08/17/18 11:30am

Pictured above is the first action this shuttered Macaroni Grill by the Galleria has seen since changing hands last October: the erection of new green fencing around its empty stone and stucco building. Its new-ish owner is Hillstone Hospitality, the group behind the Houston’s restaurant chain as well as several other single-location eateries across the country.

Hillstone has been in the neighborhood even before getting its hands on the empty restaurant, however; the nearest Houston’s is just west on the corner of Fountain View Dr.:

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New Westheimer Barricades
07/23/18 5:15pm

Here’s the latest look at the Gables Westcreek apartments from right outside their planned garage entrance on Westcreek Ln. south of San Felipe. The 302-unit highrise is set to take over a 2.6-acre southwest portion of the site once occupied by the Westcreek Apartments. (Other chunks of that demolished complex have already been divvied up among the Arabella, Wilshire, SkyHouse River Oaks, and some surface parking.)

In those digs, 14 stories will pile up atop the ground floor parking garage, as shown in the site plan below from architect Ziegler Cooper:

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Gables Westcreek
06/29/18 2:45pm

Pacific Poke is the latest newcomer to Houston’s booming raw fish restaurant scene, and it’s taking over the empty 1,802-sq.-ft. spot on Richmond once occupied by Starbucks, next to what’s now Roostar Vietnamese Grill. The Starbucks location — shown above —  closed down shortly before a brand-new Starbucks showed up across the street from it, just east of Chimney Rock in early 2016.

That left the building briefly vacant before Roostar arrived the following year in the spot next door to the abandoned coffee shop — now slated for a redo. Its Vietnamese restaurant space is shown below, done up with the 2-location chain’s abstract poultry-like logo:

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Raw Seafood Chaser
05/04/18 4:15pm

The 2 new METRO bus lanes — linking a proposed Bellaire transit center to the new middle-of-the-road path up Post Oak Blvd. — won’t run over the actual building at Chick-fil-A’s Richmond Ave location, but they will cut through the property. Last month, the fast-food company agreed to vacate its spot at 5005 Richmond after the State of Texas initiated an eminent domain proceeding against it — and the location subsequently closed. (The 4 strip tenants in Weingarten Realty’s surrounding Richmond Square Shopping CenterBestBuy, Mattress1One, Cost Plus World Market, and Luggage & Leather — are also targeted in the proceeding.)

Adding the new transit route (shown in the map below as a vertical orange line partly covered-over with yellowish-gray) is part of a whole tangle of changes TxDOT has planned for the 610-59 interchange:

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Eminent Domain
03/30/18 12:00pm

KHOU READY TO JOIN GALLERIA OFFICE BUILDING MIX KHOU will soon join the company of the Egyptian Consulate, Houston Sabercats Rugby team office, financial firms, energy companies, and attorneys in the new studio it has planned in the 22-story highrise on the corner of Westheimer and Bering Dr. The move will be a big change for the news organization — which evacuated its standalone 58-year-old building on the south side of Allen Pkwy. during Harvey and moved temporarily into Houston Public Media’s office on Elgin St. A recent renovation on the 5718 Westheimer tower (formerly known as Capital One Plaza) added landscaping to the field next door to it and redid its lobby as well as other interiors. KHOU hopes to settle in a 3-floor spot in the structure — including 2 studios, 2 control rooms, and office space — next year. In the meantime, the station expects to open the tiny satellite studio it has planned in the GRB’s frontage on Discovery Green. [Houston Chronicle; more; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 5718 Westheimer: LoopNet

02/13/18 3:45pm

4 new restaurants of 4 different culinary persuasions are planning their migration to the Galleria’s coming chow center — beyond the curved wall that fronted Saks Fifth Avenue before the department store moved to a straighter-edged building just next door along Westheimer. Renovations to transform the building’s face into something new tenants could get behind have been in progress for the past few years. The site plan above from Simon Properties shows where Blanco Tacos + Tequila will arrive below Japanese restaurant Nobu, east of the building’s main entrance hall. West of the hall is where Fig & Olive as well as its upstairs Indian neighbor Spice Route will move in. They’ll go behind and in front of the new first- and second-story windows pictured at top — punched in the building’s facade last year.

Heavily blanched renderings put out by Fig & Olive show the patio fronting its 7,000-sq.-ft. interior:

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Multicultural Cook Off
12/11/17 12:00pm

A new banner just tacked to the forehead of the building on Richmond Ave., barely east of I-610 announces what’s due to move in: a second Galleria-area showroom for Nazar’s Fine Jewelry. The photo at top, sent in by an on-the-spot Swamplot reader, shows workers getting a boost to place the sign at sundown on Sunday. The northeast crotch of the 59-West Loop interchange is visible south of the building at 4901 Richmond.

