After hearing news that a homebuilder bought the 8-unit 1939 brick-and-glass-block Josephine Apartments 2 blocks north of Rice University in Boulevard Oaks, it may not come as much of a surprise to learn that the building’s new owner plans to tear them down. But today a source provides confirmation that demolition and new construction is in the cards: Tricon Homes has informed residents that they will need to vacate the property by mid July.
What? No friendly neighborhood groundbreaking celebration? No pics of developers and local politicos wearing hard hats and wielding pointless shovels? A mere 7 years after Buckhead Investment Partners first quietly upgraded utility service, prepared traffic-impact studies, and replatted the property of the former Maryland Manor Apartments hoping no one would notice, some sort of construction work appears to have begun on the 21-story apartment tower planned for 1717 Bissonnet St. At least that’s what this photo, taken at the scene and sent this afternoon to Swamplot by a reader, appears to show. Last week, a district court judge refused to grant an injunction that would have blocked the building’s construction.
Judge Randy Wilson today issued a ruling affirming a jury’s conclusion that the proposed Ashby Highrise at 1717 Bissonnet St. would constitute a “nuisance.” But he couldn’t both grant an injunction preventing the building’s construction and award the complaining neighbors the approximately $1.6 million in damages determined by the jury, he explains, because that would constitute a “double recovery.” Instead, citing the extremely local nature of the nuisance, the difficulty of enforcing an injunction, possible harm to the developers, the disruption to city development rules a singular decision in this case would bring, and other concerns, he denied the injunction and the portion of the jury award for loss of use and enjoyment — but ordered the developers of the proposed 21-story building to pay 20 plaintiffs the $1.2 million the jury had apportioned for “lost market value damages,” because “these damages have already occurred.” The plaintiffs had argued they preferred an injunction to the payment; it’s likely they’ll appeal.
The 75-year-old Josephine Apartments just north of Rice University have been sold — to homebuilder Tricon Homes. The distinctive two-tone-brick Art Deco structure was built in 1939 from a design by architect F. Perry Johnston. It sits at the corner of Bolsover and Ashby St., a block north of Rice University, just east of Southampton Place, and 3 blocks south of the site of the planned Ashby Highrise. The U-shaped 2-story building with glass block and steel windows consists of 8 single-bedroom units, some of them with sunrooms.
Long and lean, an updated and fortified 1945 property clings to the West Edgemont neighborhood’s retaining-wall border on the south bank of the below-grade Southwest Fwy. The Boulevard Oaks-area home had 9 owners in the past 30 years; since January, it’s been seeking number 10. The asking price remains $437,500.
Once past the Jello-bold color adjustments to the listing’s exterior photo, this 2000 contemporary home by Rice School of Architecture professor Carlos Jiménez unfolds rather quietly on its in-the-trees and oversized lot on South Blvd. in Ormond Place, part of Boulevard Oaks. The property made its market debut in late October. Its asking price then, $3,285,000, remains.
A different style of furnishings and a new set of HDR-ish photos that focuses on the home’s outdoor areas show off another side of Rick Sundberg’s “Handmade House,” which has been up for sale since September for just shy of $1.6 million. Developer Carol Isaak Barden brought Sundberg to Houston to design a couple of high-end Boulevard Oaks-area homes in the late noughts. The listing for 1916 Banks St. credits the design to Sundberg’s longtime firm, then known as Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen. But Sundberg went out on his own while the home was under construction, and it’s now featured on the website of his new firm, Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young Architects.
Last week, a judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit filed by folks in Boulevard Oaks back in May against Buckhead Investment Partners to stop the construction of 1717 Bissonnet (a.k.a. the Ashby Highrise), setting up a jury trial this November. In the suit, you’ll remember, neighbors cite concerns about traffic and privacy and also allege that the proposed 21-story residential tower would deprive their lawns and gardens of shade and rain. Right now, of course, the site — cleared once and for all of the Maryland Manor apartments — is itself a kind of garden, with grass and weeds sprouting at the feet of a painted-over fence.
In a statement sent to Swamplot, Buckhead explains its side of the story:
The claims contained in the Petition are without merit and are not supported by Texas law. This lawsuit is a serious threat to urban growth and economic prosperity throughout the State of Texas. If successful, the resulting lack of predictability and uncertainty in the law would invite a flood of similarly styled litigation aimed at stopping projects subjectively deemed as inappropriate or undesirable by any individual or like-minded group of would-be plaintiffs. There would be an immediate and economically debilitating statewide chilling effect on the development of new real estate projects due to the new precedent that any lawful, entitled and fully permitted project might be enjoined using these same sorts of baseless claims.
So the site where the 21-story Ashby Highrise is going up appears to have been cleared now of the Maryland Manor apartments and bordered with a nice new fence, which appears to have been freshly tagged with some carefully considered — commentary? The reader who sends these photos suspects that the all-caps shout-outs to 2 of Houston’s most well-known towers showed up early this morning
Just down the block from that recent fence-related mishap at the all-cleared Ashby Highrise site is the proposed site of the . . . Ashby Midrise? Well, the official moniker of this 5-story condo box at Ashby and Sunset is Chateau Ten. And if that name (or the purple-hued rendering pictured on the sign) seems familiar, it’s because an identical building from the Randall Davis Company is already going up on Spann and Welch on the lot adjacent to where Hines might or might not be building that 17-story office tower off San Felipe.
“Nice!” says homeowner Scott Reamer in this video he shot today from his backyard, just 5 ft. away from the Ashby Highrise site, when a bunch of bricks from the Maryland Manor Apartments wall that demo workers were banging on to take down topples his fence.
Here’s what’s going down over at 1717 Bissonnet. Making way for the Ashby Highrise — whose developers this week signed new builder Pepper-Lawson Construction to replace Linbeck, which decided to back out earlier this year — the salvaging and knocking down of Maryland Manor started last week. And this is what things looked like this morning: