It may not look like a hole lot is going on in there in this photo taken a few months ago, but the 2,492-sq.-ft. 1940-vintage retail building at the southeast corner of White Oak Dr. and Oxford St. in the Heights — a crooked saunter across the street from Onion Creek Coffee House and a lot and a street down from the Heights hike-and-bike trail (and this) — will be filled with bagels this summer, promises its new proprietor. Behind its plywood poker face, the property at 3119 White Oak Dr. has been stuffed with a bagel oven, tile-front counters, and a walk-in refrigerator, according to the social media accounts of the establishment, known as Golden Bagels and Coffee. Soon to be on the menu, in addition to the comestibles promised in the shop’s name: local cured and smoked fish.
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Bagels for the Heights
BONES FOUND IN HOLDOUT HEIGHTS HOUSE ATTIC TELL NO TALES Fox26 has now updated its story from March on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the fate of Mary Cerruti, the former owner of the 2-bedroom home at 610 Allston St. in the Heights, whose mysterious disappearance in 2015 roughly coincided with the latter stages of Trammell Crow’s construction of the 6-story Alexan Heights apartment complex adjacent to her home. Cerruti was a vocal opponent of the development who refused to sell her property and later reportedly complained greatly about the inconveniences caused by the construction. Her former home is now surrounded on 3 sides by the 6-story apartment building; and earlier this year renters in the same home discovered some unidentified human remains — next to a pair of red reading glasses similar to ones Cerruti wore — behind a loose board in the attic. Today, reports Kaitlin Monte, the Harris County Medical Examiner has announced that it cannot determine the cause of death from that evidence —“because the remains were skeletonized.” The 1,161-sq.-ft. home, meanwhile, has been on the market since March, though the asking price has jumped from $439,900 to $475,000. [Fox26; HAR; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HAR
Just opened this week in Re:Vive Development’s new add-on strip center at 721 W. 19th St., just west of Shepherd Dr.: the first Houston outpost of Austin’s Tarka Indian Kitchen chain, a Chipotle-style “fast casual” restaurant serving curries, kabobs, and — yes — naaninis. Next door to diners in the 4,295-sq.-ft. steel-frame building, the new Benjamin Moore Paints store (seen here under construction last year) is also open, a reader reports.
In lieu of a parking-space-and-a-half on the side of the building facing past more parking onto the more sugary part of the center closer to Shepherd (home to Fat Cat Creamery, Hugs and Donuts, Smoothie King, and KA Sushi) is this dusty square, designated for a future patio:
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Tarka Indian Kitchen in the Heights
BERNIE’S BURGER BUS ALCOHOL LICENSE DETAINED AFTER PROXIMITY TO SCHOOL Maybe you’ve heard the rumor — that the opening of the Bernie’s Burger Bus wheels-off location now all but complete next to the pediatric clinic in the new Braun Enterprises commercial building constructed on the former Alabama Furniture spot at 2200 Yale St. in the Heights has been delayed on account of the owners having trouble getting a beer and wine license because they didn’t take into consideration the fact that the restaurant’s 22nd St. side (pictured above under construction in April) would be across the street from Hamilton Junior High School? It’s true — well sort of, but not entirely. “The rumors are correct,” Bus chef Justin Turner explains on the restaurant’s Facebook page. There have indeed been “issues with the timeliness of getting our license due to the proximity of the school.” But, Turner writes, “We had all that info even before signing the lease.” What’s the issue then? The laws regarding alcohol sales near schools “are vague and very subjective . . . different people had different interpretations,” Turner notes. The owners were “told the variance that had to be filed with city of Houston would only take 30-45 days and it went on just over 120. . . . Long story short we’re [past] the city of Houston and on to Austin where we expect no or very little delays.” Best guesses for an opening date? “Our hope is end of July or early August but unfortunately at this time it is out of our control and left up to the guidance of our legal team and the information they provide us from the city and the state.” [Bernie’s Burger Bus via HAIF] Photo: Bernie’s Burger Bus
All those folks who were wringing hands about last year’s electoral nixing of the rule against carry-out alcohol sales in the Houston Heights possibly opening the door to a future rollback of the area’s other alcohol restrictions — well, you may find yourselves feeling kinda vindicated right about now: the petition process has just kicked off to once again crank up the ol’ special election machinery, this time on the question of alcohol sales for on-site consumption in the Heights Dry-ish Zone. The goal: no more private-club workarounds for the area’s bars and restaurants — just regular drink sales.
What do we know so far about the cast of characters starring in this new season of Heights electoral intrigue? At least one familiar name has entered the picture, so far:
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A segment of the Heights Waterworks properties at 20th and Nicholson St. should be making its way into the hands of Braun Enterprises later this year, Katherine Feser reports this morning in the Chronicle. Building on Houston’s budding tradition of high profile redevelopment of decommissioned water storage tanks, the company will be turning the handful of pump station and reservoir structures on the block southeast of 20th and Nicholson into a handful of restaurants and bars, catty-corner from Alliance’s planned apartments.
One of the features called out in the city’s 2015 declaration of the property as a protected landmark was the “unusual grass roof” atop the reservoir itself; Tipps Architecture’s design for the structure’s redevelopment shows some grass in place on a rooftop patio, as well as a 3-story glassy extension protruding from the east face of the 2-story building. Other views of the complex show a lawn in between the building labeled Heights Tap & Bar above and the pumphouse to the south:
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Turning the Waterworks Back On
One of the hazards of having a street-facing 3,000-sq.-ft. garden adjacent to your restaurant’s back patio: plant theft. But Coltivare chef Ryan Pera tells Bloomberg reporter Kate Krader that the Heights restaurant has more to watch out for than your typical fruit-off-the-vine snatchings by grabby customers. Namely: 3 of the restaurant’s fruit trees have gone missing, including “a 6-ft.-tall kumquat tree, worth about $175.” Pera tells Krader he was “stunned and hurt, but more awed by the fact that it was obviously planned. I mean, someone had to come prepared with proper garden tools, a truck, and the know-how on how to steal a tree.”
Photo of Coltivare, 3320 White Oak Dr.: Coltivare
Grand Theft Citrus Japonica
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN THEY RAISED GREAT GRANNY’S “This house has some wonderful history. It was originally a one story that was raised up by cranes and the ground level story was built underneath. During WW One, they would roll up the rugs and host dances for the soldiers. It was the home of my great grandparents who lived there with their children when they moved from PA. My two spinster Great Aunts lived there all their lives. It broke the hearts of the family when it had to be sold but no one had the means to buy and restore it. I wanted to share for those of you that had posted the kind comments.” [Renee Lauckner, commenting on Corner Lot Hidden Away for Decades Beneath 1904 Heights House Could Join the Commercial Crowd] Photo: Swamplot inbox
COMMENT OF THE DAY: AFFORDABLE HOMES NEED SMALLER LOTS “Large houses are not the cause of being priced out of the Heights, they’re the effect. With land values approaching $75/sf at the peak of the market, that’s almost half-a-million dollars for a full-sized lot. If you put a 2000-sq.-ft. house on that lot (at $150/sf construction cost), you’re looking at $800k. Or $400/sf. There’s a very thin market for that size house at that price point.
There are tons of more affordable options in or near the Heights, but they aren’t going to come with 6000 sq. ft. of dirt. The secret to providing more affordable housing is to just build more housing. In the Heights, that’s generally come in the form of replacing one bungalow with two modest two-story houses. In Shady Acres, it’s usually replacing TWO bungalows with SIX townhouses. There are literally hundreds of reasonable-sized houses (2000-2500 s.f.) that have been created this way in the Free Heights over the last decade. Without them, a lot MORE people would have been priced out of the neighborhood.” [Angostura, commenting on Comment of the Day: Aren’t these the Heights Design Guidelines We’ve Been Asking For?] Illustration: Lulu
A commercial realty sign was spotted this week near the 110-plus-years-old house on W. 20th St. at the northeast corner with Ashland St., per the report of a reader on the prowl with a pet. The double-decker 1904 home is actually the only piece of land at the intersection that isn’t already involved in some sort of business dealings, whether by way of conversion to retail space (like the house across Ashland hosting the Heights Florist Shop), as simple logistical support (like the parking lot across W. 20th), or as part of higher commercial aspirations (as demonstrated by the St. Joseph medical midrise, diagonally across). CRBE, meanwhile, has its own tentative suggestions of what could be done with the .64-acre property, which is being marketed for ground lease:
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W. 20th, East of Waterworks
JUNE IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO MAKE NOISE IN PERSON ABOUT THE NEW HEIGHTS HISTORIC DISTRICT DESIGN GUIDELINES As of this evening, the Heights-applicable design guidelines being presented at the public meeting planned for June aren’t posted on the City’s website yet, but they purportedly will be by the end of next week. In the meanwhile, Jonathan McElvy has a rundown of some of the proposed rules, which he suggests in the Leader today has shifted his view of the codification process from a cause for celebration (no more seemingly arbitrary denials of that raised eave that looks just like your neighbor’s!) to a potential cause for concern — particularly for those hoping to populate the neighborhood with families wanting to add on to their bungalows. “What should frighten people the most in the Heights,” writes McElvy, is that “the proposed guidelines say that if you have a 6,600-square-foot lot, your home can be no more than 2,700 square feet. If you have a 5,000-square-foot lot, your home can be no larger than 2,200 square feet“ — including garage and porch square footage. If you’ve got an opinion about that, the meeting will be on June 20th at the Heights Fire Station from 6 to 8. [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 511 E. 24th St.: HAR
A CHECK ON EXPIRATION DATES AMID THE HEIGHTS FOODIE BOOM The restaurant–heavy redevelopment of various used car dealerships and auto shops along N. Shepherd Dr. might bring with it some future trouble for the Heights area, Jonathan McElvy suggests in his column for the Leader this week. McElvy worries that too many new spots chasing after trends in the “culinary preferences of Houston’s red-hot foodie community,” (as he notes recently closed-for-re-concepting Heights restaurant Glass Wall described it) may mean that the area is “about to enter a period of constant turnover along our most important corridor.” Noting the startling estimates on how many restaurants close in fewer than 5 years (whether due to lack of business knowledge, bad construction traffic, or sheer bad luck), McElvy writes that while there’s little to be done to curb the popularity of “farm-to-table restaurants that know how to plate a dish but don’t have a clue how to pay franchise taxes on time . . . it is not going to help our community if 1 business opens and another closes every other week.” [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Karen S.
PUTTING THE HEIGHTS BACK IN ITS . . . UH, PLACES
“In their rush to capitalize on the popularity of the district, businesses and developers have awkwardly assumed the mantle of the name ‘Heights,’ even though they’re clearly outside the zone of its accepted borders,” writes Jeff Balke this morning for the Houston Press. Where exactly are those accepted borders? And which variation means what? Balke suggests something between a taxonomical scheme and an etiquette lesson on selecting the proper name for whatever flavor of Heights, Heights-adjacent and Heights-aspiring territory you may be seeking to invoke — from the historic city originally spurring the name, all the way to the fringe territories of Katyville and the Heights Walmart. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
HUNKY DORY AND BERNADINE’S ARE SHUTTING DOWN NEXT WEEK AFTER ALL The scandal– and bankruptcy-embroiled Treadsack Group just announced that both Hunky Dory Tavern and Bernadine’s are closing next week. After the company announced in late March that both restaurants would stay open for the time being, the last day of action for each is now set as May 24th. The expanding group of Killen’s meat vendors announced on Monday that it had snagged Bernadine’s chef Graham Laborde (who stepped in to run Hunky Dory’s kitchen too, after Richard Knight left in February). No related updates from also-in-Chapter-11 Down House, or any of the other restaurants in the group. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Hunky Dory
The slumping 1930’s storefront at the northeast corner of Ashland and W. 11th St. has been given the all-clear to be cleared out, a reader notes from city paperwork spotted on the door late last week (with this morning’s daily demolition report hot on his heels to confirm the story). Both the street-fronting corner property and its taller neighbor are owned by a legal entity called Villa Incognito, a name which appears to have been created less than a year after the Tom Robbins novel of the same name was published. The company’s registered agent also appears to own the next property down the row at 519 W. 11th.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Coming Down in the Heights