02/14/17 12:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HIDDEN COSTS OF THE HOUSTON DEMOLITION REFLEX 2 Tiel Way, River Oaks, Houston, 77019“I know nothing about this particular situation — but having seen some examples of this sort of renovation scene play out, I wonder whether there is a lot of anti-renovation bias that pushes the estimates beyond what they really need to be. I have family on the East Coast that have done renovations of homes built in the early 1800s. These were homes that at some point fell into disrepair and had pretty serious issues with wood rot all over, and expensive foundation issues. But there was never a second thought about tearing the building down, even though there was no historic protection in place. All the builders up there do historic renovations all day long and can price them reasonably. I think builders in Houston just do not have the experience and are afraid of taking on the job so they provide an astronomical bid to try to get the owner to tear down.” [Old School, commenting on River Oaks Mid-Century Preservation Turns Demolition, with Reincarnation In the Works] Photo of demolished to-be-rebuilt 2 Tiel Way: HAR

02/10/17 5:45pm

JUDGE EMMETT ON THE NEW PLAN TO REIN IN THE NEW ASTRODOME PLAN Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage PlansHere’s the statement judge Ed Emmett’s office just released to FOX26 in response to this afternoon’s news of District 15 senator John Whitmire’s about-to-be-filed bill to require a Harris County voter okay on that plan to turn the Astrodome’s bottom into a parking garage: “It’s frustrating that while the Astrodome stood vacant for more than 15 years, very few people stepped forward to offer real solutions. But now that we on Commissioners Court have finally arrived at a way to preserve the Dome as a revenue-generating asset for the people of Harris County, Sen. Whitmire’s legislation risks derailing that solution. The Astrodome is a paid-for asset that needs to be used for the benefit of the overall NRG Park complex. Creating more than 8 acres of covered usable space along with 1,400 indoor parking spaces will generate revenue that will allow the county to maintain NRG Stadium and the rest of the complex.” The bill could potentially shut down the parking garage plan, if county-wide support can’t be mustered to support the project; demolition plans, on the other hand, are now subject to review by the Texas Historical Commission, as of late last month’s State Antiquities Landmark designation. [FOX26; previously on Swamplot] Astrodome parking plan schematic: Harris County Engineering Department

02/10/17 2:45pm

Former City of Houston Code Enforcement Building, 3300 Main St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

Those Swamplot commenters who’ve been taking particular and unabashed pleasure in the long, slow demise of the former city code enforcement office at 3300 Main St. may also enjoy the shot above of the flooded pit spotted recently where the Mod office building once stood. Reader Diaspora (who sent in the photo late last week) suggests the site as potential competition for the folks behind the Houston Needs a Swimming Hole campaign, which Kickstartered a feasibility study a few years ago (and also passed around an illustration of an optimistically blue-watered bayouside beachfront, shown below):

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Lakes of Main St.
01/20/17 11:00am

Demo of former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building at 2850 Fannin St. and its many murals are now rubble, a reader notes. The shot above catches the destroyed structure next to Sebastien Boileau’s Preservons la Creation mural across the street on the back of 2800 San Jacinto St., juxtaposed with what appears to be some carefully timed oncoming traffic to add that dramatic glow to the painted figure’s outstretched spray paint can. The reader also caught one of the excavators climbing atop its defeated adversary earlier in the day, beneath the giant cross of the St. Joseph Professional Building:

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Cycles of Midtown
01/12/17 3:45pm

Murals at former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The colorful faces behind the chain-link fencing surrounding the former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority building at 2850 Fannin St. have been joined this week by a few pieces of bright yellow knock-down equipment. Permits came through last week clearing the site for clearance in advance of a planned 27-story apartment highrise going by the name Main Midtown. The tower was okayed for a parking variance in late October, as part of which Australian developer Caydon Properties agreed to install over 200 bike spaces. 

