12/07/17 2:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A QUICK ALLEN PARKVIEW VILLAGE RECAP FOR HOUSTON NEWCOMERS “. . . Back in the 1920s, the 4th Ward was Houston’s version of Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. Racist white city officials did not want a thriving African American community right next to a rapidly growing downtown and demolished a huge section of the community to build public housing (the decisive blow to the 4th ward would be extending the freeway through the community, effectively cutting it off from downtown). APV was designed by MacKie & Kamrath and was intended to be public housing. It ended up as all white housing for veterans. Eventually, African Americans moved in as whites moved out and headed to the suburbs. In the ’70s, as the City was booming again, City officials wanted to demolish APV as it, and much of the rest of the 4th ward, was falling into disrepair. Every single move after that was just controversy on top of controversy. The City was accused of moving Vietnamese immigrants into APV to dilute the number of African Americans who opposed demolition. Then, there was a big master plan project proposed to redevelop the entire area, a court case over demolition of APV and designation of APV and the Fourth Ward on the national register of historic places. In the end, more than half was demoed and replaced with new apartments in 2000. The original MacKie & Kamrath designed buildings are architecturally and historically significant. But, like the history of the 4th ward, Houston’s transient population knows very little about the trials and tribulations behind APV. So, it is an easy target to troll for hate on preservationists.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: An Alternative Plan for the Site Next to Allen Parkway Village] Illustration: Lulu

12/06/17 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN FOR THE SITE NEXT TO ALLEN PARKWAY VILLAGE “. . . In an ideal world, I think that the City should’ve recognized that there was an opportunity for the HHA to acquire this site and work with a private-sector master developer to completely demolish the existing complex and integrate government housing into a much more intensively developed project on this extremely high-profile site. Doing so would’ve bypassed some of the issues that they’ve since encountered with the adverse SCOTUS ruling. It wouldn’t have been cheap, but it would’ve also tastefully incorporated government housing into a project that could have mitigated the externality of APV on the areas around it and established an open street grid. Doing so would’ve made everything around there and along the Buffalo Bayou much more desirable and accessible, and leveraged the tax base upward over a large area. However, that also wouldn’t have been uncontroversial; some people think that the original Allen Parkway Buildings are architecturally significant enough to warrant their preservation. In any case, that ship probably has sailed. . . .” [TheNiche, commenting on Your Best Look Yet at the Shiny Highrises Fitting Between Allen Parkway Village and the Federal Reserve] Image: Tianqing Real Estate Development/DC Partners

12/04/17 2:03pm

The renderings and site plan shown here give the clearest view yet of what DC Partners and Chinese firm Tianqing Real Estate Development have planned for their proposed 6-acre mixed-use development at Allen Pkwy. and Gillette St., now dubbed The Allen. The image at top shows a 42-floor tower, home to both a Thompson hotel and private condominiums, fronting Allen Pkwy. A 3-story retail building is depicted to its right; behind it is an office tower. The site plan also shows a future apartment tower and medical office building toward the back of the complex.

The development is planned across Gillette St. from the Federal Reserve building, on the northern portion of an industrial site that was home to one of the city’s first garbage incinerators. A pedestrian bridge linking the development to the bayou is absent from the rendering at top, but indicated in the site plan as well as other images of the complex:

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The Allen
06/28/17 3:00pm

The latest of Gensler’s renderings of that midrise parking garage planned atop the recently evacuated location of nightclub and drag venue Meteor shows the structure rocking a swath of greenery in place of the decorative bicycles pictured across the facade in earlier drafts. Cara Smith reports in the Houston Business Journal this week that the garage is one of the projects that Gensler is “future proofing” — that is, designing with an eye to an eventual decline in Houston parking garage needs, whether spurred by the rise of self-driving cars or other shifts in transportation patterns. The firm was featured by Web Urbanist last month in an article discussing some of its other current garage projects, some of which are being outfitted with conversion-minded utility hookup spacing, as well as ceiling heights suited to something other than car stacking; modular features like easy-to-tack-on facades and removable ramps are also in the mix.

There appear to be 6 retail spots in the foot of the garage that will be ready for tenants before such time as the rest of the garage might hypothetically be repurposed (along with a slew of other spaces in the development, per Edge Realty’s leasing flier):

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Prepped for Obsolescence in Fourth Ward
05/25/17 10:45am

The Refinery Burgers & Whiskey is currently in the process of moving past its oil theme dependency and rebranding to pay homage to a different set of Gulf Coast-al tropes: the new name of the joint at 702 W. Dallas St. will be South Bank Seafood Bar, and a menu including some Asian and Cajun-Creole nods is purportedly in the works.

The patio in front of the 2-spot retail strip (which the restaurant shares with barber and beardwrangler Shave) has been getting dressed up and expanded as part of the remodel. And just this morning, a reader caught sight of what may be preparations to slice a service-window-shaped hole into the shipping container now sitting out front:

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Habitat Alteration at Downtown’s Edge
05/24/17 3:30pm

It doesn’t take effect until August — but a new sales permit looks to have been okayed last month for 160 W. Gray St., bearing the name The Ginger Man – West Gray. The Rice Village bar has previously established outposts in locales as far-flung as Austin, Dallas, and Plano (and claims a somewhat looser connection to a trio of spots in New York and Connecticut), but a West Gray location would be the chain’s second spot inside the Loop(s). That spot, meanwhile, is still the home of Junction Bar & Grill, just north of the W. Gray Y with Webster St. — though the building itself (shown above) was listed for lease on LoopNet earlier this spring. Prior to the turn of the decade, the space previously went by The Wet Spot. 