Interior renovation permits for the 25,890-sq.-ft. building — formerly home to Morton Kuehnert Auctioneers & Appraisers, and, even more formerly, to Parvizian Signature Rugs — were filed in September. Before it closed down in October 2016, the auction house’s windows were covered with photos of artifacts:

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Richmond Riches
11/07/17 1:00pm

In case you were curious what the 9th-floor 1-bedroom condo in the Cosmopolitan owned by southwest Houston charter school Accelerated Interdisciplinary Intermediate Academy looks like, here are some photos taken when the property was listed for sale in February of 2011, for $468,500. The school purchased the condo that June. 250 elementary and middle school students attend Accelerated Interdisciplinary Intermediate Academy on its mostly bare 7-acre campus at 12825 Summit Ridge Dr., near the intersection of Alt. 90 and the Fort Bend Pkwy. Toll Rd. The taxpayer-funded school’s 2 buildings have no windows.

So what’s the condo for? An unidentified school representative emails the Chronicle‘s Jacob Carpenter to explain it’s used for “”back office support and SECURE storage of historical records.” Repeated break-in attempts, according to the representative, prevented the records from being kept at the school. “The writer also reasoned that the charter preferred buying property instead of paying rent, and that its options were ‘very limited,’” writes Carpenter. “The author didn’t explain why the school opted for the condo when cheaper storage and office space were available.”

The almost-floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony in the school’s Cosmopolitan condo face south, down Post Oak Blvd.:

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A Charter School’s Uptown Holdings
10/02/17 3:30pm

Here’s evidence that the scheduled reconstruction of the entire West Loop—I-69 interchange just southeast of the Galleria is about to begin. “Crews have been ripping out trees and other vegetation,” reports reader and 610 traveler John Greiner: “Much more than could be argued for improving traffic sight lines.”

These pics show the scene:

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Foliage First
09/06/17 9:30am

HARVEY NOW READY TO HIT GALLERIA THEATER A WEEK LATER THAN EXPECTED Opening night for Mary Chase’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize–winning play Harvey at the Jeannette and L.M. George Theater is now set for September 15th — just a week after its originally scheduled opening date was preempted by a downgraded Hurricane bearing the same name. The A.D. Players‘ brand-new playhouse at 5420 Westheimer, just west of the Galleria, did not flood and suffered only “minor leaks” from the storm, but in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey the theater-ministry group announced a decision to postpone its season-opening production, which stars an invisible rabbit named Harvey. New executive director Jake Speck says some new “arts-access and fundraising initiatives” will be announced soon. [A.D. Players; American Theatre; previously on SwamplotPhoto of George Theater: A.D. Players

08/29/17 12:15pm

HARVEY UPSTAGES HARVEY The A.D. Players‘ new 450-seat Jeannette and L.M. George Theater at 5420 Westheimer just west of the Galleria, which opened earlier this year, “has stood the storm well,” its operators report today on Facebook. But not so much the very first set of shows in the resident theater company’s new season: Because of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, a production of Mary Chase’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a 6-ft., 3-and-a-half-in.-tall invisible rabbit named Harvey (scheduled to begin a 3-and-a-half-week run on September 8th) has been put off — for a while, at least: “Harvey the storm has not been our friend. ‘Harvey’ the show will go on — more details to come,” reads a note posted by the theater last night. “When it does, we want it to be a lighthearted lift to our beloved community, which has suffered so much in just a few short days.” The theater company began planning its production of Harvey months ago, but says it had been promoting the production “in earnest” for only a little more than a week. [A.D. Players] Photo of George Theater: A.D. Players

05/17/17 5:00pm

A waste-no-time tipster briefly stuck on the southbound West Loop earlier this week spent the downtime documenting some of the current activities of various cranes hanging around north of the US 59 junction. On the right is Tilman Fertitta’s The Post Oak, being fleshed out behind the Landry’s headquarters as part of a new mixed-use development; the previously tipped hand of 4 logo diamonds are already being framed at the top:

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Uptown Updates
05/17/17 11:30am

Now hanging in the newly remodeled central nook on the Galleria’s curved facade along Westheimer Rd.: these strips of hexagonal rings spotted early last week by a passing bus rider. (That curved wall is where Saks Fifth Avenue used to be, before the store scooted into the boxy new building next door.) The rendering up top was released last fall, around the time Simon Properties confirmed that Nobu and Fig & Olive would be taking up 2 of the 4 restaurant spaces shown.

For comparison, here’s what the entry through the Philip Johnson-designed facade looked like as of last August, after the new windows had been cut (but before the top edge of the facade got trimmed off): 

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Westheimer Faceoff
02/16/17 11:15am

Uptown MD and TIRZ 16 Boundaries

A new lawsuit was filed yesterday against TIRZ 16, the Uptown Development Authority, and the city, alleging that the creation of the reinvestment zone in the Galleria area was in violation of Texas law, since the zone can’t reasonably be considered “unproductive, underdeveloped, or blighted.” Rather, the filing claims, the city ordinance that originally created the TIRZ used the justification that the Uptown area needed traffic decongestion to avoid losing its status as one of the wealthiest districts in the city, and to avoid draining business to the city’s ever-expanding suburban fringe. A hearing is going on today over a possible injunction on further spending or work on Uptown projects, and Mike Morris says that city council delayed a vote yesterday on allowing Uptown an additional $65 million in debt.

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Uptown Up for Trial