores Going South] Photo of Sears at 4201 Main St: Fox E.

06/23/17 10:00am

SOUTHEAST AND SOUTHWEST HOUSTON SEARS STORES GOING SOUTH Included in the latest round of Sears store closings: the mall-anchor locations at the Baybrook Mall (off the Gulf Fwy. at Bay Area Blvd.) and the Westwood Mall (off the Southwest Fwy. at Bissonnet). Liquidation sales are scheduled to begin by the end of this month; the stores will shut down completely by the middle of September. This will bring the the number of Sears Holdings stores scheduled to close this year to 265. [USA Today; Business Insider] Aerial view of Sears at the Baybrook Mall: CBRE

06/22/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MISPLACING THE AUDUBON PLACES “TIL that Audubon Place (the street in 77006) is not in Audubon Place (the subdivision in 77027). The whole time I was scouring the neighborhoods in and around Westmoreland for a house, I thought the adjoining neighborhood was called Audubon Place. My bad; it’s Montrose. The original. I was misled by the green historical sign at the W. Alabama end of the block.” [GoogleMaster, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Inglourious Buildings] Photo of 804 Harold St.: Audubon Place Association

06/22/17 2:00pm

STARTING IN JULY, YOU’LL ONLY NEED 2 BUS RIDES TO GET TO GALVESTON Since 2013, when the last regular bus service was canceled, taking a trip from Houston to Galveston on public transportation has been a bit of a challenge: It might take you 1 light-rail train ride, 4 buses, a 3-mile walk, and 4 hours. Thanks to a 2-year grant from TXDoT, support from Galveston County and Texas City, and an approval by Houston’s Metro Board today, it’s about to get a whole lot easier. Beginning July 10th, an Island Express route coordinated by the 2 cities’ transportation agencies will allow weekday service between the Downtown Transit Center in Houston and Island Transit’s Downtown Transit Terminal at 25th St. and the Strand in Galveston 3 times a day — with a transfer at the Bay Area Park & Ride — for $9. There’ll be a stop in Texas City, and bikes can ride too. Metro expects about 20 riders a day to use the service. [OffCite; Christof Spieler] Draft schedule for Island Express: Metro

06/22/17 1:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: WATCH FOR TOMORROW’S FLOODING TODAY! Homeowners in the area would be wise to keep a keen eye as to the elevation of the current Fiesta property, document with photos and watch as the builders elevate the ground of the property two or more feet above existing grade. This elevation of property will push water off the commercial property and onto lower lying homeowners and existing small businesses. I attended a talk this week with a flooding expert from Texas A and M who pinpointed development as the primary driving cause of Houston’s flooding. This was a highly intelligent and well regarded college professor and researcher. He says he gets phone calls from first time flood victims and always asks if anything was recently built in the area. Often they will say that a Wal-Mart or something similar was built immediately before their flooding problem started. This is real, everyone. Document your lawsuit evidence today.” [Tired of flooding, commenting on H-E-B To Scoot Groundbreaking Back to End of Summer Break, Scoot Building Up Toward N. Shepherd] Illustration: Lulu

06/22/17 9:30am

H-E-B TO SCOOT GROUNDBREAKING BACK TO END OF SUMMER BREAK, SCOOT BUILDING UP TOWARD N. SHEPHERD Work on that Fiesta-supplanting H- E- B on N. Shepherd Dr. is now scheduled to kick off on August 25th, Scott McClelland tells Landan Kuhlmann in The Leader this week. That’s purportedly due to variance-related pushbacks — namely, to H-E-B’s request to put the edge of its proposed 2-story structure closer to the street (like the request it briefly filed around the start of November but pulled just before the alcohol sales election). That variance request was re-filed in January and was granted, but triggered another round of permitting approvals and associated waiting periods, McClelland says. Estimates on an opening date have also slid back to the end of next year’s summer vacation — by which time we’ll know whether the rest of the area’s alcohol sales laws have gone the way of the off-site sales rules H-E-B helped campaign to remove last fall. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of H-E-B with N. Shepherd setback variance approval, as originally filed in 2016: Houston Planning Commission 

