06/17/15 12:00pm

Construction of Lee's Fried Chicken & Donuts in Former Church's Fried Chicken, 601 Heights Blvd., Houston Heights

Work has begun transforming the former Heights Blvd. Church’s Fried Chicken — which left its longstanding spot on the corner of 6th St. (aka White Oak across the street) back in March — to the long-promised Lee’s Fried Chicken & Doughnuts. Back in 2012, the team behind Liberty Kitchen (and BRC Gastropub as well as Petite Sweets) had intended to open a Lee’s Fried Chicken in the long-vacant drive-thru behind Liberty Kitchen at 1132 E. 11th St. — after initial plans to open a coffee house in that space were switched.

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Church’s to Lee’s and Donuts
06/16/15 11:45am

$150 HOUSE HEADED FOR THE MLS, EXPECTING MUCH HIGHER OFFERS 213 E. 23rd St., Houston HeightsHere’s the final tally for real estate agent Michael Wachs’s failed attempt to sell his Heights bungalow at 213 E. 23rd. St. for $150: After a flurry of late entries, the total number of essays-with-$150-application-fees came to more than 1000, though a slightly larger number of essays came in without any fees at all. Wachs and his family are now rich in heartfelt stories documenting the residential yearnings of strangers, but the total funds received were not enough to “make it work,” Wachs writes in a new note on the house-offer website. He’ll soon be listing the house on HAR at a much higher price, and accepting what he terms “traditional” offers, though he does encourage interested buyers to attach a “heartstrings” letter. A FAQ about fee refunds has been posted to the website as well. [$150 House; previously on Swamplot] Photo: $150 House.

06/10/15 10:00am

$150 HOUSE SELLER EXPECTS TO REFUND 500 IDENTICAL OFFERS 213 E. 23rd St., Houston HeightsThe real estate agent who’s been trying to sell his Heights bungalow for $150 tells reporter Paul Takahashi that — barring an “incredible surge” of new applications and fees before the June 13 deadline — he’ll be refunding the approximately 500 $150 offer fees he’s received so far for the property. For now, he says, he’s organizing his emails to filter out the more than 1,500 essays he received from would-be homebuyers who somehow got the idea that Wachs would sell them the 2-bedroom, 1-bath property even if they didn’t submit the required fee from the 500 or so who followed his instructions. All that sorting is “a time-consuming and boring” task, he tells Takahashi. Wachs had hoped the application fees would add up to the unspecified amount between $265K and $550 he figures his family’s home at 213 E. 23rd St. is worth. [Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Photo: $150 House

06/05/15 10:30am

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO SELLING THIS HEIGHTS BUNGALOW FOR $150 213 E. 23rd St., Houston HeightsThree weeks since the announcement, and with a little more than a week remaining before the June 13 deadline, more than 2,000 essays have come in from would-be buyers requesting that Heights real estate agent Mark Wachs sell his Heights bungalow at 213 E. 23rd St. to them for one heartening reason or another. But writing in The Leader, Kim Hogstrom reveals a more curious development: The vast majority of the applicants either can’t or don’t want to follow Wachs’s instructions — or never bothered to look at them too closely. Only about 500 of the submitted 200-word essays came with the required $150 application fee. With enough fees coming in from also-rans, some fortunate buyer would be able to purchase the 2-bedroom, 1,056-sq.-ft., 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow for just $150 (plus title and closing costs) — and still allow Wachs to receive what he thinks the house is worth, which he hints is somewhere between $265K and $550K. On the website he set up for the offer, Wachs states that application fees will be refunded if he doesn’t end up with a buyer using this method; he also indicates he might extend the deadline. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Mark Wachs

05/14/15 4:30pm

Tree Cutting on Yale St. Between 5th and 6th Streets, Houston Heights

Landscape crews last week chopped down 16 live oak trees lining the west side of Yale St. just south of White Oak, along the eastern border of the second of Trammell Crow Residential’s Alexan Heights apartment complexes. A similar scene took place last year in front of the Alexan Heights north of White Oak and 6th St. (at right in the above photo).

A reader sent in pics of the recent street-tree sawfest:

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Chop ’n Plant
05/14/15 12:30pm

HOW TO BUY A HOUSE IN THE HEIGHTS FOR $150 213 E. 23rd St., Houston HeightsOr just pay $150 and don’t get a house at all! No, there are no missing zeros or Ks in that sale price, but there is a catch: Real estate agent and Houston Heights resident Michael Wachs says he’s accepting offers until June 13th, each accompanied by a nonrefundable offer fee of $150, for his family’s 2-bedroom, 1-bath bungalow at 213 E. 23rd St. The decision of which one to accept, he indicates, will be made by judging the best 200-word essay that accompanies it, not the offer amount. The required essay, he writes, should explain “why we should sell the house to you,” but include no names or identifying information: “The fee is nonrefundable if we find a buyer via this process. If we do not, we will refund the offer fee.” (He’s also discouraging his family and friends from applying: “It just would be fishy if our parents happened to have the best essay,” he notes.) Included on the website he set up to explain the sale — along with a handy form for collecting email addresses for his real-estate business and a bit of encouragement to support some hearing-aid legislation now under consideration in the Texas House — are a few photos of the property, a sellers disclosure, inspection report, and mold remediation certificate. Why’s his family selling? “We had longterm plans to fix-up our little place or build on the lot, but our baby is now going to school across the city and we don’t want to deal with traffic. (It’s a very Houston reason to move.)” HCAD values the 1,056-sq.-ft., 1920 home with 2-car garage on a 5,300-sq.-ft. lot at $394,129. [$150 House] Photo: Terrence Foster  

