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
11/14/16 3:15pm

SPURNED BY NORWEGIAN, PRINCESS, BAYPORT CRUISE TERMINAL TURNS TO CHILLIN’ FRUIT, FIXING UP CARS Bayport Cruise TerminalBereft of tourist companionship after little more than a pair of brief affairs with Norwegian and Princess cruise lines (both of which ended abruptly in mid-2015), the $108-million Bayport Cruise Terminal is picking up and moving on next month, when the first shipment of automobiles for Auto Warehousing Inc. is scheduled to make landing. Andrea Rumbaugh writes that the company has a 3-year lease to use the former cruise facility to make after-market mods before sending cars on their way to dealerships; port commission chairwoman Janiece Longoria also tells Rumbaugh that port-owned areas near the terminal are being outfitted with more chilled storage space, possibly paving the way for the failed Ship Channel vacation destination to make a comeback as a fruit-and-veggie hub. [Houston Chronicle; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Port of Houston

12/09/15 11:30am

Typhoon Texas, 555 Katy Fort Bend Rd., Katy, TX, 77450

No need to evacuate the area, but aerial footage from the developers shows the Typhoon Texas waterpark currently brewing at 555 Katy Fort Bend Rd, just south of I-10 on 43 acres of Katy Mills Mall-adjacent land. Ground was broken on August 20, and the park (pictured conceptually above) is slated to make landfall on May 27, just before the start of Atlantic hurricane season.

Aquatic amusements will include a 1,500-ft. lazy river, facilities for slideboarding (which turns going down a waterslide into a competitive sport), facilities for regular sliding, a 48-foot-tall play structure, and a 27,000-sq.-ft. wave pool. (That’s larger than the one at the New Braunfels Schlitterbahn, for those of you keeping score.) Typhoon backers hope that the park will become a regional draw along the lines of the 3 Schlitterbahns, Spring’s Splashtown, and Astroworld (RIP).

This oddly-soothing drone video captures the sense of calm over the developing theme park:

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Suburban Hurricane Hunting
07/01/15 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE BUFFALO BAYOU PARK PINCH Barefoot in the Grass“When I see the improvements come on line at Buffalo Bayou, I keep thinking to myself ‘what’s the catch? Are these on loan from another city? Will Culberson make us take them down so he can build a new highway?’ But it is really happening. Buffalo Bayou is really turning into Houston’s Central Park (NY’s version does have a private restaurant right in the middle of it–Tavern on the Green). The nature playground on the east end is getting finishing touches as well as the performance space and snack bar over the old waterworks. The only problem I have encountered is the mud that slides down the banks and accumulates on the trails after a heavy rain. But it is much better than it used to be. Who knows. Maybe this is for real. And maybe people will actually start moving to Houston because it is a nice place to live.” [Old School, commenting on Finding Buffalo Bayou’s Lost Lake and Its ‘Morning Glory’ Hole, Almost Ready for Business] Illustration: Lulu

06/29/15 2:00pm

Houston Police Department Officer's Memorial Guard Post, Memorial Dr., Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston

Here’s the just-completed 250-sq.-ft. Memorial guard post recently completed in Buffalo Bayou Park. It’s right by that spot just south of Buffalo Bayou from Glenwood Cemetery where you’ll always find a cop car or 2, standing guard by the Houston Police Officers Memorial. The sculptor of that 1991 memorial, Jesús Moroles, was killed in an auto accident earlier this month. The new building, designed by Brave Architecture, is meant to allow the off-duty officers posted there to have more of a public presence as they keep an eye on the memorial through the large windows. It will also function as a small visitors center for the memorial.

Photo: José Luis Ayala Vargas

Guard Post
05/28/15 10:00am

Proposed Site of Bingham Court, 1005 Bingham St., Houston

Proposed Bingham Court Townhomes, 1005 Bingham St., First Ward, HoustonWhat’s going on behind their backs? A closeup of the rendering for Bijan Builders’ planned Bingham Court Townhomes shows an unusual confluence of necks and freeways off to the left of the image. As a view of the site at 1005 Bingham St. (at top) confirms, the hackles of the oversized busts of George Washington, Stephen F. Austin, Abraham Lincoln, and Sam Houston that make up David Adickes’ Mount Rush Hour quartet (aka American Statesmanship Park) front I-45 and I-10 right next door to the First Ward site.

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Hackles Rising
04/08/15 11:45am

REIGN OF NEW EAST END FARMERS MARKET ON THE NAVIGATION ESPLANADE BEGINS THIS SUNDAY navigation-esplanadeLocal veggie standouts Finca Tres Robles and the Last Organic Outpost will be among the 35 vendors on hand on April 12th for the inaugural East End farmers’ market on the Navigation Blvd. esplanade (pictured here), across from the original Ninfa’s. The East End Foundation, the event’s nonprofit sponsor, says it’ll be the first farmers market in Houston to accept electronic food stamps. The market will run every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm at 2800 Navigation; strolling mariachis will kick of this weekend’s grand opening, to be answered by a few sets from Sister Sister y Los Misters. Also available: meats from Texas T Kobe Beef and Al Marcus’s Grateful Bread. Photo: East End Foundation  

01/23/15 1:00pm

Proposed Brian Patterson Sports Performance Clinic, Rice Stadium, Rice University

It’s been notoriously difficult to fill Rice Stadium — ever since those darn Houston Oilers came to town. Even President Kennedy couldn’t do it when he came by in 1962 to introduce a little mission to the moon he had cooked up. About 8 years ago, giant logo-bearing tarps were planted over the seating areas in both end zones, reducing the capacity (though not permanently) from 70,000 to 47,000.

But the latest planned changes appear to be following a 2-fold strategy to help fill the place: First, Rice University’s new $31.5 million Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center will knock out the stadium’s entire northern end zone — including more than 11,000 seats. Even better, the mostly brick building will have a giant glass wall on the side facing the playing field, which will offer spectators tired of watching the game shaded views into 2 levels of weight rooms. If they can get the scheduling right, with gridiron and pumping-iron action running simultaneously, fans will have the opportunity to enjoy 2 attractions at once. Likewise, flexing athletes will have a pretty good view of the field — and fans, if they’re out there — while they’re working their muscles.

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Watch Them Pump and Watch
01/21/15 12:00pm

CITY COUNCIL APPROVES BOTANICAL GARDEN ON GLENBROOK PARK GOLF COURSE, GUS WORTHAM COURSE RENOVATIONS Glenbrook Park Golf Course, 8205 N. Bayou Dr., HoustonCity council voted unanimously this morning to give the go-ahead to plans to renovate the Gus Wortham Golf Course north of Idylwood, and allow the group that had previously attempted to turn that location into a botanical garden to develop a facility instead on the current site of the 18-hole Glenbrook Park Golf Course, along Sims Bayou on the north side of the Gulf Fwy. south of Loop 610. The long-term lease agreements are victories for the operating organizations behind both efforts, but the garden group clearly got its second choice; an Inner Loop garden on site of the oldest golf course in Texas would have had better access to public transportation including the new light-rail line, and would have been surrounded by less freeway noise. If the Houston Golf Association fails to raise $5 million for the Gus Wortham redo before the end of this year, it’s possible the split could be rejiggered; the Houston Botanic Garden Board is being given until the end of 2017 to raise $20 million for its efforts. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Glenbrook Park Golf Course: Houston Golf Nut

10/17/14 11:15am

Tinder Guys Posing with Art, Houston

Why are so many of the men featured in the Tinder Guys Posing with Art Tumblr posing with art that’s in Houston? Maybe it’s because the website’s creator and curator, Sally Glass, is based here. Scroll through the entries Glass has been posting since April and you’ll not only find available men on Tinder who’ve staked out positions in and around some of the city’s more prominent sculptures and paintings, you’ll also find a handy guide to the works they favor:

