08/23/16 5:45pm

1403 McGowen St., Midtown, Houston, 77004
Variance request at 1403 McGowen St.

Signage up on McGowen between La Branch and Austin streets heralds the property owner’s recent request for a few variances approvals from the city, include reduced building line setbacks on the site. Plans submitted with the request show cross sections of an 8-story midrise (arranged as 3 levels of parking topped by condo units above), which the application says was planned back when the owners were under the impression that the lot already had reduced building setbacks following city approvals of a previous owner’s project on the land that fell through.

As was discovered during the city’s permitting review, the previous variance approval was only applicable to the scrapped project, though the application claims that caveat wasn’t noted with mentions of the variance attached to the property’s plat records. City planners purportedly told the developers (which appear to include Knudson and Allied Orion Group) that they could get the same reduced setback lines approved again if they turn the first floor of the condo project into residences or retail.

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Midtown Condo Limbo
08/22/16 5:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: RETURNING TO RESTORE MONTROSE AND MIDTOWN’S RIGHTFUL TERRITORIES Raising Cane's, 1902 Westheimer Rd., Vermont Commons,  Houston, TX 77098“I spent some time away from my beloved Houston. When I returned I found that ‘the Fourth Ward’ had been replaced with ‘NearTown’, and no one quite knew where Montrose was, let alone River Oaks. Please allow me to elucidate: the Fourth Ward ends at Taft; Montrose is precisely between Shepard and Taft, and Dallas and Richmond. ‘NearTown’ is a word invented by a half-drunk Realtor. It is that place on Allen Pkwy. directly underneath the I-45 overpass. ‘Midtown’ is the intersection of Main Street and Buffalo Bayou from which all house numbers in Houston radiate.” [Pat Bryan, commenting on Raising Cane’s Now Raising the Midtown Banner in Vermont Commons] Photo of Raising Cane’s at 1902 Westheimer Rd.: Swamplot inbox

08/19/16 4:15pm

Raising Cane's, 1902 Westheimer Rd., Vermont Commons,  Houston, TX 77098

Catty-corner to the middle school both formerly and henceforth to be known as Lanier, another spat of place-name confusion is brewing: A reader notes that the Raising Cane’s (whose Vermont Commons branch sits on the corner of Hazard St. and Westheimer Rd. on the lot previously vacated by Martha Turner Properties) has been pledging its affections to Midtown. But is the message one of tribute or defection? “Do they think they’re in Midtown?” wonders the tipster. “Is there something else I’m not getting?”

Photo of Raising Cane’s at 1902 Westheimer Rd.: Swamplot inbox

Midtown Creep
08/10/16 5:15pm

Former Mr. Peeples, 1911 Bagby St., Midtown, Houston, 7700
If you duck southwest under the Pierce Elevated from near the maybe-not-vacant-much-longer downtown Days Inn highrise (and maybe dodge a few exit ramps), you’ll find the logo of sparkle-happy steak and seafood house Mr. Peeples still peering coyly out from behind the greenery at 1911 Bagby St. — accompanied more recently by a less shy sign advertising the freed-up space’s availability, notes a reader. Landmark said in a press release when the spot closed in March that it would “emerge as an exciting new venue in the near future”; the informational signage from WLC Interests implies that that emergence may occur elsewhere, and that other folks may have a chance at the spot for less culinarily focused uses.

Here’s a shot of the place pre-glitzification (circa 2007) when it was a more conservatively decorated Boy Scouts office:

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Prepping for the Next Costume Change
08/04/16 4:30pm

THE ODDS ON A PIERCE ELEVATED COMEDOWN Map of Proposed I-45 Rerouting, Downtown HoustonWriting in the latest issue of Texas Architect magazine — which is now debuting a redone website with a new web address and a new all-articles-are-now free policy — Ben Koush surveys the prospects for the raised section of I-45 now dividing Midtown from Downtown: “While there have been some plans floated around to convert the decommissioned section of the Pierce Elevated into Houston’s version of the Highline, most people I spoke with didn’t think that was going to happen, simply because TxDOT needs the money it could get from selling that right of way to private developers. Some still hold out hope that at least some of the land or maybe even a small section of the elevated roadway could be made into a public green space.” [Texas Architect; previously on SwamplotPlan of “currently approved scheme” for I-45 rerouting around downtown, showing possible green space: SWA Group

07/27/16 12:45pm

Adkins Architectural Antiques, 3515 Fannin St., Midtown, 77004

Closing Sale Sign at Adkins Architectural Antiques, 3515 Fannin St., Midtown, 77004 A reader noted these notes near the door of the former home of Adkins Architectural Antiques, which had been operating out of the 100-ish-year-old house at 3515 Fannin (at the corner with Berry St.). The shop is rebranding as Adkins Antique Hardware Co. and retreating from the realm of physical architecture to a fully digital storefront. The company’s inventory also looks to be shifting away from bigger items like salvaged doors and windows to focus in on the little things — like knobs, pulls, and hinges, both old and old-looking. Per the new website, you might still be able to get an in-person appointment as the closing sale wraps up.

The property itself was listed for lease on LoopNetabout 2 weeks ago, under its HCAD alter ego of 1103 Berry. The house and its early-1990s warehouse are the only structures on the block, which otherwise serves as parking lot. CBRE’s leasing flier aerial (below) shows the space bathed in green highlighting, in place between the Ensemble Theater, several Houston Community College buildings, that Holman-St.-facing strip center, and the Downtown Pregnancy Help Center (thought the fact that it doesn’t show much progress on the recently-wrapped MATCH building dates the shot):

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Out with the Old in Midtown
07/12/16 1:30pm

Former City of Houston Code Enforcement Building, 3300 Main St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

The 1967 occupant of 3300 Main St., which previously housed the city code enforcement office, is currently getting its asbestos removed in anticipation of its impending demolition, according to a reader involved in the work. The structure and its parking lot grounds were bought from the city in 2011 by the Midtown Redevelopment Authority, who started trying to sell it in 2014; PM Realty (the developers of the glass-petticoated apartment tower at 2929 Weslayan, who are also currently working on the less-is-more-branded Ivy Lofts tiny condo complex in East Downtown) put the property under contract that year.

What’s going to take the code building’s place, between the new MATCH box theater collection and the Houston Community College buildings to the north on Main St.? The involved reader confirms that the rendering below shows the current design in place along the light rail line; materials from AECOM (a partner in the project) say the highrise should hold 336 apartments and 14,390 sq.ft. of retail space:

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Trading Up in Midtown
06/16/16 11:30am

HOUSTON’S ELECTRIFYING INSULT ART HAS ITS CRITICS graffiti at 1601 Alabama St.,  Midtown, Houston, 77004A roving Houston graffiti connoisseur issued a short but scathing review this week of the latest addition to the utility box at the corner of Alabama St. and Almeda Rd. via the automatic city complaint-filing app SeeClickFix. The user calls the scrawled proclamation ‘bad art’; the Midtown Management District says it’s on the case. The display, directly across Almeda from hammock-rich beer garden Axelrad, does not appear to be one of the coming-up-on-100 mini murals being placed on electrical utility boxes around the city by Up Art Studios. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of electrical utility box at 1601 Alabama St.: SeeClickFix

06/03/16 11:15am

360 Skybar Patio, 500 McIlhenny St., Midtown, Houston, 77006

Some things have changed in the last few months at the corner of Brazos and McIlhenny streets in Midtown, where scandal-embroiled nightclub Gaslamp appears to have shut down to make way for a newly-opened bar called 360. The Gaslamp sign is gone, and the building’s new Facebook page also lists it as located at Google-baggage-free 500 McIlhenny instead of 2400 Brazos (though the number 2400 was still in place over the door as of last week).

The former second-floor club-within-a-club Elysium space upstairs appears to have been redecorated as well, and to have picked up the name The Hamptons. Other things remain the same, however — for example, the photo posted last week of 360’s rooftop patio (above) is remarkably similar to a view from the rooftop previously posted to Gaslamp’s webpage (below):

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Midtown Makeover
05/16/16 10:45am

Sterling House, 3015 Bagby St., Midtown, Houston, 77006

3015 Bagby St., Midtown, HoustonSome construction photos released yesterday by the prepping-to-open business at 3015 Bagby St. seem to provide a definitive answer to that lingering 2013 question of whether the century-old structure at the corner with Rosalie St. would be patched up for a new gig as a Midtown bar called The Sterling House, or just torn down to make room for it. The building (which belonged to members of Ross Sterling‘s family but not to the former governor himself) wasn’t totally demolished, though it did get gutted and largely rebuilt. The space then got shopped around last year by landlord Amir Ansari, who offered the spot with TABC licenses and other permits already in place. 

A Sterling House Facebook page got a coming-soon photo update over the weekend, showing a few post-redo photos of the inside and outside of the structure:

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Polishing Up on Bagby
04/13/16 12:30pm

Drew at Helena streets, Midtown, Houston, 77006

Here’s the current scene along the north side of Drew St., where the acre-plus of emptied land previously planned for development as the Pearl on Helena now hosts a Morgan Group for sale sign. The block bounded by Helena, Drew, Albany, and Dennis streets was marked a few years back as another addition to Morgan’s string of Pearl midrises; the Helena site’s application went dark during the variance request process in mid-20014, but the land was cleared of its former hospital and mansion occupants near the end of that year.

Morgan Group currently has a Pearl in Greenway Plaza, with another getting polished up on Washington Ave near T.C. Jester; a planned Pearl on Smith (at the site of the former Social Security office right across Smith St. from the Pearl on Midtown) appeared to have been removed from the company’s immediate focus in 2014, only to resurface in renderings the following year as part of an apartment-midrise-grocery-store complex containing a Whole Foods.

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New Treatment Plan in Midtown
03/28/16 11:00am

Midtown Park Site Plan, Early 2015, Midtown, Houston, 77006

Some permits came through last week for the apartment-straddling park planned for the Midtown Superblock (the long and mostly-long-vacant 6-acre stretch between McGowen and Anita on the west side of Main St.). Freshly permitted structures on the docket include a 4,297-sq.-ft. pavilion, a ticket canopy, and a bathroom building. Broader sitework has also been given the go-ahead, as has a foot bridge (possibly over the wetland area previously mentioned in announcements for the project).

The spotlight-heavy rendering above shows the park from Anita St., looking north at the ghostly form of the Camden McGowen Station apartments currently on their way up in the middle of the site. The park’s largest greenspace and lawn will spread out atop the underground parking garage that’s wrapping up, once it’s fully underground. HAIF user hindesky snapped a recent photo of the burial site, also showing the Camden building starting to rise in the background to the north under the guidance of the remaining crane:

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Midtown Superblock
03/23/16 10:30am

TABC Notice at 1916 Baldwin St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

A notice of a TABC application, requesting permission from the agency to serve mixed drinks and stay up late, is now up by a door of the 1930s house-turned-office-building at 1916 Baldwin St. The 2-story home, which was remodeled as office spaces in the early 2000s, is currently listed as the home of D’Olive Law Firm, the Texas Passport Center and Bibby, McWilliams, & Kearney, among the latest in a string of law-minded businesses to inhabit the space 1 block north of Gray St.

The bar-to-be sits between the condos at 207 Pierce St. and the RISE Lofts and Edge condo complexes across Baldwin; the Camden City Centre apartments hedge in the parking lot from the north. The space is also just across Pierce St. from Komodo Pub, another house-gone-bar tucked back a block from the restaurant-filled stretch of Gray to the south.  The building changed hands in early January; the TABC permit notice, naming Basilio Investments as instigator, is hanging to the right of that side entrance visible left of the oak tree nearest to the parking lot — here’s a closer look:

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Taking the Bar on Baldwin
03/11/16 4:00pm

Obama Mural, Travis St. and West Alabama, Midtown, Houston

The president has just wrapped up his keynote speech at hippie-turned-techie-festival SXSW in Austin — but he’s been sighted all over the place today, including at the oft-redecorated corner of Alabama and Travis streets across the street from the Breakfast Klub. The newest mural was finished up last week in the recently whitewashed spot that has hosted various incarnations of Obama’s likeness over the last few years (and been vandalized several times).

Obama was also photographed earlier this afternoon at a Torchy’s Tacos in South Austin, where he reportedly ordered a Democrat, a Republican, and an Independent before heading back to the motorcade:

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On the Trail
03/04/16 1:00pm

Whitewashed Obama Mural, Travis St. and West Alabama, Midtown, HoustonNew Reginald Adams' Mural of President Obama, Travis St. and West Alabama, Midtown, HoustonAs polling dates roll through the country, the oft-transformed mural outside of the former Obama campaign headquarters in Midtown has been spotted sporting a fresh coat of background white. Allyn West, who first noticed the political banner’s changed stripes on Super Tuesday, sends this Disillusioned Thursday snapshot of the now-blanked wall. So far, the site has featured various incarnations of Obama: in the sky-gazing HOPE poster from Shephard Fairey, in a sunglassed hip-with-the-kids pose, and most recently in the above star-spangled baby-on-banner scene that first appeared in 2013.

The past murals have been the subject of political displeasure for at least one person, judging by 2 previous acts of similarly-angled paint vandalism:

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State of the Mural