03/08/16 10:00am

TREE PROFESSIONALS: PECAN AT 509 LOUISIANA ST. WOULD HAVE JUST DIED ANYWAY Pecan Tree formerly at 509 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002The pecan tree formerly behind the former Longhorn Cafe on Louisiana St. is down at last, following the 100-plus-year-old buildings at 509 and 517 Louisiana into that Great Big Preservation District in the Sky. Nancy Sarnoff of the Houston Chronicle reports that 2 arborists were called in to examine the tree, and pronounced it dead-or-close-enough: Lauren Lusk Willis, a member of the family that owns the next-door Lancaster Hotel, told the Chronicle that a lightning strike had damaged the tree, and that its core was rotting. Willis said that the pecan “would not likely have survived the leveling of the lot for any construction,” and that “ultimately, it wouldn’t have survived regardless.” The tree, haunted by a both-Sam-and-city-of Houston ghost story, was long visible only to those who entered 509 Louisiana’s hidden courtyard, until the pecan’s 2001 outing by the demo of the Rice Rittenhouse parking garage; it went back into hiding by the end of 2003 with the help of 33-story Calpine Center. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of the pecan tree, following demolition of 509 Louisiana St.: KineticD

01/19/16 9:45am

A GLIMPSE OF THE HIDDEN PECAN AT 509 LOUISIANA ST., NOW THAT THE BUILDING IS OUT OF THE WAY Demolition of 509 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002While much of the 1906 structure that formerly stood at 509 Louisiana St. was still on site as of early afternoon yesterday, the pieces had mostly been rearranged. A couple of excavators can be seen picking them over in this shot sent in by a reader. The once-secret pecan tree is also hanging out in the open as it waits for the axe  — look for the branches peeking out around the corner of the Calpine Center parking garage entrance, on the left edge of the shot. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Jack Miller via Swamplot inbox

01/13/16 4:58pm

509 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

517 Louisiana St. is down — the former haunt of the Longhorn Cafe (509 Louisiana, to the right of the hole in the above photo) was still standing as of 2 PM this afternoon, along with the pecan tree in its once-secret  courtyard. Both have permits lined up to follow 517 into the Great Beyond, to make room for surface parking on the block.

The hidden pecan tree is purported to harbor a ghost, rooted deep in some Republic of Texas history:

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Louisiana St. Demolitions
01/12/16 3:45pm

Demolition of 517 Louisiana St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Time to bid adieu to 2 more of downtown’s oldest buildings: readers sent both sky-high and excavator-side photos of yesterday’s teardown work at 517 Louisiana St., and 509 is permitted to follow). According to the building’s owners, the next-door Lancaster Hotel’s parking crunch is the reason the 2 1906 Theater District neighbors will meet their flattened fates, along with a long-hidden pecan tree that shades a once-secret courtyard at 509. Taking their place: a surface lot for 50 cars — and, maybe, one day, an expansion to the hotel.

517’s transformation to empty space was complete by the end of the day yesterday:

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Coming Down in Downtown
01/07/16 2:30pm

CYPRESS BARBECUE TRAILER THREATENED WITH GUN VIOLENCE FOR SUPPORTING OPEN CARRY Brook's Place,  18020 FM 529, Cypress, TX 77433​Perennial Allison Cook’s Top 100 listee Brooks’ Place, the parking lot barbecue joint in Cypress which began offering a discount on New Year’s Day to those visibly bringing a holstered gun to the establishment, received a review via its Facebook page this morning threatening a Saturday shootup (with explicit reference to the spot’s “gun-toting patrons”). Owner Trent Brooks tells the Houston Chronicle’s Sid Kearney that he has contacted the authorities and that he is “not taking the threat lightly, not with all the crazy stuff that is going on in the world today.” But the barbecue shed-trailer will be open this Saturday, with peace officers stationed nearby if necessary. [Houston Chronicle, previously on SwamplotPhoto: Cletus O.

12/02/15 12:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHY IT’S STILL BLACKTOP FRIDAY Illustration of Oversized Parking Lot” . . . It’s quite obvious [anti-parking activists] are against the massive amounts of concrete used in most suburban developments that are sitting empty and unused — dying and mediocre shopping strips being the main culprits. Point being, if these outlets can’t fill these huge parking lots to the brim on what is considered the busiest shopping day of the year, then what use are all of these parking lots for? They are ugly and a waste of space. For example, the parking lot at the new Buc-ee’s in Texas City is atrociously too big and wasteful, as I never see it used to capacity. But I guess Texans would rather look at seas of empty, littered concrete slabs than what could be left as natural or landscaped.” [Eddie, commenting on Second Life for Downtown’s Melrose Building; Where the Most Expensive Homes in Houston Are] Illustration: Lulu

07/10/15 2:00pm

CVS Pharmacy Under Construction, 3112 S. Shepherd Dr., Westlawn Terrace, Houston

CVS Pharmacy Under Construction, 3112 S. Shepherd Dr., Westlawn Terrace, HoustonThe new CVS Pharmacy that’s replacing a couple of former veterinary clinics on W. Alabama — as well as the Shepherd Corner shopping center that until late last year housed Roeder’s Pub, Ruchi’s Taqueria, and Oaks Cleaners — is almost ready to show off the 40 shiny new parking spaces that will front the S. Shepherd Dr. corner a block south from the Trader Joe’s-ified Alabama Theater.

Don’t worry that parking will be scarce, though — more spaces will be available along the side and back of the new building, which faces S. Shepherd Dr. behind 2 full parking lanes. If you’re looking for a development that might be a little more street-fronting, you’ll have to wait: Construction hasn’t even begun yet on the fast-food drive-thru planned for the adjacent former site of jewelry store Fly High Little Bunny; it’ll go in where the big pile of dirt is, at the left of this photo:

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06/15/15 3:00pm

TrueGrid Parking Lot, Ninfa's on Navigation, 2704 Navigation Blvd., East End, Houston

For the second time in 6 months, the original Ninfa’s at 2704 Navigation has a brand new parking lot surface. The owners hope this one will last a whole lot longer than the sog-prone crushed-limestone install that crews replaced prematurely last week (see photo above). “There were potholes everywhere,” declares a press release put out by the manufacturer of its replacement. Here’s a pic of how it looked before (found-in-place jalapeño included for scale and local flavor):

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Replacing a Swamp Lot
05/06/15 12:00pm

HOUSTON METHODIST’S NEW SUBURBAN-STYLE TMC HELIPAD Houston Methodist Helistop, Bertner Ave. at S. Braeswood Blvd., Texas Medical Center, HoustonFrom reader Stephen J Alexander comes this pic of the new helistop that’s landed at the corner of Bertner Ave. and S. Braeswood, just over the southern (Brays Bayou) border from the Texas Medical Campus, as viewed during construction last month. It’s directly across the street from M.D. Anderson’s 25-story Mid Campus Building 1, but the helicopter landing pad is a project of Houston Methodist Hospital, according to permit info posted onsite; it sits on a portion of Methodist’s West Pavilion remote lot. Photo: Stephen J Alexander

02/24/15 2:45pm

Demolition on Site of Proposed California Square Townhomes, 1005 Missouri St. and 1004 California St., Montrose, Houston

Proposed California Square Townhomes, 1005 Missouri St. and 1004 California St., Montrose, Houston

The asphalt and branches were flying this morning at the storied former South Beach parking lot off Montrose between California St. and Missouri (more recently home to cars whose owners are visiting the nearby Aladdin restaurant). Pelican Builders has begun clearing the 28,709-sq.-ft. collection of lots — which have separate frontages on Missouri St., Grant St., and California St. — for its 24-townhome California Square project. A few properties from the gated complex of 2-bedroom townhomes have been listed on MLS — for just shy of $500K. Here’s the site plan:

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California Square
02/17/15 12:00pm

Mr. Santos Fashion Designs, 2150 Westheimer Rd., Glendower Court, Houston

Mr. Santos Fashion Designs, 2150 Westheimer Rd., Glendower Court, HoustonConstruction on the lot behind the Mr. Santos Fashion Design HQ on Westheimer Rd. at Kingston doesn’t mean Mr. Santos is closing up shop. It just means that his neighbor, the St. Anne Parish, is adding onto its parking lot along Kingston Dr. The dress designer and tailor, who’s operated out of the former house at 2150 Westheimer Rd. just west of Shepherd for a mere 32 years, tells Swamplot his shop, which specializes in wedding dresses, isn’t going anywhere.

