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
03/07/14 5:15pm

Former City of Houston Code Enforcement Building, 3300 Main St., Midtown, Houston

Former City of Houston Code Enforcement Building, 3300 Main St., Midtown, HoustonNotice anything different about the vacant former city code-enforcement building at 3300 Main St. lately? Well, go around to the Travis St. side (at left) and you’ll see it: A sign indicating the property is for sale went up there quietly last month. So quietly, in fact, that there doesn’t appear to be any information about the sale on the website of the building’s owner, the Midtown Redevelopment Authority, which purchased the full-block property from the city in a curious deal 3 years ago for $5 million, and — as a public entity — isn’t required to pay any property taxes on it. “Everything real estate wise that Midtown does is very hush hush,” notes a reader who brought the sale to Swamplot’s attention.

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Hey, Pssssst!
03/07/14 11:15am

THE MIDTOWN GARDEN PLOT THAT WENT FOR JUST SHORT OF A MILLION Midtown Community Garden, Baldwin and Drew St., Midtown, HoustonCraig Hlavaty’s writeup on the abrupt closing of the Midtown Community Garden has a few additional details about the fate of the 3-and-a-half-year-old garden space at the corner of Baldwin and Drew, in amongst his chronicling of the efforts of member gardeners to yank out their tubers before the property was shuttered: The 13,000-sq.-ft. vacant-but-for-vegetables lot that Swamplot reported on earlier in the week was sold to developer Urban Living for $975,000. (On MLS, the asking price was $799,000.) The company plans to build townhomes on the site. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Update, 11:30 am: According to this later version ($) of the story, 2 garden-friendly potential buyers of the property who submitted offers were outbid. Photo: Swamplot inbox

03/06/14 4:45pm

View of Midtown from Downtown, Including Site of Proposed Alexan Midtown, Main St. at Hadley, Midtown, Houston

Some earth-moving work has begun on the half-block surrounded by Main St., Hadley, and Travis, where a new red-colored 7-story apartment block called the Alexan Midtown is about to go up on land once reserved for a Houston Fire Museum expansion. “Not exactly the January groundbreaking we were expecting, but I’m glad it is finally happening,” writes the photographer who sent in this aerial view from the north. The 1.44-acre apartment site is the naked dirt portion smack dab in the center of the photo, on the near side of parking lot. Here’s a zoomed-in view:

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Looking Down on Midtown
03/05/14 11:00am

Midtown Community Garden, 2720 Baldwin at Drew St., Midtown, Houston

The barbecue scheduled for this coming Sunday at the Midtown Community Garden at Drew and Baldwin has been canceled, along with all attendant fruit and vegetable growth. On account of: The property’s been sold. Harvest time will have to be quick: A for-sale sign  quietly appeared early last month outside the 13,000-sq.-ft. green space, which had been operating as an allotment garden for 3 years. “Just as quickly,” a source tells Swamplot, a SOLD placard was slapped on it. The listing, with an asking price set at $799K, described the property tersely as an “amazing opportunity.” A buyer has now claimed it.

How much notice would the new owner give the gardeners? Late yesterday afternoon, members of the gardening collective received an abrupt email from the organization’s president announcing that — by request of the new owner — everyone will need to get out, by the scheduled closing date. That’s tomorrow, March 6th.

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Garden Turnover
01/08/14 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ISN’T NEARBY RETAIL ENOUGH? Retail Litmus Test“I don’t understand the ground floor retail ‘litmus test’ that is applied to every new building proposed for downtown/midtown. That is, it is not a ‘good’ building if it does not have a retail component. I understand the desirability of having nearby retail and a more ‘walkable’ downtown, but why do we have to have retail in the same building as the apartments as long as the retail is nearby? Here, there is retail right across the street, and the Main street corridor is only a few blocks away! Doesn’t it make sense sometimes to build a single-use building that is more conducive to its purpose as long as the other elements of a ‘walkable’ city (like retail, offices, services) are within walking distance?” [SH, commenting on The Best Views Yet of Hines’s Market Square Apartment Tower and Its Downtown Headlight] Illustration: Lulu

01/07/14 10:30am

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

Central Square Plaza, 2100 Travis St., Midtown, HoustonA new green-screened construction fence has gone up around the perimeter of the Central Square Plaza building at 2100 Travis St., a reader reports. But the barricades aren’t an indication of impending renovation or demolition work on the long-vacant property. They’re part of an effort to secure the buildings and keep taggers and other would-be occupiers out.

