06/13/16 5:00pm

New Headquarters for Search Homeless Services, 2015 Congress Ave., East Downtown

The new home of homeless services center SEARCH opened at 2015 Congress Ave. this morning, next to the Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen and across 59 from Minute Maid Park. The 27,105-sq.-ft. facility’s design has been greened up since last summer‘s pass-around of renderings for the space — in addition to the color on the exterior walls, renewable energy company and regular grocery-store-front proselytizers Green Mountain Energy footed the bill for some solar paneling and other energy-efficient upgrades. Operations at the organization’s fifties-mod space on McGowen St. (which got that unintentional contemporary update to its facade back in 2014) will end around June 24th. 

Below is a recent-but-still-mid-construction look at the new building from the corner of Franklin and St. Emanuel streets, showing the structure in place across Congress from the Cheek-Neal Coffee building, (which, unlike the homeless services building, appears to be explicitly spared by some of TxDOT’s potential future freeway expansion plans):

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Congress at St. Emanuel
05/27/16 12:00pm

The Secret Group Comedy Club, 2101 Polk Street, East Downtown, Houston

The final episode of Simpsons-themed mural antics at the corner of Polk and St. Emanuel streets appears to have played out, now that the exterior walls of The Secret Group’s in-progress venue have gone dark on their way toward looking something like the shadowy rendering above. The transformation appears to have a deadline: the group has started selling tickets to shows at the new venue, with the first one set for June 22nd.

The space, at the Polk end of the developing 2-block East Village retail spot, will function as a full time bar in addition to hosting regular comedy and music performances. The rendering from Māk Studio appears to show a rooftop patio; the venue doesn’t currently plan to serve food, but that could change.

Rendering: māk studio

East Downtown
05/13/16 10:15am

This week’s video release from hometown country singer Robert Ellis takes viewers on a forlorn wandering tour of Houston’s downtown and surrounding thoroughfares, sans all of those pesky people and cars. Iconic cameos include the AIA’s future headquarters on the corner of Franklin and Commerce streets, the WALD warehouse sign at Live Oak and Rusk streets, and Bad News Bar on Main St.; the video also includes a hike down a dead-empty I-45 and associated entrance ramps, several frantic light-rail stops, and a dramatic reunion on the pedestrian bridge over Memorial Dr. at Sabine St. 

Video: Robert Ellis

Musical Background
02/23/16 11:00am

Ivy Lofts Rendering, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, Houston

Ivy Lofts Rendering, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, Houston

These are the minuscule views you’ll be able to scope out in a few weeks, when the Ivy Lofts folks throw open the doors of the grocery-warehouse-turned-million-dollar-sales-center currently sitting south of Leeland St. between Live Oak and Nagle streets. The former Leeland Wholesale Grocery space will officially reopen on March 12th, according to a freshly-pressed press release from developer Novel Creative Development, and will contain the above palm-of-your-hand mock-up model of the proposed Ivy Lofts condominium tower amid its East Downtown environs.

The center will also include several actual-size-but-still-quite-small model floorplans, including that of the baby-of-the-bunch Tokyo unit — now weighing in around 350 sq.ft., a bump up from the 300 sq. ft. touted in earlier marketing materials.

Not feeling up to the trek? The Ivy Lofts are also now listed on HAR, and renderings have been released that will let you try on some different outfitting options for a couple of the unit designs. Here’s Tokyo by night, in bedroom mode:

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East Downtown
02/10/16 5:00pm

I-45 Reroute and Greenspace Conceptual Plans from September 2015, Downtown, Houston, 77002

A dotted line runs right along the inside edge of the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company’s former roasting plant at 2017 Preston St. at the corner with St. Emanuel St., which was declared a protected city landmark today after starts to the building’s redevelopment by new owners last year.  The line marks the proposed right-of-way for TxDOT’s plans to reroute I-45 alongside 59 and send the Pierce Elevated out to pasture, as shown in update documents released in September. The 1917 building shows up as a beige box at the corner of Preston and St. Emanuel in the above capture from the project’s interactive online map system, and the seafoam green highlighting to the left indicates the newly planned frontage roads that would run to the west of it.

But the Cheek-Neal building itself actually doesn’t appear to be on the chopping block. The blue highlighting indicating the future path of freeway lanes skirt the western edge of the structure (though they appear to engulf the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen across Congress St. to the north). Moreover, a cross-section through the I-45-59 bundle specifically shows the building in place, with the frontage road to the east and the freeways tucked out of sight below ground level:

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Preservation on Preston
01/25/16 3:45pm

Renovations at 2017 Preston St., East Downtown, Houston 77002

Greenway Coffee Co., the roasting operation behind Blacksmith’s coffee (in the former Westheimer home of Mary’s), appears to be involved in a coffee project intended for the ground floor of the 1917 Cheek-Neal Coffee Co. building. The former coffee plant at 2017 Preston St. (located across Congress Ave. from the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen and SEARCH Homeless Services’s under-construction employment center) received little use or maintenance following the 1946 departure of coffee manufacturing operations; the building is currently being renovated after sitting vacant for years across 59 from Minute Maid Park.

2017 Preston’s new owners mentioned plans to put a coffee shop on the ground floor of the structure to the Houston Chronicle in September — and on Friday, Greenway’s David Buehrer posted a photo of the renovation’s interior progress to Instagram:

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Preston St. Coffee Buzz
01/22/16 10:30am

Rendering of Chapman & Kirby, 2118 Lamar St., East Downtown, Houston, 77003

A clearer picture is emerging of Ancorian’s East Village development, headed for 2 blocks along St. Emmanuel St. in East Downtown between Lamar and Polk Sts. A Houston branch of the Swedish Our/Vodka distillery project plans to move in at the corner of Lamar and Hutchins St.; a block of office space in the complex has been claimed by Three Square Design Group, whose past work includes projects for Buffalo Bayou, Fort Bend, and Karbach breweries. On Polk St. at the other end of the development, The Secret Group’s not-so-secret comedy club has been under renovation for some time.

Investor-geared materials on the development also name Dallas’s Truck Yard as a planned occupant — the food-truck friendly beer and cocktail bar currently sells drinks out of an open-air building, an Airstream trailer, and a treehouse at its existing location up north.

Meanwhile, renderings have been released of the Chapman & Kirby gastropub, headed for the warehouse at the corner of Lamar at St. Emanuel St. The building was occupied until the start of this year by Asian-American restaurant supplier Kitchen Depot (which has moved out to a location on Harwin Dr. at S. Gessner Dr. near Beltway 8); the East Downtown space will be renovated and made over per designs by Māk Studio.

The front of the building is depicted with nearly a dozen new windows or entryways:

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Added To The List
01/14/16 5:00pm

Former Schlumberger Building, 2720 Leeland st., East Downtown, Houston, 77002

2720-leeland-st-3

Take a gander at the 0ld Schlumberger building at the corner of Leeland St. and Delano. New photos of the 25,000-sq.-ft. building show a structure now slightly less windowless than back in 2013, when mobile app developer ChaiOne announced an intended Spring 2014 move to the top floor.  A reader in the area reports that work such as drywall and A/C installation appeared to be happening this past summer, but seemingly stopped again in July, with little activity visible on the property since.

Plans for ChaiOne’s renovation, designed by Austin firm Bercy Chen Studio, incorporated ground-floor retail beneath 2 floors of offices:

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Will They, Won’t They?
01/08/16 11:00am

Proposed East Village Development, Polk and Lamar at St. Emmanuel and Hutchins Sts., East Downtown, Houston, 77002

From the folks currently in the process of bringing you Heights Mercantile: plans for East Village, a 2-block mixed-use complex planned along St. Emanuel and Hutchins Sts. between Polk and Lamar in East Downtown — a few blocks south of the Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium, and across 59 from the George R. Brown Convention Center and Discovery Green. New real estate investment and development firm Ancorian (founded by Finial co-founders Neil Martin and Michael Sperandio with Matthew Donowho) is behind the development; as of two months ago, land for the project (across the street from the Yen Huong Bakery and the now-closed Kim Hung Supermarket) was still being acquired.

