08/16/18 4:00pm

Orange fencing is condoning off the corner of the Westchase Shopping Center where a new Regions Bank is planned in place of the El Palenque that shuttered there in May. A demolition permit issued for the restaurant building exactly a week ago means its days are numbered. But for now it’s still standing, fronted by landscaping and the new Port-o-Potty pair visible in the photo at top from Walnut Bend Ln., just shy of Westheimer.

Also on its last legs: the bank’s nearest existing branch on S. Kirkwood near the Westheimer H-E-B. A company spokesperson told the HBJ‘s Olivia Pulsinelli in June that the planned new branch will take over business in the area.

Photos: Jose Galvan (fencing); Troy M. (El Palenque)

Branching Out
08/08/18 1:30pm

Add F45 Training to the list of businesses taking over warehouses next to where I-45 will run over a few of its own once its rerouted through East Downtown. That’s the gym’s black box in the photo at top, neighbored by the Ferris wheel that new-ish bar Truck Yard recently installed in its own next-door lot. North of an adjacent portion of the building that F45 hasn’t touched, exterior work added new horizontal siding a couple shades darker than the previous off-white onto the structure, as well as the doorway — pictured above — atop which the national fitness chain has been flexing its COMING SOON signage for the past few months.

A permit filed yesterday for the building at 1110 Hutchins indicates rehab work is about to head inside to deal with a 2,650-sq.-ft. portion of its space. It’s 10,000 sq.-ft. total and backs up nearly halfway down the block on Lamar St. where it stands off from the south side of the Kim Hung Supermarket, long-whispered to be about to be demolished for something much taller.

Photos: F45 Training

Bodybuilding Buildings
08/07/18 1:00pm

Memorial Dr.’s Tres Market Foods is expanding to the pair of black and off-white buildings pictured above at 2620 Joanel St. behind the Westheimer strip home to River Oaks Donuts and across the street from the 2-story building housing the Honorary Consulate of Ghana. Formerly a row of separate lots, Houston’s city planning commission approved a request to consolidate the warehouse parcels all into a single property earlier this year. Since then, a handful of permits have come through as part the paperwork to prep the structures for remodeling.

Together, they total 5,400 sq.-ft.:

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Prepared Food Preparations
08/06/18 5:00pm

And in even more beer-related news, another local warehouse is now turning to drinks as its primary occupation. This 7,725-sq.-ft. one — pictured above from Bevis St. between W. 16th and 17th — is about to become New Magnolia Brewing. Its name is a cheers to the original Magnolia Brewing Company — formally the Houston Ice and Brewing Company — that did its concocting along Buffalo Bayou at the corner of Franklin and Milam streets until Prohibition forced it to make ice its flagship product. Following its shutdown, the Magnolia Ballroom took the place over roughly 40 years ago.

The New Magnolia’s 43,560-sq.-ft. digs at 1616 Bevis include this front yard, more than twice the size of the building to its north:

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The Brew and the Old
08/06/18 2:15pm

Note: This story has been updated.

The first tenant slated for the soon-to-be redone Imperial Linen & Cleaners building a block west of the Green Line’s Coffee Plant/2nd Ward stop is now on its way there courtesy of Mike Sammons, one of the partners behind Midtown’s 13 Celsius, Mongoose vs Cobra, and Weights + Measures. A TABC notice is up on the building, reports a keen HAIF user, and last month an entity linked to Sammons called How To Survive on Land and Sea LLC filed plans to start converting 2,371 sq.-ft. of interior room into a bar.

That’ll still leave lots of space for the other attractions that developer Jeff Kaplan wants to usher into the 19,969-sq.-ft. structure shown above that he’s now calling the Plant at Harrisburg. (One of them would’ve been Xela Coffee Roasters; it announced plans to move into the building in 2016 but has since rerouted to an forthcoming spot on Canal St., 5 blocks west of Lockwood) Before Kaplan made public his intention to transform the former cleaners, it played host to an art space that presented “visual art, literary readings and guided meditations; in the interest of, open-minded exploration of the transubstantiative properties of art and space.”

That creative endeavor is over — but speaking of transubstantiation, new windows shown above fronting both the south and west sides of the building will reopen its planned retail spaces to look out on Harrisburg and Sampson St. like they used to:

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Plant at Harrisburg
08/06/18 11:00am

Here’s the next target in Houston’s continuing warehouse-to-brewery turnover trend: 1504 Chapman St. A group of local brewers got their hands on the 6,283-sq.-ft. building — pictured above from the south — in April and a budding Facebook page now shows its address as the location of a venue they’re calling Local Group Brewing.

It’s within the same general parish as St. Arnold’s recently-opened beer cathedral and existing brewery. They’re both less than half a mile away on the other side of the former Union Pacific brownfield pictured below, now giving rise to the complex of mixed-use buildings dubbed Hardy Yards:

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Aerial Redevelopment Reconaissance
08/03/18 12:45pm

A new brewery is now in the works for the industrial building that sits across the Downtown 59 on-ramp from the Houston Center for Sobriety. Just like the adjacent drunk tank which opened in 2013, the new business at 100 N. Jackson will be housed in a repurposed warehouse. Its lawn includes several signs pointing drivers to the neighboring sobering center — like the one shown above fronting the exit ramp off the Eastex, on the west side of the soon-to-be beer venue dubbed Industry Brewery. (Also in the frame: signage for the building’s most recent tenant the American Engine & Grinding Company.)

At that corner, a left on Ruiz St. followed by another quick one on Chenevert gets you outside the recovery facility:

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Downtown Wet and Dry Spots
08/01/18 4:30pm

Dump trucks are now filing onto the barricaded block once home to the Houston Chronicle building — and more recently a parking lot — at Texas and Travis to start laying the foundation for Hines’s new 47-floor tower and soon-to-be new global headquarters. The photo above views the traffic from way up on the 31st floor of the site’s catty-corner northeast neighbor Aris Market Square — which the new building will overtop along with pretty much everything else nearby except the Chase Tower directly south of it. Law firm Vinson & Elkins will occupy the building’s top 7 floors.

A series of glassed-in atria shown in the rendering above from architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli hang out along the structure’s edge facing Milam St. Viewed from closer up, you can even see some people and trees inside them looking out on what’s below:

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Dump Truck Parade
07/31/18 1:15pm

DEMOLISHED WESTHEIMER SPY EMPORIUM’S NEXT MISSION: SURFACE PARKING The new-ish owner that brought down Spy Emporium‘s abandoned building at 1550 Westheimer Rd. earlier this year is now getting ready to turn the property into a parking lot, reports one local urban planner. The building changed hands at the beginning of this year — around the time the spy shop left for 610 and Westpark — to a group that owns the parcel home to Hugo’s on the other side of Mandell St.. That roughly half-acre property already includes its own set of spots in a back lot north of the restaurant building. Spottier in terms of parking availability: the recently-opened UB Preserv restaurant that took over Poscol’s former space in the strip center across Westheimer from Hugo’s about 2 months ago. It currently shares one lot with the other tenants lined up next door to it: Star Tailors & Alterations, D & S laundromat, and Urban Vapes. [C Money; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Spy Emporium

07/30/18 10:15am

The complicated thing about trying to turn an old Heights home — like this one at 733 W. 24th St. — into a coffee shop is that the neighborhood’s original lots are smaller than Houston allows for commercial use. Although the house pictured at top sits on a pair of adjacent 25-ft. lots, their combined frontage still falls short of the 60-ft. minimum required to lump them together into a space for something other than single-family residential.

But that’s not stopping the owner that bought the house earlier this year from seeking an exception to the rule. On Thursday, Houston’s city planning commission will consider a variance that’d allow the plans to go ahead anyway by consolidating the lots into a single 50-ft.-wide, business-friendly parcel.

Then comes the question of parking. Right now, a driveway leads up to a carport on the west side of the house:

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Cafe Conversion
07/27/18 11:45am

Although the lettering’s been gone from Abel Motors’ roadside sign since the auto shop moved in 2016, it’s still got a helpful pointer for passers-by: The Burger Joint is about to take the place over. Pictured above is what the dealership looked like on the northeast corner of Shepherd and 20th St. in its heyday. Since peeling out for a new spot at 9102 Airline Dr., its old digs have been transformed by the brick strip center pictured at top — soon to house the burger restaurant’s first venture north from its sole existing location on Montrose at Westheimer.

