06/15/15 1:00pm

1720 Houston Ave., First Ward, Houston

1720 Houston Ave., First Ward, HoustonBlank Slate Tattoo Removal decamped from the corner spot of this building at Houston Ave and Crockett St. at the end of January. (You can head for 5320 Cornish Rd. in Cottage Grove now to correct your body-inked misspellings.) In its place, there’s a new sign up at 1720 Houston Ave., providing evidence that a new beer-and-wine-serving cafe is getting ready to move in — right next door to Café Brussels. The street-front First Ward building just north of downtown was built in 1925.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

04/22/15 3:00pm



Quiet zone status applies not to the perky exterior’s bold paint combo but to the railroad tracks running behind this restored 1898 Victorian east of Houston Ave. and just south of Winter St. in the First Ward. The corner-lot property, which is also near the Heights bike trail, has been on the market for a month, during which the price has increased by $10K — to $468,000.


Trim Build
04/22/15 1:00pm

Demolition of Former Riviana Foods Processing Building, 1702 Taylor St., First Ward, Houston

A portion of the Riviana Foods complex at Summer and Taylor Streets in the First Ward was torn down this week. Reader Rony Canales’s panoramic photos of the former Riviana processing building and a few accompanying structures show the demo in process (above) and a little further along in the process (below):


After the Rice Is Gone
03/31/15 11:15am


The Avenue Grill could close sometime soon, but not if somebody doesn’t hurry up and buy the place. Or maybe buy the place and keep it running for the cops, firefighters, judges, judges, lawyers, and other frequenters of the neighboring municipal court and police complex that regularly eat breakfast and lunch there? To hasten either outcome, a small sign went up a week or 2 ago at the corner of Houston Ave. and Center St., a block north of Washington Ave., indicating that the 1940 building and a total of 19,600 sq. ft. of land is available for sale. That spurred attention from a Swamplot reader who — like most people — hadn’t been aware that the property had been on the market since last August.

The $1.5 million asking price includes 4 lots — one where the building sits at 1017 Houston Ave., 2 adjacent parking lots, and an additional surface parking lot across Center St., just where the Houston Ave. underpass begins. That lot is visible just beyond the building in this view from the corner of Washington Ave:


Over Not So Easy
12/19/14 11:30am


Clarification, 12/22: Jon Deal of Deal Properties writes: “Just wanted to clarify that Studio Red is not specifically working on the silo project, rather they are studying a master plan of approximately 35 contiguous acres owned by Frank Liu, Steve Gibson and myself of which The Silos are part. Jason Logan and Matt Johnson of LOJO architects is working on the facade.”

Under the sign of the merry Mahatma, workers are sweeping out what stray grains of rice may linger within the 38 silos at the old Riviana Foods complex at 1520 Sawyer, which last contained the cereal crop in 2008.

They are prepping for its new purpose as the Silos on Sawyer, a 79,000 sq.-ft. art space and the latest addition to the Deal Company’s pre-existing Spring Street Studios, Winter Street Studios and Silver Steet Studios complex in the heart of the State of Texas-recognized Washington Avenue Arts District.

Reader Noah Brenner ventures inside, camera in hand:


A total of 55 workspaces are now available for lease, along with 20,000 sq.-ft. set aside for flexible buildouts such as restaurants, galleries or retail.


Granaries To Galleries
12/03/14 1:00pm


Urban Living was added as a defendant last month to a lawsuit filed in February by 8 plaintiffs against 2 companies run by Saeed Qazi and Saleem Qazi, both of whom are also being sued individually.

The suit revolves around 6 adjacent homes in the First Ward — 1919 through 1929 Johnson St. — built around 2008 by the Qazis and their companies, Zenith Urban Homes and Zenith Signature Homes. Once built, the homes were exclusively marketed and sold by Urban Living.


Sawyer Heights Lawsuit
07/09/14 2:15pm

Proposed Studemont Junction Development, Studemont St. at Hicks St., First Ward, Houston

Signs are up at the soon-to-be-former Grocers Supply distribution center across Studemont from Kroger just south of I-10 announcing Studemont Junction, the name meant to bring some . . . uh, conjunction to the odd-shaped 15-acre food-storage facility Capcor Partners bought late last year. To judge from the proposed site plan for the project, that’ll be quite a task.


