FLUSHING AWAY ALLEN STANFORD’S LEGACY AT 5050 WESTHEIMER Noting the extensive changes to the office building at 5050 Westheimer across the street from the Galleria that once served as headquarters for the Stanford Financial Group but has since been taken over completely by real estate firm Keller Williams, Real Estate Bisnow’s Catie Dixon zeroes in on the big news: “Stanford’s gigantic personal bathroom is gone.” Reuters reporter Chris Baltimore described the rarely seen first-floor spectacle back in 2009, after an exclusive crime-scene tour, as “a chamber of black granite and mahogany, with a gigantic mirror and granite countertop, flanked with shelves of fluffy white towels and toiletries, including a bottle of ‘Brilliant Brunette’ shampoo.” Notable features: the separate black-toilet room, the huge walk-in shower, and the blank door next to it which served as Sir Allen’s private escape route to the parking deck. Stanford’s entire personal magnet-key-access-only first-floor domain has now been replaced by the offices of KW-affiliated lender and title companies; the Gensler redo of the building has kept some of the green marble but added some red walls, replacing stone-carved messages like Stanford’s HARD WORK, CLEAR VISION, VALUE for the CLIENT with “inspirational and wacky sayings like ‘Complaining=garbage magnet.’” [Real Estate Bisnow; Reuters; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The Mathis Group will be starting construction later this month on this 14-story Hyatt Regency hotel designed by Gensler for Atlanta developers Songy Highroads, according to a post on the construction company’s Facebook page. The post and mid-August rendering don’t indicate the project’s location, but commenters on HAIF are noting that the alignment of the building jibes with possible additions to the 425,000-sq.-ft. Galleria Plaza office complex immediately west of the Galleria — which Songy purchased last spring. Back then, Songy’s CEO hinted the company might try to fit more buildings into the complex fronting Westheimer, Alabama, and Sage, which includes the Telecheck Plaza and 5333 Westheimer office buildings, a shopping center called Sage Plaza (not to be confused with another shopping center and office building of the same name nearby), Michaelyndon, and a standalone bank building: “The seven-acre site allows us to develop another project while sharing existing parking.”
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COMMENT OF THE DAY: A LINEAR SHOPPING DISTRICT FROM HIGHLAND VILLAGE TO THE GALLERIA “I love that all these projects are coming to fruition on Westheimer.
As more and more private investment comes to this area of Westheimer between Post Oak and Weslayan, will the city of Houston invest in the walkable infrastructure to make this one coherent district as it fills in?
What would we call it?
East Uptown? Lower River Oaks? Highland West?” [DNAguy, commenting on The River Oaks District’s New Box of Dior] Illustration: Lulu
Remember that unusable and really vague tip sent to Swamplot back in January? The one promising that a “major (non-residential) Houston property is about to make a significant change”? And it wasn’t Macy’s? Well, the in-the-know tipster now reports, we can let that cat out of the bag, since the Houston Business Journal and Houston Chronicle already have: The “Houston landmark” the tipster couldn’t tip us off about is the Galleria — which, it was announced yesterday by developer Simon Property Group, will be undergoing extensive renovations and partial demolition to create about 100,000 new sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space.
The plan calls for the Galleria III portion where Saks Fifth Avenue is currently located to be demolished — though the tipster says the Philip Johnson façade will be maintained — to make room for a bumped-out food court (shown in the rendering above). That freed-up Saks space will provide room for 35 new retailers and restaurants. Meanwhile, Saks will be moving into the Macy’s spot on Sage, and that Macy’s will be merging with the other Macy’s on Hidalgo. (Makes sense.) Also, a standalone box will be built in the parking lot for a few tenants who can afford to be more conspicuous to the stop-and-go crowd on Westheimer.
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Who says Houston isn’t fast-paced and funky when the sun goes down? If you’ve got a minute, check out this time-lapse video made by Spenser Harrison. It takes in all the lit-up hotspots in H-Town: Main St., the Galleria, Reliant Stadium — heck, even the Pierce Elevated!
Video: Spenser Harrison
Here’s another of the occasional photos a reader sends of the construction progress of the Whole Foods at the mixed-use BLVD Place just north of the Galleria. Thanks to the photos that span almost a year now, you can watch the development develop here at the intersection of San Felipe and Post Oak Blvd.: Witness the preliminary site work beginning last August to the installation of piers and rebar in October and the rising of the parking structure in February. So what else is new? That parking structure appears just about ready, and even more dirt has been moved around — where those cars are parked in the foreground — for the proposed Hanover apartment tower.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE COMING AUTO-AUTO UTOPIA WILL SAVE THE GALLERIA FOR WOODLANDSERS “. . . I think you have a good point. Except that ‘travel is good for the soul’ bit. It is, but commuting isn’t travel, and I defy you to find more than a dozen people who think commuting from the Woodlands to the Galleria is good for their souls. (I work with a couple, their descriptions are more along the lines of ‘the soul-crushing hell of my day.’)
But this actually becomes a driver for density. If you have really fast trains and you pair that with dense destinations, commuting by the maglev from Columbus to Houston becomes practical — you have to be able to get somewhere when you hop off that train.
And technology changes will figure into this, which is why ‘freeways vs transit’ is a busted argument. Take a look at the self-driving car technology that’s developing really fast. When that hits usability, and you turn the roads into smart networks, you have a situation where they can handle a lot more capacity (because networked smart cars can use it far more efficiently than distracted primates). You also have the possibility of breaking the one-car-per-person paradigm, when you can order up a self-driving car to show up at work and take you home — cars no longer need to sit unused 95% of the time, and can be parked farther from destinations (‘Car — leave the parking structure to be at my door at 5PM, please’) which also makes density more practical — you don’t have to account for all those cars and junk up the streets with parking.” [John (another one), commenting on Comment of the Day: First We Crowd]
THE SPORTS BAR THAT’S REPLACING THE SAXOPHONE ON RICHMOND Will we soon see a 70-foot red pitchfork here? Now that the Orange Show has moved that big blue horn out of the way, the former Billy Blues club at 6025 Richmond near Fountain View is getting a new sign and a renovation, a Swamplot reader notes, for the sports bar Diablo Loco Wings y Mas. Last week, Bob Wade’s 70-foot “Smokesax,” made out of Beetle parts, was trucked across town to the Orange Show’s Munger St. warehouse. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
The owners of the former Billy Blues club have donated Bob Wade’s “Smokesax” to the Orange Show. The 70-ft. Bunyanesque horn that’s composed of found objects — including a VW Bug — will be transported today from the property at 6025 Richmond where it’s been standing for 20 years across town to a warehouse at the Orange Show’s headquarters on Munger St., just south of UH and a block west of I-45. The cost of the move that’s expected to take all day? $40,000. The Orange Show says the horn’s new home hasn’t been chosen yet.
Photo: Flickr user readontheroad [license]
They grow up so fast: Sending photos in August and October, a reader has been documenting from on high the progress of BLVD Place near San Felipe and Post Oak — and now here’s one more. What’s new? Well, what used to be nothing but grass in the foreground has been stripped for the Hanover apartment tower. And the Whole Foods shell appears to be shaping up, too.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Since 2011, Houston Arts Alliance has been curating Writing & C/Siting Houston, a series of personal stories from local writers about their favorite Houston places: secret hike and bike trails along Buffalo Bayou, family-owned businesses in Midtown, Hindu temples in Sugar Land. Novelist and essayist Miah Mary Arnold and UH professor William Monroe will be the first in 2013 to contribute their stories to the series, giving a reading tomorrow night. Joining them will be essayist Phillip Lopate, who describes the city in “Houston Hide-and-Seek” as “a decentralized octopus gobbling up all the land around it.”
