MIDTOWN SEARS CLOSURE NETS RICE 9 ACRES NEAR THE WHEELER TRANSIT CENTER The company that manages Rice University’s $5.3 billion endowment last week bought out the 28 years remaining on a 99-year lease the university had signed with the Sears department store on its Midtown property back in 1945. The Sears at 4201 Main St., which opened in 1939, will close in late January, after a liquidation sale beginning early next month, it was announced today. Rice also bought 3 adjacent acres owned by Sears, giving the university a multi-block 9.4-acre chunk of land near Metro’s Wheeler Transit Center and the Southwest Fwy. it can now decide what to do with. Among the properties on that land: the Sears Auto Center at 4111 Fannin and the Fiesta Mart at 4200 San Jacinto, which has a lease that runs for 2 more years. The Sears’s original art deco façade was covered with metal panels in the 1960s. Rice prez David Leebron says the university will now “initiate a process of thoughtful planning for the future use of this land,” with a yearlong study of options directed by the Rice Management Company. [Houston Chronicle; Click2Houston] Photo: Pete Molick via Swamplot Flickr pool
Somebody carefully disassembled the recently installedquilting sculpture in front of the Bermac Arts Building at 4101 San Jacinto St. just south of Cleburne St. late last week, leaving behind a patchwork of colorful powder-coated-steel pieces on the former bus-stop platform next to the sidewalk. The 8-ft.-tall blue, orange, magenta, yellow, and metallic silver sculpture, called Quilt Peace, was erected at the site on September 20th. It was meant to remain there for 3 months — through next month’s International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center — before being moved to a different Midtown site.
It may have been erected on a one-way northbound street in Lower Midtown, but this new sculpture now standing in front of the oak trees outside the San Jacinto St. entrance to the Bermac Arts Building just south of Cleburne was designed to flag down visitors from Downtown:Quilt Peace, constructed of powder-coated-steel, marks the entrance to the offices and exhibition space of the Community Artists’ Collective, where the Jubilee Quilt Circle meets twice a week to stitch works by hand or with the computer-controlled longarm flatbed stitcher onsite. “Quilt Peace is our tribute to the November 2017 International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center,” explains artist Michelle Barnes — who also happens to be the Collective’s executive director. “. . . We want to demonstrate our connection with quilting to the thousands of convention visitors.”
Unless there’s been some sort of re-inflation and relaunching regime in place in the meantime, it’s now been at least 4 days that an inflatable swan has been floating around the seasonalpond currently filling the excavated future construction site at 3300 Main St. in Midtown. Houston’s code enforcement building previously stood here; the site was later purchased by PMRG for the construction of a 336-unit highrise apartment tower. For now, though, it’s the domain of a twirling floatie: “It’s quite relaxing watching the wind blow it around and around and around,” reports the reader who snapped this shot of it this afternoon.
The ground floor of the former SEARCH Homeless Services building at 2505 Fannin St. in Midtown (above), spared from flooding damage, has been pressed into active emergency food service over the past week: New occupants tell Swamplot that in the kitchen that served SEARCH’s homeless clientele until the organization moved Downtown last year, former Feast and Hunky Dory chef Richard Knight and Carrie Knight have been leading a team preparing meals for first responders and other emergency workers; in the connected adjacent space, former Mark’s and El Meson sommelier Cat Nguyen now runs a food storehouse; she’s working with a team that moved in yesterday to share the space as well — one set up to match groups that can donate large quantities of food with groups that need them.
Offers of food and requests for food come to this team through a website it launched on Thursday as well, appropriately called I Have Food I Need Food. Led by a group including Amy Kavalewitz, Jonathan Beitler, Matthew Wettergreen, and Claudia Solis, the operation takes in donations of prepared or unprepared food from commercial kitchens, food supply companies, and licensed caterers, and sends it out to shelters or other service groups that need to serve hundreds of portions.
Interested in a bit of booty plundered from the the birthplace of Bootylicious? The former Rice Mansion at 1505 Hadley St. in Midtown most recently served as the headquarters of Mathew Knowles’ Music World Entertainment and moonlighted as a wedding and event venue. According to Architectural Digest,Destiny’s Child recorded Bootylicious, as well as several other of its hit songs, inside this building. But Knowles sold the entire block bounded by Hadley, Crawford, Webster, and LaBranch streets late last year, and its new owner — Group 1 Automotive, the parent company of the neighboring Midtown Advantage BMW car dealership — has begun demolishing the structures sitting on it one by one.
