12/02/16 1:45pm

CITY WANTS TO CREATE HISTORIC DISTRICT TO PROTECT WHAT’S LEFT OF FREEDMEN’S TOWN HISTORIC DISTRICT Following last month’s sudden brick relocation incident, Mayor Turner has announced a plan to make a plan to create a “cultural district in Freedmen’s Town — one that would preserve historic churches, schools, and homes,” as Andrew Schneider describes it this week. A section of the Fourth Ward roughly bounded by W. Gray, W. Dallas, Genessee, and Arthur streets has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1985 as the Freedmen’s Town Historic District — but that national designation didn’t provide much local protection to the area’s architecture, and many of the buildings listed in the district’s nomination form to the register have since been demolished. Archi-historian Stephen Fox told Claudia Feldman back in February that a city of Houston historic district designation, however, would be different; Fox noted that “it might require gerrymandering to pick up the proper concentration of historic buildings. But it could be done.” [Houston Public Media and Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Freedmen’s Town Historic District sign: Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition

11/28/16 12:15pm

The Garage Car Detail & Hookah Lounge, 1818 W. Dallas St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

The latest new identity for the 1930s-ish auto service station across W. Dallas St. from the Gregory Lincoln Education Center: The Garage Car Detail & Hookah Lounge. The property at W. Dallas and Taft St., which was occupied by dry cleaning chain Pilgrim Cleaner’s prior to the turn of the decade, has hosted a succession of car cleaning services since then, including the latest group to set up in the space. The property sold last summer to an entity called Rockfort Builders, and is now offering on-site hookah for waiting customers in the artistically tire-spangled alleyway shown above.

Here’s a look inside at the hookah collection and some other car-parts-turned-decor:

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Where There’s Smoke on Dallas St.
11/21/16 10:30am

Burned Fuzzy's Tacos, 138 W. Gray St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

That warm glow early Sunday morning on the edge of Fourth Ward turned out to be a major fire at the eastern W. Gray outpost of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. The blaze is now under investigation, with an eye for possible arson — a manager at across-the-street Oporto Fooding House and Wine told KHOU that security cameras caught sight of a car parked outside the closed shop just before the start of the fire, somewhere around 5 AM. The upstate taco chain opened the freshly roasted branch in January in the 1940’s house formerly housing bar and barbecue joint Hefley’s (a little less than 2 miles down the street from the Fuzzy’s now lurking in the back of the River Oaks Shopping Center).

Standing around in the background of the west-facing shot above: the Dolce Living apartment complex under construction on the north side of W. Gray on either side of Bailey St. A few other angles captured yesterday by a reader on the scene show the newly reconfigured profile of the taco shop’s roof:

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Soft Tacos Overdone
10/20/16 12:30pm

Cowboys & Indians, 1901 Taft St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77006

The palm-tree-garnished signage for Juan Mon’s International Sandwiches is now down at 1901 Taft St., shown above near the tail end of the space’s conversion into Cowboys & Indians Indo-Tex Kitchen. The 1920s building hit LoopNet in the spring after about 7 years of serving globally-themed lunch options, and the Juan Mon’s folks appear to be helping to ease neighborhood diplomatic relations for the space’s new Texan-South-Asian-fusion operators. The space has been remodeled during the transfer of power: those covered drivethru lanes out front at the corner with W. Webster St. are now serving as a covered patio, and the building’s coat of flag-worthy primary colors have been replaced with a more neutral suite of grey-browns. Here’s the old look, for comparison:

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Culinary Alliances
08/31/16 4:00pm

Wharton T-Buildings at Gregory Lincoln Education Center, 1101 Taft St., Fourth Ward, 77019 Wharton T-Buildings at Gregory Lincoln Education Center, 1101 Taft St., Fourth Ward, 77019

A fresh batch of temporary buildings have recently made an appearance in the W. Dallas-adjacent field at the Gregory Lincoln Education Center, a reader notes. The buildings, some 21 in all, are a complete temporary campus set up for use by elementary school Wharton Dual Language Academy, whose own land less than half a mile away at W. Gray and Columbus streets is being turned over to construction crews for a $35.6-million expansion.  A 3-story building will be tacked onto the north side of the existing Wharton structure, closing off a new interior courtyard; below is a look through the renderings and floor plans for the expansion, as well as the layout for the anticipated 2-year-long of Gregory Lincoln squeeze-in:

