03/02/16 5:00pm

Carvana Vending Machine construction site, 10939 Katy Fwy., Memorial, Houston, 77079

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:

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Going Digital on I-10
02/24/16 1:00pm

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.

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Pick Up or Delivery
01/21/16 11:30am

Big Tex Tree Nursery, 10939 Katy Fwy., Memorial, Houston, 77079

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 another Houston 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:

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Land Cleared on I-10
01/12/16 9:30am

Paradise Motel, 8405 Hempstead Rd., Hempstead Industrial District, Houston, 77008

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.

Photo: Gail Garcia via Swamplot inbox

Industrial District Motel
07/08/15 4:45pm

Construction Trailer for Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, 1111 N. Dairy Ashford St., Memorial, Houston

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.

Photo: Brian Walz

Steakburgers
04/10/15 5:30pm

Demolition of Woodway Square Apartments, 1300 Wood Hollow Dr., Houston

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:

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Restocking
01/30/15 11:45am

Proposed 33-Story Residential Tower for San Felipe St., Houston

Proposed 33-Story Residential Tower for San Felipe St., HoustonAre 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:

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Going Somewhere?
01/29/15 4:00pm

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Which way is the view? From the balcony beneath the cantilevered section that marks the entry of the Modern mansion on nearly an acre in Pine Wood Estates? Through a pair of driveway gates off Memorial Drive, right where it makes its first bend west of the West Loop? Via butt-jointed glass walls, which open up further an already open floor plan (above)? MC2 Architects (pronounced Emcee Squared; publications have problems lifting their digits) designed the minimalist-but-lux tiltwall assembly for a client in 2012. It was first offered for sale 100 days ago, for $4.99 million.

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Modern on Memorial
01/05/15 1:30pm

Former Las Alamedas Restaurant, 8615 Katy Fwy., Hedwig Village, Houston

We’re still awaiting photos of the scene — both to confirm and to allow everyone to revel in the destruction — but a regular tipster informs Swamplot that the building backing up to Buffalo Bayou on the south side of I-10 near Voss Rd. that until mid-2009 housed the Las Alamedas Restaurant is being demolished. The back side of the building has been ripped open, the reader reports;, but as of a visit yesterday the front of the building remained intact.

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Now It’s Never Coming Back
07/16/14 4:00pm

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What’s next for the modestly proportioned  home in Bunker Hill Village that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in 1954 for insurance executive William Thaxton (top and middle photos) and the more recent, more commodious addition (above) of 1995 by Bob Inaba of Kirksey Architecture? The pedigreed and restored property, on a cul-de-sac off Strey Ln., which peels off Memorial Dr. east of Gessner, landed on the market Monday with a $3.195 million asking price. That’s a bit less than the $3.5 million sought in 2010 when owner Allen Gaw previously tried to move on — but a little more than the $2.9 million that earlier listing shrunk to after a year of no takers.
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Wright Righted?