01/15/19 11:00am

MIDTOWN APARTMENT DEVELOPER COULD OUTDO ITSELF ON THE OTHER SIDE OF LA BRANCH ST. The developer with a 7-story apartment complex underway at 2111 Austin St. “is debating putting a 12- or 20-story high-rise on a second piece of land” across the street,” its president tells the HBJ’s Fauzeya Rahman. Winther Investments bought both the formerly vacant parcels in 2013 and broke ground on the first project last June. It’s going up catty-corner southwest of the St. Josephs Professional Building off the Pierce Elevated. [HBJ ($)]

01/11/19 2:45pm

Last night Houston’s planning and development department spelled out a proposal to run a new pair of protected bike lanes on Austin St. from Buffalo Bayou to HCC’s main campus in Midtown. South of the college, the officially-designated bike route would continue down to Hermann Park along La Branch and Crawford streets but without anything to buffer it from the rest of the road.

Throughout Downtown and the northern portion of Midtown ending at McGowen St., plans show the bike lanes separated from the street by 2-ft.:

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A Fairly Straightforward Route
12/20/18 4:00pm

Any and all rumblings you may have heard coming from inside the former Greensheet building on Main St. lately should have now ceased, at least for a little while: Demolition and abatement inside the 5-story structure are done and the architects at Metalab studio are thinking over a redo of it that’ll include “creative office space” and “probably retail, food and drink on the ground floor,” writes the firm’s principal Joe Meppelink (adding that before Greensheet moved in, the 1955 structure was occupied by IBM.) That roster of tenants should feel right at home next to the other mixed-use buildings that Australian developer Caydon has said it plans to build between the former Greensheet building and the condo tower — dubbed The Midtown — that it topped out earlier this month 2 blocks to the south, between Drew and Tuam streets.

Inside, the upper-story windows of the office building frame a view of the upper-Midtown skyline:

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Turning the Page
12/19/18 3:45pm

Just because the St. Joseph’s Professional Building isn’t getting a pair of massive exterior arms doesn’t mean it isn’t getting some of the more, um, professional building upgrades you might expect to see in an office structure. Boxer Property CEO Andrew Segal tells Swamplot that the company — which bought the building last year — is adding wine storage to its basement and plans to start work soon on a restaurant for its ground floor. It’ll go at the base of the red brick podium where a couple of cherry-pickers have been spotted in recent months shoring up deteriorating portions of the brickwork. (In place of the illuminated crosses Boxer removed from the building’s upper facades about a year ago, some sort of “fun graphic” is still planned, according to Segal.)

On the 8th story — part of which is shown above — new collaborative office space and adjacent amenities have already cropped up:

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Along the Pierce Elevated
12/19/18 10:30am

The interior is dark and the patio umbrellas drawn tight at Bagby St. bar Sterling House where there’s been “no business activity for over 2 weeks,” reports a vigilant Swamplot tipster. Absent the drinking crowd, the structure’s gone back to looking a bit more like it did before trading up its run-down domestic existence for entry into the Midtown bar scene in 2016. In order to effect the switch-up, workers gutted and largely reconstructed the building, adding a fire escape onto its south facade and new fencing around its outskirts. They also extended the upstairs porch to hug the entire second-story of the building. (Previously, it ended at the edge of the canopy shown on the left, above the business’s dangling signage.)

The house’s namesake: Ross S. Sterling, co-founder of Humble Oil Company and, later, Governor of Texas from 1931 to 1933. He never actually owned 3015 Bagby St.; members of his family did. And even with the recent renovations, it’s a long way off from that other white house (9 bedrooms, 15 baths) he’s remembered for over in La Porte across the Ship Channel from his Baytown factory.

Photos: Swamplox inbox

3015 Bagby St.
12/14/18 11:30am

Last year, Boxer Property told reporters it wanted to do something “iconic” with the St. Joseph’s Professional Building along the Pierce Elevated. Well, how about this idea: bringing the 18-story Midtown office building to life by attaching 2 massive, swinging arms to its east and west sides. Boxer engaged The Art Guys (Jack Massing and Michael Galbreth) shortly after purchasing the building in September 2017 to make it happen. They worked on the project in secret, dubbing it The Walking Building. It had an estimated budget of $2.8 million.

Alas, the vision of a giant robotic pedestrian attempting to cross a busy section of I-45 into Downtown was not to be. Boxer informed The Art Guys 2 months ago that it would no longer pursue the project.

The arms would have swung back and forward roughly once a minute, making for a somewhat leisurely gait:

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St. Joseph’s Professional Building, Reimagined
12/13/18 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT ELSE LEFT MIDTOWN WHEN RICHMOND AVE MET WHEELER ST. “In addition to the Delman Theater, an adjacent retailer named the Delman Juvenile Shop was also destroyed. The popular 1950s children’s clothing store featured a behemoth machine, the “Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope,” that zapped the kids’ feet with unshielded x-rays, ostensibly to make sure the new shoes were a correct fit. In reality, it was used as a babysitter while Mom shopped. I couldn’t wait to grow tall enough to actually peer down the metal tube to view my wiggling skeletal toe bones.” [Patsy Schillaci, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Delman Theater Lives On, on Google Maps] Photo of Delman Theater and adjacent retail: Predator [license]

12/11/18 5:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE DELMAN THEATER LIVES ON, ON GOOGLE MAPS “If you look at Google Maps satellite view, you can still see the patterned terrazzo floor of the theater.” [Benjy Compson, commenting on How the Marriage of Richmond and Wheeler Came Too Late to the Midtown Sears Building’s South Side]

12/07/18 2:45pm

Ever notice that the Wheeler-Ave. side of the Midtown Sears (shown above) doesn’t quite jibe with the rest of the building? It’s become even clearer since all that beige metal cladding was stripped off the structure earlier this year. Upon its removal, the biggest revelations were cascading green, red, and blue art-deco tile mosaics (shown here) running from top to bottom on every side of the building, except the Wheeler one, where the array of facade openings pictured at top are a bit less architecturally refined despite their prominent positions overlooking crosstown traffic.

So, what gives? Well, it turns out that Sears’s south side wasn’t all that visible when the building opened in 1939. Back then, Wheeler was just a narrow side street off Main and did not flow directly into Richmond as it does now, explains Preservation Houston’s Jim Parsons. Richmond, a much larger thoroughfare, also dead-ended into Main St., across from the Sears and just north of where Wheeler began. You can see the missed connection in the 1950 street map above.

It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the 2 streets were joined through a partial annexation of the Delman Theater property at 4412 Main, catty-corner southwest of the Sears:

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When Roads Collide
11/20/18 1:30pm

ESCAPE ROOM CHAIN NOW GETTING SETTLED IN MID MAIN LOFTS The latest tenant cropping up in the Mid Main Lofts’ Main-St. side: Project Panic, a 3,395-sq.-ft. escape room venue. Judging from the size and layout of the chain’s other Houston location at Fry Rd. and Park Row Dr. — home of zombie-apocalypse-, ski-resort-, abandoned-school-, and hospital-themed challenges — the new spot will probably house multiple rooms. It’s going in between Kura Revolving Sushi Bar’s corner restaurant off Holman St. and the recently-opened URBN Dental office a few doors south of it. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of Mid Main Lofts’ ground floor: LoopNet

11/13/18 3:00pm

The 2016 lawsuit that just last week resulted in a multi-million dollar judgment against Houston developer Urban Living isn’t the only litigation the firm’s caught up in right now. Since the beginning of the year, the same plaintiff, Preston Wood & Associates, has filed 4 more suits against the developer and its partners, alleging that at least 6 more Urban Living projects were based of derivatives of the design firm’s copyrighted townhome plans.

One of the projects, dubbed The Modern on Sabine, is shown at top on the corner of Sabine and Bingham streets. Another, The Modern on Austin, went up in place of a few row houses torn down at Austin and Tuam near the end of 2013:

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The Kicker
11/02/18 12:45pm

EVERYONE ORDERED OUT FROM UNDER 59 OVERPASS ON WHEELER, BUS PARKING TO TAKE THEIR PLACE Crews are emptying the Wheeler Ave. tent-stead underneath 59 of all its homeless residents, their belongings, and accumulated residue — Mayor Turner said in a series of tweets today — clearing the way for a new fenced-off bus parking lot to take over the property. Signs announcing the ouster and incoming fences went up Tuesday, said the mayor, and this morning, a METRO bus was on site “to take the 45 or so residents to shelter,” after they “voluntarily accept offers,” to relocate. A month ago the city declared the setup a public health nuisance, reports the Chronicle, a state designation slapped on areas that could be hazardous to those nearby. That’s right around the time Rice bought the office structure one-block north of the encampment, presumably for the so-called Midtown Innovation district it’s now cobbling together from land on both sides of the vacant Sears building it owns as well. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Swamplox inbox

10/29/18 2:00pm

This recent aerial survey of Australian developer Caydon’s 357-unit Fannin St. apartment tower between Drew and Tuam streets shows just how much it now sticks out from the rest of Midtown’s surrounding flatlands, the buffer between Downtown and the Med Center. Though the apartment’s planned 27 stories aren’t complete yet, it’s already one-upped everything in the nearby building-scape — most dramatically, the tiny park structures that occupy the superblock on the other side of Main St.

And there’s more where that came from: The developer still plans to get started on 2 more adjacent towers — in place of the departing Art Supply store and on the block that’s bounded by McGowen, Fannin, Dennis, and Main streets. Both will include all kinds of street-level retail (depicted in renderings that have now been scrubbed from the internet) and should begin rising after the apartments going up now are complete.

Video: Phillip White

First Stateside Development
10/25/18 3:30pm

With the former Shelor Motor Company building at 1621 Milam St. all but doomed to meet the wrecking ball, historian Stephen Fox digs through some old Chronicle clips to remind us that there’s still a few other old car dealerships lurking down south in Midtown. Sure, they may not be as pedigreed as the ill-fated building to the north, but get this: One of them still sells cars! It’s Midtown Cadillac at the corner of Main and McGowen streets, shown at top. Architect Harvin C. Moore — the brains behind more than 84 homes in River Oaks, as well as Rice University’s chapel — designed it for Sam White Oldsmobile (pictured above), which opened inside in the early 1950s, according to Fox. Sam White and its successor Rice-Menger occupied the building until 1985. It’s been a Cadillac dealership since Don Massey took it over in 1999, followed by Stewart and then Central in 2012.

Catty corner to it, Midtown seafood spot REEF was originally a dealership, too. Built in 1952, the building opened as Smith Chevrolet Co.:

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Inner-Loop Auto Lore
10/19/18 3:45pm

The map above shows the land (in red) that Rice is confirmed to have grabbed around the Midtown Sears (orange) it bought out last October, including 2 new parcels (green) it snatched up through holding companies within the last few months. In an email sent out to university staff on Monday, Rice U. President David Leebron said the school “will ultimately redevelop approximately 14 acres of Rice-owned property,” near the Sears building into what it’s calling the Midtown Innovation District. So what are the latest spots it’s gotten its hands on? The first, catty-corner to the Sears building itself at the corner of Wheeler and San Jacinto, is Jack in the Box‘s nearly half-acre lot; Rice bought it in August.

More recently, the school pushed east by picking up 4201 Caroline St., the brick office building shown below that occupies a quarter-acre directly next to Fiesta:

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Sears and Friends