05/20/16 3:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LAYING OUT STRATEGIC ANGLES ON THE NEXT HEIGHTS BOOZE BATTLE Strategists “. . . Flooding? Really? There are no tracts of land any grocer could realistically acquire that are not already paved over for commercial spots. Nobody is going to open a liquor store in the middle of a residential section where there will be no traffic — there’s plenty of storefront space near by. The proposed change won’t impact bars and restaurants. . . . [The backers] are advocating for a policy change with respect to a policy that impacts their business. How else would you propose they do it other than hiring a law firm and PR firm to help them navigate the rather obscure laws that govern this thing?” [Heightsresident, commenting on H-E-B Would Like To Plant a Store in a Wetter Heights Dry ZoneIllustration: Lulu

05/18/16 3:45pm

H-E-B Bellaire Market, 5130 Cedar St., Bellaire, Texas

The semi-shrouded Houston Heights Beverage Coalition released a statement today filling in some details on the group’s plan to legalize take-home beer and wine sales in the Heights’ dry zone. The initiative was floated quietly on Cinco de Mayo by way of 109-word newspaper legal notice; the group’s longer press release clarifies that it will try to collect around 1,500 signatures in 60 days to call a special election for residents of the no-longer-a-city of Houston Heights. That election wouldn’t change the zone’s ban on liquor sales (or the need for a private-club-workaround for folks intent on selling it anyway), but would allow grocery stores to get in on the alcoholic action.

Coalition chair Steve Reilley tells the Houston Press‘s Phaedra Cook that H-E-B supports the measure — adding that the chain is probably going to move into the area if the change passes. Reilley also says that other grocery chains are involved with the coalition, but doesn’t tell Cook which ones.


Taking Names
05/18/16 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT THE FORMER HEIGHTS POST OFFICE SPOT WON’T TURN INTO Renderings of Heights Central Station shopping center, Yale at 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008“11th St. is a thoroughfare. So is Yale St. . . . There is no street parking in that area. That really nice old town feel of 20th St. (19th?) is not something you can replicate here — that is a shopping/ restaurant district with grandfathered-in diagonal parking spaces and a road wide enough to accommodate it. If you want another town-center-type development, someone will have to build it (and acquire a lot more property than this space here). Typically, those historical main streets can’t be artificially manufactured. Just appreciate the one you have and be happy they didn’t build a 500-bed apartment complex next to your house.” [Commenter7, commenting on A Peek at What’s Up Next Once the Former Heights Post Office Comes Down] Rendering of planned Heights Central Station shopping center: MFT Interests

05/17/16 10:30am

Renderings of Heights Central Station shopping center, Yale at 11th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

MFT Interests appears interested in tenants for its Heights Central Station project, slated for the site of the increasingly well-loved former post office on 11th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd.  The development’s leasing website now includes the first rendering of what those mixed-use lowrises might look like (see above), as well as a site plan.

Although the logo for the center implies a possible train station theme to go along with the name,  the site plan shows that most of the property will be devoted to automobile parking — an 86-car street-facing parking lot separates the storefronts from 11th and Yale streets, though the Heights Blvd. side of the eastern building is much closer to the street:


Heights Central Station
05/12/16 10:15am

Giant Mushroom Forest, 1236 Studewood St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Fungal sculptor Bill Davenport sends this photo of the Giant Mushroom Forest on Studewood south of W. Melwood St., showing the central toadstool freshly decapitated. His explanation for the un-making of his own work: the middle sculpture, originally designed for only a year-long Austin stint back at the turn of the decade, was crumbling and unstable, and had to be demolished last Sunday. “I’m sad to say the other two are not far behind,” he adds.

Davenport is now crowdsourcing funds to put toward restoring the trio and getting them in shape for a longer-term gig. The 3 giant mushrooms (not to be confused with the 3 giant mushrooms that sprung up down the road by Inversion Coffee House a few years ago) currently reside in front of Urban Harvest’s Tiny Mushrooms community garden.


Shrooms and Stones in the Heights
05/11/16 3:30pm

TABC regional headquarters in Heights Medical Tower, 427 West 20th Street, Suite 600 Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A group called the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition PAC is hoping to bring about a vote on allowing beer and wine sales in the technically dry section of the Houston Heights. The group published a notice on May 5th announcing an application to the city to start collecting the petition signatures required to get the measure on a local option ballot.

Here’s the text of the required public notice:


Watering Down the Dry Laws
05/06/16 10:30am

Future site of Gipsy Girls, 726 W. 19th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Signs of the impending turnover at 726 W 19th St. west of N. Shepherd Dr.: a banner bearing the curly pink logo of Gipsy Girls teen-and-tween gift shop. The spot formerly hosted Pink Studio cosmetics, which has headed north to a space in the Northwest Gessner Center along the 290 feeder; following the departure of a business geared toward holding on to the things of youth, the W. 19th St. space is being remodeled to host children’s karaoke and birthday celebrations.  

The children’s party venue will move in between Mark’s Hair Studio and adult party venue Painting with a Twist, down the row from Insomnia Video Game Culture and Vinyl Toys, TxDryClean, and Replay Games. Across the street is the mid-Phase-2 Re:Vive development; here’s the rising frame of the apparent Benjamin Moore paint store, which should help strengthen the center’s nascent dessert-and-real-estate theme:


Pink in, Pink Out
05/04/16 4:00pm

Abel Motors, 2012 N. Shepherd, Houston Heights, 77008

A reader’s drive-by shooting at the corner of N. Shepherd Dr. and W. 20th St. captured a few photos of Abel Motors, whose new signage announces a move to parts even further north. The dealership’s new location at 9102 Airline Dr. will put it just south of Halls Bayou at the intersection of Airline and Gulf Bank Rd. across from the Cathedral of St. Matthew. (and amid a suite of other car sales and auto repair operations up and down the street).

