07/14/17 5:30pm

Here’s a view from last week of the former Express Wheel & Tire kiosk in Oak Forest, in the midst of its transformation into a yet-to-be-identified coffee drive-thru along Ella Blvd. at W. 34th St., at the eastern end of the shopping center redo Revive Development is working on at that intersection’s southwest corner. Demo crews are removing the overhang connecting the front canopy to the small building behind it. Renderings of the finished development on the Revive website show the canopy is meant to remain — to shade a few prime parking spaces at the eastern end of the development:

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W. 34th St. and Ella
07/10/17 3:30pm

There appears to be some uh . . . work being done to a few of the (long-time-since-they’ve-been-rented) rooms at the former Downtown Days Inn building at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy., also known as Houston’s last remaining (for now) abandoned skyscraper. Look at the lowest level of windows above the parking garage in the top photo. See how the windows appear to be busted out —in a way that’s maybe somewhat different from how many of the other windows are busted out? A somewhat systematic regime of glass removal appears to be working its way up the building’s southern façade, according to a quick comparison of the shot at top, taken today, and this one, from a slightly different angle, taken almost exactly a month earlier:

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Windows Ate
06/27/17 2:30pm

The startup 3-barrel “nano-brewery” carving its ferment-and-serve spaces out of the former Bissonnet Auto Service Center garage on Bissonnet St. between Kirby and Greenbriar is scheduled for a Labor Day Weekend opening, according to a recent report in the Chronicle. New glazed overhead doors have been installed in the 2 garage bays, but according to this photo of the spot from earlier today, there’s still a bit of work going on inside.

If future passers-by do a double-take after seeing drinkers out on the front patio of the single-story structure at 2322 Bissonnet, it might be because the brewery-bar will be next door to the former Kay’s Lounge, also a single-story building serving drinks on a front patio, which was demolished last fall. These homes are scheduled to go up on that site.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

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]

06/15/17 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

06/14/17 11:15am

Across and a little bit down the street from the site where the company proposes to tear down an already altered section of the River Oaks Shopping Center and erect a 29-story apartment tower with 2 floors of underground parking, Weingarten Realty has more plans to make changes to the landmark art deco center. At the corner of West Gray and McDuffie, the company wants to tear down the 2-story western end of the south half of the 1948 section of the shopping center — which now houses a California Pizza Kitchen and the remains of the Evolve Fitness Studio upstairs (and was previously the site of a Birraporetti’s with Sherlock’s Pub above it) — and reconstruct the section as a 12,730-sq.-ft. Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille with significantly taller first and second stories.

The design, by Chicago’s Aria Group Architects, “will maintain historical features” of the building at 1997 West Gray St., the submitted plans (PDF) explain. But not exactly in the same order. Stick-on stone facing was stuck onto lower portions of this section of the art deco structure in 2007 when it was given a new stucco-batter coating and turned into a CPK; the new design shows a tall curved panel of limestone wrapping the corner, but this time on the higher second floor, suspended above a rebuilt portion of the center’s signature curved soffit.

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Raising Perry’s Steakhouse
06/09/17 2:30pm

Has any former Wendy’s drive-thru — or really, any fast-food joint anywhere — ever had such an illustrious culinary afterlife as the one that once stood at 2300 Westheimer, halfway between Kirby and Shepherd? The standalone burger stand never left us — it just went upscale, time and time again: To Torcello’s. To Armando’s. To Dish. To Two Chefs Bistro. To Beso. To Palazzo’s Trattoria. To 60 Degrees Mastercrafted. (Did we miss any?) To the Harwood Grill.

Then there was the time last year when it was supposed to go Berryhill. But that was not to be.

Instead, this extremely mutable property is now on its way to becoming a champagne-themed restaurant called a’Bouzy (pronounced as you’d expect).

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Cheers to A’Bouzy
06/07/17 10:45am

It’s been the better part of a year since Pepino’s on Richmond Ave. started showing signs of closure (namely, since its name signage came down, signaling the end of the joint’s nearly decade-and-a-half run in Castle Court). A nearby reader spotted what looks to be some work to prep the stripmall spot for its next occupant, which was issued a few permits last week under the name Miss Saigon. (That name shows up in Braun’s leasing flier for its newly acquired property, too, though it’s not clear yet whether the name is connected to one of the other Houston Miss Saigon-inspired Vietnamese restaurants, or is merely another independent nod to the musical.)

