04/08/16 10:45am

CRIMINAL COMPLAINT FILED ON BEHALF OF COSMO RESIDENTS OVER POST OAK BUS LANE LAND PURCHASES Proposed Dedicated Bus Lanes on Post Oak Blvd., Uptown, HoustonFormer ABC13 investigative reporter Wayne Dolcefino, representing residents of the Cosmopolitan condo tower on Post Oak Blvd., filed a criminal complaint with the Harris County district attorney last week over the way the Uptown Development Authority has gone about acquiring land for the dedicated bus lanes planned along Post Oak. The complaint asserts that officials of that group and the Uptown TIRZ may have violated Texas conflict of interest law, as well as the Open Meetings Act. Nancy Sarnoff writes that Dolcefino’s complaint also calls out Uptown’s purchase-agreement-less purchase of a piece of land at San Felipe and Post Oak, from an associate of Dinerstein (which is preemptively suing the Cosmo residents over a tower planned at the same intersection). Uptown District president John Breeding tells  Sarnoff that it’s not unusual for public entities to buy land without a formal sales agreement, and that details of the transactions will be available after they’re complete. The Uptown group either has bought or is working on buying about 80 percent of the land needed for the project; the city council voted in December that eminent domain could be used to acquire the rest, if necessary. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed dedicated bus lane on Post Oak Blvd.: Uptown District

04/07/16 3:15pm

Proposed 30-story tower on former Macy's site, Galleria, Houston, 77056

This morning Simon Property Group released renderings of a planned residential highrise in the Galleria, shown here at the corner of W. Alabama St. and Sage Rd. in what’s left over of the land previously occupied by the mall’s second Macy’s. The tower is slated for the same spot previously colored purple for “future retail/office residences” on one of the developer’s Galleria redo maps back in 2014. (That map didn’t mention a highrise specifically, but previous info on the redevelopment plans floated the idea.) Simon says it plans to break ground on the tower by the end of 2017, with a 2019 or 2020 opening in mind.

The rendered view above looks northeast over the Berachah Church across W. Alabama at the glassy highrise, which may hold somewhere between 75 and 100 residential units atop 220 hotel rooms (with separate amenities areas for permanent and temporary residents). The design shows 2 pool decks; the nearby Westin Galleria’s existing pool can be spotted on the right, past an existing parking garage.

Here’s the view from the other side, looking south down Sage across Westheimer Rd. over the new Saks Fifth Avenue building (set to open at the end of the month):

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One Tower to Live Above the Mall
03/24/16 1:00pm

Starbucks, 5540 Richmond Ave, Galleria Area, Houston, 77056

Rising in this photo, from left to right: the back-t0-searching Williams Tower, the 30-story Mercer condo building, and the vertical sign for the new Starbucks that opened yesterday morning at the northeast corner of Richmond Ave. and Chimney Rock Rd. The freestanding coffee shop at 5540 Richmond (next to the spot previously occupied by now-demolished Taco Cabana) is right across the street from the freestanding former Starbucks no longer listed on the company’s website at 5549 Richmond, between wine-themed Pinot’s Palette and probably-not-intentionally-wine-themed Night Train Luggage.

The store is a 4-minute drive from the Starbucks-turned-Minuti on the corner of Fountainview Dr. and Westheimer Rd., and just a 3-minute drive from the new AT&T-adjacent Starbucks on S. Rice Ave. south of 59, at the edge of the Walmart Supercenter parking lot next to relocated MicroCenter. Folks who want to get their coffee and split can head east to the drive-through lane; folks looking to stick around can hang out inside, out front, or on the semi-sheltered side patio which will eventually be partially screened with greenery, if the planter plants follow the plan:

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Coffee’s Back On
03/21/16 10:15am

MEDITATIONS ON HOUSTON’S ICEHOUSES FROM THE GUY WHO STARTED PHOTOGRAPHING THEM LAST YEAR Bubba's Texas Burger Shack, 5230 Westpark Dr., Gulfton, Houston, 77056What patterns have emerged to recent architecture grad David Richmond, roughly 7 months and 40 Shiners in on a year-long project to document Houston’s icehouses? Garage doors, and an embrace of Houston’s outside environment: Richmond writes that the icehouses’ “permanent openness inverts the last 50 years of Houston living — hot days are hot, ugly streets are visible, bad smells can linger, and humidity can ruin your day. The garage door becomes a way of existing in your location for what it is that day at that moment. The city is no longer an image through a window but a physical space.” Richmond plans to turn the project into a book; you can follow along on Twitter here. [Houston Chronicle, OffCite] Photo of Bubba’s Texas Burger Shack, between the Westpark Tollway overpass and US 59: Bubba’s Texas Burger Shack

03/03/16 2:15pm

Canyon Cafe, 5000 Westheimer, Galleria, Houston, 77056

Canyon Cafe, 5000 Westheimer, Galleria, Houston, 77056

The Houston location of Canyon Cafe in the Galleria area appears to be closed. A reader sends photos from this morning of locked doors and a leasing sign from Weingarten Realty in the shopping center at the northwest corner of Westheimer Rd. and Post Oak Blvd. The location’s phone number seems to be out of service; also out is serving alcohol, as the restaurant made today’s list of the latest TABC permit delinquencies.

Meanwhile just across Post Oak Blvd., Sports Authority is now sporting signs advertising clearance sales ending May 7th, in the wake of yesterday’s announcement that the chain had gone through with bankruptcy filing and that 140 stores would close in the coming 3 months.

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Galleria Groundings
02/12/16 12:00pm

South elevation of proposed Vantage highrise, Post Oak Blvd. at San Felipe Rd., Uptown, Houston, 77056

This could someday be part of the north-bound view on Post Oak Blvd., if plans that have been filed for a new 40-story highrise tower from Dinerstein at the corner of Post Oak and San Felipe Rd. come to be. The Vantage tower, shown above in a south-side elevation by Gensler, would include 32 stories of apartments atop 2 floors of retail; 2 of the 7 parking levels would be tucked underground, below an amenities deck.

The tower is slated for the same spot as a previously proposed 50-story tower from AmREIT, which back in 2014 spurred the formation of a political action committee by residents of the next-door Cosmopolitan condo highrise directly behind the property. The committee claimed that opposition to the proposed tower had nothing to do with any potential blocking of the condo’s views — though the renderings of the AmREIT proposal did show a ghostly sketch of the Cosmopolitan lurking very close behind in the background:

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Uptown Vantage Points
02/09/16 11:30am

Scaffolding on the Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056

A more senior representative of the Williams Tower’s property management office wrote in yesterday with a correction to Friday’s note about the recent return of the rotating spotlight at the top, after another employee told Swamplot that the beam had been off while a new bulb was being hunted down. In fact, the source tells Swamplot, the entire beacon fixture has been replaced, as part of a redo of the tip of the tower itself.

The current work on the top started in November 2014 and includes the replacement of the “apex roof” (consisting of the sloping panels directly beneath the beacon, and the vertical panels directly below those, above the start of the glass skin). The above photo shows those vertical panels missing late last spring as the swap was underway. The new spotlight turned on in late December, and final touches to the roof should be done by March, if the weather cooperates.

Here’s what the roof looked like back before the work began:

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Spotlight on the Roof
02/05/16 4:15pm

Williams Tower, 2800 Post Oak Blvd., Galleria Area, Houston, 77056

Update (2/9): The entire beacon fixture has been replaced. See this story for details.

The rotating spotlight on top of the 64-story Williams Tower in the Galleria area has been back on for a few weeks, following an autumnal hiatus. According to a representative of the tower’s property management office, the beam stayed dark during difficulties finding the correct kind of bulb for the fixture. A reader sent a report this week from a bedroom window overlooking the Galleria area:

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Giant Bulb
01/21/16 10:00am

51Fifteen, 5115 Westheimer, Galleria, Houston, 77056

While you’re waiting for that Galleria redo to wrap up, renderings have been released of the new home of 51Fifteen, the upscale bistro tucked into the existing Saks Fifth Avenue location along with its sister bar Bar 12 (currently located “amidst the men’s fashion selections”). The restaurant will follow Saks 5th Avenue to its new home, landing in its own swanky new space designed by the Contour Interior Design folks. The restaurant’s website is now booking events at the new location for dates as soon as April 2016.

Here’s a rendering from Beck Architecture of the new Saks building’s boxy exterior, slated for the spot where the Galleria III used to be:

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51Fifteen at 5115
01/13/16 12:30pm

Rendering of Shake Shack Houston, 5015 Westheimer Rd., Uptown, Houston, 77056

Shake Shack’s planned Galleria location made an appearance at the company’s quarterly investor presentation yesterday — the new rendering scraps the outdoor patio present in the previously released depiction, and an exterior wall appears to be covered in greenery. The Shack currently anticipates a late-2016 opening, depending on progress of the surrounding Galleria redo.

Rendering of Shake Shack planned for 5015 Westheimer: Simon Property Group

 

5015 Westheimer Rd.
12/28/15 11:30am

SIMON SAYS DON’T BRING YOUR GUNS TO THE GALLERIA Nieman Marcus Interior, Galleria, Houston Galleria manager Greg Noble released a statement last week on developer Simon Property’s decision not to allow open carry on Galleria premises: “As a private property owner, Simon will continue to enforce its existing policy of not allowing possession of any weapon on its property whether concealed or displayed openly, other than licensed weapons carried by law enforcement personnel. Once the law goes into effect, any shopper in possession of a weapon will be individually notified of Simon’s existing policy by a member of the security or management team and asked to comply.” Olivia Pulsinelli of the Houston Business Journal also notes that grocery chains H-E-B, Whole Foods, and Randall’s have posted the signage required to refuse open carry; so far, Kroger’s has not. [HBJ, previously on Swamplot] Photo of Nieman Marcus in the Galleria: Russell Hancock via Swamplot Flickr Pool

12/11/15 12:30pm

Proposed 610 Express Lanes, West Loop Between 59 and I-10, Houston

Love that rush of vertigo from driving up the entrance ramp at Hidalgo St. onto the southbound West Loop? Freeway thrill-seekers may have some new options in a few years. The above rendering of new elevated express lanes along the West Loop between I-10 and 59 made an appearance at last night’s TxDOT Open House, where plans for the proposed project were presented for public comment. The drawing faces southwest across the intersection of San Felipe and 610 toward the Williams Tower (far left), and shows the lanes flying high over the existing freeway.

TxDOT also showed schematics and cross sections of the proposed additions — which include previously-considered dedicated bus lanes elevated along the path of the feeder road, from just south of I-10 to the junction with Post Oak Blvd.

Drive through the cross sections below, from north to south:

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Up High in Uptown