HOUSTON’S NEW HIGH-WATER MARK It took a journey to the moon for Houston to become Space City, an NBA championship for it to become Clutch City, thousands of years of storm drainage for it to become the Bayou City, its emergence as a lower-cost alternative to New York, LA, and Chicago to become Discount City, an American League pennant run for it to become Crush City, a clever marketing campaign that plays on the city’s famous sprawl and lack of zoning laws for it to become The City with No Limits, and a Hollywood movie for Houston to become the preferred invocation preceding any declaration that “We’ve Got a Problem.” Now, amid the fluid aftermath of Harvey and the resulting flood of worldwide media coverage for the city’s latest historic high-water event, is Houston set to become known as . . . That City That Floods? “This ‘Houston Hang In There’ logo designed by Chad Ehlinger has become the go-to symbol uniting the city of Houston during this trying time,” reads a note posted last week to the Facebook page of Cactus Music, promoting the sale of T-shirts emblazoned with the mark, with proceeds promised to JJ Watt’s Houston Flood Relief Fund. (Hats with a similar charitable promise are available now too.) Like all great logos, Ehlinger’s badge of hope accommodates alternate readings: Is that a hand raising high the city’s initial in a defiant gesture of pride? Or someone hanging on for dear life as the floodwaters rise? If so, do we imagine the next step: a one-handed pull-up, lifting ourselves out of our predicament and into a drier future? What would it take for a new civic identity to emerge from the floodwaters — one that incorporates a more honest recognition of the city’s fundamental ongoing battle with drainage? A message of perseverance provides great cover. [Cactus Music] Logo: Chad Ehlingerm
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW ABOUT A TRIAL FORGETTING PERIOD FIRST? “It is really not in play in the ‘tear it down’ vs. ‘leave it there’ debate, but it has always been my considered opinion that that nothing should be named for anyone until 10 years after their death. So many things are named for recently deceased, relatively unimportant politicians these days. Few remember who they are 10 years later. If there is still a hue and cry to memorialize someone ten years after their death, so be it. As stated in a quote attributed to Cato the Elder, “’I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue, than why I have one.’” [Al, commenting on Comment of the Day: Statues of Limitations] Illustration: Lulu
The new name for the area restaurants formerly known as Ruggles Green is part of a strategy for the Houston-based chain to disassociate itself with local chef Bruce Molzan, its CEO admits. “Yes, we want to distance ourselves from him,” Jason Morgan tells Chronicle reporter Andrea Rumbaugh. Morgan’s investment firm, Hargett Hunter Capital Partners, purchased Ruggles Green last October. Today the firm announced it is rebranding all 5 area restaurants as Bellagreen, a move presaged by the publication in its social media feeds earlier this month of the photo above — showing its patio at CityCentre while artfully eliding the signage.
Molzan, the longtime chef at the former Ruggles Grill on Westheimer, is no longer an owner of the Ruggles Green chain he cofounded, but he and his ex-wife retain rights to the Ruggles name. But there’s more than the risk of too many confusing Ruggleses for Bellagreen to contend with; there’s also the issue of Molzan’s fish-y reputation: Molzan was accused by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department earlier this year of operating Texas’s largest-ever unlicensed seafood network, selling illegally caught finfish to restaurants, including Ruggles Black and Ruggles Green, for almost 4 years.
