10/10/16 5:00pm

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church renderings, 3511 Yoakum Blvd., WAMM, Houston, 77006

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 3511 Yoakum Blvd., WAMM, Houston, 77006A look at the latest plans for bulking up the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Yoakum Blvd. at Kipling St. come from the diagrams submitted with a recent variance request for the project (and a few more now up on the church’s website). For comparison, a reader sends some leafy shots of the cathedral at its current width, snapped a few days before the setup for the annual Houston Greek Festival (which wrapped up on the church’s campus for the 50th time yesterday evening).

The expansion would widen the 1952 cathedral building to the north and south (toward and away from Kipling), about doubling the current seating capacity; the design also adds that big dome to the top (while the smaller dome along the Yoakum-side bell tower would get a new nitrate finish stainless-steel top-off to match). The church submitted the request for a 1-ft. building line setback last month, including this drawing from Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie architects (which shows a leaf-free perspective from the corner of Yoakum and Kipling):


Toward the Heavens, To the Curb
12/08/15 11:30am

Melrose Building, 1121 Walker St., Houston, 77002

After more than 2 decades of abandonment, the Melrose Building at 1121 Walker is getting some TLC: a total makeover as part of conversion of the building to a Le Meridien hotel. Permits were issued the week of Thanksgiving to begin a complete overhaul of the interior; the exterior will receive an update as well.

The remodel will attempt to restore the youthful good looks of Houston’s oldest Modern skyscraper — as shown in the rendering below, the renovation will bring back the building’s original color scheme:


Going Retro
04/24/15 12:00pm

Little White Church on Barker Clodine Rd. Being Moved to Iglesia Sobre La Roca, 433 S. Barker Cypress Rd., Katy, Texas

The white woodframe church that until recently stood with a collection of small buildings including the Barker General Store on the main, retracted campus of the Marks LH7 Ranch at 1010 Barker Clodine Rd. has been spotted nearby, fleeing encroaching apartment development along the far east end of Kingsland Blvd. at the northwest corner of George Bush Park. The church hasn’t traveled far: It’s arrived on the grounds of the neighboring Iglesia Sobre La Roca, aka Church on the Rock, at 433 S. Barker Cypress Rd. in Katy — just a quarter-mile to the north.

Here’s a photo of the church building as it was picked up from its previous home at 1010 Barker Clodine Rd., beyond the street-facing plaque that explains the remains of Houston’s last ranch:


Last Roundup at Houston’s Last Ranch
04/24/14 10:45am

ST. PHILIP PRESBYTERIAN IS NOT FOR SALE Saint Philip Presbyterian Church, 4807 San Felipe St., Uptown, Houston“The enduring themes of conversation here include traffic and real estate,” intoned Pastor John Wurster in his Easter Sunday sermon in front of the blue tiled chancel wall in the sanctuary of the St. Philip Presbyterian Church, which is sited on a prime slice of Uptown land at 4807 San Felipe St. “The real estate conversations seem to happen exclusively with those outside of the church. These are the people who call expressing an interest in buying the church property. I explain that we’re not looking to sell. Of course, you are. Everyone is willing to sell at some point. Just tell us what that point is. No, really, we feel like this is where God has called us. This kind of theological talk tends to bring no response beyond bafflement, as if it’s not possible that one could be in a place and not be willing to leave it if the price were right, as if it’s not possible that decisions and actions might be motivated by something besides money.” Saint Philip’s congregation merged with Central Presbyterian Church a few years ago, shortly before that congregation sold its Richmond Dr. facility to the Morgan Group. Central Presbyterian was torn down for apartments in 2011. [St. Philip Presbyterian; previously on Swamplot] Photo: church member Jeromy Murphy

04/15/14 11:15am

Park Place Baptist Church, 4105 Broadway St., Park Place, Houston

Park Place Baptist Church, 4105 Broadway St., Park Place, HoustonThe owners of the Park Place Baptist Church building and campus just south of the Gulf Fwy. at 4101 Broadway St. have put the 8.694-acre property up for sale, with a list price of $3.9 million. The building, which also serves as a sixties-mod landmark at the freeway exit for mod-home bastion Glenbrook Valley (not to mention Hobby Airport), has been home to the church since the building was completed. But the congregation no longer owns the facility. In 2002, the property was deeded to the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is based in Dallas. The campus currently serves as the Seminary’s J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies.


