03/28/17 2:30pm

2309 Wichita St., Riverside Terrace, Houston

The Chron’s Craig Hlavaty reports from the scene of still-ongoing renovations to the bedecked and multi-turreted home at 2309 Wichita St., better known as the castle-like former duplex, orphanage, and daycare facility in Riverside Terrace that former owner and VA nurse Charles Fondow spent 31-odd years renovating and expanding as his own quirky residence, inspired by his sightseeing travels in Russia and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Fondow died in 2011, his life’s work incomplete. New owner Nick Ugarov, who picked up the property from a bank sale in 2014, has continued Fondow’s legacy with a multi-year renovation project of his own:

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Almost Done
03/23/17 10:30am

2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

2241 Richmond Ave., Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

One of the low-slung spots fringing Portsmouth Square (the gravelly picket-fenced space between Portsmouth St. and Richmond Ave. which a reader refers to as “arguably Houston’s worst parking lot”) has been getting worked over for an identity swapout planned to take effect later this month. The former Blue Fish House sushi restaurant, just north of vegetarian- and Lord-of-the-Rings-geek-friendly Hobbit Cafe and facing off with Capone’s Oven and Bar, is now decked out in signage for Rim Tanon, billed by its Richmond-facing banner as a Thai street food joint.

Some of the Blue Fish’s old signage was still visible on the back side of the building as of earlier this week (as seen above), though the space’s hanging placard sign has already been replaced. And the building’s trees-in-the-holes front patio area has been getting a little bit of retooling:

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Tradeoff on Richmond Ave
03/21/17 2:30pm

Shake Shack planned at 6205 Kirby Dr, Rice Village, Houston, 77005

Rice Village, Houston, 77005The 26th will be the last day of business for the La Madeleine on Kirby Dr. at Amherst St., a rep for the Rice Village District says this afternoon. After that the space’ll get a significant makeover, part of the ongoing de-suburbanization of the 1990s Village Arcade buildings. Changes planned for the space appear to include a total blackout of the corner’s pediments, a gutting of the existing canopy level (paired with a boxy see-through enclosure of that area) and a hip-high hashtag-biscuitpaintwall-style landscaping feature (replacing the existing hedge as Amherst’s walkable zone gets widened). The company says the burger place should be ready to open sometime around November.

Images: Rice Village District (rendering), Swamplot inbox (photo)

Kirby Corner Shake-Up
03/20/17 11:15am

1318 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Just in time for the spring equinox, a reader sends shots of some recent trimming back at the former home of Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which may soon sprout a 2-story patio if permits issued over the last few months tell true. The bar and restaurant (right across Westheimer Rd. from the Doc’s formerly known as Wendy’s and that long-tarped turret of the Tremont Tower condo building) was closed down last September by owner Shawn Bermudez, who told Eric Sandler he planned to reopen the space under a new name and theme. The late-1950s house (previously converted into dance club Bartini, before the structure’s Royal Oak days began in the early 2010s) has since had its nose cut off; some larger holes on both stories have also been wooded over, over on the parking lot side:

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New Growth in Hyde Park
03/17/17 3:45pm

7818 Bellwood Dr., Bellewood, Houston, 77055

7818-bellwood-02

The resemblance of the front entryway of 7818 Bellewood Dr. to its angular 2001 visage might only be visible to those who knew the house in its earlier days —  before the 15-year-old home was taken down to the studs, then expanded to just over twice its original square footage.  The stripdown and buildout started after Boutros Construction bought the place and its roomy 0.7-acre lot, around the time it was listed for $1.15 million; the new, 6,041-sq.-ft. version is now listed at a smidgen under $2.5 million, and is decked out in slatey blues and greys (with most of the interior not yet committed to paint colors, if the listing shots are still a current indication).

Other than some rounding down of the turret on the right of the entrance, what else has changed? The porch stairs and main mass above the front door are a little more curvaceous, the widow’s walk has evidently been chopped off the top and sealed up during re-reroofing . . . oh, and there’s that brick chimney stabbed into the front of the new master suite off to the side. A more head-on view of the new look is provided by a rendering of the house, though a few details have been tweaked since the drawing was done:

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Hidden In Plan View
03/07/17 1:15pm

4504 Nett St., Washington Corridor, Houston, 77007

4504 Nett St., Washington Corridor, Houston, 77007The little house on the angular 10,000-sq.-ft. lot along Patterson St. (wedged between Nett St. and the railroad tracks that run along scattered segments of Allen St.) is looking more like a bar these days, now that a tentacled tree logo has been applied to the side of the building. That logo doesn’t match the name originally picked for the spot on its TABC application — Mission Athletic Club and Drinkery — but a few other aspects of the plan have likely changed since 2015 as well, given the handful of revisions to the house-to-bar conversion plans on file with the city (the most recent of which dates to January).

Some digging around has been going on in the property’s yard of late:

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Digging In off Washington Ave.
03/02/17 3:00pm

2901 S. Shepherd Dr., WAMM, Houston, 77006

1618 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006The body-oriented retail strip across from the recently browned-out Alabama Theater has just swapped second-or-more-hand clothing retailer Buffalo Exchange into the spot by Kipling St. last occupied by Centre Fitness Fusion, a reader notes. (Centre Fitness took over from Orange Shoe Fitness, which itself succeeded bike shop and implicit fitness purveyor Cycle Spectrum.) Buffalo Exchange joins Epique Massage next to Darque Tan, separated only by a driveway and some parking spots from Demeris Bar-B-Q.

And what of the old Buffalo Exchange spot, recently spotted sporting a variance request notice out front?

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Fashion Recycler Recycling
02/28/17 12:45pm

Decorated Metro stop, W. Gray St. at Waugh Dr., North Montrose, Houston, 77019

A few wee-hours shots of the bus shelter at the southwest corner of W. Gray St. and Waugh Dr. show the stop’s short-lived cosplay as a thatch-roofed, mask-encrusted tiki hutch before the Friday morning rush last week. The shelter’s ensemble included carpeting, some upgraded bench upholstry, and flora of varying degrees of believability. The stop, directly in front of the orange-faced units of the W. Gray Public Storage facility, was purportedly back in standard business attire by 9am — though a tipster suggests that more such evanescent redecorating jobs may pop up around town in the future.

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Catching Waves the 32
02/16/17 5:15pm

Excision of Tal's Hill at Minute Maid Field, Downtown Houston

Excision of Tal's Hill at Minute Maid Field, Downtown HoustonAstros historian Mike Acosta snapped some shots today and yesterday of the newly flattened corner of Minute Maid Park’s center field, where Tal’s Hill once sloped gently upward (as showcased in the legendary fan-on-the-field chase in the video above, from a game in 2011). The field’s lumpectomy was part of the plan that involved paring down the distance from home plate to the edge of center field from 436 feet to a still-over-minimum-requirements 409 feet, and adding more seating and concessions as per the earlier renderings from 2015:

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No More Climbing the Walls
02/07/17 10:00am

Owl Sculptures by Dan Mabry, Kelvin St. at University Blvd., Rice Village, Houston, 77005

Rice Village, Houston, 77005The sculpted birds above are now staring intently in various directions from just south of the entrance ramp for the Rice Village’s rooftop parking lot between University Blvd. and Amherst St. The new bird-studded cage hangs around the upper half of the Kelvin St. access staircase for the lot, previously shielded from prying eyes by a since-removed blinder of brick (as pictured second above at the start of the work last year, before much of the paint-up or knock-out action had taken place on the eastern side of the structure). The birds are the work of Californian metalworker and periodic perched bird sculptor Nathan Mabry. Changes to the building roughly align with the older renderings of the remodel, though the space was previously depicted with an extra new window (along with some ghostly stand-in art): 

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Kelvin St. Bird Cage
12/28/16 2:45pm

Art Hous, 811 St. Emanuel St., East Downtown, Houston, 77003
wahlburgers

The folks at ACS studio architecture say that the insides of the former Art Hous art and interior design center on St. Emanuel St. are being cleared out for the planned installation of Burgr Hous. Demo permits for the interior walls of the space, which is wedged between Warehouse Live and Lucky’s Pub, came through early last month. When it’s wrapped up, the remodel may have a vibe kinda like the space shown above, which ACS currently has up on their website for the project as a visual reference for the redesign — though the image depicts the branding of the Boston-based reality-teevee-starring Wahlburgers chain. The firm has a floorplan out as well, however, showing a different layout:

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E-Less in EaDo
12/06/16 12:00pm

9230 Buffalo Spdwy., Houston, 77025

The ribbed tank hiding behind the track excavator in the north-facing shot above will soon be going completely underground, per current plans at the corner of Durhill St. and Buffalo Spdwy. First Stop Food Store, the current occupant of the retail shell on the property, sits right across Buffalo Spdwy. from one of the 2 planned senior living facilities in the vicinity — that property is just out of the frame to the right, while one of the houses in the Pemberton Circle gated townhome cluster can be seen peeking over the fence on the left.

The 1950s convenience store building and property itself changed hands early last year. Here’s a shot from July, a few happy months before the parking lot breakup seen above:

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Tanking Up
11/21/16 1:00pm

Brewery Tap, 717 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Brewery Tap, 717 Franklin St., Downtown, Houston, 77002Ghost-story hub and beer bar Brewery Tap reopened this weekend, after about nearly 11 months of remodeling in the wake of a January ownership swap. The bar is located in the building at 717 Franklin St., preivously part of Houston Ice & Brewing Co.’s Magnolia Brewery complex on the edge of Buffalo Bayou. Down the slope beneath the Franklin St. bridge is the mid-1800’s crypt previously occupied by the remains of 3 members of the Donnellan family; the early Houston settler and his wife and son were moved west to Glenwood Cemetery around 1903, after which the crypt was incorporated into the structure of the Franklin St. bridge:

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Digging Up Downtown History
11/09/16 11:15am

One Allen Center, 1200 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

Planned Remodel of One Allen Center, 1200 Smith St., Downtown, Houston, 77002

From over the fence at the corner of Smith and Dallas streets, a reader sends a shot of the ongoing scrape-out at One Allen Center. The glassed-in space protruding toward Smith will be undergoing a major reconstructive procedure to square up its corners, if all goes according to Brookfield’s previously depicted plan. Meanwhile, that skybridge in the back on the left is looking a good deal more put together than it did at the end of June, when it got the strip-down treatment; it’s now sporting a brighter, more silver-y skin to match the renderings, which show it backing up a band in that planned twixt-the-towers events space:  CONTINUE READING THIS STORY

Going Gray Downtown