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CALHOUN BANISHED FROM UH’S CALHOUN LOFTS A statement out this afternoon from UH: “The University of Houston does not have statues, memorials or monuments honoring the Confederate era. Calhoun Lofts were originally named to coincide with the name of the adjacent city street when the university began its aggressive residential expansion in the last decade. While the residence hall was not named in recognition of John C. Calhoun, in the wake of recent events, and out of sensitivity to our diverse student community the university has decided to change the name to University Lofts. The change will be made as soon as practical.” [Daily Cougar] Photo of Calhoun Lofts, 4700 Calhoun Rd.: Kirksey Architecture
The HAR listing for the home at 5116 Avenue H in the Second Ward, for sale for $99,990, identified the property’s subdivision as MEX Y CAN. Which seemed notable enough in the rapidly changing neighborhood for the curious name to appear as discussion fodder yesterday on Reddit. The subdivision name is accurate, appearing on county tax records: The property’s developer was required to give a name to the subdivision when the single 5,000-sq.-ft. lot on which it stood (at the time part of a subdivision named Engel) was divided into thirds last year, in order to allow him to sell off individually the 3 existing homes on the property. “Actually no one had any comments [on the name] at the time of replatting,” the developer notes.
MEX Y CAN, the name he assigned to the subdivision, “is for the name Mexican and (Y in Spanish) Canadian,” he explains to Swamplot. “The love of my life is Mexican and I am Canadian. . . . There is no other meaning or significance behind it.” The motivation for choosing this particular name? “Having myself, the love of my life, and our desire to be memorialized in the area for eternity like our love.”
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THE INVENTION OF UPPER KIRBY Among Houston’s grids, strips, and cul de sacs, let a million neighborhoods bloom! Perhaps the story of how the area around upper Kirby Dr. came to be known as Upper Kirby can form some sort of template for this city’s vast numbers of undifferentiated districts just waiting to be branded? “We weren’t Greenway Plaza, we weren’t Montrose, we weren’t Rice Village,” Upper Kirby Management District deputy director Travis Younkin tells reporter Nicki Koetting. It was a section of town that lacked identity. “This nameless neighborhood, Koetting adds, “was the sort of place you drove through on the way to other, named neighborhoods.” One helpful step along the way: Planting the shopping areas with red phone booths. “The authentic British phone booths are an homage to Upper Kirby’s acronym, and actually operated as phone booths for a few decades until cellphones became the norm,” Koetting notes. “Now, the telephone booths are lit from within and locked, serving today as a visual indication to visitors that they’ve arrived in Houston’s own UK.” [Houstonia] Photo: WhisperToMe
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WAITING IMPATIENTLY FOR THE TRENDY DEVELOPER NICKNAMES TO SPREAD NORTH “The dumbest is ‘Near Northside’, separating it from the actual Northside, which no one understands unless you live there. So you have to tell people ‘Acres Homes’ (which it is not at all) or say ‘behind the Fiesta’ or ‘behind Gallery Furniture on 45 North.’ What other point of reference is there — across the freeway from Dago’s? Basically I’m waiting for gentrification to name my hood something that gentrifiers can easily recall.” [Robin, commenting on Comment of the Day: When They Move the Neighborhood To Sell the Home] Photo: Dago’s Tatt00 & Piercing Studio
COMMENT OF THE DAY: ASPIRATIONAL HOUSTON DEVELOPMENT NAMING JUST AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE “‘Heights creep’ is to the 2010s what ‘River Oaks creep’ was to the 1980s/90s. Back in the 90s when I was living in a (moderately crappy) apartment near the corner of Kirby and Westheimer, anything between Buffalo Bayou, the West Loop, US-59 and Montrose might have been referred to as River Oaks. Hell, even the River Oaks Shopping Center isn’t even actually in River Oaks.” [Angostura, commenting on Putting the Heights Back In Its . . . Uh, Places; previously on Swamplot] Photo: River Oaks Theater
PUTTING THE HEIGHTS BACK IN ITS . . . UH, PLACES
“In their rush to capitalize on the popularity of the district, businesses and developers have awkwardly assumed the mantle of the name ‘Heights,’ even though they’re clearly outside the zone of its accepted borders,” writes Jeff Balke this morning for the Houston Press. Where exactly are those accepted borders? And which variation means what? Balke suggests something between a taxonomical scheme and an etiquette lesson on selecting the proper name for whatever flavor of Heights, Heights-adjacent and Heights-aspiring territory you may be seeking to invoke — from the historic city originally spurring the name, all the way to the fringe territories of Katyville and the Heights Walmart. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
A permit was issued yesterday to knock out some walls at the former medical clinic at 820 Holman St., remodeled back in 2015 into abbreviated-French-themed nightclub VrSi. The club (shown here as it looked in its early days) seems to have stopped promoting itself right after Mardi Gras, and a new business name for the address was registered with the county clerk’s office late last month: Holman Draft Hall. That new moniker is still connected to VrSi co-owner Andy Aweida, part of the group that owns nearby Wooster’s Garden and used to own those demolished Kirby funeral parlor bars; the same folks are also behind the Heights Bier Garten, which opened last month in the former Longhorn Motor Company spot on N. Shepherd (now full of parked picnic tables):
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Signs of Life on Holman St.
The slumping 1930’s storefront at the northeast corner of Ashland and W. 11th St. has been given the all-clear to be cleared out, a reader notes from city paperwork spotted on the door late last week (with this morning’s daily demolition report hot on his heels to confirm the story). Both the street-fronting corner property and its taller neighbor are owned by a legal entity called Villa Incognito, a name which appears to have been created less than a year after the Tom Robbins novel of the same name was published. The company’s registered agent also appears to own the next property down the row at 519 W. 11th.
Photo: Swamplot inbox
Coming Down in the Heights
The recently remonikered Margaret Long Wisdom High School is prepping for its scheduled student body transplant as the school year winds down. The shot above shows the main entrance of the school’s almost-ready new building, tucked behind the old one along Hillcroft Ave. south of Beverly Hills St. That older structure, which cut its Confederate ties about a year ago, should be getting erased altogether starting in June, a reader involved with the project tells Swamplot.
Here’s the flip side view of the glassy main entrance above, which should be unlocked in time for fall classes:
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Creeping South on Hillcroft
The fastest way to Westheimer Rd., if you happen to be wandering north looking for it in the 76210 ZIP code, is a left off of Heights Blvd. and an immediate right off Gessner Dr. Lauren Meyers captured some scenes this weekend around the Summit Oaks subdivision on the south side of Denton, TX, which has a whole section of streets sharing names with major Houston roadway (with a few bizarro-world tweaks here and there, like Chimney Rock Dr. and an only-1-L Hilcroft Ave.) The imposters range from Briar Forest Dr. to Dunlavy St. to Willowick Cir. and beyond:
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A Road By Any Other Name
COMMENT OF THE DAY: YOUR WEEKEND HEIGHTS-CREEP FORECAST “Garden Oaks and Oak Forest are [already] part of The Heights (the same way they are calling Spring Branch ‘Memorial’, and a lot of long time residents were angry that new residents called Northside Village ‘Tampico Heights’). I have bad news for the purists out there: if you live in Cottage Grove, Independence Heights, Shady Acres, Brooke Smith, Timbergrove/Lazybrook, those areas are now part of The Heights [as well]. . . . These hoods that have the 365 stores are gonna get more pricey and popular, since they are close to Downtown.” [Dj, commenting on Whole Foods’s 365 Garden Oaks Spot Now Emptied of Neff Rental Rentals] Rendering of 365 Garden Oaks: Boucher Design Group
COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW 2-SYLLABLE NEIGHBORHOOD NICKNAMES ARE BORN “I’m with WR: who are these supposed ‘Houston residents’ who call it ADLA? I’ll bet those ‘residents’ are people who got here 6 months ago (and/or are the writer and his buddy). As far as the headline question: I think it may be too early for us to claim ‘World’s Best Super Bowl Host City‘ — or as a Houston resident, I call it WBSBHC, which rolls off the tongue.” [Wolf Brand Chili, commenting on Houston Rents Slide; Post-Flood Calls for Action] Photo of redone George R. Brown Convention Center on Avenida de las Americas: Bob Russell