02/03/17 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEREFORE ART THOU, ALABAMA THEATER? Olivia Hussey in Romeo and Juliet at the Alabama Theater, Upper Kirby, Houston“My elementary school class (can’t remember which grade) saw Romeo and Juliet there. The one with Olivia Hussey as Juliet. I remember the seats were velvet and rocked. If you kicked the seat in front of you really hard it sent the person’s popcorn flying for several rows.” [Tangyjoe, commenting on Former Alabama Theater’s Pastel Modernistic Forehead Browned Out]

01/31/17 5:15pm

New Paint Job for Trader Joe's, Petsmart at Former Alabama Theater, 2922 S. Shepherd Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The front of Weingarten Realty’s Alabama Shepherd Shopping Center now sports some big dark blocks on its Shepherd-facing facade, Houstorian James Glassman notes in a drive-by of the scene this afternoon. The gradated yellow vertical fluting above the movie-theater-turned-bookstore-turned-sandbox-turned-grocery store’s marquee sign (which the city’s landmark designation writeup says is made of enameled steel) has been done over in a single swath of brown, matching the shade applied above the formerly tan Petsmart facade as well. Marketing materials on Weingarten’s website for the shopping center still show the old color scheme:

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Trader Joe’s Trade
01/27/17 12:30pm

Rendering of Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St. at Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston

Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St., Upper Kirby/Greenway Plaza, Houston, TX 77098
Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St., Upper Kirby/Greenway Plaza, Houston, TX 77098The new swirls and swoops around Levy Park are starting to look more like those previously released renderings of the space’s total facelift, as a planned February 25th reopening date draws near. The Levy Park Conservancy is throwing an opening party that day, including art performances, workshops, gardening demos, and piano music (presumably from the moveable park piano.) The group sends along some photos of the increasingly colorful construction site, from the spiraling walking path both pictured and rendered above, to the repurposed double-decker bus that’ll eventually sit alongside the park’s main open greenspace to tend a beer garden. The bus previously made an appearance in this rendering of the lumpy triangular dog park:

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Sprouting in Kirby Grove
01/13/17 10:45am

Lighting testing of 59 bridge

Upate, 4pm: The text has been updated to clarify the bridge’s color capabilities and include more info on current setup from the design firm.

Hazard St. Bridge Lighting TestsThe curvy crossings over Hwy. 59 east of Spur 527 have been caught on camera glowing at passing drivers this week as workers test out the new colored lighting systems. Sarah Gandy of Gandy² Lighting Design tells Swamplot that the plan is to have all 6 bridges lit nightly by the first week of February as the pre-Super Bowl hullaballoo ramps up, but that final tweaks and adjustments are still being made (as seen here).

Gandy tells Swamplot that the bridge’s color patterns are still being programmed, and that they’ll soon be capable of a full range of groovy multi-tone modes like those shown in renderings previously released by the Montrose Management District (shown below):

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Pre-Super Bowl Exhibition
01/04/17 12:15pm

1801 Richmond Ave. Demo, Richwood Place, Houston, 77098
1801 Richmond Ave., Richwood Place, Houston, 77098From beneath yesterday’s sunset glare off the new Big Tex Storage midrise on Richmond Ave, a reader captured the splintery wreckage of long-empty Cierra Interiors at the corner with Woodhead St. Plans to stick a new Starbucks in its place were submitted back in early November by an entity connected to experienced Starbucks constructor Vaquero Ventures, and the knockout of the building was officially sanctioned just before Christmas. Next door, the land opened up by Vaquero’s teardown of the pair of 2-story brick 4-plexes at 1823 and 1827 Richmond back in August looks to be marked for another Inner Loop outpost of oil change chain Take 5.

And one more door eastward, the former Ruthie’s Place on Richmond looks to be headed for new use by strip-center gelato shop Sweetcup, per some early-stage permits issued in November that note a bar-to-ice-cream-shop conversion. Sweetcup bought the building at 1829 Richmond in September after the bar’s early 2016 shutdown (in the wake of the passing of long-time former owner Ruth Vardilos). Here’s a shot of the whole corner taken in August, shortly after the apartment removal, showing Ruthie’s tucked next to Ely’s Beauty Salon on the far right:

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Richwood Place Replacements
12/28/16 11:30am

El Beso Cantina, 3801 Farnham St,, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

A reader on the inside sends a shot of the ex-59 Diner on Farnham St., now up and running as El Beso Cantina. As of Christmas, the space is once again open 24 hours a day, though the pale turquoise paint and Elvis kitsch have been swapped out for warmer earth tones and decorative sombreros. The new occupants also appear to be attempting to fill the area’s 3am pancake niche, covered for nearly 30 years by the departed diner, by offering an array of American breakfast items along with the Tex-Mex fare.

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Shepherd Triangle Swap-In
12/01/16 4:15pm

Big Tex Montrose, 1810 Richmond Ave., Dearborn Place, Houston, 77006

richwood-market-freaky-foods-west-viewThe doors opened last week at that 4-story 100,000-sq.-ft. storage facility that has replaced the boarded-up Shell Food Mart just west of the corner of Richmond  and Woodhead — itself a makeover of the 24-hour Richwood Market, known back in the day as Freaky Foods (affectionately or not). The 4-story building started going up next to King Cole Liquor some time after the nearby trees got cleared out about a year ago (with the city’s OK, Annise Parker said at the time).

Big Tex has since widened the sidewalks and added some new baby trees in a series of landscaped rectangles along Richmond; the company’s press release also says there’s gonna be an Art Wall.

Photos: Big Tex Storage via Urbannizer (panoramic of Big Tex at 1810 Richmond Ave.), Swamplot inbox (2014 shot of 1810 Richmond Ave.)

Boxes on Richmond
11/03/16 3:45pm

Magic Island sign removal, 2215 Southwest Fwy., Houston, 77098

As of lunchtime, more than half of the MAGIC & COMEDY SHOW lettering has been removed from the sloped wall of vacant freeway-side magic club and faux Egyptian temple Magic Island. A reader spotted the scene — “just the cherry picker and the demolished letters on the ground” — during a feeder road drive-by around noon.

Talk of rebooting and reopening the former magic club (which became increasingly family-oriented until its Ike-and-fire-fueled shutdown in 2008) has been going on periodically since 2012; some permits for sign renewal and restaurant repairs were issued back in 2013, and a representative of owner and neurologist Mohammed Athari told Leah Binkovitz in early 2015 that some contracts for work on the building had finally been signed, even though things were moving slower than originally planned.

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Beneath the Pharaoh’s Gaze
10/26/16 11:30am

Rendering of Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St. at Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, HoustonConstruction at Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St. at Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Rendering of Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St. at Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, HoustonNestled in near the Seuss-ical spirals and curves of Levy Park’s under-construction pathways and playgrounds is the lumpy triangular dog-park-to-be above, now partitioned off by its metal rod setup (seen here facing northwest up Eastside St. toward the corner with Richmond Ave.)  A reader trekked around the site yesterday and snapped some updates; first, here’s how the dog park fits into the most recent set of plans for the site:

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West of Eastside
10/05/16 5:00pm

Corporate Plaza site, Kirby at Norfolk, Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

The chain link that has surrounded the former site of Corporate Plazas I, II and III since the wind-down of their protracted demise now appears to be getting augmented by some wooden fencing, a reader notes. The non-paved sections of the 4-ish-acre property bundle have picked up a layer of green since the final demo odds and ends finished up in May, giving that stack of pipes in the foreground something soft to lie down on.

Survey of the surrounding office space scene: That’s the crane at work on the office tower member of the Kirby Collection visible on the far left, over the parking-garage shoulder of the River Oaks Tower at 3730 Kirby (which, like the former Corporate Plaza land across Norfolk St., is owned by California-based Triyar). The 3701 Kirby office midrise is visible on the right from across Kirby Dr.; the kinda-matching 3801 Kirby is just out of the frame above, but visible in the shot below of the new fencing from the other side:

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No Trespassing on Norfolk
09/22/16 10:30am

LANIER MIDDLE SCHOOL CEREMONIALLY CHANGES NAME TO LANIER MIDDLE SCHOOL Bob Lanier crestThe Lanier-Lanier name change got the official seal of approval as of yesterday morning by way of a seal-updating and renaming ceremony at the middle school’s campus at Woodhead St. and Westheimer Rd. That previously threatened lawsuit over the HISD’s plan to flush out Confederate sympathizers from its campus name roster was in fact filed in late June by a group of parent-and-alumni-types; documents filed with the district clerk’s office show that a request by the plaintiffs for a temporary injunction to stop the renamings from moving forward was denied by the judge on August 22nd. Lanier’s campus is keeping all but its first name, swapping author Sydney for former Houston mayor Bob; the other 7 schools on the changeover list started the year with more dramatic shifts in nomenclature. [HISD Blog; previously on Swamplot] Image of new Bob Lanier Middle School seal: HISD    

09/14/16 4:45pm

Rendering of under-construction Kirby Collection, Kirby Dr. at Colquitt St., Upper Kirby, Houston

Rolling-sphere-themed restaurant and entertainment chain Pinstripes has just leased up some space in the under-construction Kirby Collection (and hey — there might even be some bocce players nearby still looking for a new court!) That’s the first confirmed tenant for the project, which Thor Equities wants to open by the end of next year; the 33,600 sq. ft. of leased space makes up around half of the total retail space available, and is split across both retail floors of the complex (shown in the foreground above, with a row of trees peeking down at Kirby Dr. from the edge of the roof). Pinstripes will take over a 7,260-sq.-ft. subdivision of first floor space, out of the segment labeled 23,900 in the ground floor plan below:

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Leasing Ball Rolling
09/08/16 1:00pm

The Conservatory, Gardens of Bammel Lane/Gardens of River Oaks, 2807 Bammel Ln., Greenway, Houston, 77098

Looks like the glassy structure above will be jumping gardens, per the announcement last week from the wedding venue formerly known as the Gardens of Bammel Lane (which took the new name Gardens of River Oaks late in July). The conservatory building will head north to the Gardens at Madeley Manor in Conroe once the Bammel Ln. venue shuts down in December. The rest of the garden’s structures and landscaping will likely be removed by less delicate means to make way for the planned 26-story Villa Borghese highrise, depicted below with Downtown peeking over its shoulder from the east:

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Conservatory Conservation