06/21/18 1:00pm

The east side of the building that fronts McDuffie St. — next door to the River Oaks Theatre — has been quiet since an early Monday morning blaze torched Nail-Tique salon, doing some damage to the Steinway Piano Gallery in the process. It all started when an air conditioner on the roof overheated and caught fire, shorting the connection to an electrical box on the building that then ignited as well, reports the Chronicle.

No pianos caught fire — according to an employee at Epicure Cafe around the corner on W. Gray — but there was smoke damage in the music store, and firefighters busted out some of its windows to access the flaming salon next door. Nail-Tique is now closed indefinitely, while the adjacent piano store plans to reopen next month, as decreed by the sign now posted in its window. Unharmed by the blaze: the building’s movie theater anchor, reports one of its employees.

Photos: Swamplox inbox

McDuffie St.
06/21/18 10:30am

The shaggy customer base seeking a trim at the 1415 Richmond strip between Mandell and Yupon should see some increased biodiversity once The Pet Barber moves in 2-doors down from Henry’s Barber Shop. At nearly double the size of the neighboring human hair care facility, it’s ready to start transforming the space that once housed D&S Washateria (pictured at top) into a Castle Court companion to its existing Spring Branch grooming location.

The laundromat left sometime after Pepino’s gave way to Ms. Saigon Cafe and Michael’s Outpost on the west side of the building. Since then, The C Store also took off; its still-vacant Suite A — shown below in blue at the strip’s east end — is now the only hole left in the building:

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Well-Groomed
06/15/18 1:00pm

The middle structure in the row of 3 warehouses on McFarland St. just north of Navigation is seeing some new action since former NASA flight controller Caroline Kostak turned it into RePurpose Depot, a material reuse retail space selling cheap lumber, siding, flooring, fixtures, and other supplies and furnishings. Before opening the retail operation last December, she’d worked on salvaging materials from soon-to-be demolished houses. The space at 305 McFarland now draws its inventory from those kinds of deconstruction missions as well as donations.

That makes it a hub for homeowners looking for building supplies after Harvey, along with thrifters seeking more ornamental, DIY-ish trinkets. A grand opening is planned for next Saturday, June 23.

Photos: Swamplox inbox

Off Navigation
06/13/18 10:45am

Almost all the metal siding that covered up the Midtown Sears building at 4201 Main has now been taken down, leaving behind rows of metal brackets used to mount the outer shell. Mayor Turner announced 2 months ago that the building would be turned into a startup incubation headquarters, and work to pull down the cladding began shortly after.

A few decorative details are now visible from the street, as shown below from Fannin:

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2401 Main
06/05/18 10:30am

A new eatery is its way to the Montrose shop called Montrose at 1723 Westheimer, a block west of Dunlavy. The toponymic women’s clothing boutique had about a 3-year run in the space before it went out of business, leaving the building vacant. Just last week, the developers behind the coming Eastern European restaurant filed plans with the city to remodel the 1,830-sq.-ft. structure into something more Turkish and culinary: Cafe Bosphorus. A banner hung up on the left storefront window store heralds its arrival.

Photos: Hipster Hotspots (Montrose Shop); Cafe Bosphorus (sign)

Cafe Bosphorus
06/04/18 1:00pm

Engineering firm The Interfield Group is hoping to score a trio of variances that will allow it to swap out its existing dingbat office building (above) at the Heights landing point of the Studemont St. bridge for a much larger mixed-use development (depicted at top) dubbed Heights Gateway. The new 8-story complex rests on the stealth-bomber-shaped parcel at 401 Studewood outlined in the aerial above. It’s split between a residential portion (shown beneath the lettering in the rendering) and a glass curtain-walled office section to the north — all of which rests atop a floodable 2-story parking garage plinth.

Its lowest parking level — indicated in the site plan below — includes a main entrance off Studewood that runs between the work and live sections of the complex:

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Heights Gateway
06/01/18 1:00pm

NO HOUSTON SEARS AXED TODAY Each and every Houston Sears location has survived this year’s second round of cuts — announced by the retailer’s parent company yesterday. 48 locations total will shutter, as well as 15 Kmarts — which are no longer native to Houston. Over the past 15 months, Sears Holding Company has closed 530 stores between both brands. In that same time frame, Houston lost 4 Sears: at 9570 Southwest Fwy., West Oaks Mall, Friendswood’s Baybrook Mall — and the oldest of the bunch — in Midtown. Three locations beyond Beltway 8 — in Baytown’s San Jacinto Mall and Humble’s Deebrook Mall, and the Pasadena Town Square — went up for auction in April, but all remain open for business. [USA Today; closures; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Sears at 4000 N. Shepherd Dr.: Eric B.

05/29/18 4:00pm

Now gunning for Fast Traffic Auto Workshop’s garage and adjoining apartment on Austin St.: Next Level, Houston’s second planned but not-yet-open eSports venue. Following the auto shop owner’s retirement, the competitive videogaming hub has plans to stock the place with virtual reality gaming rigs, 40 PC setups, and a dozen or more gaming consoles — all of which will plug in somewhere between a planned competition stage, full bar, and “custom tabletop gaming tables” for lower-tech games.

The photo at top views the corner of the garage from McIlhenny St. It occupies the northeast spot on the Austin St. block where a foursome of bars plans to move in, next to the strip building at 2404 that CORE Church Midtown recently departed:

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Press Start
05/23/18 4:00pm

Longtime Gulfton activist Tammy Rodriguez’s likeness is now fully rendered in the mural above, as well as that of Pastor Alejandro Montes, to her right. The pair makes up one third of the population now flanking the Salvation Army store’s west side along Ashcroft Dr. off Bissonnet, a block east of Hillcroft Ave. Chicago-based artist Rahmaan Statik (who got some design inspiration from students at Braeburn Elementary School) plans to have the work complete for an unveiling ceremony this Saturday.