Speaking of musicals, part of the former Pepino’s space looks to have been absorbed by nextdoor piano cabaret Michael’s Outpost, whose red door is visible above and in a few of the leasing shots of the remodeled center (below):

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Braun Goes Gray
05/23/17 10:15am

New scribbles on a siteplan show a Sprouts Farmers Market marked in as a tenant for the planned redo of the former East Downtown Houston Post building over on Polk St. at Dowling Emancipation Ave. (Don’t get this spot confused with the former postal office Downtown, which is also being redeveloped by the Lovett Commercial folks — nor with the other former Houston Post building recently resuscitated by the Chronicle.) The leasing plan appears to show some new construction toward the currently empty Bell St. end of the double-wide block, making room for the Sprouts and for a few layers of parking garage. It also notes a drive-thru CVS on the northern side, along Polk:

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East of East Village
05/17/17 11:30am

Now hanging in the newly remodeled central nook on the Galleria’s curved facade along Westheimer Rd.: these strips of hexagonal rings spotted early last week by a passing bus rider. (That curved wall is where Saks Fifth Avenue used to be, before the store scooted into the boxy new building next door.) The rendering up top was released last fall, around the time Simon Properties confirmed that Nobu and Fig & Olive would be taking up 2 of the 4 restaurant spaces shown.

For comparison, here’s what the entry through the Philip Johnson-designed facade looked like as of last August, after the new windows had been cut (but before the top edge of the facade got trimmed off): 

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Westheimer Faceoff
05/10/17 11:30am

Remodeling along the lines of what’s depicted here is now underway on Amherst St. between Kelvin St. and Kirby Dr., according to a Rice Village District rep. A couple of newly released drawings shown here fill in details to some of the previously mentioned changes planned for the south side of Amherst, including the conversion of part of the roadway itself into more walking and sitting room behind some protective planters. And that narrow passageway in the building, running between Amherst and University Blvd., appears to be getting its own signage labeling it as The Alley (complete with light-up arrow directing shoppers inside).

The plans also call for some rooftop greenery and the chopping off of some pointy brick pediments — a swap which the District says will make all that 2-hours-free rooftop parking more visible, in the wake of the recent parking scheme changes:

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Retail Redistricting
05/04/17 11:00am

The ex-service station sitting on the sliver of land edged by N. Durham Dr., W. 16th St., and Nashua St. is being remodeled and repainted, with signage already in place for burger bar Balls Out. The late-sixties space, home to the Guero Deluxe Car Wash before Re:Vive Development snapped up the property in 2015, was occupied by used car dealership Sabinas Cars and Trucks a few years before that.

The former service station’s canopy is still in place; the now-blank sign space on top previously served as a canvas for one of those Wiley LOVE murals:

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Heights Drive-By
05/03/17 1:45pm

The drive-your-drinks-home daquiri shop planned for former MJ Motorcars office island at 8275 Beechnut St. (in the parking lot of stripmall nightclub Club Tequila) isn’t just going to be a drive-thru bar, a media rep for Prime Daquiri tells Swamplot. The rep says it’ll have a full kitchen, too — and that the company will be opting for screwtop bottles for their drinks instead of a Louisiana-style tape-on-the-top arrangement, as far as legal distribution goes. The landscaping and portico in the above rendering of the remodel show options for customers on foot, as well — or perhaps even those who want to dine (or drink) in. The bar is planned near the parking lot’s Watermill Express kiosk, though going the nonalcoholic route will require self-service.

Images: John Mene (rendering); Erick Ganzo (photo)

Prime Location
05/03/17 10:00am

The scenic view from behind the former Pilgrim Cleaners building at 4005 N. Braeswood Blvd. will reportedly belong soon to a second location of West University-adjacent wine lounge Bacco. The 1966 building (northwest of the Stella Link Rd. bridge over Brays Bayou) operated as a dry cleaner prior to its conversion to a clothing donation drop spot for the Shriner’s Hospital for Children.  Ralph Bivins notes this week in Realty News Report that the location may encourage traffic from Bayou Greenway hikers and bikers; a reader’s photos from the scene show that the trail on the north side of the bayou in this section is still sporting the au naturel look, though the trail on the south side is fully paved:

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Reborn on the Bayou
04/06/17 1:30pm

Roostar Vietnamese Grill, 5551 Richmond Ave., Westheimer Gardens, Houston, 77056

Former Napoli at  5551 Richmond Ave., Westheimer Gardens, Houston, 77056Roostar Vietnamese Grill is just about done moving into the southern slot of the perpendicular 2-man segment of the Richmond Ave. strip center east of Chimney Rock Rd., a reader notes. The Vietnamese kinda-fusion restaurant’s first location opened in Spring Branch a few years ago as Vietnam Poblano, swapping to the new name and stylized but literal melded bird-star logo not long after. Ronnie Nguyen and Linda Nguyen, the 2-link chain’s forgers, had hoped the new location (in the space formerly occupied by Napoli) would be up and running in time for all that Super Bowl hubbub; looks like the new plan is for an April opening.

Next door to the nearly-hatched restaurant is the former Starbucks spot, which had shut down by the time that shiny new freestanding one opened up on the corner across the street last year:

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Coffee Out, Roostar In