10/30/12 3:45pm

The Astrodome at last has a new purpose, the managers of Reliant Park have announced. The 47-year-old flexible sports stadium will serve as a storage facility for neighboring Reliant Stadium’s new $1.2 million new-generation AstroTurf when it’s not being used on the Houston Texans’ home field. Reliant Stadium’s actual-grass-on-trays field will now be reserved for professional football; the artificial surface will be rolled out there for high-school and college football games and other events.


06/20/12 11:37am

Dancers ranging through the 100,000-sq.-ft. former JCPenney at the West Oaks Mall — now known as the West Oaks Art House — “got pretty vigorous,” explains local art blogger Robert Boyd, who attended one of the inaugural performances in Houston’s newest, largest, and loneliest independent arts facility. One of them kicked the hole in the wall pictured at right. No grief from the free-range arts center’s laid-back L.A. landlord, though: “I kind of love the hole in the wall,” Pacific Retail’s Sharsten Plenge tells him. “It is like a souvenir of the energy that Suchu graced WOAH with.” (Yes, Plenge is an artist herself.)


05/31/12 2:13pm

The very first event at the brand-new West Oaks Art House takes place this Friday night, when the Suchu Dance company performs its first work in the eerie fluorescent-lit cavern left behind by JCPenney when it gave up on its freestanding building at the West Oaks Mall in 2003. The performance kicks off the appropriately named Big Range Dance Festival. It’s not just the repositioning dance of the vacant mall department store: 16 Suchu dancers will range around the enormous space in a piece called “Afternono.” To counter claims that this event is a bit too “way-out” for Suchu’s usual East Downtown audiences, the company is commandeering a trolley-style bus to bring audience members from the Spring Street Studios north of Downtown to the West Houston mall at Westheimer and Hwy. 6.

LA artist Sharsten Plenge, who’s been working to transform the abandoned 100,000-sq.-ft. store into some sort of arts center — in part by offering free rent to artist groups willing to venture so far from their usual haunts and set up shop or exhibits there — tells Swamplot she hopes the inaugural Suchu performance (as well as additional ones on subsequent Saturday afternoons) “marks the beginning of what we hope to be many more unique projects” in the building, which now bears the acronym WOAH.


05/25/12 11:27am

NOTICING THE ASTRODOME-ARENA BAIT-AND-SWITCH A major focus of the report on the future of the Astrodome endorsed this week by the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. was a proposal to spend an additional $385 million to replace the neighboring 1974-vintage Reliant Arena. (That’s almost $115 million more than the estimated $270.3 million the team of consultants estimated it would take to raise the floor of the Astrodome and turn it into a smaller “multi-purpose” facility.) And of course, county budget officials are quick to shoot down the resulting proposed $523 million tax-supported bond issue for a new county building, even if the name “Astrodome” is attached to it. But a comment from Ed Emmett quoted in today’s Chronicle makes it appear the county judge wants to call the bluff: “‘The way it was trotted out, we’re going to re-purpose the Dome and we’re going to replace the arena with a new building,’ Emmett said. ‘If we’re doing that, why don’t we use the Dome for the purposes the arena was being used for? Because that would obviously cost less.'” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Wikimedia Commons [license]

05/24/12 11:27pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE PROBLEM WITH ALL NON-OUTRAGEOUS ASTRODOME REDEVELOPMENT CONCEPTS “I’m not attached to the Dome and I don’t know that many people are. When I read this report, like other commentators, I’m thinking . . . thats a lot of money for ‘another venue.’ My impression is that some of the really cool ideas have been suppressed by the Rodeo, which disgusts me. I think a lot of money might be well spent if you are building a unique facility . . . something truly different that would make me load up my family and go there just for that experience. . . . but I don’t want to spend a lot of money just to build ‘another venue’ . . . who’s real purpose is to somehow ‘save the dome.'” [dara childs, commenting on New Life — or Death — for the Astrodome, Now at a Discount]

05/23/12 6:21pm

NEW LIFE — OR DEATH — FOR THE ASTRODOME, NOW AT A DISCOUNT Notable in the options presented in today’s report from the latest group of consultants to study the future of the Astrodome: lower prices. The cost estimate for demolishing the vacant sports stadium has been marked down to $68 million from the $128 million cited in a 2010 study (possibly in part because the new figure doesn’t include retiring the debt the county still owes on the building). And turning the Astrodome into a multipurpose sports and exhibition facility (the top recommendation from the consultants at Dallas’s Convention Sports and Leisure) is now predicted to cost just $270 million, down from the $324-to-$374-million range cited in the same 2-year-old report. But the consultants also suggested spending an additional $385 million to replace Reliant Arena; they’d also like to get a private developer to build a hotel on the grounds of Reliant Park. [Click2Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Candace Garcia

03/27/12 11:44pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: COME BACK NEXT WEEK AND YOU’LL FIND THE ASTRODOME GOOD AS NEW “That’s not the turf . . . it’s carpet they put down for the Houston Rodeo after-hour parties! They use it every year! And the trash is because the rodeo just ended and they have not cleaned it up!” [snf, commenting on Comment of the Day: They Owed It to the Astroturf]

03/23/12 2:21pm

When was the last time anyone saw the inside of Houston’s hulking, shuttered Astrodome? What’s it like in there, more than a decade since it hosted its final major-league sports event, and more than 5 years since its last bar mitzvah? A curious reader sends Swamplot the latest recon: “I was roaming around taking pictures at the Rodeo on Sunday,” writes the stadium snoop, “when I noticed the ramp down to the floor of the Astrodome was open and there was no one there. I walked down the ramp, on to the field and started taking pictures.


02/21/12 11:46am

HOW HARRIS COUNTY STARVED THE ASTRODOME It’s not that county officials weren’t looking for some big new thing to do with it, argues Cynthia Neeley. The big problem was they stopped taking care of it while they waited for the sports stadium’s grand new future to arrive: “Let’s add up just a few things: $18.8 million for the lease buy-out, $517,000 for repairs to qualify for temporary occupancy for the Rodeo, $3,210 for that final inspection and permit, $50,000 for a workshop to study future use of the Astrodome, $50,000 more for consultants to study the workshop study; grand total is $19,420,210. . . . Does it bother anyone else that . . . the Sports & Convention Corporation spent that whopping amount and we still have a building doing nothing? And that millions upon millions of potential revenue have been lost? And that whatever grand plan is in its future is going to cost us millions more? In 2007, the year before Astrodome was closed, there were only seven events in the building for a paltry annual net income of $103,596.  Did anybody see ads that the Dome was available for lease for private parties or events? Were there promotions or incentives publicized? Did anyone know that you could have rented the field for a bar mitzvah? (Someone actually did, for a reported $15-18,000.)” [Culturemap; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Jeff Balke

10/25/11 2:05pm

The Sylvan Beach Pavilion, a dancehall and conference hall on Harris County’s only public beach — with a 10,000-sq.-ft. glass-walled ballroom overlooking Galveston Bay — has been boarded up since its pummeling by Hurricane Ike in 2008. But thanks to a $3.6 million grant awarded last fall by the state Dept. of Rural Affairs, the modern building at Sylvan Beach Park is now headed for restoration to its original 1956 glory (above) — with a few tweaks directed by the architects at Kirksey to gussy it up for weddings, quinceañeras, local meetings, retirement parties, and other La Porte events. Construction is scheduled to start early next year and take 9 months.


09/14/11 10:22am

After almost 3 years on the “closed on account of its gonna-be-torn-down” list, the Edwin Hornberger Conference Center at 2151 W. Holcombe Blvd. — the last remaining vestige of the famed Shamrock Hotel complex that once stood at the corner of Holcombe and South Main — reopened yesterday under new management. The 13,000 sq.-ft. ballroom facility is still owned by the Texas Medical Center, but it’ll now be run by Trevisio Restaurant and will be open to non-TMC events. In 2008, the TMC announced plans to tear down the conference center and build 3 floors of office space on top of an adjacent parking garage.

Photo: Trevisio Restaurant and Conference Center

03/04/11 11:03pm

County Judge Ed Emmett says he’s ready to move forward with that idea for renovating the Astrodome he floated a couple years back: turning it into a big open air-conditioned space that could be, you know, used for events and stuff. Emmett’s plan would require replacing the roof, maybe removing the seats, and spiffing up the grounds for indoor festivals. But he’s promised to work closely with the Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation — the same organization that’s favored far more complicated ideas for reusing the Dome over the decade it’s spent supposedly studying the issue. Emmett says he’s hopeful Harris County commissioners will have a plan ready within a few months; voting on a bond to pay for the changes could take place as soon as a year from now.

Photo: James Harrison

07/22/10 12:54pm

AURORA PICTURE SHOW’S ORIGINAL MOVIE HOUSE HAS A BUYER The woman who’s buying the former home of the Aurora Picture Show from microcinema pioneer Andrea Grover plans on starting her own new film and arts organization and running it out of the former Sunset Height Church of Christ at 800 Aurora St. Artist, filmmaker, and law student Cressandra Thibodeaux‘s name for her new concept: 14 Pews. She hopes to host theater and film productions, weddings, art exhibitions, classes, and workshops in the space, along with occasional screenings from . . . Aurora Picture Show. Writer Steven Thomsen gets Thibodeaux to gush: “‘I’m going through a divorce and thought that Houston would be the best place to lick my wounds,’ she tells CultureMap. ‘It’s always treated me like a forgiving lover who wraps me in her warm moist arms. And the moment I landed at the airport I was engulfed in her warm moistness. . . . I have spent 10 years tossing ideas and projects at the walls in Los Angeles,’ she explains. ‘I came to Houston and in one week everything I tossed stuck to the walls. I credit the humidity.’” [Culturemap; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Kenny Haner

11/16/09 5:40pm

A couple of months ago, a TABC application appeared outside the Indian Summer Lodge, Jeff Law’s quirky and colorful Quonset-Hut-turned-event-compound adjacent to the new Hike-and-Bike Trail off lower Columbia St. in the Heights. And so the rumor began that midtown’s Tacos-A-Go-Go might be moving or expanding there.

Now, however, the Indian Summer Lodge is for sale. A new listing was posted over the weekend on the MLS. The 16,170-sq.-ft. property features three buildings — the lodge, the “loft” (the Quonset hut), and a treehouse with skyline balcony.

Here’s what $775,000 gets you: