04/13/17 1:30pm

Former Tree at Axelrad Beer Garden, 1517 Alabama St., Midtown, Houston, TX 77004Swapping in for the tubelight-bedecked elm that’s been standing in the middle of Axelrad Beer Garden at the corner of Almeda Rd. and Alabama St.: this way-past-sapling Shumard red oak, carefully trucked, tipped, and dropped into place earlier this week, as captured in the Yakety-Sax-tracked video montage above. The changeover comes at the end of the original tree’s years-long shuffle toward death, per the bar’s telling: the group was advised to evict the tree when they first started setting up the space — as it was already old, and had been hit pretty hard by that tire-revealing 2011 drought — but opted to keep it around for a few years instead.

Following a recent lightning strike from which it would never quite recover, the tree finally lost enough branches that the bar owners opted to put it out of its misery:

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Series of Tubes in Midtown
02/14/17 1:45pm

A diner catty-corner from Bagby Park yesterday evening captured the slow drama that unfolded as an in-transit temporary building was backed slowly up Bagby St. (at least maintaining the suggested orientation of the 1-way street, if not the intended direction of travel). The video above shows the building as it backs through the signalized intersection (to the audible distress of a would-be oncoming sedan), squeezes through the cars parked curbside (seemingly avoiding all vehicular scratches, but grazing a tree), then turns east down westbound Gray St. toward the eternally shining beacon of the St. Joseph Professional Building, accompanied in its wrong-way progress by an entourage consisting of a police escort, tow truck, and and a small excavator hitching a ride.

Video: Swamplot inbox

Temporary Night on the Town
02/10/17 2:45pm

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

Those Swamplot commenters who’ve been taking particular and unabashed pleasure in the long, slow demise of the former city code enforcement office at 3300 Main St. may also enjoy the shot above of the flooded pit spotted recently where the Mod office building once stood. Reader Diaspora (who sent in the photo late last week) suggests the site as potential competition for the folks behind the Houston Needs a Swimming Hole campaign, which Kickstartered a feasibility study a few years ago (and also passed around an illustration of an optimistically blue-watered bayouside beachfront, shown below):

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Lakes of Main St.
02/02/17 11:45am

Midtown Entry Portal work site, Brazos St. at I-45 and Pierce St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Midtown Entry Portal work site, Brazos St. at I-45 and Pierce St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

Some of the intermediate developmental stages of the pointy new hill between the Pierce Elevated and the old Mr. Peeples spot raised a few questions in the mind of a nearby reader (chief among them: whether the Midtown Redevelopment Authority was constructing an ark.) A few photos from last week (including the top shot above) showed what appear to be wooden forms heralding the pouring of a concrete landscaping wall. A set of new shots from this morning paint a more complete picture of the site, showing a cargo of several new trees now settled in place in the gentle concave curve behind the structured hill’s prow (as seen in the second shot above). Beyond the wall, the other side of the mound appears to have been dotted with ornamental grass:

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Piling It On Off Bagby
01/20/17 11:00am

Demo of former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building at 2850 Fannin St. and its many murals are now rubble, a reader notes. The shot above catches the destroyed structure next to Sebastien Boileau’s Preservons la Creation mural across the street on the back of 2800 San Jacinto St., juxtaposed with what appears to be some carefully timed oncoming traffic to add that dramatic glow to the painted figure’s outstretched spray paint can. The reader also caught one of the excavators climbing atop its defeated adversary earlier in the day, beneath the giant cross of the St. Joseph Professional Building:

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Cycles of Midtown
01/19/17 11:30am

Midtown Superblock Construction, January 2017, Main, McGowen, Travis, Anita streets, Midtown, Houston, 77003

A spokesperson from ESPN confirms to Swamplot that the network will not be using underground-parking-garaged Midtown Park as the main set for its Super Bowl week teevee shows after all, contrary to that October announcement. Workers were on the scene on Monday (as shown here), and the main pavilion structure appears to have been undergoing glow tests in the last few weeks by the same lighting design company that designed the new US59 bridge LEDs. The scaffolding-covered Camden apartments structure, however, appears to be missing some more significant finishing touches:

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Super Bowl Super Blocks
01/17/17 4:45pm

Demo of 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The building at 2850 Fannin St. (seen here across the Main St. light-rail tracks next to the recently gassed Art Supply building) has been split into pieces as of this morning. A reader on the scene caught sight (and footage, above) of several excavators simultaneously scraping away at the scene, with aid from a small bulldozer. Here’s a few more views of what was left of the structure and its extensive paint job:

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Parting Shots
01/13/17 5:15pm

Fannin at Dennis streets, Midtown, Houston, 77003

Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Before being shooed away by fire department folks near the corner of Dennis and Fannin streets around noon yesterday, reader and art blogger Robert Boyd managed to snap a shot of the hole dug recently along the sidewalk. “You might be able to see that the fire fighters were wearing gas masks,” Boyd notes, surmising that the digging was related to the gas lines for the under-deconstruction former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Association building building a block further south (shown above); the digging apparently also caused the gas leak that triggered the shutdown of several nearby streets for part of the day. Boyd reports that the folks in the Art Supply on Main building, located between the digging and the demo site, “were totally cut off for most of [the day]. HFD showed up and asked up all to stay inside — we could get out of our parking lot, but not back in.

The emergency crews departed mid-afternoon, shortly after Boyd snapped a more elevated shot of the fire engine (evocatively juxtaposed with a signal-red stop sign and a rare view of fall-esque Houston foliage):

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Sights and Scents of Dennis St.
01/12/17 3:45pm

Murals at former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The colorful faces behind the chain-link fencing surrounding the former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority building at 2850 Fannin St. have been joined this week by a few pieces of bright yellow knock-down equipment. Permits came through last week clearing the site for clearance in advance of a planned 27-story apartment highrise going by the name Main Midtown. The tower was okayed for a parking variance in late October, as part of which Australian developer Caydon Properties agreed to install over 200 bike spaces. 