The long-empty MHMRA structure got its last hurrah this fall when much of the street-level wallspace was painted over in tan, making way for new muralage. A nearby resident buzzed around the site recently taking some final snaps of the paintings (like the one featured at the top of the page) before the demo gets going in earnest — here’s a sampling below:

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Midtown Breakdown
01/04/17 3:00pm

Former Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002

El Big Bad’s corner at Travis and Prairie streets now provides a view straight into (and even through) some long-hidden interior sections of the former Houston Chronicle headquarters at 801 Texas Ave. The building — or, rather, group of buildings bundled together behind in a single mid-1960’s skin — has been coming down gently since the judge for the Hines-Hearst-Linbeck tunnel lawsuit gave the okay over the summer. Most of the 10-story original section of the relocated paper’s former headquarters, on the south side of the block facing Texas Ave. at the Travis corner, has already been removed; a reader snapped the shot above yesterday, as what’s left of the complex was being draped in black again for the next phase of the pull-apart.

Photo: Christine Wilson

Shrunken Headquarters
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
12/29/16 4:30pm

Meteor, 2306 Genesee St, Montrose, Houston
Demolition of Meteor, 2306 Genesee St, Montrose, Houston

Demolition of Meteor, 2306 Genesee St, Montrose, HoustonSome fluffy pink batting stands out amid the debris spotted this week at the corner of Genessee and Fairview streets, being swept clean of shower-centric nightclub and regular drag venue Meteor. The teardown makes room for work to start on that 5-story parking garage (the one that might be getting the artful crust of bicycles). Construction on the Fairview District, a six-block project including the parking garage, some office space, and more restaurant and retail spots, is supposed to get rolling in January, according to developer Fred Sharifi (also behind the Max’s Wine Dive visible peeking out from the left of the shot above, as well as its re-bricked strip-center companions).

A reader driving by caught a few shots of an excavator and a big red dumpster on the scene, loitering close to the Fairview-facing side where the Midtown Aegean Auto shack was — both the auto shop and Meteor received their very own demo permits just in time for Christmas, and the club was reportedly well on its way toward obliteration by Monday afternoon. A view from across Genesee shows that the club’s clumps of privacy bamboo were still standing as of Tuesday:

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Fairview Farewells
12/19/16 3:15pm

THE GRAVESITE BREAKUP MYSTERY NEAR ALDINE MIDDLE SCHOOL Aldine Cemetery, Aldine Meadows Rd., Aldine, 77032Who, exactly, ordered the unannounced, interrupted, and apparently haphazard plant and gravestone removal at the unmarked Aldine Cemetery near Aldine Middle School last week? As of Friday, Mike Snyder writes, the local sheriffs  were still trying to figure that out — as were some of the (living) family members of the buried, and unofficial Aldine historian Elizabeth Battle, who had been working to get the cemetery its own historical marker. Battle tells Snyder she’d been under the impression that “people . . . barreling in and destroying graves without contacting the descendants” wasn’t something that was likely to happen; University of Houston professor and periodic gravesite construction advisor Ken Brown notes that any disturbance of the 30-ish headstones, even by the property’s owner, should have required a court order. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of semi-cleared Aldine Cemetery on Aldine Meadows Rd: State rep. Armando Walle

09/02/16 10:15am

Demo of 12740 Memorial Dr., Memorial, Houston, 77024

An excavator was spotted bowing its head yesterday afternoon in the freshly cleared spot at 12740 Memorial Dr., until recently populated by the likes of Baskin Robbins,  Anne’s Salon, and A-1 Cleaners. Per an associated leasing flier for the property, the newly blanked space looks to be slated for drive-thru bank-dom, with a place next door for a retail friend.  The land sits immediately next to a Bank of Texas branch (visible over the fence on the left), itself across W. Bough Ln. from a freestanding Chase. Heading south down Memorial Dr., a Prosperity Bank keeps watch over the next Memorial Bend bend with help from the strip-center BBVA Compass branch across the street.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Making Bank
08/30/16 3:00pm

