04/10/14 12:00pm



One of the storied properties in the Tall Timbers niche of River Oaks quietly arrived on the market this week. Restrained and almost dainty in its design by the then in-demand architect Hiram Salisbury, the 1941 main building features columns and balconies accenting a brick exterior. The east-wing addition in 1950, meanwhile, was by another go-to architect: John Staub. The resulting work by 2 premier architects blended in one estate sits on a large lot measuring more than an acre and a half. All that land can be subdivided, ”for 2 building sites, already approved” by the River Oaks Property Owners association, the listing says. The asking price is $8.1 million.


Twice as Nice
03/18/14 1:45pm

NEW NORTH MONTROSE APARTMENTS LEAVE HANOVER, MOVE TO RIVER OAKS AMLI River Oaks, 1340 West Gray St., North Montrose, HoustonResidents of the recently opened Hanover West Gray apartments at 1340 West Gray got an unexpected notice in their mailboxes this month: Their new homes at the corner of West Gray and Waugh (replacing the Tavern on Gray and some neighboring structures) now feature a River Oaks address. Hanover sold the 275-unit structures effective March 13 to AMLI. And the new owner is calling the complex AMLI River Oaks, after the tony no-apartments-please neighborhood whose eastern border is three-quarters of a mile to the west. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Hanover Company

02/28/14 1:30pm

LAWSUIT WON’T STOP CONSTRUCTION OF HINES’S SAN FELIPE TOWER — AT THIS TIME Aerial View of Proposed 2229 San Felipe Office Tower, Vermont Commons, HoustonYesterday a Harris County judge issued an order denying the request of some neighbors of 2229 San Felipe across from River Oaks for a temporary restraining order halting construction of the 17-story Hines office tower going up on that site. The neighbors had filed suit last week, complaining that (among other things) the building would interfere with their privacy, cause unreasonable traffic delays, devalue their own nearby properties, and erode the character of the neighborhood. “Unfortunately, Harris County does not make transcripts of arguments at the hearing available online,” writes the tipster who sent Judge Michael Gomez’s order to Swamplot, “but this could be a sign that Judge Gomez may be less receptive to the Plaintiffs’ arguments than those that were heard in the Ashby highrise case.” Maybe. Twice on the signed order, after the word “denied,” the judge added in the phrase “at this time” by hand. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Hines

02/25/14 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO BUILD A NEIGHBORHOOD MOAT WITH DEED RESTRICTIONS Neighborhood Moat“Instead of throwing lawsuits around, the people in River Oaks should start a Buy Protect Sell program. Buy pieces of land around their subdivision as they come up for sale. Protect those pieces of land by putting restrictive covenants on them (height regulations in particular, since their concern has been the proliferation of high rises in their area). Then sell the properties with the restrictions in place. B/P/S has been used for about a decade by environmentalists elsewhere in the country. It could be used to preserve the low-rise character around a neighborhood. The drawback is that it can be costly for poorer neighborhoods, but River Oaks could well afford it.” [ZAW, commenting on Neighbors File Suit To Stop Hines San Felipe Tower; Silo Sightseeing] Illustration: Lulu

02/13/14 12:15pm

Construction of Shepherd Commons Strip Center, 2015 S. Shepherd Dr., Houston

Construction of Shepherd Commons Strip Center, 2015 S. Shepherd Dr., HoustonIf the panoramic photo above makes it look like these newly erected concrete tilt walls, having been boiled and baked on the ground and then propped into place, are about to envelop the 2-story strip center building to its north on S. Shepherd Dr. just south of Welch known to most as the longtime home of the Hot Bagel Shop — well that appears to be the idea. These photos were taken over the weekend. Last November, Swamplot reported on plans for Shepherd Commons, at 2015 S. Shepherd, a new 2-story replacement strip mall which Hot Bagel Shop and River Oaks Nails, according to the source, were intending to move into. After the move, it was reported, the original strip center would be knocked down and a second phase built in its place:


Plain or Poppy?
02/10/14 3:45pm



It only took 3 days for a 13th floor condo unit with 2 slate terraces in Inwood Manor to go under contract — after being listed last week with a $995,000 asking price. Those who missed out have a few smaller options to consider elsewhere in the 16-floor beehive building of 110 units (top). A cast concrete tower designed by architect Harwood Taylor, the property has loomed over River Oaks and its hinterlands since 1962. A neighboring 13th floor 1-bedroom unit, furnished, is up for grabs as a lease starting April 1. And a couple smaller units on lower floors are still lingering, including one fitted as an office (above) by Houston interior design legend Herbert Wells, who died in 2010.