A recent-ish photo from the lease listing (above) shows off the wrapping up of the Dolce Living apartments next door.  Not pictured, just beyond the duo of homes visible to the east below: the charred skeleton of Fuzzy’s Tacos, which was cleared out some time after its November flameout. 

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Midtown Fourth Ward Junction
04/26/17 11:00am

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

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

New renderings of the hotel-office-condo-retail hodgepodge in the works on the northern segment of the former city park and waste incinerator site at Allen Pkwy. and Gillette St.  were released into the digital wild by DC Partners this week. The buildings appear smoother and sleeker overall than some of the possible early depictions turned up last August (like the Downtown-facing view shown second above for comparison), though some elements of the cluster also appear a bit shorter and stouter. The main tower along Allen Pkwy. has been given a twist in the middle, with a floorcount appearing to number somewhere in the 40-plus range; the lowrise retail complex next door is shown with a bridge over the parkway leading directly into Buffalo Bayou Park.

Perennial rendering sleuth Urbannizer also dug up a different view of the new scene over on HAIF, showing how the whole bundle would fit in amid the Federal Reserve complex, the park, and the section of Fourth Ward surrounding what’s left of the Freedman’s Town Historical District:

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Like a Bridge Over Allen Pkwy.
04/11/17 1:15pm

Planned Retail Strip at 403 W. Gray St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Ship & Shield at 403 W. Gray St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019The yet-unbuilt retail strip planned for the empty land next to Ship & Shield (the Viking-themed restaurant and bar that replaced Byzantio’s last fall) is now fully leased out, Katherine Feser notes. The planned 4,316 sq. ft. are set to be occupied by a second location of Houston restaurant Viet’s Express and a second location of Hawaiian animal hospital Feather and Fur. The project is another show of new construction from serial adaptive reuser Braun Enterprises, which bought both the restaurant space and the adjacent lots from Byzantio’s previous owners over the summer.

If the retail strip turns out to look much like those leasing fliers that’ve been floating around this spring, the layout will be mostly business in the front, parking in the back — plus a strip or 2 of pervious paving off to the sides:

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2 Tenants for North Montrose
03/21/17 12:30pm

Dolce Living Midtown construction, 180 W. Gray St., Midtown/Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019Dolce Living Midtown rendering, 180 W. Gray St., Midtown/Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Leasing signage was tacked up not too long ago at the Dolce Midtown apartment development straddling Bailey St. along the north side of W. Gray, notes a reader relaying years of curiosity about the project’s slow-but-maybe-not-always-so-steady progress. The development’s website doesn’t offer any clues as to when move-in might be possible, but the company has opened a leasing office down the street (in one of the not-getting-knocked-down-any-time-soon segments of the River Oaks Shopping Center).

A few of the hawk-eyed cranewatchers over at HAIF claim to have spotted some backward clock-ticks on the work in the form of partial de- and re-construction of the 2 midrises’ upper stories during late 2015, possibly related to all the torrential rain that year on the building’s siding and wooden framing. But the buildings apparently re-reached their full heights not long after; as of last Friday, there’re even some relatively complete-looking facade sections on the eastern midrise (as shown above). The western building of the 2 still looks to have only been issued its Hardi-plank balcony flaps, however:

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Ups and Downs in Fourth Ward
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
12/09/16 10:45am

Midtown Entry Portal site, W. Gray at Matthews St., Midtown/Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Where exactly, these days, does Fourth Ward end and Midtown begin? That may be a little bit clearer before long (depending on how you define the 2) — a reader notes that someone looks to be getting ready to stake a visible claim for Midtown on the narrow strip of land at the crotch of Webster and W. Gray streets, just west of Matthews St. and the latest add-on to the Post Midtown Square development. (The yellow signage of that recently scorched Fuzzy’s is visible on the left.)

The silt fencing rimming the median segment as of late comes with a construction sign calling the spot “Midtown Entry Portal — Site 3.” That grassy sliver does sit at the end of a short but pointy finger of land jutting out of the northwestern boundary of the area’s tax increment reinvestment zone, which as of 2009 is shaped about like this:

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TIRZspotting
12/05/16 3:45pm

COTD: IS A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORIC PRESERVATION WORSE THAN NONE AT ALL? freedmens-town-hist-dist-marker“A little late for that. There are so many new homes and townhomes and vacant lots in the area that there is almost no historic character left. It’s a prime area for redevelopment anyway — might as well let the developers finish the job and do it right so it’s not just a hodgepodge.” [Christian, commenting on City Wants To Create Historic District To Protect What’s Left of Freedmen’s Town Historic DistrictPhoto of Freedmen’s Town Historic District sign: Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition

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