The N. Shepherd spot to be vacated sits catty-corner to the former car dealership property currently being redeveloped as a Mellow Mushroom-containing retail strip, and a block north of the Take 5 Oil Change getting into gear at the corner with 19th St. Here’s another shot of the corner, looking north across 20th toward the ex-Fiesta a few blocks up the road:


Peeling Out
05/02/16 11:00am

Lowell St. Market Plans, 718 W. 18th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Some renderings and potential site plans for a retail redo of 3 warehouses at the southwest corner of W. 18th St. and N. Shepherd Dr. make an appearance in the current leasing listing for the property. Preliminary plans for the development, to be called Lowell St. Market after a former name of N. Shepherd Dr., show a greened-and-glassed-up version of the Savvi Commercial Furniture warehouse (above on the left), with a matching redo of the Airmakers Cooling & Heating building (visible on the far right).

The flier bears the logo of Radom Capital, which is a partner in the Heights Mercantile development on 7th St. Radom is also behind the pink-and-white redo of the former Heights Plaza shopping center on E. 20th, which Steel City Popsicles told Eater they’d be ready to move into some time this month. Plans for the Lowell center are still a ways off, however; the leasing flier gives summer 2017 as an estimated construction start date, but also mentions that sale or leasing of the whole property as-is isn’t off the table.

The 3 structures currently on the site add up to 20,380 sq.ft. of space; the redevelopment would scoot some of that space around and pare it that down to 10,000 sq.ft., making room for a parking lot in the back. Here’s what the footprint could look like following that trim-down:


Lowell St. Market
04/06/16 10:45am

Yale St. Bridge over White Oak Bayou, Houston Heights, Houston, 77007

Yale St. Bridge over White Oak Bayou, Houston Heights, Houston, 77007 An orange and black construction marquee is now advertising the upcoming closure of the Yale St. bridge over White Oak Bayou just south of I-10, starting the Monday after next and running until the New Year’s Eve after next. The 1931 bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is slated for replacement after years of asking crossers to please watch their weight (with 10,000 pounds per axle being the most recent upper limit). The per-axle limit was at 8,000 pounds prior to a 2012 drop to 3,000 (which disqualified some SUVs and minivans). The addition of carbon strips to the structure caused TxDOT’s weight limit to yo-yo back up to 10,000.

The plans for the new bridge floated by TxDOT in 2014 included wider outside vehicle lanes and slightly narrower sidewalks (down to 5 feet from 6). But summary and followup notes from the public meeting held at the end of July 2014 say the design has been updated to include 8-foot-wide shared bike and pedestrian pathways on either side of the bridge, in response to the public comments on the project.

The TxDOT meeting summary notes also documents the agency’s attempt to sell the bridge in the Houston Chronicle:


Coming Back a New Bridge
03/28/16 1:00pm

Former Tune-Up, 1818 N. Shepherd, Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A slew of updates from N. Shepherd Dr. come from a nearby dermatology office with a regular lens on the rapidly-redeveloping retail scene. Above is the former site of Tune-Up Plus (on the southeast corner of N. Shepherd with 19th St.) which has been decked out in yellow, lately. A remodeling permit issued on the 23rd for the spot at 1818 N. Shepherd now refers to it as a Take 5; the oil-change and auto-repair chain currently has locations dotted all along I-10 and I-85 between Beaumont and the Blue Ridge Mountains, along with some Dallas locales; the first Houston-area Take 5 is purportedly on its way to Louetta Rd. just east of Steuber-Airline Dr. up in Spring.

Meanwhile, across N. Shepherd, the former Houston Alternator store that’s been getting the restaurant-retail treatment is almost ready to open as Cane Rosso’s first Houston spot, ahead of its also-under-construction Montrose branch:


Heights Retail Replacements
03/17/16 3:00pm

H-E-B SCOPING OUT ITS OPTIONS IN THE HEIGHTS H-E-B Bellaire Market, 5130 Cedar St., Bellaire, TexasIn response to questions about the possibility of building an H-E-B near the corner of Studemont St. and Washington Ave, H-E-B public affairs director Cyndy Garza-Roberts tells Swamplot that no contracts have been signed, and that the grocery store chain is talking to area developers that have “several tracts of land” in and around the Heights. Garza-Roberts told the Leader in 2015 that the Heights dry zone makes it hard to find suitable store locations, which also need to be at least 6 acres; the company is also eyeing the Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of H-E-B at 5130 Cedar St.: Wayne A.

03/17/16 10:45am

For Sale sign at the Banta House, 119 E. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A for sale sign has appeared on the fence outside of the 1918 house on the northwest corner of 20th and Harvard streets, notes a reader. The 2-story brick-over-concrete home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as the Banta House, was listed for sale in February along with the Ink Spots Museum next door at 117 E. 20th. The 21,120 sq.ft. now mentioned by the sign as up for grabs and division appears to include the parking lot behind the 2 buildings, along with the land holding the blue house at 2005 Harvard St. (also penned in by the fence).


Houses Divided