04/30/15 5:00pm

Fly High Little Bunny, 301 W. 19th St., Houston Heights

Fly High Little Bunny, 301 W. 19th St., Houston HeightsRunaway Shepherd St. jeweler Fly High Little Bunny has marked up the former Occasions Fine Gifts shop at the corner of Rutland and 19th St. in the Heights as its future home. A separate note posted to the store’s Facebook page late last week indicated that the new location at 301 W. 19th St. wouldn’t be open “for a month or so.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

19th St. Retail
04/29/15 5:00pm

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The asking price for the Heights Theater on bustling 19th St. in Houston Heights in today’s live-or-work listing is $1.9 million. The owners last toe-tested the reel deal in 2008, at $1.3 million. In the interim, surrounding neighborhoods have tipped even more hip. Though the future of the historic (but not protected) property is up for grabs, its past scrolls like an old film roll, with scenes of early prosperity, seedy decline, suspected arson, and restoration.

The exterior’s revamp earned the current owners a Good Brick Award 20-ish years ago. The interior, a shell space since its near destruction by fire in 1969, has been used for live theater, retail, events, and galleries. In the former lobby’s crossroads sits an original projector (top), a sculpture standing as both a testament and witness to passing eras.

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Film House for Sale
04/20/15 1:00pm

Holdout Properties at 610 and 606 Allston St., Adjacent to Alexan Heights Apartments, Houston Heights

Construction of Alexan Heights Apartments, 655 Yale St., Houston HeightsFrom a couple of Swamplot readers come images of the Little House at 610 Allston St. and a neighboring vacant lot. They’re the lone holdout properties on the block also bounded by 6th St., Yale St., and the Heights Hike and Bike Trail. The 5-story Alexan Heights apartments are going up on the entire rest of the block — including a 50-ft.-wide sliver to reach around and hug the 2 wouldn’t-sells (at right in the photo at top and the one directly below):

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Alexan Heights
03/09/15 3:00pm

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Fronting byways rather than bayous, a 1993 Creole-style cottage in the Houston Heights has room-like porches on the front and back. The bisque-hued property looks over more plantings and pavers than free-range lawn; in its initial listing last week, the price is $989K.

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Creole Cooking
02/20/15 11:45am

NO PARKING VARIANCE FOR HEIGHTS MERCANTILE RETAIL REDO ON 7TH AND YALE Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsDespite a recommendation from the planning department staff to allow the development to proceed with significantly fewer parking places than required by ordinance, the planning commission yesterday denied a parking variance for the proposed Heights Mercantile mixed-use building complex along 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd., the longtime site of a warehouse complex for the Pappas Restaurant group. The Finial Group, the project’s developers, had hoped to be allowed to count 58 existing head-in public parking spaces along 7th St., many of them fronting the MKT Hike and Bike Trail, toward the development’s off-street parking requirements. [Previously on SwamplotRendering of proposed new building along Yale St.: Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

02/09/15 10:45am

Coltivare, 3320 White Oak Dr., Houston Heights

Red Tag at Coltivare, 3320 White Oak Dr., Houston HeightsHeights pizza-and-veggie spot Coltivare now sports a bright red tag (shown at right) next to its front door — after a city inspector found fault with its newly protected-from-weather patio space facing the side garden (the white tent-like structures in the photo above) last week. What’s wrong with covering a patio with a temporary structure for the winter?

Nothing, but it does trigger some permitting issues. “An uncovered patio isn’t considered an occupied space,” a Swamplot reader familiar with Houston building regulations writes. But: “A lot of folks don’t realize covered patios count as building square footage and must be permitted.”

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Restaurant Creep
02/05/15 12:45pm

Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston Heights

Proposed Heights Mercantile Retail and Office Complex,  7th St. at Yale St., Houston HeightsResidents near the section of 7th St. between Yale St. and Heights Blvd. have been discussing plans to turn the group of warehouse buildings long held by Pappas Restaurants into a 4-building “creative neighborhood and shopping destination” called Heights Mercantile. The Finial Group, which bought the properties from Pappas and a few other landowners last year, hired Austin architect Michael Hsu to come up with plans for renovating 3 of the buildings lining 7th St., tearing down the long warehouse lining Yale St. and replacing it with the new 2-story structure pictured above. The new project is a joint venture between Finial and a local investment firm called Radom Capital.

A notable feature of the 1.4-acre site plan is 3 stretches of head-in parking along 7th St. The plan shows 36 spaces on the north side of the street, facing the row of wooden bollards lining the hike-and-bike trail converted from the path of the former MKT rail line and 2 banks of 11 spaces in a row on the opposite side. Although head-in parking configurations dominate in some portions of the city (Rice Village, for example), new stretches of more than 4 spaces in a row have been prohibited by city regulations for decades.

The Pappas warehouses have head-in parking along 7th St. The developer not only wants to preserve and adjust that arrangement for the new development, but is asking the city to count these on-street spaces toward the required number of off-street spaces. The planning commission is scheduled to rule on the associated parking variance application this afternoon.

Here’s a site plan:

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Retail Revamp
01/20/15 12:30pm

Future Equilibrium Social House, 1030 Heights Blvd., Houston Heights

The latest in a stream of coffee shops to grace the bungalow at 1030 Heights Blvd. will open next month, the owner of the new establishment reports. Equilibrium Social House will serve coffee, teas, and baked goods in a building that’s been repainted (see above) since the departure of Boulevard Coffee. Inside, there’s a new counter and serving area and new furniture. New sliding doors will allow some interior spaces to be closed off for private meetings. The EQ patio will be open to both humans and dogs.

Photo: Equilibrium Social House

Three for Coffee