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): 

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

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:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Coffee Out, Roostar In
03/29/17 2:30pm

WITH BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, DRY CREEK IS ABOUT TO GET VERY WET LATER THIS MONTH Dry Creek Cafe, 544 Yale St., Houston HeightsThe spot on the corner of White Oak Dr. and Yale St. where Dry Creek Cafe (pictured) closed down last year is expected to open next month as a “neighborhood bar with food that meets restaurant standards.” Proprietors Bobby Heugel (who got his start at Anvil) and Justin Yu (who shut down Oxheart) know a bit about each, respectively. The newly renovated space at 544 Yale will be called Better Luck Tomorrow, they announced today. [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Andy M.

03/28/17 2:30pm

2309 Wichita St., Riverside Terrace, Houston

The Chron’s Craig Hlavaty reports from the scene of still-ongoing renovations to the bedecked and multi-turreted home at 2309 Wichita St., better known as the castle-like former duplex, orphanage, and daycare facility in Riverside Terrace that former owner and VA nurse Charles Fondow spent 31-odd years renovating and expanding as his own quirky residence, inspired by his sightseeing travels in Russia and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Fondow died in 2011, his life’s work incomplete. New owner Nick Ugarov, who picked up the property from a bank sale in 2014, has continued Fondow’s legacy with a multi-year renovation project of his own:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Almost Done
03/27/17 1:00pm

Centerfield, Minute Maid Park, Houston

Astros historian Mike Acosta, among others, has posted pics of the new Tacolandia beyond the newly reshaped centerfield wall of Minute Maid Park. Tal’s Hill, the former outfield bump that ramped up the wall, has been gone for months now, but reconstruction of other areas around the wall appears to be still ongoing. Serving burgers and tacos on the pictured mezzanine level in homerunville will be a new Shake Shack and Torchy’s, respectively. The wall, 2 additional food-service options, 3 more bars, and a new Astros-memorabilia store in the rehabbed outfield are expected to be ready for opening day next Monday.

Fans attending weigh-ins for the Geico Bassmaster Classic at the Astros’ stadium over the weekend got peeks at the final stages of construction; photos posted to Twitter this morning indicate progress overnight, as well as the new 409-ft. sign (discounted by 27 ft. from the former centerfield distance) and a plastic-ivy Astros insignia above it serving as a batter’s eye, in all its topiary-like glory:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Torchy’s, Shake Shack, Home Runs
03/20/17 11:15am

1318 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Just in time for the spring equinox, a reader sends shots of some recent trimming back at the former home of Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which may soon sprout a 2-story patio if permits issued over the last few months tell true. The bar and restaurant (right across Westheimer Rd. from the Doc’s formerly known as Wendy’s and that long-tarped turret of the Tremont Tower condo building) was closed down last September by owner Shawn Bermudez, who told Eric Sandler he planned to reopen the space under a new name and theme. The late-1950s house (previously converted into dance club Bartini, before the structure’s Royal Oak days began in the early 2010s) has since had its nose cut off; some larger holes on both stories have also been wooded over, over on the parking lot side:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

New Growth in Hyde Park
11/01/16 4:00pm

NEW YORK FIRM PICKED FOR ROTHKO CHAPEL REDO Broken Obelisk by Barnett Newman, Rothko Chapel, Menil Collection, HoustonThe board of the Rothko Chapel has recently pinned down Architecture Research Office for a planned redo of the chapel’s lighting system — which executive director David Leslie mentioned earlier this year has been on the board’s wishlist (possibly to be funded by that February Lynn Wyatt auction, which included couture clothing, art, and a Tilda Swinton Skype session).  The company will also update the HVAC system, “retool the entrance vestibule, and renovate the Chapel’s skylight,” writes Nicholas Korody. Also on the docket — a plan for modifications to the surrounding plaza and the reflecting pool where Broken Obelisk will once again sit (after those out-of-town repairs wrap up); Korody says the plan may also involve “several nearby bungalows.” [Archinect, via Curbed; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk and Rothko Chapel: Ed Uthman[license]

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.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Nearing Launch at Allen’s Landing