Park Place Baptist
03/03/14 4:30pm



Just add performer (or pastor) and this former church building with studio-friendly sound and light system will be ready to roll. Or rock. The 1985 property on a residential street is set within Depenbrook Allen, a Near Northside neighborhood located off Quitman St. near I-45. Re-listed last week, the former home of Ministerio Zoe Vida now has a new asking price of $169,900. Previous price points ranged from $245,000 (at its initial listing in May 2013) to the $175K it had reached by December, when it went on a quick winter break.


Take a Seat
05/20/13 11:00am

This rendering shows one of 4 charitable duplexes planned to go up in Meyerland that will be set aside for single-mother families. Construction began late last week on property that’s owned St. John’s Presbyterian Church at 5020 W. Bellfort Ave., between Willowbend and S. Post Oak Blvd., just outside the Loop. One of the 8 units will also be home to an on-site caseworker.


05/17/13 3:00pm

A HEIGHTS RETAIL RESURRECTION The Leader is reporting that the Baptist Temple Church on Rutland and 20th St. in the Heights has sold 2 of its oldest buildings to Braun Enterprises, which says it will tear them down and replace them with less sacred spaces — that is, retail or a restaurant. If the almighty dollar has triumphed, there’s still a silver lining — or so Charlotte Aguilar suggests, reporting that the sale of the buildings — the church’s original sanctuary, built in 1912, and a larger one built in 1940 — will fund a $3 million renovation to its remaining 65,000-sq.-ft. T.C. Jester Building on 20th; a new 300-seat sanctuary will be added and classrooms and offices updated. [The Leader] Photo: Charlotte Aguilar via The Leader

04/18/13 1:45pm

In the middle of last summer, Interfaith Ministries closed on almost 76,000 sq. ft. of Midtown property spanning 2 catty-corner blocks just north of HCC, including the PrimeWay Federal Credit Union building shown here at 3303 Main St.; the organization says it’s closing in on the $12.5 million needed to fund the renovation of the 39,000-sq.-ft. bank into its headquarters and the construction of a new 14,000-sq.-ft. Meals on Wheels distribution center at Elgin and Fannin.


12/12/11 11:50pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE APPLE HOUR OF POWER “Believe it or not. Just a few weeks ago I posted a mail to Tim Cook, no reply till now :), in which I suggested to buy the Crystal Cathedral Campus in Garden Grove. I have been there on several occasions (although I am a dutch citizen so it is not around the corner). It would be an excellent Apple campus where people can meet Apple and each other and where we all can build a platform where contemporary speakers like Deepak Chopra, Lynne McTaggart and many others who can tell us new things that can make this world a better place can be invited to share their knowledge. Can you imagine streaming to or downloading by the devices like the iPad, Apple TV iPhones and Macs in every corner of this planet? In that way preserving the heritage of that beautiful place and at the same time give it a destination that will appeal tot the entire world (community). Now it will be sold to a catholic church, in my opinion a loss of possibilities.” [Hans Noordsij, commenting on Comment of the Day: Apple’s Crystal Cathedral]

03/03/11 12:20pm

These gold-colored turret-toppers were at long last delivered to the Hare Krishna Temple on 34th St. at Golf Ave. this week, reports a Swamplot reader who sent in photos. Construction on a new 24,000-sq.-ft. temple at the facility — scheduled to include a vegetarian restaurant inside — began in 2005. The Houston congregation of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness first moved into a former church at 1320 W. 34th St. in 1984. Two deities made out of brass — but which looked like they might be gold — were stolen from an altar at the temple last October. Here’s what the new building is supposed to look like when it’s finished:


08/06/10 1:55pm

The third-most-famous retractable roof in Houston opened up for visitors last Friday for the first time in 2 years. Artist James Turrell’s Skyspace — in the Live Oaks Friends Meeting House at 1318 W. 26th St. in Shady Acres — will again be coaxing in the night sky for the public every Friday evening, starting an hour before sunset. What shut out the twilight for so long?

The ceiling’s hatch runs on rails that until recently were mounted on a wooden support that was sheathed in metal. Thanks to Houston’s semitropical climate, water worked its way into the wood and began rotting it out, [property clerk Philip] Koch said.

“We didn’t know this for sure until we actually did the repair work, but it was making some pretty ominous noises and was getting stuck,” Koch said. “We didn’t want it to get stuck in the open position because we’re open to the heavens and the rain comes in.”

Members initially thought the system could be repaired, but further assessment showed it would need to be redesigned and replaced, adding a $50,000 price tag to the $100,000 the Live Oak Friends Meeting had already received from the Houston Endowment based on early estimates.

The new design replaced the metal-sheathed wooden curb with what Koch described as “a piece of pipe, basically, that’s square in cross section and that has special pieces on the side – both to keep the hatch from moving off the rails and also to keep it in place in the event of a hurricane. That had to be custom made, and so did the pieces to attach it to the roof.”

Photos: Flickr user TxTamz (Meeting House); Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery (Skyspace)

05/24/10 6:33pm

Home theater specialist Andrea Grover is leaving Houston — and selling the Sunset Heights church-turned-movie-theater-turned-residence where she founded a well-known local arts organization 13 years ago. For the 10 years that it operated on Aurora St. just east of Main, Aurora Picture Show featured a ridiculous range of obscure and not-quite-as-obscure film and video screenings in its sanctuary space, along with 13 weddings and a couple of memorial services. Then 2 years ago, Grover explains, the microcinema went south — to Montrose:

Aurora relocated its office and library to a bungalow in “Doville” (the neighborhood affectionately named after Dominique de Menil). Their programming has been nomadic and site-specific in order to attract new audiences and activate different sites in Houston. This strategy has worked extremely well for the organization, which has seen increased attendance and membership as a result of catering to Houston’s love for new experiences and one-of-a-kind events. I retired at the end of 2008, and Aurora is doing so well that I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner!

The house includes a movie chapel with pew seating for 96, audio-video equipment, and a “disused baptistry,” along with a small freestanding outhouse for theatergoers that was “designed by a well-known architect (Michael Bell), though you would never guess it,” writes Grover.

The home comes with a trailer, too:


04/01/10 10:23am

Houston’s City Council voted 13-2 yesterday to sell the former Compaq Center to the nation’s largest megachurch for a grand total of $7.5 million dollars. Sure, that’s considerably less than the $22.6 million the city would have received for a 30-year extension of Lakewood Church’s current lease on what used to be homecourt of the Houston Rockets. But the city wouldn’t see the beginning of that income stream for 24 years, and it might be a full 54 years before the city could get the building and those 7 acres of Greenway Plaza land back — presuming either is worth anything at all by then. And really, who’s even going to want to be around this city in 2064?

That $7.5 million isn’t exactly chump change, either. If each of the church’s approximately 43,500 weekly visitors throws a dollar into one of those collection buckets, it’ll take them all of 3 and a half years just to pay the darn thing off!

But did the city even have a choice in the matter?


03/24/10 10:43am

From the Twitter feed of KHOU reporter Alex Sanz, Swamplot hears news that Houston’s city council has postponed a vote on a proposal to sell the former Compaq Center at 3700 Southwest Fwy. in Greenway Plaza to Lakewood Church, for an-appraised-but way-below-assessed-value price of $7.5 million. As Swamplot explained yesterday, the church has more than 20 years left on a prepaid lease for the property and an option to extend the lease for an additional 30 years after that for a little more than $22 million — both of which significantly affect the present value of the property to the city.

Is the postponement of the sale a setback for Lakewood? Why should it be!? Followers of church pastor Joel Osteen, who’s now written 3 books filled with real-estate investment advice, know that he advocates patience — especially in complicated sale or purchase situations. Why wouldn’t he want councilmembers to feel entirely comfortable with the decision they come to?

Here’s how Osteen explains it in a relevant passage from his latest book, It’s Your Time: