01/26/18 4:30pm

The lights are off and the gas station signs have come down from the 2,770-sq.-ft. building formerly home to Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill on the corner of Westheimer and Graustark St. The nighttime photo above shows the auto-themed Montrose restaurant before it closed down at the end of last year.

Underneath the restaurant’s sign on Westheimer, the rusted flatbed truck has also hit the road from its long-term parking spot:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

A Montrose Goodbye
01/08/18 1:30pm

Is the site of shuttered gay bar Montrose Mining Company destined to become a parking lot for nearby restaurant Baba Yega Cafe? The new owner of Baba Yega, developer Fred Sharifi, bought the 39-year-old bar on the corner of Pacific and Grant streets from longtime proprietor Charles Armstrong last month. When the bar closed in 2016, Armstrong said he was working on plans to bring a new restaurant to the building within 18 months. A sign posted on the door of 805 Pacific St. now directs would-be patrons to one of Armstrong’s other hangouts across Pacific — JR’s Bar & Grill. Above that flyer, a notice from the city dated December 14 — 2 days after the 2,809-sq.-ft. building was sold — tells its owners to stop all unpermitted plumbing and structural work on the site.

Sharifi has now purchased at least 5 Montrose properties within the last 2 years, including Baba Yega, Montrose Mining Company, and 3 sites slated to be part of a project he’s developing on Fairview Ave.one of which was home to Armstrong’s nightclub Meteor. In addition to his projects in Montrose, Sharifi also owns Hungry’s Cafe in Rice Village.

Armstrong still appears to own a vacant, 6,648-sq.-ft. property that wraps around the east side of Montrose Mining Company:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Old Gay Bars of Avondale
01/05/18 12:30pm

How’s this for a twisting story line? An architect commissions a famous artist to create a site-specific drawing in a house he has built for himself. The artist, who never touches his own works, creates exacting instructions that installation artists follow to create the 30-ft.-tall artwork in the living room of the home. The artist dies. A few years later, the architect dies, offering his home and the majority of his extensive art collection to a local but world-famous museum of which he was a trustee. The museum decides to sell the home and add much of the art to its collection, but there’s a problem with the wall drawing. It can’t be moved, and the museum is stymied by a restriction: It is not allowed to sell any artwork that has been bequeathed to it.

Here’s where the plot — and the drywall mud — thickens: the museum, unable to remove the artwork from the home without destroying it, comes up with an alternative plan. It will plaster over the drawing, rendering it unrecoverable.

Years later, the purchaser of the home is telling this story to a houseguest — who in a fit of curiosity grabs a dull knife and starts chipping away at the wall. The white coating flakes off. To his and his host’s surprise, a tableau of blue, red, and yellow appears: a fragment of the original drawing underneath.

What is this? The first 20 minutes of a new Wes Anderson movie, an episode of Columbo, or the setup for a Siri Hustvedt novel? No, its just the state of play at 1202 Milford St. in the Museum District. The artist is Sol LeWitt. The museum is the Menil Collection. The home is the former residence of Houston architect Bill Stern. And the plotline is still in progress:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

The Unerasing
12/19/17 10:15am

YES, THE HARP ON RICHMOND AVE IS CLOSING DOWN There’s a reason why Braun Enterprises has been trying to find a new tenant to replace the Harp at 1625 Richmond: it turns out that the bar’s founder, Declan Plunkett, is retiring, Craig Hlavaty reports. The Ireland transplant plans to close the 18-year-old bar when the lease expires at the end of February, meaning there won’t be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the Harp next year: “Plunkett is planning a weeklong bash to see the bar off. ‘We might sell some of the stuff off the walls for people who have been such dedicated patrons,’ Plunkett says.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Braun Enterprises

12/15/17 11:30am

A flyer put out by Braun Enterprises indicates that the Harp Irish Pub’s spot at 1625 Richmond Ave is available for lease. A partnership controlled by Braun bought the decked-out bar along with its 3 eastern neighbors (at that time Orange Bar, Maria Selma Mexican Restaurant, and Lucky Burger) in 2011. Since then, Lucky Burger was replaced by Oui Banh Mi on the corner of Richmond and Mandel St., Orange Bar ceded its space to Revelry on Richmond, and Maria Selma reopened — then closed — as Texas Shrimp Shack.

