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

12/08/17 2:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE NORTH AND SOUTH BLVD. PHOTOSHOOT BATTLE IS JUST WARMING UP “As a close relative of a Broadacres resident I will report what I know. Yes, the esplanades are privately owned and maintained by the homeowners and the signs are legal. The reason for the signs was the volume of people taking pictures. I have lived there for 15+ years and it has never been this bad. In the evenings you will have 2, 3, or 4 groups of people on each block taking pictures and it’s not just people that are the problem, it’s all of the props (sofa, chairs, tables, GLITTER, lighting) that they bring with them too. As some commenters have pointed out, some homeowners have approached those taking pictures and gotten back a lot of attitude and some form of “This is public property.” Err, well, no it isn’t actually. The signs were a compromise to discourage further pictures and serve as an initial educational campaign. If it backfires or the signs are ignored there will most likely be some sort of security enforced permitting in place or, the nuclear option, buying out the streets from the city and gating the neighborhood.” [BroadAcres Brat, commenting on New Signs Declare Photo Shoots Will No Longer Be Allowed on North and South Boulevards] Photo: 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.

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Brides Be Gone
12/06/17 12:15pm

The 4949 Convenience Store, heir to the Sunrise Grocery spot on the northeast corner of Bissonnet and Shepherd, has been demolished — this time in its entirety, and with a little less fanfare. Back in September, crowds gathered to watch ceiling-mounted wrecking balls bust up parts of the building’s interior as part of a “site specific, kinetic installation” by artist Trey Duvall.

Cherry Demolition’s more conventional performance took place yesterday, a reader tells Swamplot; the photo at top shows the lot after it was cleared out this morning. A 3-story office building with a street-level cafe is planned for the site.

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Boulevard Oaks
09/27/17 2:30pm

Here are a couple renderings from the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture in Austin of the new 3-story building the firm is designing for the corner spot at 2132 Bissonnet St. in Boulevard Oaks. A representative of the Platform Group, the building’s developer, tells Swamplot an “all-day cafe/coffee shop” is being planned for the ground floor, and that the upper 2 floors will contain “boutique office space.” The cafe won’t be a Gringo’s Tex-Mex, but the developers do have a connection to that restaurant chain: The Platform Group is headed by a son and daughter-in-law of Gringo’s owner Russell Ybarra.

In the top rendering, the 11,300-sq.-ft. building is shown lining Shepherd Dr., with an L-shaped parking lot wrapping around it. A patio with outdoor seating will go in front of the structure along Bissonnet St. The Houston office of SWA Group is designing the landscape.

Here are views of the current site from similar angles:

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Remaking Boulevard Oaks
09/27/17 1:00pm

If you’ve ever wished you could watch a wrecking ball go wild inside a convenience store, here’s your chance. A crowd gathered outside the former 4949 C-store at the corner of Bissonnet and Shepherd over the weekend to watch artist Trey Duvall’s kinetic demolition installation in action. The installation features wrecking balls connected to computer-controlled motors mounted on the ceiling wreaking havoc on what remains of the interior. Or, as Duvall puts it, “Two high-torque mechanized double pendulums . . . impact shelving systems, soda machines, retail racks, drink coolers, and walls to create an evolving and unpredictable landscape of detritus.

If you can’t stop by for your own personal evening viewing of any portion of the 15-day-long endeavor (it’ll be in action through October 6), there’ll be live-streamed video of the action available online. You can watch nightly from 6 to 9 pm from a link on the project website.

This video by Duvall shows some of the first blows:

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Watch the Wrecking Ball
08/17/17 2:00pm

Buckhead Investment Partners tells Swamplot that the work crew, excavator, and large drainage pipes spotted on location yesterday and today at the east end of the site of the residential building known as the Ashby Highrise at 1717 Bissonnet St. constitutes nothing more than “on-going site work.” Multiple permits to construct the proposed 21-story Boulevard Oaks tower have been issued over the past decade — the most recent ones a little less than a year ago. And construction crews have been active on the site before. But Buckhead reports to Swamplot that there is “nothing else meaningful to report at this time.”

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Just Digging It
07/05/17 9:30am

HOW THAT NEW HOUSTON LOOK KEPT MAKING ITS WAY FROM OLD EUROPE “I have always felt that this North Boulevard house was the one that changed the way Houston looked at decor and antiques,” writes West U design blogger Joni Webb about a stucco mansion in Broadacres by Rice University architect William Ward Watkin, who designed it in 1923 for a drug-company executive after a 4-month inspirational European tour. The property at 1318 North Blvd. later served for more than a decade as the home of Tootsie’s founder Micky Rosmarin, who died after a heart attack last month; it’s now up for sale for $4.75 million. “Back in 1995,” Webb writes, “it was featured on the cover of Veranda and I think it was this house that marked the true beginning of the Houston Look — the white slipcover, seagrass, antique filled aesthetic whose origins I attribute to designer Babs Cooper Watkins . . . it launched Watkins into prominence.” Watkins, Webb explains, “used antiques in a casual way, her interiors were never about a hands-off approach. She mixed in religious relics and priceless antiques with vintage chairs slipcovered in inexpensive plain linen. She repurposed outside garden elements to be used inside the house. And Babs was one of the first ones who favored dramatic paint treatments that turned ordinary sheetrock into centuries old grottos.” Watkins passed away in February of last year. But Webb recalls how the home launched a store — and a whole new Old World orientation for Houston interiors: “The Veranda photoshoot not only created a new aesthetic, it also created a new partnership and the Watkins Schatte antique shop on Bissonnet was born.” The shop (still at 2308 Bissonnet, but now known as Watkins-Culver Antiques) “was an instant hit and during those days, lines would form when a new shipment was unveiled.  Everyone wanted to see what Babs and Bill [Gardner] and Annette [Schatte] had bought in Europe.” [Cote de Texas; previously on Swamplot]

05/22/17 1:00pm

On the market again: the designed-it-himself 1959 home of Ralph Anderson (who worked on the Astrodome, as well as the retooled brutalist building now occupied by the Houston Chronicle). The home is iced on its Banks St. side in cream-colored patterned concrete and contains an airy courtyard center; the latest asking price is $839,000, down from $875,000 last spring. The property was a stop on houstonMod’s May Mod of the Month tour, which took place yesterday afternoon.

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Open House
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
09/07/16 4:15pm

Ashby Highrise Site, 1717 Bissonnet St. at Ashby St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston

The gates are wide open this afternoon at 1717 Bissonnet, notes Mike Bloom, who sends along a few pictures of today’s excavator-vs-concrete action at the scene. Some workers and some pipes can be seen hanging around as the operator cracks into a bit of former parking lot on the northwest corner (a survivor of the Maryland Manor demolition back in 2013).

And a permit related to foundation and sitework were issued this week, following the smattering issued for some electrical and fire line work back before June’s appeal ruling (which declared that the surrounding neighborhood can’t be awarded damages for a project that hasn’t actually been built yet.) Might some deeper digging be on the way?

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Stirrings at 1717 Bissonnet
09/02/16 4:45pm

4949 at 2132 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston, 77005

Former Sunrise Grocery at 2132 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston, 77005The land at the northeast corner of Shepherd Dr. and Bissonnet St. (not far down the street from closing-this-weekend Kay’s Lounge) has been sold to an entity using the La Porte corporate address of traditionally freeway-hugging Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen. The mid-1980s convenience store (formerly a Sunrise Grocery) and its 0.35 acre property were put on the market at the start of the summer; the sale closed a little over 2 weeks ago. Word through the NextDoor grapevine is that the building won’t be a Gringo’s, but might be replaced with a 3-story retail-office-space combo once the convenience store’s lease runs out around Halloween.

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2132 Bissonnet