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Midtown Wrap-Up
01/06/14 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY THERE’S SO LITTLE TRAFFIC DOWNTOWN One-Way Streets“Downtown traffic is some of the easiest traffic of any US city downtown I have ever been to, and actually some of the best traffic in all of Houston. Why? As near as I can tell, it’s because: (1) street parking is virtually not allowed or limited to one side of the street, which prevents people from aimlessly circling around looking for that one free spot; and (2) one-way streets. People complain about one-way streets as confusing but when there is a good grid like downtown or midtown, they work perfectly. I can’t ever recall sitting through more than one cycle of a light in midtown. There are other areas of Houston where this can easily be done. And ban street parking completely on major roads after 4pm. It’s just valets making money off blocking traffic after a certain hour.” [John Chouinard, commenting on Comment of the Day: A Few Remedies for Those Traffic Problems You've Been Having] Illustration: Lulu

12/30/13 4:15pm

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Recent redevelopment of neighboring lots into townhomes has brought higher (and higher-density) neighbors (top) to this circa-1950 retail-ish space converted at some point into a low-rise loft (above). Currently an artist’s live-in studio, the fortress-fenced mixed-use property appeared on the market earlier this month with a $1.295 million asking price. It’s located on the east side of Midtown, southwest a block or so from the 59-288-45 spaghetti bowl.

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Low-Rise Living
12/23/13 2:15pm

CROWDWATERING, CROWDGOBBLING SUCCESSES Map Showing Planned Locations of New Trees at Meadowcreek Village Park, Meadowcreek Village, HoustonCrowdfunding efforts for 2 separate Houston ventures featured on Swamplot last month have achieved their fundraising goals. Rebecca Masson tells Swamplot that “Fluff Bake Bar will happen,” after a campaign on Kickstarter brought in $53,580 in donations. But Masson says she’s “still in talks” with the landlord about the new Midtown retail sweet shop she’s planning; location details won’t be announced until there’s a signed lease. Meanwhile, $3,035 brought in from a campaign on YouCaring means 20 new trees donated to Meadowcreek Village Park by Trees for Houston will have enough water to drink for 2 years. Got concerns about what the trees will drink after that? The campaign still has 9 days to go before it closes. Map: Meadowcreek Village Civic Club Beautification Committee

11/26/13 12:15pm

Proposed Mid Main Retail and Apartment Development, 3500-3600 Main St., Midtown, Houston

Architect Rob Rogers tells The Architect’s Newspaper how the Mid Main apartment-and-retail development he’s working on for the 3500 and 3600 blocks of Main St. in Midtown will break the mold behind the typical garage-wrapped-with-apartments scheme, which he calls the “Houston Wrap”:

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Unwrapping Main St.
11/19/13 1:00pm

Kraftsmen Cafe, 611 W. 22nd St., Houston HeightsThe undisclosed location of the planned Fluff Bake Bar retail location and bar is somewhere in Midtown, owner Rebecca Masson tells Swamplot. But there’s a bit of fundraising to do before the former Top Chef Just Desserts contestant can sign the lease she’s been getting ready for the space. The self-described “Sugar Hooker” currently operates her wholesale dessert business out of space she shares with 5 other businesses in the Kraftsmen Cafe kitchen at 611 W. 22nd St. in the Heights, selling fluffernutters, cake-in-cup cupcakes, and macaroons to retailers such as Revival Market, Double Trouble, Southside Espresso, and Inversion Coffee House. But if her just-launched Kickstarter campaign bears fruit . . . er, compote, she’ll move all operations to the new space. In addition to desserts, Masson is hoping to serve beer and wine at her “proper dessert bar.” She’s hoping to bring in $50,000 in crowdfunded donations within a month.

Photo of Kraftsmen Cafe: Soo Kim

A Dessert Bar Bar
11/05/13 11:00am

Here’s a view, from high above the auto-repair shop to its northeast, of that 7-story apartment block Trammell Crow Residential plans to build on the block-sized vacant lot at the corner of Main St. and Hadley it purchased last month from the Houston Fire Museum. The 215-unit building designed by Houston’s EDI International will be called the Alexan Midtown. The 1.44-acre property was given to the fire museum in the mid-1990s by anonymous donors, writes the HBJ‘s Shaina Zucker. The institution accepted the buyout offer after a lackluster 9-year fundraising campaign to build a new exhibit hall on the property on the rail line 3 blocks south of the Pierce Elevated flamed out. Construction is scheduled to begin in January.

Rendering: Trammell Crow Residential/EDI International