The vacant, red-brick building on Congress Ave. shown above just west of Bastrop St. demolished itself this morning, leaving a gap between its turn-of-the-century contemporaries to the south and the metal-roofed warehouse north of it. During its earlier days, the building’s second floor was rented to boarders — a typical setup in this section of the Second Ward, which remained “almost entirely residential,” according to historian Stephen Fox, until Union Station opened in 1911, prompting warehouse and industrial redos nearby.
“Houston must have looked huge to Lyndon Johnson as he drove toward it across the flat Gulf plains in his battered little car,” writes Robert Caro in his biography of the former president. Johnson’s destination: Sam Houston High School (shown at top), which opened in 1921 in place of the even-older Central High School on the block bounded by Austin, Rusk, Caroline, and Capitol — the same spot where the new Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts is now “90 percent complete,” according to Paper City’s Annie Gallay.
Hired to teach public speaking and coach the debate team, Johnson — writes Caro — promised his new principal he’d win the state championship. He didn’t, coming in second at the tournament in Austin. Still, Johnson had succeeded in making a name for himself among staff — who gave him a $100 raise and a contract for the next school year — and among the school’s 1,800 students — who jockeyed for enrollment in “Mr. Johnson’s speech class” during the following school year. By the end of LBJ’s first full year at Sam Houston, reports Caro, enrollment had increased from 60 to 110 new students.
Drink specials set the stage not only for what Moon Tower Inn billed as a “gluttonous celebration” of its 8-year anniversary 2 weeks ago, they also helped management get rid of all its inventory so that the venue could close down while workers install a new patio in place of its old one. Following 3 days of clearance festivities, the bar ran dry in the afternoon last Sunday — although some “cheap ass” food remained in stock until Friday, August 25, when it finally shut its doors. Now, a Swamplot reader sends the photo at top showing what used to be the Moon Tower’s covered patio transformed into an earthen field. From it, the new heated and cooled outdoor seating area will materialize with help from the equipment pictured above.
It’ll span the yard between the corner of Canal and North Ennis streets and the shipping container that architecture firm Kinetic Design Lab repurposed for the bar’s reopening in 2012:
The rendering at top from Texas real estate firm Hunington shows off what Rex Supply’s double-block complex along the Green Line would look like redone with a shop-lined pedestrian zone dubbed Rex Alley at its heart, where Everton St. is now. The full setting is called Milby Junction and would be carved from the array of industrial buildings that sit on either side of the north-south road between Harrisburg Blvd. and Preston St. right now. The 2 biggest are shown preserved in the map above, along with a house to the northwest that appears to play no part in Hunington’s plans.
An L-shaped building adjacent to the house is the one goner. It’s visible just north of the structure labeled REX SUPPLY in the view below from the corner of Harrisburg and Milby:
In a lawsuit it filed Friday against the City of Houston, the government contractor tasked with housing thousands of child immigrants across Texas, Arizona, and California says it’s got until October 28 to open the building it leased at 419 Emancipation Ave. — now preemptively dubbed Casa Sunzal — otherwise the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement will pull its funding for the planned facility.
The nonprofit’s biggest beef with the city (and in particular the Mayor, who grinned in June at the idea of a permitting “slow-walk” for the center) is that the compound shouldn’t be classified as a detention facility but rather a residential one. Yes, the company says in its filing, “children are verbally discouraged from leaving,” the campus, but they “are not physically restrained if they try to.” 240 kids ages “0 to 17,” were originally slated to shack up in the compound, according to the Chronicle’s Lomi Kriel. The majority of them — Southwest Key says now — would be minors that crossed the border by themselves, as opposed to those separated from their parents upon arrival in the U.S.
A Swamplot reader notes that 7 variances signs recently cropped up all at once on 5 adjacent blocks in the Second Ward. Each one indicates a request for the same thing: to chop up the properties into lots less than 3,500-sq.-ft. each so that new townhomes can rise on them. (Some include more specific requests too, like shuffling around parking and scooting certain homes closer to the roads.) Taken together, 127 new homes would be spread across just under 4 acres in the area, bounded Sampson and Milby streets to the east and west — and Garrow and Commerce to the north and south.
Some houses would fill in the gaps between warehouse buildings and cottages, while others would take their spots:
Plans for the 3-story Campanile on Commerce apartments slated for the corner of Commerce and Delano streets are still winding their way through the city’s approval process, but a new strip of imagery shows what they’d look like viewed from the magnet school across the street from them. The idea is to put 220 120 units on the vacant 3-acre field extending directly north and east of the Baylor College of Medicine Biotech Academy at Rusk (which recently dropped its pre-K through 5th grade programs to go middle-school-only). A corner porte-cochere depicted above on the right would front Commerce adjacent to the complex’s entrance driveway.
Parking hooks around the back of the apartments, buffering them from the block-long warehouse building directly to their north:
Mounds of soil are now piled up behind La Familia Meat Market, where InTown Homes is in the early stages of construction on its latest townhome cluster, Williams on Commerce. A commercial fill and grade permit issued for the site back in mid-April gave the developer permission to jack up 31 of the lots it plans to build on using the dirt pictured above. Now that much of it’s been dumped in place, a few PVC pipes are starting to sprout from it.
Other infrastructure waits patiently on the sidelines:
Add F45 Training to the list of businesses taking over warehouses next to where I-45 will run over a few of its own once its rerouted through East Downtown. That’s the gym’s black box in the photo at top, neighbored by the Ferris wheel that new-ish barTruck Yard recently installed in its own next-door lot. North of an adjacent portion of the building that F45 hasn’t touched, exterior work added new horizontal siding a couple shades darker than the previous off-white onto the structure, as well as the doorway — pictured above — atop which the national fitness chain has been flexing its COMING SOON signage for the past few months.
A permit filed yesterday for the building at 1110 Hutchins indicates rehab work is about to head inside to deal with a 2,650-sq.-ft. portion of its space. It’s 10,000 sq.-ft. total and backs up nearly halfway down the block on Lamar St. where it stands off from the south side of the Kim Hung Supermarket, long-whispered to be about to be demolished for something much taller.
The first tenant slated for the soon-to-be redone Imperial Linen & Cleaners building a block west of the Green Line’s Coffee Plant/2nd Ward stop is now on its way there courtesy of Mike Sammons, one of the partners behind Midtown’s 13 Celsius, Mongoose vs Cobra, and Weights + Measures. A TABC notice is up on the building, reports a keen HAIF user, and last month an entity linked to Sammons called How To Survive on Land and Sea LLC filed plans to start converting 2,371 sq.-ft. of interior room into a bar.
That’ll still leave lots of space for the other attractions that developer Jeff Kaplan wants to usher into the 19,969-sq.-ft. structure shown above that he’s now calling the Plant at Harrisburg. (One of them would’ve been Xela Coffee Roasters; it announced plans to move into the building in 2016 but has since rerouted to an forthcoming spot on Canal St., 5 blocks west of Lockwood) Before Kaplan made public his intention to transform the former cleaners, it played host to an art space that presented “visual art, literary readings and guided meditations; in the interest of, open-minded exploration of the transubstantiative properties of art and space.”
That creative endeavor is over — but speaking of transubstantiation, new windows shown above fronting both the south and west sides of the building will reopen its planned retail spaces to look out on Harrisburg and Sampson St. like they used to:
Fasten your seat belts — it’s time for a detour down the new ramp TxDOT just opened off I-45 north to 59 north. Included in the footage: new views of the downtown skyline, along with some of an adjacent ramp now under construction between the 2 highways that’ll offer freeway sightseers an even higher vantage point when its open.
You can see it taking shape off to the left in the still photo below: