Along with starting up service at the new 8-story glass car dispensation machineon the former Big Tex Tree Nursery lot on I-10 this month, Carvana has released a bit of drone footage of the new facility (shown above). It doesn’t show the tower in action (though a video of a coin-triggered run-through of the original Nashville machine, which boasts only 5 stories of car-storage tower space, can be found here). The fly-by does show off some new grassy parking lot landscaping and the billboard that Carvana leased out to explain themselves, as well as a few of the residences on Lasso Ln. directly behind the machine. (That’s the east-bound Katy Fwy. on the left, with the flying ramps of Beltway 8 visible in the early morning haze.)
The house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for insurance company exec William Thaxton is back on the market again as of Friday, now listed at just $2.795 million. Wright designed the triangle-and-diamond-themed home with no air-conditioning system in 1954, though Thaxton and the builder eventually snuck some ducts into the red concrete floor; the mid-century space later got a classically-inspired makeover and circled the market drain toward lot-value sale and presumed teardown. But an early 1990’s buyer saved the property from demolition and removed the pineapple-shaped finials — while adding a high-ceilinged, right-angled extension which enclosed the almost-a-parallelogram pool in more of a central courtyard. (That extension contains a living room, lofted entertainment space, bedrooms, and a kitchen, meaning the occupant doesn’t have to spend time in the angular Wright portion of the building if they don’t want to. )
The new listing (the latest in an on-again-off-again series of market stints that started in 2010 at $3.5 million) includes a few new angles on the property, which (as seen from above) sits alongside a channelized ditch draining directly south from Memorial City Mall to Buffalo Bayou. The lights around the front door and entryway are equilateral triangles:
An excavator was spotted bowing its head yesterday afternoon in the freshly cleared spot at 12740 Memorial Dr., until recently populated by the likes of Baskin Robbins, Anne’s Salon, and A-1 Cleaners. Per an associated leasing flier for the property, the newly blanked space looks to be slated for drive-thru bank-dom, with a place next door for a retail friend. The land sits immediately next to a Bank of Texas branch (visible over the fence on the left), itself across W. Bough Ln. from a freestanding Chase. Heading south down Memorial Dr., a Prosperity Bank keeps watch over the next Memorial Bend bend with help from the strip-center BBVA Compass branch across the street.
A few readers have written in regarding the fate of the Baskin Robbins and its retail strip neighbors at 12740 Memorial Dr., just south of Town and Country Mall. The building which housed the now-closed scoop shop along with Katy defectorAnne’s Salon on Memorial and the local branch of More Hands Maid Service appears slated for a full tear-down and do-over (along with freestanding A-1 Cleaners next door), if plans from Streetwise Retail Advisor’s leasing flier are still on the mark:
The frame of the octagon-footed tower now rising at 10939 Katy Fwy. suggests that Carvana’s first Houston used vehicle vending machine may be a few stories taller than the 5-story Nashville machine that opened last year (the one featured dispensing a car in the mostly-online company’s noisy promotional video). Reader Tyler Battenfield sends the rainy day update above, showing the tower rising in place next to a more down-to-earth part of the structure, as shown in the construction plan preview that made its way to Swamplot back in early March:
Carvana has confirmed that the work going on now at the former Big Tex Tree Nursery lot at 10939 Katy Fwy. is setup for the giant car vending machine referenced in September bid documents labeled with the site’s address. Building permits issued in January were applied for under the name of largely-non-digital used-car chain DriveTime, an investor in the Phoenix-based startup that also allows Carvana to borrow facilities to prepare vehicles for sale.
The new vending machine could be the first in Texas; Carvana opened a vending machine in Nashville last November, and also has a pickup site in Atlanta for those who don’t want to deal with delivery service. A reader sends some fresh shots of the action at the site, as well as a glimpse at a building plan:
Update, 3/2: A Carvana spokesperson has confirmed to Swamplot that the company’s first Houston vending machine will be located at 10939 Katy Fwy. This story has been updated.
Online car dealership Carvana appears to have been planning to place a multi-story robotic car delivery system on the I-10-side lot that Big Tex Tree Nursery vacated after the December holidays wrapped up. A reader notes some construction bid documentation dating from September listing a project for the company at the 10939 Katy Fwy. address: The documents show a search for construction contractors for a ‘car vending machine’, scoped to involve multi-level car storage and an automated lift to bring vehicles down to the 1st floor on command.
But it looks like those plans fell through — at least as far as the location on the former Big Tex lot. Permits were issued last month to non-digital car dealer chain DriveTime for construction of a new sales building on the site. DriveTime currently has 4 locations around the Houston area, including one further west on the Katy Fwy. past Highway 6.
Carvana plugged in its first vending machine in Nashville last November, after jumping into the Houston market in October. The above video shows the Tennessee machine in action: cars are shuffled down from their glassy perch after users place a Carvana token into a coin slot.
The Memorial Branch of Big Tex Tree Nurseries at 10939 Katy Fwy. is closed for good, and its tree-dealings have moved south to the company’s Sugar Land locale for now. The Christmas trees disappeared after the holiday season, and everything else followed suit: “even the port-a-potty,” writes the reader who sent in photos of the now-bare freeway-side lot at Wycliffe and I-10, just outside Beltway 8. A Big Tex employee says the company is planning to open up anotherHouston location at some point, but for now the other spots in Sugar Land, Conroe, and Spring will have to do.
The lot is shown below post-faux-forest-departure; meanwhile, someone was out marking up the sidewalk with orange paint last week:
A last fleeting glimpse — a reader snapped this shot of the permanently closed Paradise Motel at 8405 Hempstead Rd., between the junctions with W. 11th St. and Washington Ave and just northeast of Hines’s Somerset Green development. A rent-a-fence is now up around the 6-building complex, which sits next door to Custom Duct and across the railroad tracks from Non-Ferrous Extrusions metal fabrication. The hotel opened in 1963, back in the pre-290 days when the Hempstead Hwy. was the primary route to Austin.
From the street, a Swamplot reader notes, the roll-on vehicle pictured here looks just like your typical construction trailer. But come around the side you can see the banner pinned to it, announcing a new Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. The latest link in the growing fast-food chain is about to arrive on the former site of the Lucky Village Chinese Buffet that was torn down at 1111 N. Dairy Ashford last year. The new Freddy’s between St. Mary’s Ln. and Barryknoll will join a parade of beef purveyors (Sam’s Burgers, Lynn’s Steakhouse, Hebert’s Specialty Meats) and fast-food joints (Jack-in-the-Box, Sonic, and the Raising Cane’s right next door) lining the west side of Dairy Ashford, roughly opposite Spring Branch ISD’s AstroTurf-lined Darrell Tully Stadium.
A shopper at the newly scooted-over Whole Foods Market at 1407 Voss Rd. (where Randalls once stood) sends these pics of the action seen taking place over the back fence of the grocery store, which opened this week. There, excavators are demolishing the west section of the Woodway Square Apartments and neighboring trees immediately behind the store’s loading dock. Here’s a view of one of the knocked-down sections, with another waiting patiently, ready to go:
Are we once again entering the “mightaswell” stage in the Houston real estate lifecycle? You know — the season for architecture firms near and far who’ve given up most hope that that bold, sorta-hush-hush, but definitively conceived-in-boom design they’ve been slaving over for the last several months will ever actually get built to come to terms with the idea that putting the pretty renderings on display for fans to gawk over what might have been isn’t such a bad consolation prize?
If so, these drawings of a 33-story residential tower on San Felipe — just west of Voss Rd., commenters on the HAIF message board figure — appear to be right on queue. They now appear in some of the new marketing materials of Dallas architects Humphreys & Partners, with no mention of a client. But a few details do come with: