- 903 N. Loop [HAR]
COMMENT OF THE DAY: YOUR WEEKEND HEIGHTS-CREEP FORECAST “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
Several readers reported this morning that the Garden Oaks-Independence Heights border location of construction equipment rental shop Neff Rental, on the northeast corner of Yale St. and the North Loop, has been clearing out this week. That’s a prerequisite step before any new construction equipment can be moved back onto the site, to start work on the 365 Garden Oaks store Whole Foods has planned for the property (as rendered above).
Plans for the corner depict the mini-store accompanied by both attached and freestanding retail spots, 3 of which have pending leases with a dentist, a cellphone company, and a medical business respectively, according to the marketing materials trying to hawk the remaining space (highlighted in yellow):
The name Yale Street Commons is currently sprinkled about the edge of the Pine Forest Business Center northeast of Yale and 34th St. in the form of a few variance request notices (like the one shown above standing by the abandoned strip of rail track running along the 36th St. side of the warehouse park). That notice is for a request to merge 2 chunks of land within the rectangle made by Yale, 34th, 36th St., and the north-south line where E. 35th St. currently dead ends into the industrial-slash-office park, a few residential doors west of Cortlandt St. The applicant also appears to be asking for permission not to extend E. 35th St. all the way through the property, which sits near the border between Independence Heights and Garden Oaks. The 6-acre center, which in recent years has housed a variety of construction contractors, was sold in May to Stonelake Capital — currently at work on the Westheimer Oaks center and that Westheimer-fronting 5-acre make-it-a-park-for-now on either side of Mid Ln.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
A scheme to demolish the 1949 Sears building at 4000 N. Shepherd Dr. and the Pine Forest Business Park behind it and replace it with an “Americana”-themed shopping center headlined by a new Sears store and a supermarket is only part of an unsolicited proposal sent to the national retailer, a representative of Weingarten Realty tells Swamplot. A brochure describing aspects of the proposal, which would replace the Streamline Moderne department store between Garden Oaks and Independence Heights with a higher density shopping center that the body copy implied would be styled in a manner akin to the residential designs of Frank Lloyd Wright, was posted online by the publicly traded REIT earlier this week.
Update, 2/19: Weingarten says the brochure was a “vision book” that was released to the public in error.
“The time is right for redevelopment” of the Sears at 4000 N. Shepherd Dr., declares a brochure published online earlier this week by Weingarten Realty. The brochure, which appears to be part of a proposal to Sears, which owns the 11.7-acre western portion of the site, says the REIT plans to partner with the retailer to turn the sleepy department store and the Pine Forest Business Park directly to its east into a “wonderfully connected and designed retail shopping destination for Garden Oaks, Oak Forest and neighborhoods around it,” including a new grocery store and restaurants.
No site plan is included in the presentation, but Weingarten notes that it plans to keep “the 2nd longest operating Houston Sears” open in some form throughout the redevelopment. “Weingarten’s vision is to acquire adjacent land,” then “temporarily relocate Sears into an existing building” — the Family Bingo Center at 641 W. Crosstimbers — before scraping and redoing the whole site.
Demos appear to be ready to commence on a good-sized swath of Independence Heights surrounding Booker T. Washington High School at 119 East 39th St.
“Seems everything between Yale and Main is about to be bulldozed… an entire neighborhood vanishing,” writes a reader. “It’s really kinda spooky looking — like an abandoned ghost town”:
ANOTHER IMPORTANT HISTORICAL SITE IN HOUSTON THAT DESERVES RECOGNITION The account may be a tad more florid, but Harbeer Sandhu’s satirical tale of an inmate-turned-entrepreneur’s plan to create a Houston museum dedicated to the private prison industry is only slightly more bizarre than the true story behind the birth of the Corrections Corporation of America, the world’s largest for-profit prison operator, in the still-operating Olympic Motel at 5714 Werner St. (less than a half-mile down I-45 from Gallery Furniture). Fences, barbed wire, and iron bars went up on the former hot-sheet motel in early 1984 to create the world’s first for-profit private prison, a detention center for 87 undocumented immigrants. Much has changed in the private prison industry since those humble feeder-road beginnings, where several detainees were able to escape by dislodging the air-conditioning units and climbing out through the holes. [Free Press Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photos: Harbeer Sandhu
A collection of a couple dozen or so bungalows along E. 31st 1/2 St. between Yale and Cortlandt in Independence Heights just a block or so north of the 610 Loop is the city’s newest historic district — and perhaps the one with the most colorful name: Starkweather. The subdividing of the neighborhood predates the establishment of Independence Heights as an actual independent city in 1915, but most of the homes were built between the late 1920s (when the city was annexed by Houston) and the 1940s. They were originally marketed to the African American community in the neighborhood. Here’s a map:
GIGGLING CO-FOUNDERS OF NATION’S LARGEST PRIVATE PRISON FIRM RECALL HIJINX BEHIND THE CONVERSION OF HOUSTON’S OLYMPIC MOTEL TO IMMIGRANT DETENTION CENTER And that motel is still standing, says a rep from Corrections Corporation of America; you can drive by the history yourself at 5714 Werner Rd. — just north, incidentally, of Independence Heights. Of course, the motel doesn’t seem to be taking reservations; the phone has been disconnected. But if you can’t book a room in the building, you can watch these fellas — CCA founders Tom Beasley and Don Hutto — reminisce about it. Though CCA’s practices have been called into question recently by Grassroots Leadership and Hair Balls, you wouldn’t know it from the fondness with which Beasley and Hutto tell the story of flying to Houston on New Year’s Eve in 1982, seeing the motel sign, and fixing up the place for the INS. It was quite a turnaround: Just a few weeks later, on Super Bowl Sunday, Hutto says, the facility was open, processing “87 undocumented aliens” its very first day. You can watch the video here. [Hair Balls; Grassroots Leadership; CCA] Video still: CCA
The finishing touches are being put on this somewhat totemic new building at the ReUse Warehouse site in Independence Heights. This one’s built on the concrete slab and with the steel beams of the old Public Works machine shop here at 9003 Main St., downcycling that building’s roof for use as its ceiling. It’ll serve as office space for Solid Waste Management staff; it’ll also house a workshop to process donated materials (usually the leftovers from new builds and the salvaged stuff from demos) and feature a recycled-art gallery. Zen T. C. Zheng reports that the building should be ready to go by June.
Photo: Allyn West
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ART THAT EVEN A BANKRUPTED DEVELOPER COULD MAKE “It’s actually a field of sewer hookups that never grew into being the apartments (presumably) that they were meant to become. The Art Guys simply appropriated the site for an afternoon to be a sculpture. It’s what they do.” [Robert Boyd, commenting on Headlines: Parking Meters on Washington Ave; Census Finds 812 Missing Houstonians] Photo: The Art Guys
COMMENT OF THE DAY: AND LIVING THERE WOULD DRIVE ME HALF OUT OF MY MIND “I pity the homeowner who has to enter ‘1513 1/2 E. 32nd 1/2 St.’ into any online form where they try to verify an address, or, god forbid, describe it to someone over the phone.” [j, commenting on Daily Demolition Report: Double Barbecue Toast]
After taking in this weekend’s open house at the thriving shipping-container art colony ensconced in Stephen and Thedra Cullar-Ledford’s Independence Art Studios at 419 Janisch Rd. between Shepherd and Yale (above), fine-arts hound Robert Boyd pokes around a few more streets in Independence Heights — and finds a lot more art lurking in the neighborhood’s big lots. Boyd writes: “I think we can say that this is a little hidden art neighborhood. And if it follows the pattern of other art neighborhoods like Montrose and Rice Military, in 25 years or so, it will be full of expensive townhomes.”
Photos: Robert Boyd. Sculpture: Jonathan Clark