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The Cars of St. Anne’s
03/17/14 3:45pm

Surface Parking Lot at Travis St. and Preston, Market Square, Downtown Houston

Surface Parking Lot at Travis St. and Preston, Market Square, Downtown HoustonHere’s some evidence that Hines Residential is ready to go ahead with construction of its 33-story apartment tower at the corner of Travis and Preston, catty-corner from Market Square: The surface parking lot on that site closed down over the weekend. “The lot’s money machine and parking lot signage are gone,” reports the reader who snapped these views. “I’m sure better fencing and gates will soon arrive.” In the meantime, newly installed curbstops are blocking the driveways.

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Unpaving Paradise, Putting Down a Parking Lot
02/12/14 12:30pm

Houston Municipal Court Building, 1400 Lubbock St., HoustonSurprise! The spot in Houston where the most parking tickets have been issued over the last 2 years is . . . the place where people go to pay for their parking tickets. That would be at the surface parking lot for the city’s municipal courthouse at 1400 Lubbock St. (pictured at right), where a couple advantages accrue for illegal parkers: If you’ve got money with you when you return to find that bright green envelope tucked under your windshield wiper, paying up will be extremely convenient, and the parking while you go back in should be . . . uh, no extra charge!

Working from public data, Click2Houston reporter Jace Larson compiled the top 19 addresses cited in the 415,000 parking citations the city issued in 2012 and 2013, and highlighted 6 of them in his TV report. Of the top 19, only 6 are not directly adjacent to government or public-institution-related buildings; the vast majority of them are Downtown. Among the non-central parking-enforcement hotspots: an IRS service center and a couple of residential blocks near Montrose nightclubs. Here’s a list and map of the parking-enforcement hotspots, along with a few details from Larson’s report and observations of the map:

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Hint: They’re Mostly Downtown
01/14/14 12:00pm

MEANWHILE, ACROSS THE DRIVEWAY FROM A NORTH LOOP WHATABURGER Home Depot Parking Lot, 999 North Loop West, Shady Acres, HoustonFrom reader David Hille comes this report of the latest parking lot pad site takeover: “After a morning run to the ‘Brinkman’ Home Depot on 610 near N. Shepherd, I became curious about the temporary fencing which was being erected around the northeast quarter of the parking lot. So, I stopped, and spoke to a couple of men who were reviewing a fairly large roll of blueprints on the lowered tailgate of a truck. I had a little head rush when I was told that a new Chick Fil-A was about to be erected . . . right there in the parking lot. Makes sense, as I can’t remember that portion of the lot ever being full of cars. A similar scenario took place last year at the Lowes down the street. Part of that property which held a retention pond is now home to a brand new CVS. Prior to that, some of the Lowes parking lot was sacrificed for a Murphy Express gas station . . .” Photo: David Hille

10/10/13 10:35am

Architecture firm Stern and Bucek has come up with this rendering of the Menil Collection’s new cafe, part of the free museum’s long-planned expansion of its Montrose campus. The design for the cafe — which is yet to be named but will be run by Greg Martin (of Cafés Annie and Express and Taco Milagro) — appears to adapt and elaborate upon the gray bungalow at 1512 Sul Ross St., on the other side of that path from the Menil Bookstore; this is the same site, says a press release from the Menil Collection, that architect Renzo Piano originally had in mind for a similar amenity. So there’s that. Whatever it’ll be called, the cafe, it appears, will split the difference between the museum’s main entrance and the parking lot off W. Alabama.

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