06/21/17 10:45am

CINDY LIKELY TO SKIP THE HOUSTON HOTSPOTS, MAKE A BREAK FOR THE STATE LINE Voluntary evacuation is the name of the game this morning for folks on parts of the Bolivar peninsula (at least for those with health conditions that make the possibility of power failure a big gamble to take). To the east, much of the upper Gulf Coast is already getting hammered with touring bands of pre-landfall rain from Tropical Storm Cindy, and the governor of Louisiana has declared a preemptive state of emergency in anticipation of flooding and tornadoes. But today’s weather models generally peg the bulk of the wind and water from the storm as veering back to the east of Houston itself, Eric Berger notes over on Space City Weather this morning. The worst of the storm seems likely to pull northward toward the swampy, beachy stretch around Beaumont, Port Arthur, the Sabine River, and western Louisiana; only a few feet of higher-than-normal tides and a (relatively) few inches of rain are expected around Houston and near the Ship Channel’s pretty lucky-so-far chemical complexes, along with some pockets of high winds. [Space City Weather] Capture of current conditions on Sunrise Beach: Bolivar Peninsual, TX

06/20/17 10:15am

THESE ARE THE SALAD DAYS FOR EMANCIPATION PARK Covering the reopening of Emancipation Park, on Elgin St. east of 59, Michael Hardy surveys the adjacent eats: “Even before the park reopened, a number of businesses catering to the neighborhood’s newest residents had appeared. Across the street from the park, below the old Eldorado Ballroom, are the Crumbville, TX bakery, which sells vegan cookies and brownies, and the NuWaters food co-op. A few blocks down Emancipation Avenue, Doshi House serves sustainably sourced coffee and vegetarian meals. (Emancipation Avenue used to be called Dowling Street, after a local Confederate officer; the Houston City Council voted in January to change the name.) The latest business to open on the park periphery is the Rustic Oak Seafood Boiler Shack, which serves coastal Cajun cuisine. The owner and chef, Wendell Price, grew up on MacGregor Way, a more affluent part of Third Ward, and remembers the area around Emancipation Park as a food desert. ‘When I came down to hang in this area, you literally couldn’t get a salad,’ he said. Mr. Price, who previously operated a restaurant in Houston’s trendy Montrose neighborhood, said he would never have considered setting up shop in Third Ward if not for the Emancipation Park renovation.” [New York Times; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Doshi House: OffCite/Raj Mankad

06/19/17 4:45pm

THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH WHERE THE INCOME IS TOO DAMN LOW Inspired by a report from Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing Studies that compares household income to the percentage of income used to pay rent for various income levels, Chronicle biz reporter Lydia DePillis charts similar stats for Harris County. “Houston is slightly less cost burdened than the national average,” she concludes, “with 46.7 percent of its renter households paying more than a third of their income on rent.” According to her analysis of Harris County data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, “the disparity between high and low-income areas is still present: In the third of ZIP codes with the highest median household incomes, 31 percent of renters pay more than 35 percent of their income on housing. In the bottom third of ZIP codes, the share is 49 percent.Her graph, shown above, plots median household income (on the X-axis) against the percentage of people paying more than 35 percent of their incomes on rent — for every Harris County Zip Code. [Houston Chronicle] Image: Houston Chronicle/Lydia DePillis