Texas Shrimp Shack’s vacant lot at 1617 Richmond, right next to the Harp, is also up for lease.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Castle Court
12/13/17 10:45am

CITY: WE OWN THE BROADACRES ESPLANADES; HOA PREZ: NEIGHBORHOOD TRUST OWNS THE GRASS The Houston Public Works department confirms in a press release that the esplanades and streets on North, South, and West boulevards in Broadacres are in the public right-of-way. But lookie here what Diane Cowen at the Chronicle reports: “Cece Fowler, president of the Broadacres HOA, said that it’s been determined that while the city owns the streets on North, South and West boulevards as well as the brick sidewalks that run down the middle of the esplanades, the Broadacres Trust owns the grass.” Also, according to Cowen, the park along Parkway Dr. is owned by the trust. The HOA placed NO PHOTO SHOOTS signs along the esplanades and in the park last Thursday, but removed some of them over the weekend. The rest were taken down on Monday, ahead of the city’s statement that “The public ROW is available for anyone in the community to use for legal activities, including personal photography. Signs and blocking the public ROW are not allowed without specific permission from the City of Houston.” The signs — 13 total according to Cowen — cost the HOA $1,300. [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Swamplot inbox

12/12/17 11:45am

BROADACRES HOA TAKES DOWN ITS ESPLANADE NO-PHOTOSHOOT SIGNS The Broadacres Homeowners Association has removed all signs posted on the esplanades along North, South, and West boulevards welcoming visitors and telling them photoshoots are prohibited. As to whether the esplanades are public or private property — that’s still up in the air: “The homeowners association said the property was deeded to the group in the 1920s, and is looking for the documentation to enforce its ban.” The HOA initially placed the 11 signs on the esplanades last Thursday. [abc13; Previously on SwamplotPhoto: Swamplot inbox

12/11/17 1:30pm

WHO OWNS THE ESPLANADES ON NORTH AND SOUTH BOULEVARDS? The president of the Broadacres Homeowners Association, Cece Fowler, tells the Houston Chronicle’s Diane Cowen last weekend that the neighborhood’s esplanades, as well as the park along Parkway Dr., are owned by the HOA. However, Cowen says that according to the City of Houston, the esplanades are part of the city’s Adopt-An-Esplanade program, making them public right-of-way. The dispute continues: “Fowler said that she and her board are conducting a title search to prove their ownership. She said the neighborhood has maintained and financed the esplanades and green space from the beginning.” That maintenance took a new turn last Thursday when 11 signs prohibiting photoshoots were erected on the esplanades. According to Fowler, the gatherings had become more than a nuisance: “up to 40 to 50” were occurring per week beneath the canopies of oaks that line the boulevards between Mandel St. and Parkway Dr. The 26 homeowners that make up the community discussed mitigation strategies like putting in speed bumps, adding a gate to the neighborhood, or hiring full-time security personnel before settling on the signs as a more cordial means of discouraging shutter-happy visitors. Now that they’re up, residents hope they’ll keep out flashbulbs as well as the props that sometimes come with them: “Fowler said some have brought in sofas and bookcases and one group drove a Jeep onto the esplanade, damaging the grass, brick sidewalk and sprinkler system. They throw confetti onto the ground and release Mylar balloons into the trees. And all bring photography equipment and crews that hang around for hours.”  [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Swamplot inbox

12/07/17 2:00pm

Quick, name your Top 10 quintessential images of Houston. The Water Wall, maybe? Buffalo Bayou Park looking toward downtown? And how about one of those aerial views of flooded neighborhoods? But what about a view more likely to spur real estate sales, like the double rows of coastal live oaks lining North and South boulevards in Broadacres?

A new set of signs erected this week in the boulevards’ iconic esplanades have something to say about that often seen scene: “WELCOME TO BROADACRES,” they read, “NO PHOTO SHOOTS.” The signs go on to describe other local menaces such as unleashed dogs and their residue, and note that the esplanades as well as the park on the east side of Parkway Dr. are privately owned.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Brides Be Gone
12/05/17 3:30pm

There’s nothing left standing at Michelangelo’s Restaurant since its demolition yesterday — except for the tree that used to grow in its dining room, visible in the photo at top. The restaurant’s days had been numbered since March, when its owners sold the building and adjacent parking lot on Westheimer to a developer with plans to build a gym-anchored strip center.