It’s one in a set of 3 murals that public art organization UP Art Studio has planned for each side of the thrift store building — except for the south face, pictured above — as part of a project dubbed “Growing a Brighter Tomorrow in Gulfton.”

Work on the east side began with this preparatory whitewashing:

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Bissonnet and Ashcroft
05/18/18 12:15pm

BUC-EE’S VS. CHOKE CANYON: BATTLE OF THE ROADSIDE MASCOTS The jury trial began yesterday in a federal lawsuit Buc-ee’s filed 3 years ago against Choke Canyon, a rival, San Antonio rest-stop chain with a cartoon alligator mascot Buc-ee’s claims is too similar to its own trademark grinning beaver. Buc-ee’s’s lawyer Tracy Richardson (who’s also on the legal team for the chain’s other ongoing infringement suit against Nebraska-based Bucky’s), reports the Chronicle’s Gabrielle Banks, kicked things off with a digital slideshow that chronicled the evolution of Choke Canyon’s gator species over time: “‘They put a human hat on the alligator,’ he said, ‘they opened his mouth. Then they made him stand, which — I’ve never seen an alligator stand.'” Couple that with the animals’ big eyes, red tongue, yellow background, and associated aquatic environs — said Richardson — and the likeness is confusing. (“You’re driving down the road at 80 miles per hour and you see a sign,” he said. “Did you really see what the logo was?”) Also at issue: Choke Canyon’s use of Buc-ee’s-like design elements in its stores, including a vaguely Alamo-like parapet front, stone siding, khaki-colored paint, and oversized bathrooms. (“We have large, clean bathrooms,” said Choke Canyon’s lawyer. “The last time I looked that’s not illegal.”) The jurors will be asked to decide “whether Choke Canyon set out to or actually did confuse customers with the overlap.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Logos: U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas

05/17/18 11:45am

Title Boxing Club is the latest tenant on its way to the block-long former Midtowne Spa at 3100 Fannin St. Braun bought the building the same year the bathhouse shuttered in 2016, set up a 4,664-sq.-ft. office on the second floor, and began ushering other tenants into the building. Two months ago, Verizon opened at the south end of the structure, on the corner of Elgin and Fannin. In between it and the national boxing chain’s new location, a Bishops hair salon is planned.

The bathhouse — pictured above from the north before its recent whitewashing treatment — had been in the building since at least the ’80s. Other locations still operate under the same brand in Denver and Los Angeles.

Its first floor included this swimming pool and hot tub setup:

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No Longer Midtowne Spa
05/15/18 2:00pm

The signage above Fallas’ storefront — pictured above — has already come down, reports an employee of a neighboring business. Now on its way to that 25,480-sq.-ft. space in the chamfered corner of the L-shaped Northtown Plaza shopping center: Dallas supermarket El Rancho. A building permit was filed yesterday for the grocery conversion. It’s the second location that the North Texas chain has in the works for Houston; a Greenspoint location 6 miles up I-45 is planned to open in June.

But Fallas’ discount clothing presence won’t be entirely displaced by the new supermarket:

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Northtown Plaza
05/15/18 11:45am

The Kroger at 5235 Aldine Mail Rd. closed down late last year, but 1st Convenience Bank remained open inside the 47,622-sq.-ft. store for about 2 weeks. The branch then relocated to the portable building that’s now sitting in the grocery parking lot, just west of A Autoworks’ adjacent repair shop.

Weitzman Management is marketing the 4.3-acre property for sale. Aside from the buildings and parking lot, the land includes an eastern appendage that stretches across the boundaries of a separate set of parcels before butting up directly against 59:

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Mobile Banking
05/11/18 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: THE HOLE IN THE DONUT “I enjoy living downtown to be close to events, bars and work. But it is a major pain to not have a decent full-service grocery in walking distance. And all of the fast casual restaurants are closed on the weekends. And we desperately need something like a CityTarget or Walmart Neighborhood Market to get random everyday items. Spend all this money to be close to everything but still have to leave Downtown to do most shopping.” [JasperRasper18, commenting on Latest Downtown Houston Headcount; A Restaurant and Juice Bar for Houston’s First Whole Foods 365] Photo of Main St. at Commerce St.: Bill Barfield via Swamplot Flickr Pool

05/08/18 2:30pm

Shots of the massive waterfront development planned in Kingwood east of Woodland Hills Dr. show it situated around 2 adjacent and existing lakes that neighbor both the San Jacinto River and the Clubs of Kingwood golf course. The 300-acre project — dubbed Herons Kingwood Marina and recently stumbled upon by online architectural sleuth Urbannizer — lays out a plan to link the 2 bodies of water and transform them into marinas with docks, pedestrian paths, and outdoor amusements.

The water-level rendering above from Italian architecture firm Torrisi & Procopio shows a boat parking lot fronting a shopping center that’s planned beside the west marina. From the air in the rendering at top, you can see the eastern marina neighbored by skyscrapers, described by the architect’s website as home to hotels, restaurants, shops, and apartments. A narrow channel leads to the other, aquatic area in the distance.

Here’s where both lakes sit now, just south of Barrington Kingwood — a 200-acre, loop-shaped neighborhood:

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The Liveable Lake