11/20/14 11:30am

DEVELOPER BUYS OLD CITY CODES BUILDING 3300-main-main.300dpiPM Realty Group is under contract to purchase the city’s old code enforcement building at 3300 Main St. in Midtown. In 2011, facing a $21 million budget shortfall, the city sold the 50-year-old building to the Midtown Redevelopment Authority for $5 million. PM Realty’s purchase price has not been made public, but yesterday city council voted unanimously to waive a restriction written in to the earlier sale that any net profits would be turned over to the city’s general fund. Now the money is free to flow toward council-approved improvement projects in Midtown. Chronicle reporter Katherine Driessen speculates  that some of the money could go toward the nearby “superblock”: that empty savanna undisturbed by cross streets for 6 full blocks, on which there are plans to build a park and apartments. 3300 Main is sandwiched between the future site of the MATCH arts complex to the south and an HCC parking garage to the north. [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on SwamplotPhoto: Allyn West

10/21/14 5:15pm



2325-fannin-boot detail

Hunkered down behind a tagged security curtain, a bunker-like commercial building in Midtown’s mid-section popped up on the market overnight with a $585K asking price in a “lot-priced” listing. The corner building of uncertain vintage fronting Fannin St. has a history with commercial printers (and insurance companies), and more recently, shoe repair. Adkins Printing struck an exterior inlay on the building’s forehead (above) that’s still visible behind current signage, as is some faint lettering from its days as the offices of Pound Printing and Stationery. More recent signage attached the building’s blank north side (at right) touts available “stationary,” a spelling more appropriate perhaps to Al’s Handmade Boots, the store now occupying half of the building, than to the location’s printing history.


10/15/14 2:00pm

Van Loc Restaurant, 3010 Milam St., Midtown, Houston

Goodbye Note, Van Loc Restaurant, 3010 Milam St., Midtown, HoustonHad you been planning a big farewell meal at Van Loc later this week? Sorry, there’s been a change of plans: The Vietnamese restaurant at 3010 Milam St. in Midtown is now officially closed for good. “There are signs on the doors apologizing for having to close earlier than expected,” a reader tells Swamplot. The reason: So much business in the last few days that they’ve “run out of food” — and order and prep times mean new orders wouldn’t be ready much before the previously planned Friday closing.

Van Loc served its last meals Tuesday night. A sale of the property appears to be imminent.

Photos: Allyn West/OffCite (front); Swamplot inbox (sign)

The Pho Has Flown
10/14/14 10:15am

MIDTOWN’S VAN LOC WILL LOCK UP FOR GOOD THIS FRIDAY Van Loc Restaurant, 3010 Milam St., Midtown, HoustonThose of you lamenting the closure of 28-year-old Midtown institution Van Loc may want to note this latest update on the Vietnamese restaurant: There’s now an actual deadline for you to get your orders in for duck & bamboo soup, garlic tofu, or No. 46. The restaurant will serve its last meals this Friday, October 17th. What will become of the place then? Separate rumors floated to a Reddit thread include new apartments and a 16-story office building with — wait for it — ground-floor retail. The restaurant at 3010 Milam St. sits on the southern half of a 50,000-sq.-ft. block, one block north of Elgin. Feel free to contribute your speculation, intel, or final orders below. [Reddit; Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Allyn West/OffCite

10/07/14 2:00pm

Van Loc Restaurant, 3010 Milam St., Midtown, Houston

Notice Posted in Van Loc Restaurant, 3010 Milam St., Midtown, HoustonLongtime (and formerly late-night) Midtown Vietnamese mainstay Van Loc has announced it will be shutting down soon after 28 years in business. The restaurant’s owners have posted a note (shown at right) letting customers know of its plans, but have not announced a closing date. The freestanding restaurant building and its parking lot sit on the southern portion of the Midtown block at 3010 Milam St., between Rosalie St. and Anita, a block north of Elgin St.


Making Vermicelli History
08/05/14 11:00am

Demolition of 2107 Milam St., Midtown, Houston

The vacant 2-story building at 2107 Milam St. in Midtown, which long ago was home to a President Health Club — but is likely better remembered as a blank-faced, boarded-up building with a for-sale sign on its corner — is being smashed to bits this morning. A reader sends in this view of the scene at Milam and West Gray St. taken from the Metro HQ building at 1900 Main St. The 14,975-sq.-ft. soon-to-be empty lot is next door to Central Square Plaza (at left in the photo), which is currently undergoing renovations. County records show a company called Hobby Place LLC purchased the smaller property in April.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

2107 Milam
07/14/14 11:00am

THERE SHALL BE NO NET LOSS OF SUGAR ON GRAY ST. IN MIDTOWN Former Sweet Lola Yogurt Shop, 304 Gray St., Midtown, HoustonTop Chef: Just Desserts contestant and $53,580 Kickstarter winner Rebecca Masson has finally announced the exact Midtown location of the Fluff Bake Bar storefront she’s been working on since late last year, on account of she just signed a lease last week: It’s set to go in place of the shuttered Sweet Lola Yogurt Bar, (pictured) which ended its reign at 304 Gray St. in Midtown last September. The spot is one of the city’s relatively small number of to-the-sidewalk retail spaces with actual apartments above. Downstairs, customers will be able to dig into Fluff’s Chocolate Stout Syllabub, risotto fritters with gingered blueberries, or chocolate beet cake with cream cheese ice cream — along with beer and wine — but give her another 3 or 4 months to build out the space before you come knocking, please. [Food Chronicles; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Bluebirds and Butterflies

07/07/14 1:00pm

Central Square Plaza Building, 2100 Travis St., Midtown, Houston

Central Square Plaza Building, 2100 Travis St., Midtown, HoustonThere’s been a bit of action in the ongoing demo-and-rehab of the long-vacant Central Square Plaza complex at 2100 Travis St. in Midtown. Roving photographer Marc Longoria catches the shot from the building’s backside above, showing where you can now see through portions of the 14-story complex, which was originally developed by Houston oil tycoon Glenn McCarthy (of Shamrock Hotel fame) and designed by architects Lars Bang and Lucian Hood. And from the Twitter account of the building’s owner, Claremont Property Company, this morning comes the scene portrayed at left, showing crane work on the north-facing Gray St. side of the building.


Office Redo Doings
07/01/14 11:45am

Damage to Search Homeless Services Building, 2505 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston

Damage to Search Homeless Services Building, 2505 Fannin St., Midtown, HoustonIt’s the kind of façade mangling that could only happen to a fifties-mod office building: A reader sends pics showing damage to the front of the 1959-vintage Search Homeless Services headquarters at 2505 Fannin St. just north of McGowen in Midtown in the aftermath of last month’s vehicle-meets-building drive-up accident. The collision twisted one of the embedded steel columns along the sidewalk into a nonprofit-organization-logo-worthy S shape. Where’d the extra steel come from to allow that to happen? Look up, and you’ll see:


A Unique Fifties Fender Bender
05/15/14 3:15pm

HCC IS PLANNING A STUDENT DORM BUILDING TOO, AT ALABAMA AND ALMEDA 1625 Alabama St., Midtown, Houston, and Tobin Lofts, San AntonioA report from Houston Community College says the commuter school is “in the early stages of planning” its own new dorm complex on the 6 acres of land it bought late last year at the northeast corner of Alabama and Almeda, just southeast of the system’s central campus. The only building currently on the site is the trashed but still brightly painted 107-year-old house at 1625 Alabama St. (pictured at top left) that most recently served as a temporary satellite space for DiverseWorks. The dorms, which would include first-floor retail space and a parking garage, would be modeled after the Tobin Lofts at Alamo Colleges’ San Antonio College in San Antonio (bottom photo). They’d be built and leased out by a private company “until the business makes a predetermined return on its investment,” according to the report. “After approximately seven years, the complex would be given to HCC to own and manage from then on.” [The Chalkboard] Photos: HCC (top); Tobin Lofts (bottom)

05/13/14 4:45pm

AN APARTMENT DEVELOPER’S NEW MIDTOWN PEARLS ARE MISSING Site of Proposed Pearl on Smith, 3100 Smith St., and Pearl on Helena, 105 Drew St., Midtown, HoustonThe Morgan Group’s Pearl Midtown apartment building is still under construction at the corner of Elgin and Smith streets in Midtown, but a couple of follow-on projects have recently drifted away from the process for gaining city approval — for now, at least. Signs announcing a variance request for the Pearl on Smith went up last month in front of the 1940 building at 3100 Smith St. that used to house the Social Security Administration’s offices (pictured at top), across the street from the Pearl Midtown. And on the block surrounded by Helena, Dennis, Albany, and Drew, a sign is still up for a variance request to allow construction of the Pearl on Helena. On that block is the building that until last fall housed the Kindred Hospital Midtown (bottom photo) — along with this 1930 mansion. Applications for both projects showed similar 5-story apartment complexes built around a small courtyard on top of 2 garage levels. But both projects have now gone quiet in the city’s tracking system. The variance application for the Pearl on Smith was withdrawn before its scheduled April 17th hearing. And the Pearl on Helena is listed as an “inactive application” in the city database, even though it was originally scheduled for a hearing on the same date. Photos: O’Connor & Associates (3100 Smith St.); Swamplot inbox (Kindred Hospital)

05/05/14 12:30pm

Construction of Broadstone Midtown Phase II, Milam at Alabama St., Midtown, Houston

Alliance Residential hasn’t even finished construction on the 203-unit Broadstone apartment complex at 3800 Main, on the southwest corner of Main St. and Alabama in Midtown — but already equipment crews are tearing up a neighboring 1.03-acre lot across Travis St. for a second phase of the development. Last week a Swamplot reader sent in this photo of the scene, looking east from Milam St. south of Alabama, showing earthwork on the vacant lot, for a Broadstone Midtown Phase II. The 3800 Main building is under construction in the background; the Spur is directly behind the camera.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Broadstone Midtown Part Deux
05/02/14 11:00am

Rendering of MATCH from Main St. and Holman, 3400 Main St., Midtown, Houston

Having matched the $20 million it decided it needed before beginning building its full-block Main St. arts complex, the organizers behind MATCH (the strikingly nicknamed Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston) have decided to kick off construction work after an on-site event next Wednesday. The $25 million shared facility for more than a dozen independent arts groups (it was originally called the Independent Arts Collaborative) will go up on the 3400 block of Main St., also known as the former parking lot for the city’s former code enforcement building on the next block toward Downtown. The new rendering above of the design by San Antonio’s Lake Flato and Houston’s Studio RED shows the view from Main St. and Holman, looking north.

Here’s a fly-through in and around the main breezeway corridor of the 59,000-sq.-ft. collection of theaters and galleries and plazas and office spaces, starting from the same corner:


Could Use $5 Million More
03/17/14 2:30pm

Intersections with Security Cameras, Bagby St., Midtown, Houston

Intersections with Security Cameras, Bagby St., Midtown, HoustonA sharp-eyed reader has spotted what appear to be security cameras popping up on traffic signals at intersections in Midtown over the last couple of weeks. “I assume this is an extension of the downtown camera system that was announced in December,” notes the camera-watcher, who submitted these uh, surveillance photos of the installations at Gray and Bagby (top) and Webster and Bagby in front of the Capital One bank branch (above right). “They appear to be spreading south. Currently I see them on Gray and Webster. The intersections at Bagby got 2 cameras each. Microwave backhaul antennas are visible in the photos.”

Photos: Swamplot inbox

It’s Springtime for Surveillance