The gym will be Houston’s first Spenga fitness studio, brought here by a Chicago-based chain that signed a 4,011-sq.-ft. lease for the replacement building’s entire second floor back in June. Here it is up above street level:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Avondale
11/20/17 2:00pm

The metal dome situated street-side at the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral on the corner of Yoakum and Kipling for just under a month has been lifted and installed atop the church’s sanctuary. The photo at top shows the dome in its earthly state just over a week ago. Members of a crowd that watched its ascension early Saturday morning snapped pictures showing the half-sphere, now sheathed, being placed via crane on top of the metal dock that now exalts it:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Annunciation Orthodox
11/03/17 4:45pm

Sable Gate Winery, a local affiliate of the Waters Edge chain of franchised vineyard-less wineries, has its grand opening tomorrow at 2600 Travis St., just south of McGowen and behind Reef in Midtown. The new wine spot, which began serving last weekend, took over the space from GAGE Lounge. Customers who want to make, cork, and bottle their own-label varieties at Sable Gate can choose from the chain’s selection of pre-crushed grapes shipped in from more vineyard-friendly climes around the world; if you’re in a greater hurry than the 5 to 7 weeks it normally takes to ferment and blend a batch of imported grape must, you can commandeer one Sable Gate’s already got going — or just order a glass at the bar.

Photos: Sable Gate Winery

Sable Gate Winery
11/03/17 2:00pm

MONTROSE DISTRICT APPEALING JUDGE’S ORDER TO RETURN $6.6 MILLION IT COLLECTED FROM LOCAL BUSINESSES The new judge now in charge of the 5-year-old lawsuit against the 6-year-old Montrose Management District earlier this week affirmed the decision announced by his predecessor late last year — that the taxes the group imposed on the West Montrose Management District were not validly assessed, and that all $6.6 million should be returned to its payers — and parceled off a dispute about attorneys’ fees into a separate case. The final judgment clears the way for the district to appeal the ruling in state court, which it did yesterday. “The district stands by its position that it is operating within its legal charter granted by the State of Texas,” a statement put out by the organization reads. “No refunds for assessments collected in the West Montrose Management District (the only portion of the district under dispute in this legal action) will be made, pending the outcome of the current appeal.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Montrose Management District

11/01/17 4:15pm

Now sitting near the corner of Yoakum Blvd. and Kipling St. in place of the electronic sign for Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral: framework forming the new dome that will soon be mounted atop the structure’s sanctuary. The steel half-orb, meant to cap off a $12.5 million cathedral renovation and expansion project, has been under construction streetside since at least last week, as these pics submitted by Swamplot readers show:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Annunciation Orthodox
10/30/17 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE TRIED THAT NO PARKING REQUIREMENTS THING BEFORE, IN AVONDALE “The urban fantasists who don’t believe in minimum parking should school themselves on the economic concept of the free rider and the common law concept of nuisance. They should also research a little of the history behind Houston minimum parking requirements. These regs did not emerge in a vacuum. I lived in Avondale, in Montrose, during the nineties, when it was home to no less than nine bars, multiple restaurants, and other adult businesses, all without parking and no parking requirements. Houston minimum parking requirements arose because of what was going on in Avondale and a few other neighborhoods inside the Loop. The patrons of these bars and restaurants did not and still do not live within Avondale. They all drove to Avondale because there was and is still no other way to get there. The bar owners did not provide parking, choosing instead to impose the costs of their patron parking on the city and the residents of Avondale (free rider). The patrons parked, imbibed, and then proceeded to be drunken asses all night disturbing the peace of the neighborhood (nuisance). Forcing the business owner to bear the costs of patron parking shifts the costs back to the business which benefits from the patronage. It is a reasonable requirement. It also alleviates the nuisance issue by keeping the drunks off the property of other businesses and residences.” [Jardinero1, commenting on Comment of the Day: What Parking Requirements for Bars Really Encourage] Illustration: Lulu