Unit Pricing
11/22/13 12:15pm

River Oaks Plant House, 3401 Westheimer Rd., River Oaks, Houston

River Oaks Plant House, 3401 Westheimer Rd., River Oaks, HoustonThe River Oaks Plant House — also known as the greenery purveyor that regularly festoons the corner of Westheimer and Buffalo Speedway with dancing bears and other fake topiary — will be closing up shop at the end December. Headmaster Mark Desjardins writes in an email that St. John’s School notified the owners of the more-than-30-year-old store in September that its lease would be terminated by December 31. The prep school had purchased the property from the Henry J. N. Taub family, along with the land under Blanco’s Bar & Grill, in a 13-acre deal completed exactly a year earlier.


Leaving Soon
11/01/13 10:15am

A reader writes in with the latest potential future scenario for the Hot Bagel Shop on S. Shepherd south of Welch: “I’m not sure if this has already been reported on, but [earlier this week] at Hot Bagel Shop, I was told that the lot next door is being scraped for the first half of a new strip center, which the bagel-ers and the nail people will move into once it’s complete. The gold retailer will not be renewing his lease. Afterwards they’ll knock down the existing building and construct the other half of the new building.”

This design for a strip center at 2015 S. Shepherd is featured on the website of Houston’s Dang La Architecture:


10/03/13 12:00pm

DEAR HINES: WE’D SETTLE FOR A RESIDENTIAL MIDRISE, PLEASE Happy relationships are all about compromise, and even though Hines doesn’t seem that interested in budging on this one, maintaining that it will begin construction before the end of the year on that 17-story office building on the corner of San Felipe and Spann, concerned neighbors have organized a petition addressed to Gerald and Jeff requesting that that project be swapped out for something more “in keeping with our neighborhood,” a 3- to 6-story “residential development.” [Change; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: Stop San Felipe Skyscraper

09/09/13 12:30pm

WHAT’S BEST FOR BUFFALO BAYOU? Let it flow, or let it be? Environmentalists and the Harris County Flood Control District disagree — at least when it comes to the 1.5-mile stretch that contributes to the “jungly ecosystem” of the Hogg Bird Sanctuary in Memorial Park, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Lisa Gray. A “restoration” plan proposed by the flood controllers, explains Gray, “would change the bayou’s course in places, fill in an oxbow here, reinforce banks there, widen the bayou’s channel, raising and lowering landmasses and generally move an enormous amount of dirt. [They argue] that the proposed measures are desperately needed to reduce erosion and improve water quality.” They’d do it here as they did it at Meyer Park along Spring Creek, reports Gray. But the environmentalists don’t seem to consider that to have been a “restoration” project, really: “‘Look at that!” [Memorial Park Conservancy board member Katy Emde] told me, outraged, showing me a picture of Meyer Park on her phone. ‘There’s no diversity! It’s not natural! It’s not habitat! It’s horrifying.’” [Houston Chronicle ($); previously on Swamplot] Photo of Hogg Bird Sanctuary: Bayou Shuttle

08/16/13 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: A RIVER OAKS HOME’S HIDDEN HOLLYWOOD HISTORY “Believe it or not, somewhere in there are the bones of a 1950′s flat-roofed modern house designed for the Fondren family by Eugene Werlin. It was used in the movie The Thief Who Came To Dinner.” [BenH, commenting on Headlines: A Big New TV in Reliant Stadium; The River Oaks Mansion with the Biggest Pool in Houston] Illustration: Lulu

08/16/13 12:15pm

Seems the concerned neighbors around that 17-story office building that Hines is considering building on San Felipe aren’t worried only about traffic. This map, created by a member of the recently formed nonprofit East San Felipe Association — which says it is committed to supporting “reasonable development” in this area around S. Shepherd, Kirby, and San Felipe — suggests another threat to the ’hood: copycatting.

Clearly speculative, the map takes pains to show those sites where other unreasonable highrises could pop up in response to the precedent that Hines is setting with 2229 San Felipe. On S. Shepherd, for ex., you might see the Red Lion Pub forgo its street-level scale, or Petco abandon the confines of its big box. (But wouldn’t that long elevator ride down give you some quality time to bond with your recently adopted pup?) If this map is to be trusted, it seems like it would be only a matter of time before the bug spreads north and Chipotle throws up a tower of burritos. The last thing the neighbors want, says just one of the messages on that oppositional website that they set up, is for this residential area to become “the next Greenway Plaza.”

Image: Swamplot inbox

07/23/13 4:00pm

These understated “Stop the San Felipe Skyscraper” signs started going up about knee-high this weekend in River Oaks and Vermont Commons to protest that shiny 17-story office tower that Hines is proposing to build nearby. Though these signs — spotted at the corner of Spann and Welch and San Felipe and Spann, catty-corner from the proposed site — might be lacking the services of an imaginative cartoonist like their yellow precursors across town in Boulevard Oaks, their message still comes through, directing the onlooker as well to a recently launched website for all things skyscraper-stopping: