03/02/18 12:30pm

Newly-released case files from the Houston Police Department include a investigator’s official best guess at how Mary Cerruti’s skeleton ended up in a 5 ft.-9 in. by 1 ft.-7 in. space between the walls of her bungalow: a plank in the attic collapsed, writes detective T. Fay, sending Cerruti down into the 8-and-a-half-foot tall opening where she became trapped and died. The photo above — one of 235 police took at the scene — shows the hole in the floorboards where her remains were found to the right of the attic door.

Cerruti, the former homeowner, was an opponent of the Yale at 6th apartments that eventually encircled her bungalow at 610 Allston St. On an afternoon last March — reports the Chronicle’s Emily Foxhall, who’s been all over the story as it’s developed — firefighters responding to a 911 call from the new renter who’d discovered the remains arrived at the address and busted open the wall from the house’s first floor. Fay, the detective, speculated that the spot in the wall housing the bones might once have been a linen closet, sealed off by renovations.

A missing person’s report filed 2 years earlier in 2015 — after Cerruti first disappeared — suggested that the remains were likely hers. But with the bones and a few other items as the only evidence police could recover from the scene, there wasn’t much for them to investigate. There were no signs of foul play at the bungalow, and no reason to believe someone was out to harm Cerruti. The only thing police had left to do was wait for forensic identification — which the medical examiner announced last month.

Photo: Houston Police Department via Emily Foxhall

A Hole in the Attic
02/28/18 4:45pm

Coming soon to the block on the Katy Fwy.’s westbound feeder just east of the Camden Heights Apartments: a new Courtyard by Marriott hotel. Work on the 8-story building began late last year after the hotel chain filed construction permits on the just-over-an-acre parcel at 3220 Katy Fwy. — which sits between Columbia and Oxford streets. The photo at top sent in by a Swamplot reader looks south from E. 4th St. toward I-10 to show a couple of beams now staking out the lot.

The hotel building will front Columbia on the west side of the parcel, where a First National Bank branch and its drive-thru once sat before they were demolished a few years ago. East of the hotel, a parking garage is planned along Oxford, behind the McBillboard shown in the photo above. That structure’s northeast corner will go in place of a single-family house on 4th St. that was town down before the bank disappeared.

Photos: Kepdogg

By the Katy
02/27/18 10:30am

A new shopping center dubbed South Heights on White Oak has plans to land in the shared parking lot on White Oak Dr. just west of the former Jimmy’s Ice House at Threlkeld St. The rendering at top — taken from a leasing flyer for the development put out by Centric Commercial — views the proposed woodsy building from the north side of White Oak Dr., at the edge of the lot between Christian’s Tailgate and Barnaby’s Cafe. On the east side of the building, a deck fronted by a glass curtain wall cantilevers over a drainage ditch that runs north from White Oak Bayou through the woods between the site and the neighboring ice house.

A view across the parking lot from its southwest corner shows the low-lying area on the right:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Low-Slung in the Heights
02/26/18 4:45pm

Last December a demolition permit was filed on the car hangar parked between Tacos A Go Go and Christian’s Tailgate on the north side of White Oak Dr. Now, a leasing flyer for a neighboring development indicates a new 244-car garage is proposed in place of the existing structure. But that lot measures only 100 by 140 ft. How could 244 parking spaces fit on a lot where fewer than 20 spots exist now?

Well, what if the owner of the property was connected to Easy Park, a developer specializing in automated parking garages? An entity associated with the developer bought the garage at 2912 White Oak in 2016 along with the strip of 3 buildings around it — that includes Tacos A Go Go, Pho Binh Heights, and Lucky Food Mart to the west, and Barnaby’s Cafe and Public House Heights to the east. The Chicago-based company manufactures parts for automated parking developments, finances them, and operates them. It’s been involved in past projects in New York, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Washington D.C., and Mexico City.

Here’s what a robo-valet with parts produced by Easy Park looks like inside The Lift at Juniper St., an 8-story, 228-car garage in Philadelphia:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Double-Parked
02/26/18 11:45am

Postino hasn’t opened yet, but there’s already been a notable change to the decor at the Arizona-based wine cafe chain’s first Texas location. Gone from the construction fencing outside the restaurant’s patio are the signs pictured at top that read, “DRINKING WINE AT LUNCH IS NOT A CRIME.” In their place, new banners featuring only Postino’s name and social media handle have appeared. The photo above views them from the west side of the Heights Mercantile development at the corner of 7th St. and Yale.