DOCUMENTING HOUSTON’S TOWNHOUSIFICATION, ONE TWEET AT A TIME @densifyingHOUWhile you’re waiting for Kuukibot’s polite but insistent stream of air toxics tweets to come back, another Houston-obsessed account has just hit the Twittersphere — this one documenting the city’s infill development, as evidenced by daily before-and-after shots pulled from Google Streetview (like the 2-house-t0-7-townhome transition shown above, from near the intersection of Gibson and Snover streets in Brunner).  The account’s Philadelphia-based author (who’s looking for submissions, by the way) points to the 1999 changes in minimum lot size requirements as the catalyst for the subsequent waves of tightly-packed townhouse do-overs in previously large-lot neighborhoods around town, as explained by Daniel Hertz earlier this summer: Hertz writes that  the decision to allow lots as small as 1,400 sq.ft. within the Inner Loop (a decree later expanded city-wide in 2013) allowed the building of way more housing stock in the city’s core without a switch to multifamily-style buildings. “An important research project in the coming years ,” Hertz notes, “will be to see if Houston’s willingness to allow more housing—and especially missing middle housing—in the center of a growing metropolitan area can reduce the growth of housing prices and keep neighborhoods more diverse and affordable than they would otherwise be.” [City Observatory] Screenshot of Densifying Houston tweet: @densifyingHOU

08/17/16 1:15pm

12740 Memorial Dr., Memorial, Houston, 77024A few readers have written in regarding the fate of the Baskin Robbins and its retail strip neighbors at 12740 Memorial Dr., just south of Town and Country Mall. The building which housed the now-closed scoop shop along with Katy defector Anne’s Salon on Memorial and the local branch of More Hands Maid Service appears slated for a full tear-down and do-over (along with freestanding A-1 Cleaners next door), if plans from Streetwise Retail Advisor’s leasing flier are still on the mark:

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Memorial Bends
07/12/16 1:30pm

Former City of Houston Code Enforcement Building, 3300 Main St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

The 1967 occupant of 3300 Main St., which previously housed the city code enforcement office, is currently getting its asbestos removed in anticipation of its impending demolition, according to a reader involved in the work. The structure and its parking lot grounds were bought from the city in 2011 by the Midtown Redevelopment Authority, who started trying to sell it in 2014; PM Realty (the developers of the glass-petticoated apartment tower at 2929 Weslayan, who are also currently working on the less-is-more-branded Ivy Lofts tiny condo complex in East Downtown) put the property under contract that year.

What’s going to take the code building’s place, between the new MATCH box theater collection and the Houston Community College buildings to the north on Main St.? The involved reader confirms that the rendering below shows the current design in place along the light rail line; materials from AECOM (a partner in the project) say the highrise should hold 336 apartments and 14,390 sq.ft. of retail space:

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Trading Up in Midtown
07/06/16 4:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A MONUMENT TO WHOLESOME AND SEEDY TURNOVER IN RICE VILLAGE Village Arcade Sign“The Village Arcade sign was a nod to the Village Theatre marquee (which was promptly razed in January of the year after a Jim McConn-administration moratorium on demolition of historic structures expired).  . . . There was, actually, some effort to save the Village Theatre and its block of shops (including World Toy and Gift), but it came to naught. It was a nice MacKie & Kamrath neighborhood theatre design, but by the time of its demise it was probably irretrievably tainted by its waning days as a porn house.” [marmer, commenting on Hanover Montrose Move-In Day Nears; Rice Village Arcade Sign Comes Down] Photo of Village Arcade sign: Swamplot inbox

06/23/16 2:45pm

Allen Center Skybridge Remodeling, 500 Dallas St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Currently underway: the partial disassembly of 1 of the 2 skybridges connecting One and Two Allen Center at the corner of Dallas and Smith streets downtown. The bridge pictured above is expected to survive the planned 3-tower redevelopment — a permit to remodel it was issued on Monday with some other OKs on the work, which includes turning the rubble-filled space to the east into a Smith-St.-facing events lawn and concert space. Renderings previously released by Brookfield suggest that the other skybridge, from which the above photo was taken, won’t be so lucky:

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Last Days Downtown