For now, the Rice Mansion — minus a bunch of salvaged parts and furnishings, which were yanked out recently — is still standing. But some of its parts have already been spotted by a Swamplot reader on an internet auction site. Though the building is more than a century old, the offered materials are clearly of far more recent vintage. Behold:
Architectural details, building materials, windows, and flooring are now being picked from the the Midtown building at 1505 Hadley St. known as the Rice Mansion, a reader suggests. The photo sent above from this morning appears to show someone pulling boards from the threshold at the front door. The triple window fronting the building’s attic has already been yanked out.
Also removed from the property: a large amount of Destiny’s Child memorabilia — but that was last year, when the band’s former manager, Mathew Knowles, sold the entire block to the parent company of the neighboring Midtown Advantage BMW car dealership. The Rice Mansion served as the headquarters of Knowles’s Music World Entertainment for 15 years, and was considered the birthplace of the careers of his daughters, Beyoncé and Solange Knowles.
Another building on the property with a Destiny’s Child connection and a later stint as a wedding and event venue — the House of Deréon Media Center at 2204 Crawford St. — was torn down last month.
It appears demolition contractors — or the site’s new owners — saw fit to remove the mural of Destiny’s Child from the House of Deréon Media Center building in Midtown before beginning to break it down last week. The time-lapse video above shows an excavator tearing apart the 2-story structure at 2204 Crawford St. piece by piece on Friday. But the southern façade of the building, which faces Hadley St., looks a little different than it did just a week earlier. Where once hung giant images of Kelly Rowland, Beyoncé Knowles, and Michelle Williams, a plain white panel appears — the mural evidently having either been removed or painted over before demolition began.
Strangely, this is not the first sign of deference the demo contractors on site have shown the Bootylicious trio, before the building touted for many years as “The Home of Destiny’s Child” was given the boot. Last week an excavator appeared in front of the mural — only to sneak away a few days later:
That excavator (pictured above) spotted poking around outside of the former House of Deréon Media Center last week may have disappeared at the end of its brief staredown with a larger than life representation of Beyoncé Knowles and the Destiny’s Child crew — but the structure still looks to be on the chopping block after all, if the demo permits issued yesterday are any indication. Group 1 Realty, an arm of the auto chain that owns nearby Advantage BMW alongside the Pierce Elevated, bought the land last fall from Mathew Knowles; the company also looks to have been snapping up a smattering of other properties in the immediate vicinity since at least early 2015.
A reader who visited the site of the House of Deréon Media Center last night notes an unusual outcome to the demolition standoff that began on the Midtown block late last week. The excavator parked outside the former event and wedding venue at 2204 Crawford St. marketed as “The Home of Destiny’s Child” has apparently been removed — and the building, along with other structures that until last year belonged to former Destiny’s Child manager Mathew Knowles‘s Music World Entertainment complex, is still standing. There will be no, no, no demolition, it appears — for now.
A reader’s photo and video of the scene (above) show only a few mudtracks from the excavator remaining — and Kelly Rowland, Beyoncé Knowles, and Michelle Williams still staring it down, unmoved.
It appears that what’s left of Mathew Knowles’s Music World Entertainment compound in Midtown is Destiny’s Child now. “Ever since I read that Advantage BMW bought the block,” writes the reader who snapped this photo of the excavator now parked next to the House of Deréon Media Center at 2204 Crawford St., “I have been expecting something to come down.”
The pictured building, designated the “Home of Destiny’s Child” — later an event and wedding venue operated by Knowles, the group’s former manager — sits on the 1.43-acre block bounded by Crawford, Webster, LaBranch, and Hadley that Knowles sold to the corporate owners of the neighboring Midtown Advantage BMW dealership late last year, after (as he later told Nancy Sarnoff) “someone knocked on my door and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
Also on the block: the Music World Studios building, where (among others) Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Mario, and Chris Brown recorded — as well as Knowles’s daughters, Beyoncé and Solange. And at 1515 Hadley St., next door to the House of Deréon Media Center, is the 3-story former Rice Mansion, which Knowles had made his company’s headquarters:
It doesn’t take effect until August — but a new sales permit looks to have been okayed last month for 160 W. Gray St., bearing the name The Ginger Man – West Gray. The Rice Village bar has previously established outposts in locales as far-flung as Austin, Dallas, and Plano (and claims a somewhat looser connection to a trio of spots in New York and Connecticut), but a West Gray location would be the chain’s second spot inside the Loop(s). That spot, meanwhile, is still the home of Junction Bar & Grill, just north of the W. Gray Y with Webster St. — though the building itself (shown above) was listed for leaseon LoopNet earlier this spring. Prior to the turn of the decade, the space previously went by The Wet Spot.
A recent-ish photo from the lease listing (above) shows off the wrapping up of the Dolce Living apartments next door. Not pictured, just beyond the duo of homes visible to the east below: the charred skeleton of Fuzzy’s Tacos, which was cleared out some time after its November flameout.