05/04/18 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE DOWNTOWN APARTMENTS THAT RAN IN MY FAMILY “My uncle, J. Holly Brewer, bought the Plaza Court and Peacock apartments sometime about 1942. It was managed by his mother, Kate Lillian Brewer, and my mother, Edith Fox Bannerman, until J. Holly Brewer and my father, James Knox Bannerman, returned from service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. J. Holly Brewer then operated the apartments alone until his death in 1984. Edith Fox Bannerman and her sister, Frances Marion Marchiando, then inherited the property and jointly managed it. After Mrs. Marchiando passed away her son, Michael Marchiando, jointly managed the buildings with mom until 1995. At that point I, James Knox Bannerman II, and my mother, Edith Bannerman, shared the management of the buildings until we sold them in 2014. I felt it was time to sell them as [my] mother was 97-years young. Mother did not speak to me for a week after the sale. When she did speak her first sentence was, ‘You took my job away.’ Go figure. She is amazing. She drove the Houston freeways until she was 93 with never a citation or accident. Mom is 100 now and occasionally we drive her to visit some of the long-term tenants. These buildings have many stories to tell. I am delighted to see they are to be updated and preserved.” [James Knox Bannerman II, commenting on The Changes Coming to the Pre-War Peacock & Plaza Apartment Complex Downtown] Photo of apartment courtyard: LoopNet

05/03/18 2:45pm

THE CHANGES COMING TO THE PRE-WAR PEACOCK & PLAZA APARTMENT COMPLEX DOWNTOWN The new owner of the Peacock & Plaza Apartments at 1414 Austin St. — a 2-building, 32-unit complex that sports a colorfully feathered mosaic a block west of the Toyota Center — tells Swamplot what’s in store for a portion of the property: “We plan to heavily upgrade each unit in one of the two buildings. New plumbing, electrical, upgrade of HVAC systems, all new kitchens, appliance, bathroom.” In the other building: “We’ll clean the units up but we’re going to try to leave it somewhat original,” says the representative of the buyer, Fat Property. Before Colorado-based FVMHP took over the complex in 2014, it had been owned by the same woman for 80 years, according to the current buyer. Designed by Houston architect Lenard Gabert, its first building went up in 1926; the second followed 14 years later. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Fat Property

04/27/18 2:00pm

INDICTMENTS BRING LE MERIDIEN HOTEL RENNOVATOR’S INTERSTATE KICKBACK SCHEME TO LIGHT A construction boss who oversaw work to turn the Melrose Building on the corner of Walker and San Jacinto into the new-ish Le Meridien Hotel has been indicted for his role in a scam to embezzle $3.4 million from his employer — The Beck Group — during its renovation of the structure. “[Moses] Said was picked to manage construction at the Le Meridien Hotel from 2016 to 2017,” reports the Chronicle‘s Gabrielle Banks. “Prosecutors say he turned in fake invoices he had signed off on asking the Beck Group to pay for services that were never provided. After the fake contractors received money from Said, they kicked back some of the illegal proceeds to Said, according to court documents.” Also named in the indictment: 8 co-conspirators across multiple states who worked with Said as part of the scheme. The 225-room hotel opened in late 2017 after roughly 2 years of work. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Le Meridien Hotel: apvossos

04/27/18 11:30am

The airy eastern façade of the new Big Brothers Big Sisters building at 1003 Washington opens it up to the adjacent parking lot, and beyond that — across a short north-south street — the one-and-a-quarter-acre Centerpoint substation that’s bounded by I-45. Previously, the half-acre parcel that now plays host to the volunteer organization housed Health Masters Clinic of Massage Therapy. Its warehouse structure — pictured from the east in the photo above — bit the dust in April, 2015. Two months later, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ previous home met the same fate off Hillcroft Ave. in Gulfton.

Here’s a cloudier view of the new building looking east along Preston St.:

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All Grown Up
04/26/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MY SUITE CHILDHOOD YEARS IN A DOWNTOWN HOUSTON HOTEL “My dad was the innkeeper when the Holiday Inn opened, and we lived in the building for a couple of years. It was quite a place — with the Orbit Lounge, one of A. J. Foyt’s Indy cars in the lobby, and so on. But its day has passed.” [Patrick, commenting on Downtown Houston’s Foremost Abandoned Building Now Listed for Sale]

04/25/18 4:15pm

All 10 slabs are in place for the row of 2-stories — dubbed Avenue Meadows — that community organization Avenue CDC wants to plant along Meadow Lea Dr. in Northline just south of Berry Rd. and just shy of the bend where Madie Dr. begins. Each 1,304-sq.-ft. house will sit on somewhere between 5,100 and 5,400 sq. ft. of land (with the exception of 72 Meadow Lea — the westernmost lot — which bookends the development at 8,414 sq. ft.). Half of the structures will look like the one shown in the rendering at top — nicknamed The Monarch (and noted as plan A in the site plan below).

The others lose the carport and go by the name The Admiral:

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Meadow Lea and Madie
04/25/18 2:45pm

The Holiday-Inn-turned-Days-Inn-turned-Heaven-on-Earth-Hotel at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. has now been posted to CoStar by commercial broker CBRE following a 2-week period of higher-than-usual on-site cleanup activity. Crews removed debris from its garage and pool late last week; and just yesterday, 2 workers scaled nearly all 31 stories of its western face to take down the semicircular light box of the Days Inn sign that once hung near the top of it (see photo above).

The seller, SFK Development, bought the property in 2012 — becoming the building’s third owner in its post-Maharishi era. (The building — which for a time was home to a Vedic school run by the former Beatles spiritual advisor — was shut down by the city in 1998.) Since then, it has been fertile ground for numerous urban explorers, as well as the imagination of several would-be redevelopers.

The sale listing includes images of possible makeovers:

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Heaven On Earth Up for Grabs
04/20/18 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: FROM THE DOWNTOWN DAYS INN WATCH TEAM “Before I left work, a guy was at the very top pulling a long rope he had tied to a wooden structure hanging on the corner of the building. It looks like a homemade trebuchet. I’ll keep posting updates if anything major happens; hell, it’s in my sight line all day.” [Kim, commenting on Cleanup Crews Now Polishing Downtown Houston’s Most Famous Abandoned Building] Photo of former Days Inn at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy.: Guy Mahaffey

04/20/18 11:00am

SHUTTERED LANCASTER HOTEL’S POST-HARVEY REDO HAS BEGUN The latest purchasers of the recently-renovated Lancaster Hotel hotel at 701 Texas Ave. had only owned it for about 2 months before 2 ft. of water entered its lobby — and 12 its basement — during Harvey, reports the HBJ’s Cara Smith. Its last redo in 2013 was along the same lines (“significant alterations to the lobby, guest rooms, suites and meeting spaces,” the HBJ wrote then) as what Magnolia Lodging has planned for it now: “a redesigned lobby, guest rooms, a new restaurant and bar, an indoor mezzanine, an espresso bar and a new cardio fitness studio.” The 92-year-old structure has been shuttered since the storm, leaving its 12 stories and adjacent parking lot (where 2 buildings were demolished on Louisiana in 2016) unoccupied. [HBJ ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo: Jay H.

04/19/18 11:30am

CLEANUP CREWS NOW POLISHING DOWNTOWN HOUSTON’S MOST FAMOUS ABANDONED BUILDING A reader in the KBR Tower 2 blocks east of the former Days Inn at 801 St. Joseph Pkwy. reports sightings of several different crews that have appeared outside the north face of the hotel within the past week. A pair of crane trucks have been parked at the foot of the hotel’s garage, and a swing-stage scaffold is hanging near the top of the podium. Also noted: Workers have cleared out debris from inside the garage, and accumulated trash has been removed from the pool of the 31-story hotel-turned-Vedic-school. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Kimberly Knight

04/12/18 1:00pm

Coming soon to the strip of vacant 1920s storefronts along Main — catty-corner to the Greyhound bus station at Webster St. and directly north of the Shell station at Hadley: a new bar dubbed Pour Behavior. The 12,600-sq.-ft. building — once home to the Houston Spinal Pain Center, Ambassador Shoe Repair, Liviko’s Printing, Gold & Silver Buyers & Sellers, and the Salvation Army — sits on just over 3 quarters of an acre. A parking lot neighbors it on the corner of Travis and Webster where Downtown Body Shop was demolished a couple of years ago.

The aerial above pictures the whole property with some two-tone manipulation courtesy of the Oxberry Group, which had — but dropped — plans to redevelop it and bring in new restaurants and retailers a few years after the auto shop vanished. A new developer bought the building last year. The rendering above — released on Facebook by the bar’s proprietors last week — views the building from the corner of Travis and Webster streets and shows a patio fronting the current parking lot. Further down Webster to the east, a few windows reopen what was once the entrance to Webster St. Pharmacy, adjacent to the parking lot.

Here’s what the Salvation Army’s front face next to the gas station looked like before it closed:

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Pour Behavior
03/27/18 12:00pm

The massive illuminated crosses that once adorned the St. Joseph Professional Building next to the Pierce Elevated have been stripped from the structure’s east and west sides by its new-ish owner, but haven’t yet been removed from the block. West of the tower and adjacent to the highway, the fenced enclosure pictured above now holds the de-crucified metal parts along with the Scrabble-like remnants of the lettering that once spelled out the building’s name below the crosses.

The scrap yard borders the surface parking lot that fronts the 135,586-sq.-ft. building’s garage podium on La Branch St.:

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Cross-Word Jumble
03/23/18 12:45pm

Workers are now applying paint to the 5-level garage stump of the former Americana building at 811 Dallas St. Over the last year, the 10-story office tower that sat atop the southern half of the garage was removed.

9-in. aluminum louvers were added to the portion of the parking podium pictured above on the corner of Dallas and Travis streets during a renovation in 2000. That exterior layer was stripped off as part of the recent work on the building, however, exposing the original clay block surface underneath.

30,000-or-so-sq.-ft. of ground-floor retail are also receiving touch-ups as part of the current work on the property.

Photos: Drew (parking garage); Boxer Property (Americana)

Clay Tile Refresh
03/19/18 4:30pm

Update, 1 pm, March 21: The numbers of Sapporo restaurants under the same ownership but with different names have been clarified.

Now on its way to the former Fusion Taco space shown shaded by trees and orange awnings next to Barnaby’s in the photo at top: Sapporo Japanese Sushi & Bar. The restaurant’s spot in the Henry Henke Building on the corner of Congress and Milam — across from Market Square Park — will be its second location with this specific name; its first is just off the western end of Woodlands Pkwy. Two other Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse & Bar restaurants are also located in the Houston area.

Fusion Taco opened at 801 Congress in 2013. Here’s what the view east from its sidewalk seating area looked like before the place shuttered:

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Fusion Taco Turnover