04/23/15 5:30pm

Proposed Changes to I-45, I-10, and I-69, Houston

There’s so much to say and gawk at in the latest “proposed recommended alternatives” for reshaping I-45 now being shopped around by TxDOT and a host of freeway-happy consultants — enough for a fourth round of public meetings scheduled for tonight and next week, plus hours of extra-curricular speculation. The plans encompass dramatic changes to the North Freeway all the way from Beltway 8 to a new split adjacent to the Third Ward, including eye-opening widenings, all sorts of exciting tunnels and high-flying overpasses, a slew of spaghetti-like interchanges, and — the pièce de résistance — the wholesale give-up of I-45′s current L-shaped wrap around Downtown, including the Pierce Elevated.

These 5 images from our highway overlords’ exciting imagined future sum it up best:

1. The X-ing-out of the Pierce Elevated (diagrammed above). If the elevated portion of I-45 along the path of Pierce St. goes away, how will anyone be able to tell where Downtown ends and Midtown begins? Don’t worry, a few proposals are being shopped around to turn a de-automobiled structure into a High Line—like public park or bikeway. (Though much bigger, ′cuz Houston.)

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Freeway Frenzy!
04/14/15 3:15pm

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In Midtown, a 2003 townhome in one of the neighborhood’s pioneer gated-off blocks appears to be a step up — actually, several steps up, particularly from the dual entry threads of treads (top). Interior staircases lead to levels 3 and 4. The property last changed hands in 2005, at $260K, and asks $350K in the listing posted last week. Located at the north end of Midtown, the home faces west (and east) a block or 2 south of the Pierce Elevated. Access to Hwy. 288 on the cross street is a straight shot east.

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Take Flight
03/25/15 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MIDTOWN SUPERBLOCK’S NOT SO SUPER FUTURE Diagram of Plans for Midtown Superblock, Anita, McGowen, Travis, and Main Streets, Houston“The site plan for this block, where the apartment complex stands like J.J. Watt blocking the retail from the park for which it should have been the activity generator, stands as a symbol of a city at a pivot point in its urbanization, where all the lessons it has learned the past ten years still can’t make up for the decades it snoozed in urban neglect and public space amnesia. Imagine if you took the George R. Brown and dropped it halfway across Discovery Green, splitting the park’s integral components and killing its interaction with surrounding elements — that is the Superblock in a nutshell. Midtown will still benefit from a central greenspace, and the little pocket park at the north end might turn out to be something nice. But however modestly successful this becomes will only be a painful reminder of what could have been.” [Mike, commenting on Can’t Get Enough Midtown Superblock? New Video Captures Every Puddle, Blade of Grass, Mud Patch] Site diagram: Lulu

03/24/15 12:15pm

Note: We’ve added a long-form aerial demolition video (our first ever) to the bottom of this story.

A few days before demo crews began tearing down the strip center at 2905 Travis St., the lone encroachment on the Midtown Superblock’s otherwise longstanding perfect record of vacancy, reader and neighboring property owner Adam Brackman captured this aerial tour of the site, which never veers from the Downtown (north) view.

What’s happened to Superblock since? Pics sent in from another reader show last week’s demo in progress:

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Vacant Lot Porn
03/19/15 11:00am

Midtown Superblock, Houston

Midtown Superblock, HoustonA couple of Swamplot readers are reporting action on the scene of the Midtown Superblock, the uninterrupted-by-cross-streets acreage stretching between Main and Travis St. south of McGowen and north of Anita, where a Camden Property apartment complex (at the northern end) and a park with underground parking (at the southern end) are planned. In the view at top taken from somewhere high above the backside of Downtown, you can spot demo crews at the end of the grassy field making strip center history this morning out of the former home of Escobar and Thien An Sandwiches at 2905 Travis St.

Meanwhile, the first signposts of some fresh chain-link fencing appeared along Main St. closer to McGowen., as seen in the second photo, taken a couple of days ago.

Photos: Swamplot inbox (overhead view); Robert Boyd (fence)

Strip Center Teardown
03/06/15 12:30pm

DIGGING INTO THE DIRT AROUND THE OLD CODE ENFORCEMENT BUILDING IN MIDTOWN Soil Testing at 3300 Main St., Midtown, HoustonA soil testing crew was spotted earlier this week boring into the earth adjacent to the city’s 2-story former code enforcement building at 3300 Main St., a block north of where the new MATCH arts center is under construction. The city sold the building to the Midtown Redevelopment Authority in 2011. In November of last year, PM Realty Group said it had put the property under contract, but the transaction does not appear to have been completed yet. Photo: Bob Russell

03/04/15 1:00pm

Jewelry Piece from Mapped: A Survey of Contemporary Houston Jewelry and Metalwork, Central Art Gallery, Houston Community College, 3517 Austin St., Midtown, Houston

Jewelry Piece from Mapped: A Survey of Contemporary Houston Jewelry and Metalwork, Central Art Gallery, Houston Community College, 3517 Austin St., Midtown, HoustonAre you one of those sensitive types who’s always on the lookout for the jewels in the Houston landscape? It can be tough going, right? Try seeking out the jewelry in the Houston landscape instead, and your job just got much easier: Over at HCC’s Central Art Gallery on the corner of Austin and Holman, a group of 17 local artists just opened a show called “Mapped: A Survey of Contemporary Houston Jewelry and Metalwork.” And if the preview images are any guide, the works in the show demonstrate a real appreciation for some very Houston-y stuff. The fencelike brooch at top by Masumi Kataoka is made of copper, enamel, stainless steel, glue, and some sort of animal intestine. Below it is a “neckpiece” by Edward Lane McCartney, forged from bits of in-town teardowns. Caitie Sellers shaped the under-construction piece o’ Downtown below from sterling silver and copper:

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Bayou City Jewelry
02/24/15 1:15pm

Red Tag at Bourbon on Bagby, 2708 Bagby St., Midtown,  Houston

Red Tag at Bourbon on Bagby, 2708 Bagby St., Midtown,  HoustonA patron of Bourbon on Bagby, the latest incarnation of the former OTC Midtown bar at 2708 Bagby St. in Midtown, notes a city inspector has found some basic problems with the bar. Something about not having a certificate of occupancy, and needing a permit for enclosing some windows in the patio-facing structure.

A red tag noting the issues went up on the front door on February 10th, but the dining and drinking establishment at the corner of Bagby and Dennis appears to be still operating.

Photos: Swamplot inbox

What Isn’t Permitted
01/27/15 4:15pm

Julia's Bistro, 3722 Main St., Midtown, Houston

“What’s up with Julia’s?” writes the Swamplot reader who got a Main St. train to slow down enough to snap the photo of the unlit Midtown restaurant above. “It’s been dark and closed for weeks now. With all the new development and foot traffic from the new apartments across the street and new restaurants/bars in the area, everyone’s wondering: Is something new in the works for this premier midtown corner?” The answer is yes: A “new concept” for the restaurant space is being developed. In the meantime, Julia’s Bistro is closed for lunch and dinner, but available for private parties.

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Gotta Wait
01/15/15 1:30pm

Excavator, 1707 Holman St., Midtown, Houston

The Komatsu has arrived at the doorstep of this 1941 bungalow at 1707 Holman St., in the southeast corner of Midtown. Once it disposes of the property, the excavator will work its way through another home abutting this one’s back yard — at 1706 Francis St. And once the land is clear, Jared Meadors and Tony Tripoli will start building this development of 6 close-but-not-touching townhouses fronting a long driveway extending all the way from Holman to Francis:

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New Townhome Row
01/12/15 3:00pm

Construction of Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston, 3400 Main St., Midtown, Houston

Here’s a pic showing construction of the new midtown arts center, taken from the corner of Holman and Main St. last week. And the folks behind MATCH are happy to walk you through the steel-outlined spaces of the building-in-progress, designed by Lake Flato and Houston’s Studio Red: “The breezeway is on your left; the café is at your feet and the backstage corridor for Theatre A stretches into the distance on your right where you can see the plumbing stub outs for the laundry and the Theatre A dressing rooms. The high steel in the foreground at 12 o’clock is Theater A and the high steel off to the left at 10 o’clock is Theatre D. The dirt area to your left is the future home of the South building where the offices, gallery and rehearsal rooms will be.”

Construction of the facility at 3400 Main St. is expected to be complete by fall, with or without the last $2+ million of the $25 million budget the organization still needs to raise.

Photo: MATCH

MATCH Going Up
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

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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.

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Imprinted
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