Here’s another look at the current fence abutting Rye 51’s storefront on 7th St.:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Restaurant Rebranding
02/20/18 10:45am

The Label Warehouse clothing resale store 3 doors down from Boomtown Coffee on 19th St. is now selling off the last of its stock ahead of the planned closing announced on its Facebook page earlier this month. The Heights thrift venue and its Midtown sibling location on the corner of Main and Eagle streets — also on its way out of business — are the last 2 spots remaining in the chain, which once held outposts in Conroe, Misouri City, and Angleton, as well as others in Houston. Its first location — opened at 6708 Harrisburg under the name Insurance Claims Fire Sale Warehouse in the early 60s — closed last year.

The photo at top looks south across 19th St. to show the few items left in the soon-to-be shuttered 7,425-sq.-ft. Heights building.

Photos: Some Random Property Gossip (storefront); Chelsi H. (sign)

Hand-Me-Down
02/15/18 2:00pm

The skeleton of a new strip center across the street from the Alexan Yale St. apartments — dubbed Heights Village by a banner attached to its construction fencing — is now rising on the corner of Yale and W. 5th St. Construction began on the just-under-an-acre parcel last month, reports the Swamplot reader who snapped the above photo of the site from outside the Alexan complex. The corner — on the opposite end of the block from where Better Luck Tomorrow opened last year — had been vacant since 2010, when a warehouse on the site was demolished.

The aerial rendering above from Cisneros Design Studio shows what an upper-story Alexan Yale St. resident might see out the window when the retail center is complete. Parking lots hug the building on 3 sides and include entrances on Yale, 5th. St., and Yale Ct. — a short dead end that runs behind the property. Patio seating is shown fronting the chamfered corner on the building’s northwest quadrant, and an elevated walkway runs along its storefronts, a few steps up from the lot.

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Yale Retail
02/14/18 11:45am

Braun Realty is gearing up to replace Johnny’s Gold Brick’s next door neighbor and redo the warehouse behind the 2 structures as part of a new retail development it has planned for the corner of Yale and Aurora. An entity connected to the developer snatched up the property on Yale — as well as a few adjacent parcels east on Aurora — last October. The site plan above taken from Braun’s leasing flyer for the complex now indicates all 3 buildings decked out with new adjacent patios. East of the buildings, a parking lot sports entrances on both Aurora and an alley that runs north of the site.

The photo at top shows the front door to Johnny’s Gold Brick next to the brown brick building that Lucas Craftsmanship contractors moved out of in 2015. Here’s the view from the corner of Yale and Aurora showing the 2-story structure that’s slated to replace the former construction office:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Heights Corner Shake-Up
01/31/18 2:45pm

Which suits the new Washington Ave better: sidewalk-fronting buildings or strip centers? If ever there were a project that illustrated that fundamental choice, it’s this one. New exterior renderings from developer NewQuest show the block of Washington between Leverkuhn and Jackson Hill St., just west of Five Guys’s strip center spot, redone as Washington Central — a  shopping center with one building set back from the street and the other left out on the curb.

The 9,040-sq.-ft. planned strip center building shown fronting the parking lot in the renderings above provides some company for the existing brick building east of it. Planted on the corner of Washington and Leverkuhn since 1930, the 2-story structure has been empty since Guadalajara Bakery shuttered in it nearly 6 years ago.

New large windows open the bakery building — shown below with some legalese on its face — onto the street:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Walk or Drive?
01/26/18 1:30pm

DRINKING WINE AT LUNCH IS NOT A CRIME, pleads signage outside of Postino, a chain of 7 restaurants in Arizona — and one in Colorado — now on its way to the west side of the Heights Mercantile development on W. 7th St. The photo at top shows construction underway on Postino’s patio, which will sit outside the restaurant on the corner of Yale and 7th St.

Clothing stores Rye 51 and The Gypsy Wagon opened adjacent to Postino’s planed spot last year inside the structure labeled “Bldg. 1” in the Heights Mercantile site plan below:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

7th at Yale
01/24/18 4:00pm

Harris County’s Institute of Forensic Sciences has now officially determined that the bones found in a holdout house on Allston St. now wrapped by an apartment complex whose developer came knocking but was unable to acquire the property belong to the homeowner who protested the development. Mary Cerruti spent time documenting construction on the Alexan Yale St. Yale at 6th apartments (formerly called Alexan Heights) starting in 2013 as they went up behind and around her bungalow at 610 Allston. Squinting behind red drugstore eyeglasses at a planning commission meeting on Valentines Day that year, the 61-year-old testified that “Literally, this project is going to be in my backyard. I’m surrounded.” Two years later, she disappeared.

Cerruti’s former home has been available for sale since March of last year. (“Amazing opportunity in the Houston Heights. New construction all around and the house is surrounded by the new Alexan Heights Luxury Apartments,” reads the listing.) Last November, the asking price for the 2-bedroom, 1-bath property was jacked up to $475,000. The only other property on the block left out of the apartment development is the vacant lot next door.

The county medical examiner’s new findings confirm what investigators had long suspected but had previously been unable to prove. Last June, an autopsy on the skeleton (which had been significantly chewed-up by rodents while it lay undiscovered inside the bungalow) showed that one of its legs was healing from a break — perhaps caused when its owner fell through a hole in the attic floorboards, into the spot high in the bungalow’s walls where her remains were later found.

Crime experts walked back their speculations 2 weeks ago, however, after DNA comparisons between one of the skeleton’s teeth and samples submitted by Cerruti’s relatives showed no exact match. But examiners were able to make their identification after comparing the skull’s jawbones to a photo of Cerruti and the video of her appearance before the planning commission, reports the Chronicle‘s Emily Foxhall.

Trammell Crow started work on the 5-story Alexan complex in 2013 behind and around Cerruti’s then-yellow bungalow:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

The Plot Thickens
01/19/18 2:30pm

Davis Commercial is showing images of a renovated building on the corner of 11th St. and Rutland in hopes of enticing a burger-flipping collective or something similar to take over the space. Q St. Salon & Boutique shared the 2,712-sq.-ft. building behind the parking-lot gazebo with Heights Discount Dry Cleaners until the latter closed down last year. A bungalow that now sits adjacent to Q St.’s spot to the west (hidden behind the building in the photo at top) is excised from the renderings.

The rendering above shows the building’s windows wiped clean of advertisements for laundry deals and extended to the ground. New awnings are shown in place of the blue vinyl ones now covering the storefronts at 402 W. 11th.

An 800-sq.-ft. patio is also planned for the building’s frontage along 11th St.:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Wash Cycle
01/19/18 12:30pm

Here’s the site on the block of 22nd St. bookended by the Vapor Gypsy e-cigarette shop and the Carl Barnes Funeral Home — and peppered with townhomes, an auto repair shop, and Refrigeration Gaskets of Texas — where 2 new row houses are about to be built. Wile Interests and Capital Realty are constructing the pair they’re calling the Bungalows on 22nd St. between Durham and Shepherd — in place of 2 dilapidated bungalows that were torn down on the same site last year.

A rowing-focused workout center called Crew Fitness will occupy the eastern bungalow in the development at 715 W. 22nd St.:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

One Oar the Other
01/16/18 1:30pm

Heights Vinyl is getting ready to box up its collection of grooved disks, turntables, and other analog audio items before bolting from the building it shares with Cat Veterinary Clinic at 3122 White Oak Dr. (The record store’s former neighbor and industry peer — 3mA Audio — moved out of the space directly next to the vet’s office last year.) Last April, an entity connected to developer Ancorian bought the 8,900-sq.-ft. strip — as well as the adjacent apartment building at 3110 White Oak.

On Sunday, Heights Vinyl announced via Facebook that it would be moving to a Fifth Ward warehouse building south of I-10 at 3301 Cline St. That building is divided into 2 tenant spaces — Heights Vinyl will take over the one shown below, fronting the parking lot along Grove St.:

CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Fifth Ward Bound