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Local Screenshots
10/13/14 2:15pm

Proposed Building for Saturn V Rocket, Rocket Park, Houston

The Saturn V rocket originally planned to boost a never-happened Apollo 18 spaceflight has been lying on its side near the corner of Saturn Ln. and 2nd St. and aimed at Lake Jackson since 1977. An air-conditioned, metal-framed structure was built around the Smithsonian-owned hulk 10 years ago to protect it from the elements, but it makes it difficult for visitors to appreciate just how hulking the rocket is. And recently the new structure has begun to look a bit dilapidated as well. Unprompted by any government agency or basketball team, San Antonio architect Brantley Hightower has been floating a proposal to wrap a more permanent structure around Houston’s most prominent rocketship — one that would restore the drive-by view of its full length (above) that the existing enclosure ruined, and make it clear just how big the Saturn V was:

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Houston Rockets
10/06/14 1:30pm

iFLY Indoor Skydiving Facility Under Construction, 9540 Katy Fwy., Spring Branch, Houston

A mere half-dozen readers have written Swamplot to ask about this strange multi-story steel-framed structure that’s been going up next to the Lowe’s on I-10 between Blalock and Bunker Hill — or its twin on the site of the former Casa Elena restaurant across the freeway from The Woodlands at 26824 Interstate 45 North. And we’re guessing a few more of you are curious as well, but just haven’t had the time to send in your photos and speculation. Capitalizing on the freeway mystery, the company behind the structure has set up a website at GuessWhatThisIs.com. (With indoor-skydiving facilities in 9 other U.S. cities already, iFLY has been through the drill before.)

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Indoor Skydiving
09/18/14 2:30pm

Detail from Installation at Texas Artist of the Year Exhibition, Havel Ruck Projects

Sawzall-wielding housecutters Dan Havel and Dean Ruck have been carving up 3 condemned homes (from Midtown, the Museum District, and the Third Ward) to gather the raw materials for their latest exhibition, which opens tomorrow in the Art League of Houston gallery, on the occasion of their being declared the Art League’s “Texas Artists of the Year.” Collected wall parts will be stacked in a “bowl-like structure” in the complex’s main gallery (see photo above).

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Havel Ruck Projects
08/05/14 3:45pm

Rendering of Proposed Concert Venue by Schaum/Shieh Architects, 2915 N. Main St., Houston

Map of Planned Sites Adjacent to 2915 N. Main Concert Venue, Houston

The operators of Fitzgerald’s and the Free Press Summer Fest are planning a large multi-venue development on N. Main St. on the east side of I-45. Renderings of 2 of the buildings, designed by a firm run locally by Rice architecture professor Troy Schaum, show a separate concert building with at least 2 separate stages inside and a freestanding ice house, which would be adjacent to a separate outdoor stage at the corner of N. Main and North St. The southern portion of the site (outlined in yellow in the map above) where those 2 structures would sit backs up to Little White Oak Bayou.

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North Main Music Central, by the Bayou
05/20/14 2:00pm

2309 Wichita St., Riverside Terrace, Houston

More than a month after purchasing the duplex-turned-31-year DIY renovation-and-expansion-project that became the life’s work of its owner, former VA nurse Charles Fondow, buyer Nick Ugarov tells the Chronicle‘s Craig Hlavaty that he’s “still mulling over plans” for the 5-bedroom, 4-and-a-half-bath, 2-turret still-not-quite-finished home at 2309 Wichita St. near Dowling. Ugarov picked up the foreclosed deck-bedecked structure for $251,000, from a bank sale that closed on April 11th, according to MLS records. That’s $101K over the ridiculously low asking price the sales agent had placed on the property, a well-known and much-gawked-at oddity in Riverside Terrace that’s been described as a poor man’s version of the Winchester Mystery House.

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Will It Stay or Go Now?