Another view of the new burger sign shows it’s still drawing a blank on lower-level messaging:

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Shifting Gears
07/20/18 2:00pm

Lovett Commercial won’t be building that new northwest corner structure on the former Houston Post site previously slated to house a Sprouts Farmers Market at Emancipation and Bell avenues, but it does plan to move ahead with this blocky new entryway housing an elevator and stairway on St. Charles St. — that is, if Houston’s city planning commission gives it the go ahead. The developer fired off an application asking the commission for permission to plant the cube (shown in yellow above) right at the property line, as opposed to 10 ft. from it as would typically be required, but then postponed its consideration for 2 weeks during which it plans to gather more supporting information. The structure would go right outside the existing 3-story building between Emancipation and St. Charles St. that Lovett plans to preserve.

Other portions of that 1944 building already toe the line in similar fashion along St. Charles and Emancipation. They were grandfathered in to the current setback rules, along with the entire north façade of this slightly smaller, abutting structure that lines Polk St.:

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East Downtown
07/19/18 5:00pm

Next Saturday, Houston’s historic commission is set to consider a request that new old signage be installed on the former Gibbs Boats building at 1110 W. Gray as part of the renovation to turn it into a new shopping center dubbed Rêve Montrose. The QUALITY LAUNDRY lettering is a nod to the 1936 structure’s original tenant — pictured above — which turned the place over to Gibbs in 1958. According to the rendering above, the replica sign and accompanying pyramidal support structure are set to be installed in the same location as the originals.

Since the Oxberry Group announced its redo plan for the building in March, some of its W. Gray façade has been scratched off, revealing traces of the original brick underneath where the G in Gibbs used to front the street:

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W. Gray and Montrose
07/19/18 2:00pm

The owners of the 22,860-sq.-ft. warehouse at the bend where Wash Ave becomes Hempstead Rd. have plans to refashion the building as Houston’s latest food hall, complete with 25-plus restaurant tenants, a few grocery and trinket vendors, and an adjacent beer garden — all fronting 22,000-sq.-ft.-worth of park space. Aside from homonymous salad bar concept Let Us, no specific tenants have been announced for the space yet — formerly home to the Emmett Perry oriental rug store and Sugar Creek Interiors’ design studio. But the developer hints that most food stalls at Railway Heights will be of the fresh-never-frozen variety, staffed by “the farmer who reared the animal, the fisherman who caught the fish, the baker who baked the bread.

Later on, plans call for a 600-car automatic parking garage (about 2-and-a-half-times the size of that other robo-valet proposed next to Tacos A Go Go on White Oak) to be added on to the site at 8200 Washington, along with a complex of “container apartments” in the southeast corner of the things. Along with the food hall, they’ll all go in the area marked red in the map above, across the train tracks from InTown Homes’ forthcoming Cottage Grove Lake community.

The map below shows how the site will layout in greater detail:

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On the Timbergrove Menu
07/17/18 3:00pm

HINES SIGNS UP FOR 48-STORY HIGHRISE ON FORMER HOUSTON CHRONICLE DIGS DOWNTOWN Building permits filed last week for a concrete foundation in place of the HoustonChronicle-building-turned-parking-lot at 801 Texas Ave. reveal the vertical extent of what Hines has planned for the site: 48 stories. They’ll soon rise up above the fought-over tunnel system where a judge buried the hatchet 5 months ago, awarding Hines’ neighbor Theater Square $200,000, reported Nancy Sarnoff. Theater Square owns the property across Prairie St. from 801 Texas and claimed it had the right to access tunnels beneath the former newspaper building that it needed to connect its own subterranean sprawl to Houston’s broader downtown tunnel system. That hookup is now complete — writes Sarnoff — though the neighboring developer has yet to break ground on its own planned tower. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Brie Kelman