03/10/17 5:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: YOUR WEEKEND HEIGHTS-CREEP FORECAST Future Yale Marketplace site at Yale St. and 610 Loop, Garden Oaks/Independence Heights, Houston, 77018“Garden Oaks and Oak Forest are [already] part of The Heights (the same way they are calling Spring Branch ‘Memorial’, and a lot of long time residents were angry that new residents called Northside Village ‘Tampico Heights’). I have bad news for the purists out there: if you live in Cottage Grove, Independence Heights, Shady Acres, Brooke Smith, Timbergrove/Lazybrook, those areas are now part of The Heights [as well].  . . . These hoods that have the 365 stores are gonna get more pricey and popular, since they are close to Downtown.” [Dj, commenting on Whole Foods’s 365 Garden Oaks Spot Now Emptied of Neff Rental Rentals] Rendering of 365 Garden Oaks: Boucher Design Group

03/09/17 5:30pm

610 Allston St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77007

The 2-bedroom home snuggled into the western side of the Alexan Heights apartment complex has hit the market this week, lagging a few days behind this weekend’s discovery of an unidentified skeleton in a wall cavity accessible from the attic. The holdout house was foreclosed on in early 2015 after then-owner Mary Cerruti stopped making mortgage payments; it’s not clear exactly when she went missing, but she reportedly sent someone a Valentine, the Chronicle‘s Emily Foxhall reported earlier this week.  Foxhall noted that while the bones were uncovered along with a pair of cheap red glasses like the ones Cerruti was known to wear, the skeleton had not yet been officially identified (nor had foul play been ruled either in or out).

The recently remodeled house is currently on the market for $439,900; the 1,161-sq.-ft. building sits on a 6,600-sq.-ft. lot, spooned on 3 sides by the Alexan:

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Selling the Scene
03/08/17 12:30pm

2723 Yale St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008
2723 Yale St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

As heralded by last Wednesday’s daily demolition report, the low-slung insurance and marketing office building at 2723 Yale St. is now in tatters. The post-smashing shot above was taken in a drive-by by a reader yesterday (who notes this morning that most of the debris has since been hauled off).

Planned for the lot is a new strip center being marketed by East Village developer Ancorian as a retail-office-restaurant mashup, “anchored” by the mini Whole Foods in the works across 610. The property is loosely sandwiched between the combination KFC-Taco Bell to the south and the side-by-side Burger King and new El Rey sitting along the North Loop feeder road (visible to the right).

Renderings of the proposed strip show a mix of brick, wood, metal grating, glass, and patches of other skin materials; a Newquest Properties leasing flier shows the building turning away from Yale St. to face W. 28th St., behind a thick protective later of parking:

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Cleaning Up in the Heights
03/06/17 10:45am

HUMAN SKELETON DISCOVERED IN THAT HEIGHTS HOUSE THAT WOULDN’T SELL TO TRAMMELL CROW 610 Allston St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77007A skeleton and some tattered cloth were discovered this weekend in an attic crawlspace in that house on Allston St. now neighbored on 3 sides by the 5-story Alexan Heights apartment complex, which occupies most of the Yale St. block between 6th St. and the Heights hike & bike trail. The home’s then-owner, Mary Cerruti, was reported missing in September of 2015, having been last seen for sure in the spring. ABC13 reports that investigators reportedly searched the house when Cerruti disappeared, but found only the bodies of several dead cats. Police are now trying to figure out whether or not the skeleton is Cerruti’s; it’s also not yet clear whether the skeleton came to land in the crawl space with assistance, or by its own doing. [ABC13; previously on Swamplot] Photo of 610 Allston St.: HAR

03/02/17 11:30am

Renderings of 2401 N. Shepherd, Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Renderings of 2401 N. Shepherd, Houston Heights, Houston, 77008The skewed look of the retail center planned by Braun Enterprises for 2401 N. Shepherd Dr. comes in large part from the misaligned footprints of the upper and lower stories of the eastern building, each twisted in opposite directions off of the right angles of the Heights street grid (though the lower layer appears to get mashed flat up against a setback line on the north side). Renderings of the site posted recently by Tipps Architecture show the twisty building paired with another single-story structure stretching west along W. 24th St., with some hangout space wedged between the 2. Some bent vertical strips and boxcutter window angles add that sat-on-the-delivery-box touch to the upper story of the eastern building, tentatively labeled with spots for retail, a café, and an upstairs fitness studio. 

How does one stray from the straight-and-narrow of classic Houston strip mall design while still fitting in all those required parking spots? Braun’s leasing flier shows a parking lot behind the 2 buildings, some angled-in street parking along W. 24th, and — perhaps taking a hint from the double-decker design of the H-E-B planned catty-corner across N. Shepherd — an additional level of parking tucked away on the roof:

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Rising Above on N. Shepherd
03/01/17 11:30am

Signage at Kroger, 239 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Signage at Kroger, 239 W. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008The removal of the “Right Store Right Price” sign tacked onto the side of the Kroger at 239 W. 20th St. briefly revealed long-buried evidence of the building’s long-hidden relationship with Weingarten, a parking lot cruising reader notes. Yes, that Weingarten (which currently owns the shopping center): the company’s account of its own history notes that the Weingarten family started out in the grocery biz, then got into real estate to build its own stores. The company dropped supermarkets altogether in the early 1980s and went into real estate full time.

By mid-afternoon yesterday, the newly unearthed traces of the company’s former association with the building had already been beiged out:

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Uncovered on W. 20th
01/13/17 12:30pm

CITY-WIDE DRAINAGE SWAT TEAM POSSIBLY BANKROLLED BY HEIGHTS WATERWORKS SALE Draft SWAT project mapMayor Turner announced plans for a dramatically monikered Storm Water Action Team at this week’s council meeting, along with 22 projects at the top the program’s initial list, based on metrics of urgency like frequency of 311 calls. The goal of the program is to deal with non-bayou-centric flooding issues like collapsed culverts and junk-clogged drainage ditches; flood czar Steve Costello said after the council meeting that the city wants to resolve the fixable issues at each site within 90 days of a site visit and initial drainage triage. Meagan Flynn writes this week that the $10 million currently budgeted for the program comes mostly from a one-time sale of city land; that land might well be the Heights Waterworks properties at W. 20th and Nicholson streets, which were sold to apartmenteer Alliance in mid-December for a reported $15.2 million. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Draft map of 22 SWAT project locations: City of Houston SWAT program materials

12/19/16 9:30am

STRAY CAT ADOPTION CAFE TO BE TAKEN IN BY KINDLY HEIGHTS DANCE STUDIO NiaMoves at 508 Pecore St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77009 Jack Witthaus writes that cat lady and CPA Renée Reed has finally found a home for El Gato Coffeehouse, a long-planned cafe intended to double as a venue for playing with up-for-adoption cats. Reed has been looking for a space since at least June, when she announced a partnership with the Houston Humane Society to help socialize and find homes for the organization’s rescue animals, à la Austin’s Blue Cat Cafe. Witthaus reports that Reed is signing a lease with  yoga and dance studio NiaMoves on Pecore St., which will be leasing part of its property — that’ll include enough space for both a cat lounge and the 53-ft.-long shipping container where food and drink prep will be sequestered, for reasons of city health code. [Houston Business Journal] Photo of NiaMoves at 508 Pecore St.: Nia M.

Cafe Finds a Home
12/15/16 4:45pm

Bird Barbershop, 420 E. 20th St., Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

Remodel of Heights Plaza, 420 E. 20th St., Heights, Houston, 77008Austin-based Shiner-wielding Bird’s Barbershop opened up its first Houston location last week in the remodeled 1955 retail strip at 420 E. 20th St., on the end of the building formerly home to J & R Boudin and Frenchy’s Sausage Co. The bubblegum pink parking stripes were joined by the spots above over the summer, as well as the circular window now floating in the middle of a wall where the facade’s westernmost door used to be.

A rep from the company says the Houston store was designed with community swimming pools in mind, which explains the interior tile scheme and watery motifs:

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420 in the Heights
11/18/16 5:15pm

APARTMENT DEVELOPER ALLIANCE READY TO BUY LANDMARKED HEIGHTS WATERWORKS LAND Heights Reservoir land saleTurns out serial multifamily developer Alliance Residential is the previously unnamed entity planning to buy the Heights waterworks properties the city put on the market earlier this year (after awarding parts of the reservoir complex protected landmark status 6 months prior).  A notice from the city planning department today says Alliance beat out 18 other bidders on the 2 parcels (catty-corner from one another across Nicholson and W. 20th streets), and also mentions that the city has to accept the highest offer for the sale. A public meeting about the plans for the land, including what role those tax-relevant historic structures might have in any proposed new development, is scheduled for the 29th (that’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) at the restored fire station on W. 12th St. [Houston Planning Commission] Map of Heights Reservoir properties: City of Houston

11/09/16 5:45pm

Voting Signs, Houston

A pair of electorally-minded readers send in 2 separate claims that Prop. 1 — the H-E-B-backed Heights alcohol sales one, not the provoke-Texas-into-reforming-education-funding-by-messing-with-the-system one — didn’t show up on their ballots yesterday, even though they were each registered to vote in what the Tax Assessor’s office calls the boundaries of the historic dry zone. Hector DeLeon of the Harris County Clerk’s outreach department told Swamplot earlier today that in the 1 case of a missing ballot option they’d heard about and looked into — in the context of around a 25 percent and thousands-of-voters margin of victory for the pro-beer-and-wine-sales folks —  the problem appeared to be a voter not seeing where on the ballot the proposition was listed, rather than an actual missing option.

DeLeon does say, however, that while it’s extraordinarily rare, it’s not impossible that the local option election could have be left off of a few ballots. An election worker has to select some location info by hand in the process of generating the 4-digit voting machine access codes that voters get upon signing the polling place ledger; DeLeon says that can (and occasionally, does) leave room for a who-votes-on-what mistake, especially in the case of certain unusual election zones (like, say, the Lost City of Houston Heights). One reader claims a poll worker at the Helms Community Learning Center on W. 21st St. told him that this sort of input error had been made on some ballots shortly after the polls opened, and had been corrected for the voters who stuck around to sort it out and get a new code issued. (The reader, who had already cast their ballot and came back later to learn more about what had happened, says they didn’t get to cast a new one.) DeLeon also says that the county clerk’s office doesn’t keep any records of access code issues if they’re caused by human error and considered resolved at the site — so there would be no official documentation to check against the reader’s story.

Photo: Ed T [license]

Not Rigged, Just Human
11/08/16 3:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE CHICKEN, THE EGG, AND THE HOUSTON SPRAWLSCAPE Proposed Heights H-E-B with 10 ft. building setback“I do usually avoid stores with no bike parking or unfriendly pedestrian/bike access, so I see the other side of [the parking lot] coin. Stores need to cater to their customers; it’s customer demand that’s ultimately at fault for hideous parking lots and runoff and heat islands and sprawl and all the rest. But one way to drive demand is creating feedback loops, and one way to start that is stores building less parking.” [Sid, commenting on H-E-B’s Plan and Backup Plan for the Double Decker Heights Dry Zone Store] Rendering of preliminary parking garage plans for N. Shepherd H-E-B: Houston Planning Commission