04/25/08 11:47am

[youtube:http://youtube.com/watch?v=2O53kp1Te2M 400 330]

Are you an architectural renderer struggling to bring life to yet another vast Houston shopping-center parking lot in the drawings developers have commissioned you to create? This video should bring you inspiration! Go ahead and draw in that parade — that street festival — that touching moment of parking-lot excitement. You won’t be faking anything!

Today’s baton-twirling parking-lot-parade marshal was photographed by Jason of the Around Town Houston blog — as he waited in the drive-thru at Burger King on Westheimer, just east of Highway 6, just around the corner from the West Oaks Mall.

Practice makes perfect!

04/17/08 10:08pm

An update on the 1031-exchange debacle surrounding the West Oaks Mall: In March, the mysterious Edward Okun — the mall’s owner — was indicted by a Virginia grand jury on charges of mail fraud, for misappropriating $132 million invested in his 1031 exchange company, 1031 Tax Group — along with bulk cash smuggling and related charges. Days later, Okun was arrested in his home on Hibiscus Island in Miami Beach.

To the 340 investors who had trusted $150 million of their 1031-exchange funds to supposedly-qualified intermediaries controlled by Okun, this was good news. But it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get their money back — or find a way around the huge tax liability now associated with their failed exchanges.

The 1031-exchange investors in Okun’s 1031 Tax Group had hoped to recoup some of their missing funds by raiding Okun’s other assets — including the West Oaks Mall. But the Okun-controlled companies that owned the mall declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October.

Today, the Costar Group reports that the freestanding building formerly known as JCPenney at the West Oaks Mall has been put up for sale, along with a mall in Salina, Kansas. The trustee in the bankruptcy case has hired Keen Realty, the new real estate division of KPMG Corporate Finance, to market both properties.

02/06/08 11:49am

Flea Powder at 6822 Songbrook Dr., Alief, Houston

Bet the sellers are just itching to get rid of this place.

Here’s part of a photo from the listing of a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home in Braewood Glen. It’s been on the market for two weeks, and the asking price was lowered to $109,900 just a few days in.

After the jump: They already got rid of the carpet what more do you want?


10/16/07 8:03am

Food Court at the West Oaks Mall, Houston, Texas

So much excitement at the West Oaks Mall! Don’t worry, it likely won’t be foreclosed on—because the owners of the super-regional mall at Westheimer and Highway 6 have now declared bankruptcy. This is bad news for about 340 investors who were hoping to recoup 1031-exchange funds that went missing in the middle of their transactions. They’ll likely lose more than $150 million dollars . . . and possibly be required to pay taxes on the gains they made (and were hoping to shield with the 1031 exchange) . . . before they lost them.

Their money was to be held in escrow accounts for when they came back to conclude the back-end purchase of their tax-free exchange. When that time came, the money was gone.

Now, one of the largest of those assets that creditors had hoped could be used to recoup some of their money is untouchable.

IPofA West Oaks Mall LP, IPofA West Oaks LeaseCo LP and IPofA WOM Master LeaseCo LP (collectively, the “West Oaks Debtors”), filed voluntary petitions under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, last week.

The West Oaks Debtors are directly and/or indirectly owned and/or controlled by Edward H. Okun, a controversial investor who also controls several 1031 qualified intermediaries under the umbrella firm of The 1031 Tax Group LLC that are also currently tied up in bankruptcy proceedings.

Shopping’s still good, though!

1031 exchange investors: watch where your money goes.

Photo: West Oaks Mall

06/01/07 10:34am

Street Sign on Bellaire BlvdOver at Houstoned, professional barfly John Nova Lomax and crooner David Beebe take a long, strange trip down the entire length of Bellaire Blvd.—on foot. Lomax’s conclusion:

If Westheimer is mainly about the fetishes, broken dreams and vanities of Anglo whites, and Shepherd is all about the needs of cars, Bellaire is a world market of a street, a bazaar where Mexicans, Anglos, Salvadorans, African Americans, Hondurans, stoners, Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans and Thais go to shop and eat.

The report from western Chinatown:

Tall bank buildings are sprouting, with glass fronts festooned in Mandarin. Strip malls fill with Vietnamese crawfish joints, Shaolin Temples, and acupuncture clinics. As we crossed Brays Bayou, a huge temple loomed in the distance, and it didn’t take much imagining to pretend you were gazing across a rice paddy toward a Vietnamese village. A Zen center abuts one of the last businesses in town to carry the all-but-forgotten A.J. Foyt’s once-omnipresent name. A couple of ratty old apartment complexes have changed into commercial buildings, each unit housing its own business.

The rice paddies, of course, have left the neighborhood.

More highlights of their journey, as they walk east: live turtles in the water gardens outside the Hong Kong City Mall; front-yard car lots in Sharpstown; Jane Long Middle Schoolers rushing convenience stores; the “Gulfton Ghetto.” Plus, this illuminating report from Alief:

Alief Ozelda Magee, the town’s namesake, is buried right there, under a slate-gray monument with a touching epitaph: “She did what she could.” And hell, maybe she still is. The adjoining apartment complex, which is rumored to cover some of the graves here, is said to suffer from a poltergeist infestation.

Photo: Cruising down Bellaire, by flickr user corazón girl