MIDTOWN SEARS CLOSURE NETS RICE 9 ACRES NEAR THE WHEELER TRANSIT CENTER The company that manages Rice University’s $5.3 billion endowment last week bought out the 28 years remaining on a 99-year lease the university had signed with the Sears department store on its Midtown property back in 1945. The Sears at 4201 Main St., which opened in 1939, will close in late January, after a liquidation sale beginning early next month, it was announced today. Rice also bought 3 adjacent acres owned by Sears, giving the university a multi-block 9.4-acre chunk of land near Metro’s Wheeler Transit Center and the Southwest Fwy. it can now decide what to do with. Among the properties on that land: the Sears Auto Center at 4111 Fannin and the Fiesta Mart at 4200 San Jacinto, which has a lease that runs for 2 more years. The Sears’s original art deco façade was covered with metal panels in the 1960s. Rice prez David Leebron says the university will now “initiate a process of thoughtful planning for the future use of this land,” with a yearlong study of options directed by the Rice Management Company. [Houston Chronicle; Click2Houston] Photo: Pete Molick via Swamplot Flickr pool
ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE SAYS IT’LL OPEN 4 MORE HOUSTON SPOTS NOW THAT VINTAGE PARK IS OFF ITS HANDS Alamo Drafthouse followed up this week’s confirmation that its Vintage Park theater is becoming a Star Cinema Grill by announcing that it plans to open 4 more Houston area locations. Details on where and when are still murky (other than a reiteration that plans for the Imperial Market spot in Sugar Land are still on), but a rep told Kyle Hagerty earlier this week that the company has already signed 3 leases. That may or may not include the 10-year lease signed back in 2013 for a spot in the long-stalled Regent Square development — which did get some permits this fall, as somebody at Morris Architects previously claimed would happen. [Previously on Swamplot] Rendering of proposed Alamo Drafthouse in Sugar Land: Imperial Market
The Palace Bowling Lanes building on Bellaire Blvd. (which picked up the new moniker Bowl on Bellaire about a year ago) appears to have been closed since Friday, says a reader who “showed up [Saturday] morning for the youth bowling league to find that the locks have been changed and they are not open for business.” Katherine Feser confirms this afternoon that the property is still closed, though a note on the door says the tenant can have new keys if and when all the delinquent rent is paid.
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OYSTER TYCOONS FIGHT OVER BAYBOTTOM TERRITORY AS REEFS RECOVER FROM FLOODING More action is expected next week in the Galveston County courtroom hosting part of the ongoing underwater real estate fight involving some of the biggest names in the local oyster fishing industry, writes Harvey Rice. At stake: oyster rights on 23,000 acres of subsea land leased out in 2014 by the Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District — including some areas already leased out to other fishermen by Texas Parks and Wildlife. The move spurred several lawsuits, first from the lessee’s industry competitors and (former) friends, and later from the state of Texas itself; the issue has since worked its way to several appeals courts, one of which stopped the case from being moved to Chambers County. And even the oysters themselves have faced a dramatic few years, Rice notes, between the recent Houston–area flooding (which sent enough freshwater runoff to the coast to drastically alter the bay’s salt levels) and the stretch of drought before that (which let salinity get too high). [Houston Chronicle] Map of oyster habitat in Galveston Bay: General Land Office