02/17/15 12:00pm

Mr. Santos Fashion Designs, 2150 Westheimer Rd., Glendower Court, Houston

Mr. Santos Fashion Designs, 2150 Westheimer Rd., Glendower Court, HoustonConstruction on the lot behind the Mr. Santos Fashion Design HQ on Westheimer Rd. at Kingston doesn’t mean Mr. Santos is closing up shop. It just means that his neighbor, the St. Anne Parish, is adding onto its parking lot along Kingston Dr. The dress designer and tailor, who’s operated out of the former house at 2150 Westheimer Rd. just west of Shepherd for a mere 32 years, tells Swamplot his shop, which specializes in wedding dresses, isn’t going anywhere.

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The Cars of St. Anne’s
02/13/15 5:15pm

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It’s a different kind of ice house on this corner: A sparkle finish fittingly fashions a gem-like setting for the Quenton Elliott custom jewelry store in Upper Kirby’s Ferndale neighborhood. Stacks of glass block encapsulate the property, which anchors the furnishings end of a semi-retail block. Raze or remodel, shouts the listing posted earlier this week, noting a $799K asking price. It carries no details on the 1945 building’s interior other than to note that it’s livable as a residence but likely heading toward land ho.

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Ice Cubes
02/06/15 2:00pm

Thor Equities came out with a video this week showing whiz-around views of the Kirby Collection, its ready-to-go but (as of late January) still seeking construction financing mixed-use complex on the Kirby Dr. block surrounded by W. Main, Colquitt, and Lake St. And the New York development group is at long last dropping the (big) name of the design architect for the long-promised $125 million project: Richard Keating Architecture, which operates out of L.A. (Houston’s Kirksey Architecture is producing the construction documents.)

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Kirby Collection
01/28/15 2:30pm

Kirby Court Apartments, 2612 Steel St., Upper Kirby, Houston

The end of the year marked the end of residency for all tenants of the Kirby Court Apartments. Renters of the 2-story 1949 townhouse-style units fronting oak-lined Steel St. across Kirby Dr. from the Whole Foods Market were required to move out no later than December 31st. Houston-based Hanover Co. had a portion of the complex under contract, and was planning to complete the transaction early this year.

But funding for the apartment tower Hanover had planned for that parcel (marked down to 30 stories and 300 units at last report) fell through sometime in December, a company rep tells the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi; since then, the company has been “scrambling to find new investors.” Hanover has now postponed completion of the purchase until August. The architect, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, is still reportedly working on the design.

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Funding Dries Up
01/27/15 11:45am

Plaque on Wendy's Drive-Thru, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, Houston

Oak Tree Stumps, North Blvd. at Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Plaque on Wendy's Drive-Thru, 5003 Kirby Dr. at North Blvd., Upper Kirby, HoustonJaws have been dropping along North Blvd. at the intersection of Kirby Dr. at the sight of a prominently placed inscription that now greets drive-thru customers of the Wendy’s at 5003 Kirby Dr. Is this just one of those obliviously coincidental following-corporate-guidelines things, or is the management of this Wendy’s going out of its way to draw attention to the under-cover-of-night street-tree massacre it orchestrated late last year to clear away 6 oaks on the corner and that cost the franchise owners a well-publicized $300,000 settlement from the city’s legal department? Or is the assembly of words attached directly to the brick wall, which honors “SERVICE THAT DOESN’T CUT CORNERS,” meant to apologize for the hired landscaping crew’s actions — which y’know, really did cut a corner — and emphasize that the hardworking burger-makers inside are trying to do something . . . different?

In full, the signage reads, “QUALITY SERVICE THAT DOESN’T CUT CORNERS IS OUR RECIPE,” though the part about corner-cutting service in the middle is clearly meant as an add-on to the fast-food chain’s more famous “Quality is our recipe” tagline. For those of you who haven’t been following the saga closely enough to appreciate the . . . humor? chutzpah? contrition? obliviousness? involved here,  here’s the backstory:

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Corner Cutting
01/23/15 5:30pm

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A ski-slope of a roof tops a 1974 townhome complex designed by Burdette Keeland — on land his mother owned in College Heights, now part of  the Upper Kirby District. The late architect taught at University of Houston’s College of Architecture for 40 years and served on the City of Houston’s planning commission for 30 years. Located at the center of the 5-plex property, the contemporary home is described as being in near-original condition. Since mid-December, the listing has been priced at $379,900. You can hit the slopes with a look-see scheduled by Houston Mod for this Sunday afternoon.

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Lift Lines
01/12/15 1:46pm

Reopened Wendy's Restaurant at 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

Burger King and Diminished Oak Tree at 5115 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

A regular Kirby Dr. street-tree watcher sends in this pair of recent images showing the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr. (at the far western end of oak-tree-bedecked North Blvd.), which reopened after renovations the week before Christmas, and its neighbor a few driveways down, the Burger King at 5115 Kirby Dr. (at the far western end of similarly shaded South Blvd). The photos show the aftermath of a series of chainsaw incidents that took place last year.

The daring but probably not death-inducing trimming of the lone surviving Kirby Dr. street tree in front of Wendy’s (shown at top) took place after the franchise’s owner, Ali Dhanani of Haza Foods, paid the city a $300,000 settlement for the nighttime removal of 6 other oaks on city property surrounding the restaurant shortly before Halloween. A report in November indicated that the city’s legal team was investigating the more aggressive paring of oak limbs in front of the neighboring Burger King, as well as another Burger King owned by Houston Foods, the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country, which is run by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

The Giving Trees
01/09/15 10:45am

Fly High Little Bunny, 3120 S. Shepherd Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

From the Swamplot reader known as Googlemaster comes this parting photo of jewelry store Fly High Little Bunny at 3120 S. Shepherd Dr., featuring — in the view from Sul Ross St. — a new mural. The building stands in the way of a new drive-thru building meant to add heft and balance to a new CVS Pharmacy going in at the corner of Shepherd and West Alabama St. Sunday was the last day of business at the shop.

Photo: Googlemaster

Resistance Is Futile
01/05/15 5:00pm

Ruggles Green, 2311 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, Houston

Gables Upper Kirby, 2305 W. Alabama St., Upper Kirby, HoustonThe last day of business for the original Ruggles Green location, in the Persona Day Spa shopping center at 2311 West Alabama St. east of Kirby Dr. (above), was New Year’s Eve. But the restaurant claims it won’t be gone from the neighborhood for too long. A new Ruggles Green is scheduled to open up in the street-facing retail space on the ground floor of the Gables Upper Kirby apartments going up next door (portrayed above left), once construction on that project is finished. That’ll be this spring, a note on the Ruggles Green website promises. The new address, 2305 W. Alabama St., will be one door down from the former Mission Burrito, recently renamed Überrito Mexican Grill to avoid tortilla torts.

Meanwhile, up in The Woodlands, a brand new Ruggles Green in the shopping center at 2501 Research Forest Dr. is scheduled to open any day now — “whenever the chairs arrive,” the company’s Facebook page declares. Here’s a pic of that standing-room-only (for now) location:

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But First, The Woodlands
12/31/14 10:00am

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Reader Sean McManus was on the spot for yesterday’s demolition proceedings at the southwest corner of W. Alabama St. and S. Shepherd Dr., where Roeder’s Pub, Ruchi’s taqueria, Fly High Little Bunny jewelry store and the River Oaks Dry Cleaners are being swept away in favor of a CVS pharmacy.

“As I was taking [the pictures], one of the deconstruction workers asked if he could help me,” McManus writes. “I told him that I was just taking a couple of quick photos. His response:Pfft… Memories.’”

More hot demo porn after the jump:

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Fly High, Little Ruchi and Roeder
12/22/14 12:46pm

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As of December 10 heavy equipment was already on site at the southwest corner of W. Alabama St. and S. Shepherd Dr., where a bevy of venerable-by-Houston-standards small businesses — including quirky jewelers Fly High Little Bunny, laid-back Roeder’s Pub, a cat clinic and stray adoption center, and late-night hang Ruchi’s Taqueria — are eating it to make way for a CVS and a roughly 24,000 sq.-ft. pad site.

Back when news of the development broke, some Swamplot commenters criticized it, site-plan unseen, as overly suburban-looking for its location, just across W. Alabama from the old theater and adjoining strip mall that now houses Trader Joe’s.

And now developers Read-King have released the site plans:

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Shepherding In A Katyville Corner
12/12/14 10:30am

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Is there more change coming to lower Richmond?

The former Shell station and grocery at 1810 Richmond Ave known until recently (formally) known as Richwood Market and (informally) as “Freaky Foods” is boarded up and graffiti-tagged:

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Death Knell For The Shell?
12/11/14 10:45am

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An excavator yesterday was hard at work scraping the 3300 block of the west side of Kirby clean.

Bounded by West Main St. and Colquitt St. and Lake St. to the rear, this block was long the site of a Settegast-Kopf funeral home, but like that seemingly straitlaced great-aunt with the closet full of empty gin bottles, the staid mortuary and adjacent buildings descended into drink, spending their final years as taverns Roak, Hendricks Pub, and the OTC Patio Bar.

Here’s what the Kirby frontage looked like in both its sober and lush incarnations:

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Cremation By Excavator
12/09/14 3:30pm

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“I know what they were going for but I think it’s the ‘We will come to you’ that I find upsetting,” writes Houston Chronicle culture critic Andrew Dansby on his Facebook page.

Dansby tells Swamplot that he spotted the sign in front of the business at 3414 S. Shepherd Dr. while out walking recently and believes it open to two interpretations, other than the no-doubt intended expression of eagerness to provide good service.

One, that they could be so eager, they are ready to pounce on you and cremate you against your will:

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Funeral Blues
12/01/14 10:00am

HAS THE INNER LOOP BEEN RUINED BY OLIGARCHS? Variance Sign at Kirby Court Apartments, 2700 Block of Steel St., Upper Kirby, Houston“A brutal strain of neoliberalism” and Houston’s disdain for its own history taken to “gothic extremes” have allowed developers to transform Inner Loop Houston from a “bastion for the creative class” to an “exclusive playland for the rich” in a few short years, writes Anis Shivani of Alternet. (The essay was later rebroadcast from the bully-er pulpit of Salon.com.) The nexus of Shivani’s lament is Steel St., the oak-lined Upper Kirby avenue that was once home to the Kirby Court Apartments and is now the site of an upcoming Hanover Company apartment building. Shivani, a poet, critic and fiction writer, sees the transformation of Steel St. (where he lives in a townhouse an apartment) as a microcosm for the changes going on across the Inner Loop, where “unoccupied zombie high-rises which are pure investment vehicles for global investors” are displacing the “artists, writers and eccentrics from around the country [who] descended in droves in the 2000s to take advantage of Houston’s livability.” Today’s Houston is “as unaffordable as Los Angeles or New York,” Shivani says. Among the more prominent events in this transmogrification: Last year’s demise of lively public-private space” Taco Milagro, where the “food was very healthy and people from all over the city danced the night away and congregated on the large patio.” Also, changes to the scenery of Memorial Park, where the “drought had supposedly killed” “oaks that were planted in the 1920s by the city fathers.” Shivani writes: “[In] the blink of an eye, without public discussion, the trees were demolished.” [Alternet; Salon; previously on Swamplot.] Photo: Jessie Wilson