06/19/17 2:30pm

YOU WON’T HAVE THE MENIL COLLECTION TO KICK AROUND FOR MOST OF NEXT YEAR Are you one of those architecturally sensitive types who has long suspected that the worn, squishy pine floorboards of Renzo Piano’s Menil Collection building were meant to serve as some sort of metaphor for the tenuous and uncertain nature of Houston’s oft-muddy groundplane? (Plus, they’ve got those underfloor AC registers interrupting it every few yards.) Well, good for you! — but tough luck: Beginning late next February, reports Molly Glentzer, the building will close for 8 months so that those well-worn floors can be refinished. Why should the job take so long? “The staff will continue to operate as usual from the upstairs offices, but some gallery walls will have to be dismantled and the collections shifted through the building during the sanding and finishing process.” Come November 2018, will the experience of walking through the museum be just as exquisitely unstable as it is now? Maybe not: “The leveling mechanisms under the wooden air-conditioning grills in the floor are also being upgraded,” Glentzer warns. Hurry and visit now, while it’s all still worn and creaky! [Houston Chronicle] Video of Sosie Merritt stomping on Menil floors, 2009: Brandon & Kristen Merritt [license]

06/16/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: STILL MISSING THE GOOD OL’ DAYS “I was born in ’91, so I never got to experience the little mom and pop stores (hardware store or otherwise). I wish I could have seen what it was like back then. :(” [WebsterResident, commenting on Amazon Will Swallow Whole Foods Whole] Photo of Martini Hardware, 7145 Lawndale St.: Andrea Rodriguez

06/16/17 9:00am

AMAZON WILL SWALLOW WHOLE FOODS WHOLE For those who expected Whole Foods Market to shop itself to a fellow grocery store chain and not a powerful company experimenting with drone delivery, some surprising news this morning: Amazon plans to acquire the Austin-based company for $13.7 billion. “Whole Foods Market will continue to operate stores under the Whole Foods Market brand and source from trusted vendors and partners around the world,” the company reports. [Whole Foods; background from Texas Monthly] Photo of Whole Foods Market at West Alabama and Kirby: ilovebutter [license]

06/15/17 4:30pm

BONES FOUND IN HOLDOUT HEIGHTS HOUSE ATTIC TELL NO TALES Fox26 has now updated its story from March on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the fate of Mary Cerruti, the former owner of the 2-bedroom home at 610 Allston St. in the Heights, whose mysterious disappearance in 2015 roughly coincided with the latter stages of Trammell Crow’s construction of the 6-story Alexan Heights apartment complex adjacent to her home. Cerruti was a vocal opponent of the development who refused to sell her property and later reportedly complained greatly about the inconveniences caused by the construction. Her former home is now surrounded on 3 sides by the 6-story apartment building; and earlier this year renters in the same home discovered some unidentified human remains — next to a pair of red reading glasses similar to ones Cerruti wore — behind a loose board in the attic. Today, reports Kaitlin Monte, the Harris County Medical Examiner has announced that it cannot determine the cause of death from that evidence —“because the remains were skeletonized.” The 1,161-sq.-ft. home, meanwhile, has been on the market since March, though the asking price has jumped from $439,900 to $475,000. [Fox26; HAR; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HAR  

06/15/17 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THERE’S MORE MONEY IN HISTORY “First of all, this really doesn’t make much difference, as the original art moderne lines of this center were destroyed several years ago with the addition of gun turrets on the corners of the buildings. What I do find interesting is that Weingarten talks about the alterations as being financially responsible decisions to their shareholders. Yet this is the 3rd oldest intact shopping center in the US, and the only two that predate it, AFAIK, are Highland Park Village in Dallas and Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Both of those have owners that have restored them to essentially their original designs and have enjoyed much increased property values. In the case of Highland Park Village, Henry S Miller (a Dallas developer) bought HP Village in the later ’70’s as it was very run down and dumpy, and had the foresight to restore its original Spanish Colonial design and garner a better tenant mix. Though his company no longer owns it, HP Village commands far higher square foot rents than River Oaks Shopping Center. All this is to say that if Weingarten had invested money in restoring their property 10-15 years ago, they probably would have a more valuable asset today.” [ShadyHeightster, commenting on The Other River Oaks Shopping Center Knockdown Hearing Scheduled for This Week] Rendering of proposed alterations to River Oaks Shopping Center, 1997 West Gray St.: Aria Group Architects for Weingarten Realty Investors