09/27/16 10:45am

New El Rey location, 219 W. 28th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008
El Rey at 3330 Ella Blvd., Oak Forest, Houston, 77018The crown sigil of El Rey Cuban & Mexican Cuisine has been sighted by a reader along the south side of the North Loop, just west of Yale St. and of the Burger King that has long reigned on that corner. The official address of the new spot (per the permits issued over the summer) looks to be 219 W. 28th St., and the property appears to have frontage on both W. 28th and the 610 feeder.

The new 2-story building appears to keep some stylistic elements of the Oak Forest spot up on Ella Blvd. at 34th St. (shown in the 2nd photo for comparison); that Oak Forest location looks to be getting knocked down after the business’s lease expires to make room for food truck parking, per current plans for a new shopping center at the corner [that one that — disclosure — sponsored Swamplot a few times this year].

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2-Story Taqueria
09/19/16 5:45pm

King Biscuit Patio Cafe, 1606 White Oak Dr., Houston, 77009

King Biscuit Patio Cafe, 1606 White Oak Dr., HoustonThe artsy building at the pointy intersection of White Oak Dr. with Morrison and Beauchamp streets appears to be prepping for the possibility of a new gig. City permission for some interior wall smashing in the former King Biscuit space (shown above in full 2011 Technicolor) was granted at the beginning of August, and a reader sends the topmost photo of the scene this afternoon with reports of some recent scuttling about inside.

The space at 1606 White Oak is currently listed for sale on LoopNet as part of a 2-fer: buy the Biscuit for $2.17 million, and the owner will throw in the well-camouflaged house across Morrison at 1528 White Oak for free:

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White Oak 2-Fer
09/19/16 2:00pm

YALE ST.’S MIDDLE-AGED TREES JUST GOT MORE EXPENSIVE TO CHOP DOWN Yale St. Green Corridor, Houston Heights, 77008Now that the petitioning and voting on the matter has wrapped up, The Houston Heights Association and Trees for Houston had a party this weekend to celebrate Yale St.’s designation as the city’s first official green corridor (between 6th and 19th streets. Organizers gave out baby trees as party favors, Nancy Sarnoff reports, noting that the existing treescape is largely the product of area folks planting seedlings “on both sides of the four-lane road in 1986. Volunteers kept them watered and fought city efforts to expand the roadway, which would have eliminated many of the trees.” Houston’s general colorless tree laws give the city jurisdiction over cutting down certain trees more than 20 inches wide; the green corridor label, defined in 1991 but never actually used before now, trims that protection threshold down to just 15 inches wide along the 1.6-mile stretch of Yale. Other than the reduced belt-size standards, the same rules apply for getting approval to cut down a protected tree anyway — whether by planting  new trees, going after tree preservation credits, or making some pay-by-the-inch contributions (as adjusted for inflation) into the parks and rec department’s tree fund. [Houston Chronicle; city tree ordinances] Photo of Yale St. trees: City of Houston

09/08/16 5:30pm

Former Site of National Flame and Forge, Ashland and 24th St., Houston Heights

The field above, on the block between W. 24th, W. 25th, Ashland and Rutland streets in the Heights, will be the subject of a public meeting next month, a reader who got a letter about it from the city notes to Swamplot. The land (an also-ran in the Best Teardown category for the 2010 Swampies) was previously the site of some of National Flame & Forge’s operations, which extended into the double block immediately to the north (now sprouting the townhomes visible in the distance). The owners have spent some time in the last few years taking stock of some industrial leftovers on the property, and are now seeking a Municipal Settings Designation for the land, which will legally nix any future use of the site’s chromium-and-trichloroethylene-spiked groundwater for drinking purposes.

The letter, addressed to nearby property owners and water-well-havers, emphasizes that no city water sources are affected by the contamination, and adds that the city is also legally required to send the meeting invite to anyone who owns a water well within 5 miles of the site. The map below is included with the application from NFF Realty for the no-drinking label; the aerial shows the rough boundaries of areas where water sampling over 2014 and 2015 showed more-than-you-want-in-your-coffee levels of chromium (in red) and trichloroethylene (in yellow):

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Forging Ahead
09/06/16 11:00am

The Victoria Condo Midrise, 829 Yale St. Houston Heights, Houston, 77007

Renderings of The Victoria Condo Midrise, 829 Yale St. Houston Heights, Houston, 77007The balcony-loaded face of Fisher Home’s The Victoria condo midrise is now stretching up past the halfway mark of the structure’s planned Heights ascent, notes a reader. The 6 residential levels will sit atop a few above-and-below-ground parking levels, per the rendering that showed up in unit listings earlier this summer. Camelot Realty’s listing for the 40-unit property currently touts prices starting at $300,000 and a Christmas-time move-in date.

That’s the 1950s apartment complex at 821 Yale to the left in the drive-by shot at the top; here’s a snap of the building buddied up with the century-old home-turned-law-office at 833 Yale on the other side:

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Half-Height in the Heights
08/30/16 3:00pm

DOCUMENTING HOUSTON’S TOWNHOUSIFICATION, ONE TWEET AT A TIME @densifyingHOUWhile you’re waiting for Kuukibot’s polite but insistent stream of air toxics tweets to come back, another Houston-obsessed account has just hit the Twittersphere — this one documenting the city’s infill development, as evidenced by daily before-and-after shots pulled from Google Streetview (like the 2-house-t0-7-townhome transition shown above, from near the intersection of Gibson and Snover streets in Brunner).  The account’s Philadelphia-based author (who’s looking for submissions, by the way) points to the 1999 changes in minimum lot size requirements as the catalyst for the subsequent waves of tightly-packed townhouse do-overs in previously large-lot neighborhoods around town, as explained by Daniel Hertz earlier this summer: Hertz writes that  the decision to allow lots as small as 1,400 sq.ft. within the Inner Loop (a decree later expanded city-wide in 2013) allowed the building of way more housing stock in the city’s core without a switch to multifamily-style buildings. “An important research project in the coming years ,” Hertz notes, “will be to see if Houston’s willingness to allow more housing—and especially missing middle housing—in the center of a growing metropolitan area can reduce the growth of housing prices and keep neighborhoods more diverse and affordable than they would otherwise be.” [City Observatory] Screenshot of Densifying Houston tweet: @densifyingHOU

08/22/16 1:30pm

Buffalo Fred's Ice House, 2708 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Buffalo Fred's Ice House, 2708 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008After a month or so on the market at $3.75 million, the asking price on Buffalo Fred’s Ice House has dropped by half a million as of early last week. The 37,500 sq.ft. property, positioned right across the northern boundary of the potentially moistening Heights dry zone at 2708 N. Shepherd Dr., sits a few blocks north of the ongoing culinary redevelopment zone near the recent Fiesta Mart breakup. The HAR sales listing notes that leasing the space is an option (and a matching LoopNet leasing listing has been added for the property in the last few weeks).

The listing claims the early-1980s ice house is now running on a month-to-month lease; the bar building is up for grabs along with the 2,100-sq.-ft. building formerly occupied by Speedy Cycle Lube (on the right hand side, both above and below):

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Room to Roam in Houston Heights
08/17/16 10:45am

Heights Mercantile treesHeights Mercantile treesThe shot above, facing south along the eastern edge of the 7th-St.-straddling site of the Heights Mercantile development, shows a few of the new meant-to-catch-eyes green sashes now adorning a series of trees along the Heights Blvd. sidewalk. But just what kind of message are those low-slung stripes sending to workers at the site, a reader wonders? Does green mean made the cut, or cut ’em down?

Renderings of plans for the project include a double-wide strip of trees framing a walking path parallel to 7th St. (labeled an outdoor art gallery), with additional greenery arranged in front of the Heights Blvd. bungalows being recruited into the retail center:

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Marked at 7th St.
08/10/16 10:15am

Former Chirps Chicken and Rice, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Former Chirps Chicken and Rice, 300 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008A reader caught sight of some recent stirrings at the southwest corner of W. 20th St. and Rutland, where food truck The Rice Box looks to be setting up a second non-mobile operation in the former home of Chirps Chicken and Rice. Braun Enterprises snapped up the 1,584-sq.-ft. building in mid-2015, when Chirps flew the coop; a TABC permit for the dry zone address was issued to Black Dragon Private Club — an entity listing The Rice Box as a trade name — in early May. Braun also owns the retail strip across Rutland, which replaced those Baptist Temple buildings that were demolished in 2013; the photo above was taken from the Zoe’s Kitchen at the corner.

Photos: Jason B. Cockerell (top), Chirps Chicken and Rice (bottom)

Rutland Remake
08/03/16 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOUSTON HEIGHTS HISTORY IN THE MAKING Houston Heights Craftorian Home“. . . They probably looked around and saw hundreds of 3k-plus-sq.-ft. Faux Craftsman, Faux Victorian, Faux Colonial, Faux Historic, etc. ‘bungalows,’ that have replaced (or bastardized) most of the real Craftsman, Victorian, Colonial, historic bungalows and realized that the Heights ‘style’ is all fake anyway, so why bother replicating more Faux? They instead designed a building that represents its own era, 2016. . . . Don’t fret, in 100 years, this will be ‘historic’ too.” [John M, commenting on Once Bashful Heights Post Office Replacement Retail Now Willing To Step Up to the Street, Learn To Like Sidewalks] Illustration: Lulu

08/01/16 4:30pm

Revised Plans for Heights Central Station, Heights Blvd. at 11th St., Houston Heights

Fresh from the architects (Kirksey), here are revised plans (above) for Heights Central Station, the retail-and-office center MFT Interests is planning for the site at the corner of Heights Blvd. and 11th St. (and Yale) in the Heights where the former main post office for the Heights still sits, awaiting its fate. And whaddya know, the strip-mall-style parking that in the previous plan for the new development was shown fronting Yale and 11th St. has now been stripped away, allowing twin 10,000-ish-sq.-ft. 2-story buildings to front 11th St., right on up to the sidewalk:

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Heights Station
06/15/16 11:00am

Renderings of The Victoria Condo Midrise, 829 Yale St. Houston Heights, Houston, 77007

The Victoria Condo Midrise, 829 Yale St. Houston Heights, Houston, 77007The question that’s been bugging a number of Swamplot readers: What’s planned by Fisher Homes for the .38-acre open pit now getting filled in at 829 Yale St., directly across from the company’s 3-story home office mansion? The answer: a 40-unit condo midrise branded as The Victoria. Some 2- and 3-bedroom units hit the market at the beginning of June, running between $460,900 and $835,585; a reader got some shots of the current state of construction earlier today in a morning drive-by.

A look at the floorplans of the parking-footed building’s residential floors shows off the structure’s increasingly hourglass cross-section as the viewer moves upward:

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Filling In on Yale St.
06/10/16 12:30pm

Demolition of Fiesta at 2300 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

The flags have been lowered in front of the former N. Shepherd home of Fiesta Mart, now several days along on its journey toward pre-redevelopment flatness. A reader sends more photos of the action from yesterday afternoon, showing the demolition team munching its way east through the building:

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Heights Dry Zone