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Back in 2010, Skanska said it was going to build and finance an office building in the Galleria all on its own. Swamplot showed you the first and second Kirksey-designed renderings. This one’s the third. And there’s another detail to add to the story: Skanska announced today that Datacert will be the first tenant. Though the planned 20-story, 300,000-sq.-ft. building at 3009 Post Oak is still under construction, Skanska says that Datacert should be able to move in on the 10th and 11th floors later this summer. Right now, the 15-year-old “enterprise legal management solutions” company is headquartered in a building a few doors down at 3040 Post Oak.
Rendering: Swamplot inbox
BRINGING THAT LADY HOME FROM MAGGIE RITA’S UH restaurant management student Catherine Martin is already eyeing the decor of the Maggie Rita’s at 1650 Post Oak Blvd. — doomed, she imagines, for lack of parking at least — for when the Carlos Mencia property follows the Kirby location on its path from former Ninfa’s to shutter-dom: “I even liked the soup, I thought it tasted good. There was this really pretty painting of the Mona Lisa, it was just her face and it was all done in blues and greens. . . . Maybe when this location goes out of business I’ll buy that painting for real cheap on the side of the road. Do restaurants have garage sales? Like in their front yard, in their garage? . . . It’s not too far from my apartment I wonder if I’ll see the signs posted at the corner of my block. I just really liked that painting, you know? The thing is I don’t know where I’d put it in my apartment, I have several blank walls in my apartment, but it’s kind of a long painting, you know, real tall, the only thing is on those blank spots, like I have a book shelf underneath, or my desk or my dresser or something. It’s just not enough space all at once. I’d have to completely rearrange all my furniture and the only problem with that is I’m a bit of a slob, so to rearrange all my furniture I’d have to completely clean my room and there’s a pizza box underneath my bed that’s been there for a while that I’d have to throw away . . . it just kind of seems like a hassle. Maybe I could put it in the kitchen . . . but then it would get, like, oil and stuff on it when I cook, I feel like that stuff gets in the air, you know, and it would ruin the painting . . . you know what, forget it, I’ll figure it out.” [Arbitrary Criticism; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Maggie Rita’s in former guise as Ninfa’s, 1650 Post Oak Blvd.: AmREIT
From an upper floor to the east, looking toward Downtown: Piers are in and some column rebar bundles are up already for the BLVD Place building fronting Post Oak Blvd. (the street just beyond the construction site in the photo). According to plans posted online, an underground parking level with room for 260 cars will fit below the 48,500-sq.-ft. Whole Foods Market, with more parking behind and above the grocery-store space on 2 additional levels. Also going into the building at the corner of San Felipe St.: other retail, restaurant, and office spaces.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
A MIX OF RESTAURANTS AND RETAIL ON POST OAK “When we first opened and the bar was so crazy, there were girls giving men their cards trying to take them to the restroom. It was so out of control that I had to close the restaurant early. I had to ask them to leave. I didn’t know there were all friends. This older woman, about my age, came up to me and said ‘you don’t know who you’re dealing with. You can’t ask us to leave.’ I said, who are you? She said, ‘I take care of these girls.’ I said, you have to leave. I thought, oh my gosh. This is a big business. I didn’t know all these random girls all knew each other. . . . They all work together. I still have customers on Thursday nights that are mad at me for getting rid of The Show. That’s what they call it. They said ‘Mimi, we had a fun time on Thursdays. We were fishing.’ I said, ‘what do you mean fishing?’ He said, ‘It’s called catch and release.’ I said, I don’t know with some of these girls if you could release them, because they looked very serious. It was wild. They would say something like ‘Let’s go down the street to shop,’ because they wanted to go to Hermès. I’m so naïve. I thought, oh you’re going to Hermès, that’s amazing. My husband doesn’t ever take me there. I didn’t get it. It’s merchandise instead of cash gifts.” — Mimi Del Grande, hostess and co-owner of RDG + Bar Annie in BLVD Place. [Eater Houston] Photo: BLVD Place