A few renderings are up on the Ancorian website — the view above is of a Lamar-facing courtyard and a renovated version of the warehouse currently housing Kitchen Depot. But a presentation dated late November shows many additional angles, siteplans, and renderings of the planned development, one block of which is credited to the design firm of Austin-based Michael Hsu, and the other to Māk Studio Architecture:

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Beer Before Liquor on Hutchins
12/11/15 3:30pm

Ivy Lofts Rendering, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, Houston
In keeping with the project’s general theme of creative use of space, designs for the Ivy Lofts highrise put all of the building’s exterior crannies and levels to work.  Renderings show at least 9 variously-sized and -sheltered rooftops and outdoor spaces incorporated into the plan for the proposed tower, whose teensy condo floorplans will start at 300 sq. ft.

Developers are already setting up a sales room in a former grocery store warehouse on the site (located on the block between Live Oak, Leeland, Nagle, and a discontinuous stretch of Pease), not far from coffin-factory-turned-craft-store Texas Art Asylum. Novel Creative Development hopes to sell all of the tiny condo units before contractors break ground in June on the tower (pictured from the south below):

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East Downtown
12/08/15 3:30pm

Ivy Lofts Rendering, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, Houston

“Some buzz” has made its way back to the Ivy Lofts developers since news of the plans for Houston’s tiniest condos began to spread — so much buzz, in fact, that Novel Creative Development is responding to the pushback with a change in sales tactics. The group announced in an email that Ivy Lofts buyers will have the option to lump 2 adjacent units together and customize the floorplan, giving residents more space if needed.

The promotion team is also working hard to rebrand the proposed floorplans with the names of famously dense cities, instead of describing the units by their size.  “It’s not fair to label these spaces by square footages,” says marketing director Brandon Vos in a RE/MAX press release. “We had to come up with new names since so many rooms double in usage.”

The newly internationalized units include The Tokyo, the project’s itsy-bitsiest floor plan, which measures in at 300 sq. ft. and will be priced starting at $119,000.

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Doubling Up at Ivy Lofts
12/02/15 9:00am

Ivy Lofts Showcase Warehouse, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, Houston

Ivy Lofts Showcase Warehouse, Leeland at Live Oak, East Downtown, HoustonThe muffled whir of power tools could be heard last week through the razorwire-topped fence and metal siding of the former Leeland Wholesale Grocery, south of Leeland St. between Live Oak and Nagle. The 10,000-sq.-ft. warehouse is being converted into a sales center and showroom for the Ivy Lofts micro-unit condominium highrise, which will eventually spring up on the same city block. The warehouse will be outfitted with several full-scale models of the project’s adorably tiny floorplans, which start at a dorm-room-reminiscent 300 sq.ft. An Ivy Lofts marketing representative for the project assured Paul Takahashi of the HBJ that the lack of wasted space in the units “will change the way Houstonians live.”

Developer Novel Creative Development anticipates opening the sales center in April and selling all of the planned tower’s units before demolishing the warehouse as contractors break ground on the highrise itself in June. Plans for the tower (shown below from the south) include 7 floors of parking, ground-level retail space, and various recreational nooks:

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Ivy Lofts Sales Center
12/01/15 9:00am

Mural at The Secret Group Comedy Club, 2101 Polk Street, East Downtown, Houston  
Mural at The Secret Group Comedy Club, 2101 Polk Street, East Downtown, Houston The evolving mural of Bart Simpson’s tragic fall in East Downtown (first into poorly spelled petty vandalism, and then into legal repercussions for same) has been updated several more times in the past few months, with some dark twists along the way. The mural is located on the outside of 2101 Polk St. — a building currently being transformed into a comedy club by The Secret Group, which hopes to open the space by the end of the year. The original progression is shown below:

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Comedy Club Goes Dark
06/25/15 11:15am

Western Facade of The Secret Group, 2101 Polk St. at St. Emanuel St., East Downtown

It’s not clear how quickly interior work is progressing on the planned comedy club and music venue in the former Malloy Register Company building at the corner of Polk St. and St. Emanuel in East Downtown, but notable changes have taken place to the building’s exterior since Swamplot reported on the project last month. The graffiti scene spray-painted onto the building’s western wall earlier this year, facing the I-69 overpass a block away (at top in photo above) has been updated to show police chief Clancy Wiggum — wearing an HPD shoulder patch — apprehending Bart Simpson, a stand-in for the site’s own tagging team (at bottom). Also added: the Twitter username for the Secret Group.

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East Downtown Building Funnies