10/24/16 12:30pm

Riel Restaurant under construction at 1927 Fairview, Montrose, Houston, 77006

French-Canadian-Ukrainian-Texan fusion restaurant Riel is still being installed at 1927 Fairview St., formerly home to Te House of Tea and Trudy’s Boutique Re Sale at the corner with Woodhead St. A reader snagged the shot above yesterday afternoon, showing the former mid-60’s retail strip dressed up in green construction fencing and still sporting that above-it-all street number signage. Ex-Reef chef Ryan Lachaine last said in September that the place should be opening some time next month.

Photo: Mosaic Clinic Dermatology

Fairview Preview
08/12/16 12:45pm

VACANT DOWNTOWN DAYS INN TO GET A TOTAL FACELIFT, BECOME WHATEVER HOTEL IT’S BECOMING 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy., Downtown, Houston, 77002SFK Development’s Nadeem Nasir tells Craig Hlavaty that the owners of the long-vacant hotel highrise at 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy. are, in fact, currently “in the process of rehabbing the building,” though they’re still “waiting to get on the same page as a hotel franchise.” Hlavaty writes this morning that the group won’t answer questions about which hotel franchise that might be, but that the structure will be getting a full strip-down and facial reconstruction as part of the process (in the face of a minimum $25-million cost to tear the structure down and build new). Swamplot’s reader on the scene sends fresh word from a worker earlier this week that the site may become a Sheraton — a story which matches up with a few previous rumors — but no official nods or confirmation have come from either the owners or the hotel chain. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 801 Saint Joseph Pkwy.: Garrett Robles

08/10/16 10:15am

Former Chirps Chicken and Rice, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Former Chirps Chicken and Rice, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008A reader caught sight of some recent stirrings at the southwest corner of W. 20th St. and Rutland, where food truck The Rice Box looks to be setting up a second non-mobile operation in the former home of Chirps Chicken and Rice. Braun Enterprises snapped up the 1,584-sq.-ft. building in mid-2015, when Chirps flew the coop; a TABC permit for the dry zone address was issued to Black Dragon Private Club — an entity listing The Rice Box as a trade name — in early May. Braun also owns the retail strip across Rutland, which replaced those Baptist Temple buildings that were demolished in 2013; the photo above was taken from the Zoe’s Kitchen at the corner.

Photos: Jason B. Cockerell (top), Chirps Chicken and Rice (bottom)

Rutland Remake
03/08/16 2:30pm

Renovation of Sunset Coffee Building at Allen's Landing, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A shiny new cistern is now in place at the former Sunset Coffee building at Allen’s Landing, which Buffalo Bayou Partnership and Houston First have been redeveloping into an office-topped boat-and-bike-rental spot.  The 1910 coffee roasting facility has once again donned walls after moving past a Summer 2014 minimalist phase, and is currently decked out in a muted Café du Monde orange.

The no-longer-see-through structure is back to limiting the view from the Harris County Jail across the bayou (visible on the far right, above). A set of stairs are in place alongside the new cistern, along with railings around what appears to be the planned rooftop terrace.


Nearing Launch at Allen’s Landing
02/22/16 10:30am

Houston Bakery & Cafe, 1035 Quitman St., Northside, Houston, 77009

The past caught up with Houston Cafe & Bakery’s former location at the corner of Tackaberry and Quitman streets last week. The Mexican cafe and panaderia departed to a more northern, more strip-center location at 2435 Fulton St. back in 2015, when Houston ISD bought the Quitman property. A demo permit for the site was issued last Thursday, and by Friday the scene above was already playing out.

Across Tackaberry, soon-t0-be-renamed Jefferson Davis High School is in the early stages of a redo that will upgrade its 1926 building and add some new facilities for the school’s culinary arts and hotel management specialization. Finalized designs from Bay-IBI aren’t out yet, but a community meeting is planned for Thursday of this week, and demo work on some nearby houses has already been going on to make room for expansion.

Here’s a peek at a preliminary site plan from back in 2014, which shows the campus expanding across Tackaberry all the way to Fulton St.:


Tackaberry Takeout
01/25/16 5:00pm

Wright-Bembry Park, W. 23rd St., Shady Acres, Houston, 77008

This after-dark snapshot of a lone excavator hunched atop a pile of its own debris comes from Wright-Bembry Park last Friday — tear-up work at the Shady Acres greenspace, located between W. 23rd and W. 24th Sts. west of Durham Dr., began last Monday, according to a reader’s report. The work is part of a redo of the entire park, as shown in the plan below (oriented with west at the top of the frame):


Shady Acres
12/30/15 9:45am

Remodel of Heights Plaza, 420 E. 20th St., Heights, Houston, 77008

A makeover is underway at the Heights Plaza at 420 E. 20th St. between N. Main and Heights Blvd. Swamplot reader JerseyGirl sends photos of the strip center, once home to Sunny’s Washateria and J & R Boudin; the building is keeping some of its 1970s architectural details (such as those embedded cinderblocks) but is also getting some updates, including a total interior redo and a new white and bubblegum color scheme extending to the parking lot.

Workers on the site confirmed that one of the new tenants will be Birds Barbers, an Austin salon known for providing Shiner Bock as part of its customer experience — in addition to using it as a styling product, for “hair that is smooth and full of shine”. Steel City Pops will also move in — the Alabama-based popsicle chain, which the owner modeled off a Mexican paletas store encountered in Nashville, currently lists flavors including buttermilk, wassail, and spruce on the menu of their Dallas location.

Earlier renderings from Schaum & Shieh show the Heights Plaza strip center (to be rechristened The 420) as it may soon appear — give or take a high-gloss sheen, and those pink parking stops and bricks:


Heights Gets the Birds
07/15/15 1:45pm

2223 N. Main St., Near Northside, Houston

2223 N. Main St., Near Northside, Houston

Hop on or off the Red Line train at Quitman and you’ll find this 1940 red-brick structure a-renovating at the northwest corner of N. Main St. What’s being fixed up? Here are a couple of before-and-during shots showing the transformation of the 11,850-sq.-ft. office building at 2223 N. Main St. so far:


07/07/15 1:00pm

Former Chili's Restaurant, 1040 W. Sam Houston Tollway, Spring Branch, Houston

Not a whole lot has been going on at the former Chili’s at 1040 West Sam Houston Tollway next to the HCC Spring Branch campus, a reader notes. Last September, Montrose-born Greek restaurant Niko Niko’s announced it would be opening its fourth Houston-area location there, near the overpasses connecting I-10 to Beltway 8.


Not There Yet
07/01/15 10:00am

1925 E. T.C. Jester Blvd., Shady Acres, Houston

1925 E. T.C. Jester Blvd., Shady Acres, HoustonA reader notes there’s been some construction activity in and around the entrance and rear drive-thru window of the former Eckerd-turned-CVS Pharmacy along the White Oak Bayou Trail at the corner of T.C. Jester and 18th St., on the west coast of Shady Acres. That’s a notable turn of events: The building has been vacant for about 5 years. The standalone structure’s prospective new tenant appears to be another SignatureCare Emergency Center — last week, a note on the website for the local chain of health clinics had listed 1925 E. T.C. Jester Blvd. as the location of its upcoming “Heights” facility, but the address has since been removed.


06/25/15 11:15am

Western Facade of The Secret Group, 2101 Polk St. at St. Emanuel St., East Downtown

It’s not clear how quickly interior work is progressing on the planned comedy club and music venue in the former Malloy Register Company building at the corner of Polk St. and St. Emanuel in East Downtown, but notable changes have taken place to the building’s exterior since Swamplot reported on the project last month. The graffiti scene spray-painted onto the building’s western wall earlier this year, facing the I-69 overpass a block away (at top in photo above) has been updated to show police chief Clancy Wiggum — wearing an HPD shoulder patch — apprehending Bart Simpson, a stand-in for the site’s own tagging team (at bottom). Also added: the Twitter username for the Secret Group.


East Downtown Building Funnies
06/17/15 12:00pm

Construction of Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts in Former Church's Fried Chicken, 601 Heights Blvd., Houston Heights

Work has begun transforming the former Heights Blvd. Church’s Fried Chicken — which left its longstanding spot on the corner of 6th St. (aka White Oak across the street) back in March — to the long-promised Lee’s Fried Chicken & Doughnuts. Back in 2012, the team behind Liberty Kitchen (and BRC Gastropub as well as Petite Sweets) had intended to open a Lee’s Fried Chicken in the long-vacant drive-thru behind Liberty Kitchen at 1132 E. 11th St. — after initial plans to open a coffee house in that space were switched.


Church’s to Lee’s and Donuts
06/15/15 11:15am

Former Houston Post Building, Future Houston Chronicle Headquarters, 4747 Southwest Fwy., Houston

“It looks amazingly shiny without the 50 years of grime,” notes the reader who late last week snapped these photos of the former Houston Post building at 4747 Southwest Fwy., tucked into the lifted right armpit of the I-69-610 intersection. The brutalist main building of the 7-building campus, designed in 1970 by Astrodome architects Wilson, Morris, Crain, and Anderson, is being powerwashed — with a significant portion of the work complete just in time for this week’s heavy rains.


06/04/15 3:00pm

Rendering of Proposed Renovations to Minute Maid Park Center Field, Downtown Houston

The Astros announced today that the team had received preliminary approval from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to knock down the banked bit of center field past the Minute Maid Park warning track known as Tal’s Hill. The graded area was named after the team’s former president, Tal Smith, who first suggested including an elevation change — a rarity both in baseball and in Houston — to the stadium soon to be known as Enron Field. The proposed renovations, priced at $15 million and scheduled to take place at the end of the current season, would also straighten out the center field fence and bring it in to 409 ft. from home plate (from the current 436 ft.). More important, the opened-up space beyond would allow room for 3 new bars and 4 new food-service locations, as well as a new group seating area at the field level, which conceptual renderings of the new design released by the American League team (above and below) appear to show tucked behind a new see-through portion of the centerfield fence.


Off Ramp
06/04/15 12:15pm

The second of 6 supercolumns being added to the west-facing façade of the George R. Brown Convention Center was lifted into place yesterday, with Pedro Velasquez of WHR Architects on hand to record this timelapse video of the effort. The columns — each 120 ft. tall and 48 in. in diameter — will support a roof-level trellis extending over the front of the building’s 3 center bays facing Discovery Green. The remainder of the columns will be installed over the next few days.

Video: Pedro Velasquez

Convention Center Face Lift