COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S STILL MISSING FROM THE TOP OF THE CENTRAL SQUARE PLAZA REDO “After all the beautiful exterior enhancements, does Claremont plan to update and restore functionality of the enormous electronic retro clock on top of the building? The building now looks so nice. I can’t believe the clock sitting on top has not been restored, paint peeling off and not turned on, especially when it completes the whole retro-mod feel of the entire project.” [Unsure About This, commenting on Midtown’s Redone Central Square Plaza Looking To Lure Tenants to Its Empty Ground Floor] Photo of former Central Square Plaza clock: meltedplastic [license]
A building permit filed recently on the Central Square Plaza complex that takes up the block of Travis St. between Gray and Webster reveals Kraftsmen Coffee as the latest restaurant slated for the renovated tower’s empty ground floor. Work to install plumbing for the 1,768-sq.-ft. space that the owners of coffee shop plan to take over began last year.
The photo at top views the west portion of the building’s ground floor, which sits about halfway down the block on Gray St. and faces Milam. A parking garage is off-camera to the right. Around the corner — on the building’s north side — a TABC flyer for Malawi’s Pizza still hangs in the window of the empty storefront on Gray where it was originally posted back in 2016:
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Yet another sign of incoming retail is up on the Mid Main Lofts, where both Kura Revolving Sushi Bar and a 9Round kickboxing gym made their marks last week. Big Mike’s Entertainment LLC is the applicant named on the TABC notice that’s posted on the apartment building’s Travis St. side, near the corner at Holman and across the street from the Holman Draft Hall bar. The photo at top — taken by a Twitter user who’s been monitoring street-level activity outside the Lofts — shows where the storefront is situated, just north of the entrance to the garage that occupies nearly all of the complex’s frontage along Travis.
Photos: Natalie W
A new banner is up in place of La Baguette’s lettering in the Mekong Center — on Milam St. between Drew and Tuam — announcing the coming Fukuoka Sushi Bar & Grill. The former Vietnamese sandwich shop shuttered in the space at the end of last year, leaving a void between Pho Saigon and the dentist’s office in the L-shaped retail center which includes parking on its roof. When the new raw fishery moves in at 2808 Milam, it’ll bring the Mekong Center back to full occupancy.
Photos: Chibuike O. (Mekong Center); Natalie W (Fukuoka Sushi Bar & Grill)
Below the Parking Pad
Update, 7:00 pm: At the request of the copyright holder, the images of Caydon Properties’ proposed development have been removed.
The Australian company that’s already begun construction on a residential tower in place of the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building on the corner of Main and Tuam has plans for a pair of additional towers on the 2 blocks north of that site, along Metro’s red line. These renderings from visualization studio Large Arts show the extent of the complex — including a hotel, offices, residential space, and street-level retail fronting the rail up to McGowen St.
The rendering at top views the development from the corner of Main and Drew St. to show the new southern tower — home to a hotel — fronting Fannin while the northern one faces Main. Further up the tracks, a train pulls into the northbound McGowen St. station stop — shown lined with storefronts that sit below the north tower. An alley runs along the north end of the development, between the building and Greensheet Media’s former office — just out of view on the left at the corner of Main and McGowen.
More retail fronts the alley, adjacent to the McGowen platform:
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New Main Drag
2 new signs are now up on the Main St. side of the Mid Main Lofts across from MATCH: one for Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, and the other for kickboxing gym 9Round. The photo at top looks across the platform of Metro’s Ensemble Theatre stop to show Kura’s new name tag affixed near the corner of Main and Holman. Identical markings appear on the Holman St. side of the new raw fish restaurant, which uses touch screens and an automatic conveyor belt to deliver your food. The 3510 Main location is Houston’s second Kura; one opened in the Westchase Shopping Center last year. Another debuted in Sugar Land last month.
9Round — shown in the photo above — sits further south down the block on Main, near Double Trouble Caffeine & Cocktails’s spot at Winbern.
All 18 of the workout venue’s current locations are in west South Carolina. The new gym follows 4 others the chain already operates inside the 610 Loop.
Photos: Natalie W
And in This Corner
Sable Gate Winery, a local affiliate of the Waters Edge chain of franchised vineyard-less wineries, has its grand opening tomorrow at 2600 Travis St., just south of McGowen and behind Reef in Midtown. The new wine spot, which began serving last weekend, took over the space from GAGE Lounge. Customers who want to make, cork, and bottle their own-label varieties at Sable Gate can choose from the chain’s selection of pre-crushed grapes shipped in from more vineyard-friendly climes around the world; if you’re in a greater hurry than the 5 to 7 weeks it normally takes to ferment and blend a batch of imported grape must, you can commandeer one Sable Gate’s already got going — or just order a glass at the bar.
Photos: Sable Gate Winery
Sable Gate Winery
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 installed quilting 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.
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Street Art Taken Apart
THE PIERCE ELEVATED’S GREAT UNCROSSING What’s going to replace the giant crosses on the east and west sides of the St. Joseph Professional Building towering over the Pierce Elevated once its new owner takes them down and redoes the exterior? “I want something that’s going to be iconic to Houston,” Boxer Property CEO Andrew Segal tells Katherine Feser. The company has commissioned artists to develop ideas for the 18-story building’s new cross-free exterior look, Segal says: “It may be something that changes at night. It could involve a projector.” Also in the plans for the 135,586-sq.-ft. building at 2000 Crawford St., which dates from 1965: new shared lounges, workspaces, and conference facilities, changes to its ground-floor retail spaces, and a new name TBD. The steel crosses were added to the building in 2009. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Russell Hancock, via Swamplot Flickr pool
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.”
Photo: Community Artists’ Collective.
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 seasonal pond 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.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
The Pond at 3300 Main
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.
Photo: Matthew Wettergreen
Have Food Need Food
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:
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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.
Photo: Swamplot inbox