Many Functions for Studemont Junction
05/28/14 2:00pm

HIGH FIRST WARD HISTORIC DISTRICT GETS CITY COUNCIL HIGH FIVE Boundary of High First Ward Historic District, First Ward, HoustonThe High First Ward is the newest historic district in Houston, having been voted in by a 12-5 count of city council members this afternoon. The stringy selection of 55 lots (pictured at right), marked down from the original 149, includes properties along Spring, Shearn, Crockett, Summer, White, Silver, Sabine, and Colorado streets in the First Ward, west of Houston Ave. and south of I-10. According to tweeting Chronicle reporter Mike Morris, a motion by council member Stephen Costello to redraw the district map in order to exclude a couple of properties was rejected by a 4-to-13 vote. [Twitter; previously on Swamplot] Map: HAHC

04/25/14 10:15am

Map of Proposed and Revised High First Ward Historic District, Houston

The city’s historic commission voted 6 to 1 yesterday to give its approval to a new High First Ward historic district — but it’s a considerably smaller district than the proposed one area property owners squabbled over and then voted on in February. The colors in the map above show the city’s tabulation of the results of that vote. The dashed lines show the original boundaries; after the ballots came in, the city’s planning director redrew the boundaries so that the district would be in an area where at least 67 percent of the owners supported the district. Of the 55 tracts in the new district, 37 owners voted to approve it, 10 opposed it, and 8 didn’t return survey cards (which counts as a “no” vote). to the count, Next and final stop for the proposed district: A final vote by city council.


55 Properties
02/21/14 11:02am

Stop Historic Districts Sign at Urban Living Property, First Ward, Houston

A few Swamplot readers have been sending in pics of the “Stop Historic Districts” yard signs that have been up in the First Ward for the last few weeks, the vast majority of which — at our readers’ report — have shown a remarkable affinity for lots owned by real-estate firm Urban Living or its affiliates. The signs (including the one on Crockett St. between White and Silver shown above) have given voice to the otherwise silent former sites of older First Ward building stock, as they jettison their former inhabitants to make room for larger, glitzier, and generally taller new construction.


Yard Sign Drama in the High First
02/10/14 4:45pm

Map Showing Boundaries of Proposed High First Ward Historic District, Houston

Owners of properties in portions of 18 blocks spreading roughly between Spring, Winter, Hemphill, and Johnson streets in the First Ward have 2 more weeks to decide if they want their properties to form a new historic district — and then, if the experiences of other would-be historic districts is any guide, a fair amount of time to squabble over the outcome after that. An application for what’s being called the High First Ward Historic District was submitted to the city in early December. Owners of property in the neighborhood have until February 24 either to return their ballots to the city or use them for papier-mâché. To be approved, the district would need 67 percent of owners in the district to vote yes; ballots that aren’t returned will be counted as votes against. If that percentage isn’t reached within the outlines shown in the map of the proposed district above, the city could carve out a smaller district for historic-district protection where the votes support it.

Map: Planning & Development Dept.

Voting Has Begun
01/16/14 11:15am

WHY IS THE AGENT TELLING ME THIS HOUSE IS ONLY WORTH ‘LOT VALUE’? 1905 Shearn St., First Ward, HoustonA reader named Gary writes: “My husband and I have been looking for houses (which has been daunting in this seller’s market) and I’ve been a little jaded by agents listing houses that that are being sold for lot value and are “drive by only.” These houses look to be in okay shape and just need the right buyer to fix it up but the listing agents are marketing them to developers to tear down. For instance, the house [at 1905 Shearn St., pictured at left] could be so cute! It even has those gingerbread architectural details! . . . Houston is bleeding cute houses because of listings like these and I feel helpless to do anything about it because I don’t have the cash to buy a place like this and fix it up.” [Swamplot inbox] Photo: HAR

01/07/14 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT KATYVILLE COULD HAVE BEEN Adjacent Uses“From Yale St. and I-10 all the way through the First Ward to I-45, there are so many large commercial tracts that are on the market or coming on the market that you could build a whole new city. The Mahatma Rice plant is huge. The tract from Detering to Grocer’s Supply is huge. There are tons of other lots ready for redevelopment all along the Washington Corridor east of Yale St. We all know that traffic will get much worse as thousands more residents come into the area to live, shop, work and play. But the idea that traffic is just going to happen no matter what is silly. Smart development and infrastructure improvements can make a huge difference. When retail, residential and office are placed in the same development, you always reduce car trips. I used to work just outside the loop in a typical spec office building with no retail nearby. Worst traffic in the garage was at noon as everyone was scurrying out of the building to go get lunch. I now work downtown in a building that is in Houston Center. Hardly any traffic going out of the building, despite being many times bigger, during lunch as there are ample places to eat in the food court. The problem with redevelopment along Washington Ave is that everyone is just doing their own thing without any regard for trying to make the area conducive to work/shop/live/play without being reliant on cars. And the City still suffers from low self esteem and is happy to give out tax gifts without requiring any sort of return benefit. The result is that there is no connection between the retail development (largely single story title wall strip malls), residential (mostly disconnected pencil boxes) and office (an odd tower at Waugh and not much other new development). Had a single developer had control over all the available property, we could see a transformative development like a giant City Centre meets West Ave meets Post Oak Midtown. Instead, we get an odd mish mash of retail, office, and residential with little infrastructure improvements to mitigate the impacts (not even a right turn lane on Yale St. SB at I-10, which would make a huge difference). So much could be done, but so little will get done to maximize the benefits of incoming density and minimize the burdens.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: Admiral Linen and the Way of Katyville] Illustration: Lulu