The long-empty MHMRA structure got its last hurrah this fall when much of the street-level wallspace was painted over in tan, making way for new muralage. A nearby resident buzzed around the site recently taking some final snaps of the paintings (like the one featured at the top of the page) before the demo gets going in earnest — here’s a sampling below:

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Midtown Breakdown
01/12/17 11:30am

Midtown Entry Portal work site, Brazos St. at I-45 and Pierce St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

More signs of the Midtown Redevelopment Authority’s current 3-part landscaping project: the large hill being crafted where the long I-45 exit ramp into Pierce St. hits Brazos St. Bid documents for the project also mention landscaping walls, accent lighting, and decorative stone as part of the rest of the plan for the spot. The newly elevated site sits east across the I-45 offloader from the former home of high-gloss steak and seafood house Mr. Peeples, which shut down back in March. The Bagby-facing building, which served as a Boy Scouts of America office prior to the restaurant makeover, is still up for lease; a marketing flier advertises all 3 stories as up for grabs, along with the 8,702-sq.-ft. basement. Here’s the full frontal:

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Moving Up in Midtown
12/09/16 10:45am

Midtown Entry Portal site, W. Gray at Matthews St., Midtown/Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

Where exactly, these days, does Fourth Ward end and Midtown begin? That may be a little bit clearer before long (depending on how you define the 2) — a reader notes that someone looks to be getting ready to stake a visible claim for Midtown on the narrow strip of land at the crotch of Webster and W. Gray streets, just west of Matthews St. and the latest add-on to the Post Midtown Square development. (The yellow signage of that recently scorched Fuzzy’s is visible on the left.)

The silt fencing rimming the median segment as of late comes with a construction sign calling the spot “Midtown Entry Portal — Site 3.” That grassy sliver does sit at the end of a short but pointy finger of land jutting out of the northwestern boundary of the area’s tax increment reinvestment zone, which as of 2009 is shaped about like this:

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TIRZspotting
12/01/16 2:30pm

San Jacinto Memorial Green, 1300 HolmanSt., Midtown, Houston, 77003

That tiny replica of the San Jacinto Monument near San Jacinto and Holman streets is surrounded these days by the landscaping of Houston Community College’s San Jacinto Memorial Green, the green-space-turned-parking-lot-turned-back-to-green-space next to the adjacent building that once housed San Jacinto High School. A reader sends an early-evening out-the-window shot of the park, which is scheduled to formally open on Saturday.

That shot faces Holman St., with Caroline St. visible to the northeast and lined up with the green space’s lit walkway; most of the lawn seen to the left of that path was paved parking lotbetween the 1980s and 2014. The photo is taken from the former San Jac high school structure itself (now employed as part of HCC’s Central Campus, and referred to as the San Jacinto Memorial Building by the time of its 2012 addition to the National Register of Historic Places):

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Remembering Asphalt Gone By
11/22/16 10:45am

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

As the walls crumble and the last days unfold for the city’s old code enforcement office in Midtown, a hidden stained-glass window has been uncovered — as seen here in a shot taken by a reader yesterday evening from across the light-rail tracks. Once the structure is fully deconstructed, the way will be open for that planned mixed-use-skyscraper from PM Realty to rise toward the heavens. In front of the window is the long-since-de-greened greenscreen trellis installed to dress up the main Main entrance of the concrete structure, back in the late aughts: 

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Preparing To Rise in Midtown
11/21/16 10:30am

Burned Fuzzy's Tacos, 138 W. Gray St., Fourth Ward, Houston, 77019

That warm glow early Sunday morning on the edge of Fourth Ward turned out to be a major fire at the eastern W. Gray outpost of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. The blaze is now under investigation, with an eye for possible arson — a manager at across-the-street Oporto Fooding House and Wine told KHOU that security cameras caught sight of a car parked outside the closed shop just before the start of the fire, somewhere around 5 AM. The upstate taco chain opened the freshly roasted branch in January in the 1940’s house formerly housing bar and barbecue joint Hefley’s (a little less than 2 miles down the street from the Fuzzy’s now lurking in the back of the River Oaks Shopping Center).

Standing around in the background of the west-facing shot above: the Dolce Living apartment complex under construction on the north side of W. Gray on either side of Bailey St. A few other angles captured yesterday by a reader on the scene show the newly reconfigured profile of the taco shop’s roof:

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Soft Tacos Overdone
11/14/16 10:45am

Winburn Mess Hall, 3701 Travis St., Midtown, Houston, 77002

The brick building at Travis and Winbern streets, wedged between the Breakfast Klub to the south and Continental Club to the east, is occupied these days by Winbern Mess Hall — a joint truck-to-brick-and-mortar project involving both Korean-Mexican fusion truck Oh My Gogi! and Asian-fusion hotdog truck Happy Endings. The fused fusion truckers quietly opened shop in October, with plans for a grander opening tentatively planned for mid-December. A rep tells Swamplot that items from both trucks are on the menu, and a bar is also in the works.

Winbern has moved into the spot in the wake of the sudden May flight of Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, another animal-mascotted endeavor of Beaver’s chef Monica Pope. The red banner by the tucked-away front door on Travis (above) has been updated to reflect the switchover, though the new occupants say they haven’t changed too much inside the place. Here’s a shot of the spot (from back when it still played host to the avian theme):

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Winbern Fusion Fusion Joint