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Sporting Something New
08/26/16 5:45pm

Rendering of Tianqing Group/DC Partners Allen Pwky. Mixed Use Site, Allen Pkwy. at Gillette St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

A look at what could be headed for the rest of that 10.5-acre Gillette St. former city park-slash-brownfield property comes from Tianqing Group, the Chinese firm involved with DC Partners’ recently announced mixed-use development at the site (to be funded via the EB-5 investment-for-greencards program). The northern 6 acres of the property (which at various points in its storied history has housed San Felipe Park, a SWAT substation, and the Gillette St. garbage incinerator) were sold to a then-unnamed investor last year, and DC Partners snagged the land in May.

The view above, displayed on Tianqing’s description page for the project, shows 3 highrises and 2 midrises in place at the edge of Fourth Ward, with the Downtown skyline visible in the distance to the right. Another of the renderings includes slightly clipped logo marks from both DC Partners and architecture firm Gensler; that rendering (below) provides a closer look at the towers from the west, as well as some green rooftop terraces:

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West of Downtown
08/22/16 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: RETURNING TO RESTORE MONTROSE AND MIDTOWN’S RIGHTFUL TERRITORIES Raising Cane's, 1902 Westheimer Rd., Vermont Commons,  Houston, TX 77098“I spent some time away from my beloved Houston. When I returned I found that ‘the Fourth Ward’ had been replaced with ‘NearTown’, and no one quite knew where Montrose was, let alone River Oaks. Please allow me to elucidate: the Fourth Ward ends at Taft; Montrose is precisely between Shepard and Taft, and Dallas and Richmond. ‘NearTown’ is a word invented by a half-drunk Realtor. It is that place on Allen Pkwy. directly underneath the I-45 overpass. ‘Midtown’ is the intersection of Main Street and Buffalo Bayou from which all house numbers in Houston radiate.” [Pat Bryan, commenting on Raising Cane’s Now Raising the Midtown Banner in Vermont Commons] Photo of Raising Cane’s at 1902 Westheimer Rd.: Swamplot inbox

05/16/16 10:45am

Sterling House, 3015 Bagby St., Midtown, Houston, 77006

3015 Bagby St., Midtown, HoustonSome construction photos released yesterday by the prepping-to-open business at 3015 Bagby St. seem to provide a definitive answer to that lingering 2013 question of whether the century-old structure at the corner with Rosalie St. would be patched up for a new gig as a Midtown bar called The Sterling House, or just torn down to make room for it. The building (which belonged to members of Ross Sterling‘s family but not to the former governor himself) wasn’t totally demolished, though it did get gutted and largely rebuilt. The space then got shopped around last year by landlord Amir Ansari, who offered the spot with TABC licenses and other permits already in place. 

A Sterling House Facebook page got a coming-soon photo update over the weekend, showing a few post-redo photos of the inside and outside of the structure:

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Polishing Up on Bagby
04/13/16 12:30pm

Drew at Helena streets, Midtown, Houston, 77006

Here’s the current scene along the north side of Drew St., where the acre-plus of emptied land previously planned for development as the Pearl on Helena now hosts a Morgan Group for sale sign. The block bounded by Helena, Drew, Albany, and Dennis streets was marked a few years back as another addition to Morgan’s string of Pearl midrises; the Helena site’s application went dark during the variance request process in mid-20014, but the land was cleared of its former hospital and mansion occupants near the end of that year.

Morgan Group currently has a Pearl in Greenway Plaza, with another getting polished up on Washington Ave near T.C. Jester; a planned Pearl on Smith (at the site of the former Social Security office right across Smith St. from the Pearl on Midtown) appeared to have been removed from the company’s immediate focus in 2014, only to resurface in renderings the following year as part of an apartment-midrise-grocery-store complex containing a Whole Foods.

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New Treatment Plan in Midtown
04/12/16 5:15pm

Proposed street work, Fourth Ward, Houston, 77006

The presentation slides from last week’s meeting about the street and infrastructure work planned for Fourth Ward between W. Gray and Welch streets are now online — you have until May 6th to email the city about it, if you feel like doing so. The green lines show areas where 50-ft.-plus cross-sections are planned, with anywhere from 7 to 22 ft. of pedestrian space (mostly running 12-to-17 ft., in the not-to-scale drawings). Streets marked in light blue would range from 33 to 36 ft. wide, including only 1 sidewalk and a 2-ft. easement on the opposite side; areas marked in dark purple would also get 1 sidewalk, but both vehicle and pedestrian lanes would be several feet narrower (27 to 30 ft. in total).

The work skirts the southern edge of the not-quite-rectangular Freedmen’s Town National Historic District, which runs north-to-south roughly from W. Gray to W. Dallas St., and east-to-west from Gennessee St. as far west as Arthur St. in some places. Planned street and infrastructure work in that area is currently on hold due to the ongoing court case over preserving the remnants of brick roadways in the district, along parts of Wilson and Andrews streets. 

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Hitting the Streets
03/30/16 10:00am

Shotgun Chameleon, Fourth Ward, Houston

Shotgun Chameleon, Fourth Ward, Houston

From the inside out and the outside looking in, here’s a peek through the semi-see-through mesh facade of University of Houston architecture professor Zui Ng’s Shotgun Chameleon house, located just east of the intersection of Cleveland and Gillette streets in the Freedmen’s Town National Historic District. The 2-story 3-bedroom home was named Architectural Record‘s house of the month last month, and was originally designed for a 2006 expo of building ideas for post-Katrina New Orleans. The space can be used as a duplex or a split home-office setup thanks to a set of exterior stairs leading to the upper floor.

The design’s appearance can also be adapted to blend in with different neighborhoods and urban settings. The metal mesh, which covers most of the upstairs balcony on the street-facing side of the building, could provide a scaffolding for leafy cover, or could get wooden siding tacked over it to help the structure fit in with similarly-adorned neighbors. Ng says the front could even go commercial, with the upstairs hosting a billboard for a downstairs business, or go high-tech, with options ranging from solar panel arrays to breeze-catching louver arrangements.

The Chameleon is shown above between a metal-skinned contemporary house and an older wood-sided home. Here’s a view from the back side, which is shorter due to the structure’s sloped roof: 

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Blending In in Freedmen’s Town
06/11/15 1:00pm

broadstone-tinsley-park-aerial

Former Brownfield Site at 801 and 1701 Gillette St., Fourth Ward, HoustonThe complicated transaction that allowed the city to sell the 10.52-acre brownfield site along Allen Parkway between the Federal Reserve building and Allen Parkway Village to an apartment developer was concluded in late April, the Houston Business Journal‘s Paul Takahashi reports. Alliance Residential paid $39.9 million for the property along Gillette St., where the city began operating a solid waste incinerator in the 1920s and later converted the site for use as its fleet maintenance facility. The company immediately sold the northern 6 acres to an unnamed private investor; Alliance now plans to build a 365-unit apartment complex on the southern half of the property, fronting Gillette and West Dallas St.

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Fourth Ward
06/02/15 1:30pm

Sinkhole, Hyde Park Blvd. at Mason St., Montrose, Houston

Sinkhole, Hyde Park Blvd. at Mason St., Montrose, Houston

Here are views of a couple of holes that appeared at the eastern edge of East Montrose after last week’s flood. The sizable tire-grabber at the corner of Hyde Park Blvd. and Mason St. shown here was decorated by nearby residents who repurposed the cones and barricade from a nearby construction site, explains reader Brittanie Shey.

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What Lies Beneath
04/06/15 1:45pm

Driveway and Utility Pole, 2115 Taft St., Montrose, Houston

A couple of readers have sent in pics of the curious driveway installation at 2115 Taft St. just south of Welch St. just over the eastern border from Montrose, on the former site of the Taft St. Coffee House and Ecclesia Church. The utility pole dates from the lot’s former inhabitants; the courteous flatwork has been built around it for later patching. “In case you are wondering,” writes one of our tipsters, “the space on either side is not wide enough for a car to pass, nor does the driveway go all the way through to the next street.”

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The Townhomes Are Coming
11/13/14 5:00pm

1211-crosby-st19

1211-crosby-st18

Colors a-blazing and juxtaposed vibe big time within a 2004 townhome in Crosby Place that popped up on the market a week ago. Its location is in the cluster of brightly painted townhome developments on the eastern edge of the Fourth Ward near Midtown. On listing day, the metal-clad property appears to have briefly flirted with a $330,000 asking price but reverted to its original $324,900. Today, fresh listing photos brought in crisper staging of the space . . .

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Primary Residence