07/20/17 10:30am

CANINO MARKET HAD ALREADY KINDA GENTRIFIED, SAY FOLKS PLANNING UPCOMING $10-MILLION REDO “Over time,” writes Nancy Sarnoff for the Chronicle this morning after talking to some of the folks behind that in-the-works redevelopment of the recently sold Canino farmer’s market on Airline Dr., the market has already become “a place where produce [is] shipped and trucked in from places like Mexico and elsewhere, like it is to a grocery store.” The local farmers and early-morning bread-seekers are mostly gone, and property values  in the neighborhood are already on the rise — as are the townhomes. “We’ve come to the realization that no matter what we do here, it’s already happening,” MLB Partners’s Todd Mason tells Sarnoff; “We’ve looked around to buy more over here, and prices have already escalated.” The developers also run through some of the details for the $10-million project with Chris Baldwin over at PaperCity, who writes that “the 17.5-acre site is being almost completely re-imagined” — potential changes include some 60,000 sq. ft. of additional space, a “large lounging lawn,” a children’s play area, and “a distinctive towering sign from Studio Red Architects that can be seen from the freeway.” [Houston Chronicle and PaperCity; previously on SwamplotPhoto: Canino Produce Market

07/19/17 11:30am

Heads up, California-ization vigilantes: A diligent transaction sifter over at HAIF noted last night that In-N-Out Burgers recently bought 8373 Westheimer Rd. (currently home to a branch of public employment center Workforce Solutions in the parking lot of the nearby Walmart Supercenter on Dunvale Rd.). The 1997 standalone building is right around the corner from the AMC Studio 30, and sits in something of a Whataburger gap — not one of the 5 nearest Whataburger locations is closer than 1.7 miles by car. The space had been put on the market a few times in the last few years with no takers; the sale to In-N-Out went through in late May, per county records.

Noises have been made before about In-N-Out possibly moving to (or near) Houston, but CBRE VP Jazz Hamilton told the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser only this past February that he expected the chain’s first location to open by the end of the year — adding that Houston will “see [more locations] come in quietly . . . All of a sudden, they’ll start building all at once.”

Photo of 8737 Westheimer Rd.: LoopNet

Out and In on Westheimer
05/30/17 12:00pm

Catty-corner to the southwest of the area’s newest self-storage midrise, the block at N. Shepherd Dr. and Nett St. housing Bethel Church is now broadcasting plans for a mixed-use development from several large signs standing around on the property. A couple of readers reported the new decor from various angles late on Friday (including the one above, which includes a glimpse of finally settled, named, and opened FM Kitchen + Bar on the former Alva Graphics lot across the street). The church’s 1.48-acre block (bounded by Durham Dr. and Center St. on the other 2 sides) hit the market last summer, and looks to be getting wrapped into the Hunington development fold.

The conversion of the church property would put a mixed-use development right next to the Azure Apartments midrise currently going up right across Durham:

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N. Shepherd Conversions
05/16/17 4:15pm

Last month Dominion Church International, the church most recently inhabiting the triangular block at Dallas St. and Telephone Rd. holding Eastwood’s former Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, finally sold the land after putting it up on the market last August. A couple of readers tell Swamplot that Nextdoor is abuzz with the claim that Mir Azizi‘s company Caspian Enterprises, which bought the property, plans to turn it into some sort of lofts or apartments. Caspian does have something of a habit of splitting up old buildings into residential units; a permit for some interior wall teardowns in the church was issued last month, but no formal announcements have been made about what the site’ll become.

A document filed with the county transfers the rooftop lease to the new owner for that T-mobile cellular relay visible atop the church’s belltower); Caspian has already gotten permission to knock down the complex’s parsonage, however:

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Eastwood Relay
05/05/17 5:15pm

SOUTHWEST FWY. MIDRISE AUDI SHOWROOM TO GET A DEALERSHIP NEIGHBOR ON THE STAHLMAN LUMBER LAND Another car dealership is planned for the 2.4-acre Stahlman Lumber property right across US 59 from the 7-story Audi dealership (shown here) at the crotch of southbound Shepherd Dr. and Greenbriar St. The former lumber business’s property was sold in January. Dylan Baddour writes in the Chronicle that details on what the new dealership will look like (or what kind of cars will be on offer) are scant for now, though a VP of Sonic Automotive (the same company that planned the Audi midrise and its freeway-eye-level-showroom) says more info on the “big, beautiful” design will be released by the end of the year. [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Audi dealership at 2120 Southwest Fwy.: Audi Central Houston

05/05/17 11:30am

A little bit of tune-changing looks to have happened with respect to the University of Texas’s Houston data science campus idea in the month or 2 since UT formally canned the plans to pursue it.  At yesterday’s State of the City luncheon, where Mayor Turner asked a bunch of major regional universities to work together on making a data science research center happen after all, Lindsey Ellis reports that University of Houston board of regents chair and Landry’s CEO Tilman Fertitta also made some comments in support of the project. Fertitta (who back in March immediately issued a victorious press release when UT announced it would sell off the 300 acres of land it’d purchased) told the audience that UH would be “excited to sit down and collaborate” with other Houston and Texas universities on a campus, Lindsey Ellis reports for the Chronicle. 

The difference now (versus last spring when UH snubbed an invitation to join that task force working up potential uses for the land)? Fertitta says UT wouldn’t be able to single-handedly “come in and dictate” with respect to the final project; he also suggests that perhaps UT might like to donate the purchased property to whatever group of local universities might end up in charge.

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UT Houston Rematch
03/01/17 1:30pm

Texas RRC Map of oil wells around Pierce Junction

Update, 6pm: UT announced this afternoon that the Houston campus plans are cancelled — more here.

UT system chancellor Bill McRaven objected in letter form this month to senator and Astrodome scrutinizer John Whitmire’s characterization of the 300 acres UT’s been buying in Houston as “a dump,” the Austin American Statesman’s Ralph K.M. Haurwitz reports. Excerpts from the letter assert that the property, nestled amid the industrial-residential jumble south of the Astrodome, has never in fact been a landfill. Sure, there’s a little bit of contamination from an old polymer facility that needs to be mopped up.  And sure, there may be a healthy smattering of old oil wells from the Pierce Junction boom days, as illustrated by the Rail Road Commission’s map of current and former wells drilled in the area. (UT’s new parcels are just inside the crook of the Holmes Rd.-S. Main St. elbow, to the northwest of the ring of wells drilled around the salt dome’s buried upper reaches.)

But Whitmire’s comments, McRaven’s letter notes, might “lead a listener to conclude that the property and the surrounding area are blighted and unlikely to ever be developed. In fact, the property is adjacent to apartments, neighborhoods, and commercial buildings, and it is highly likely that these adjacent developed lands had similar characteristics.” Meanwhile, the Wildcat Golf Course directly across Holmes Rd. from UT’s campus-to-be actually was a bona fide landfill; the only giveaway is all those rolling hills.

Image: Texas RRC Public GIS Viewer

What Lies Beneath
02/28/17 5:15pm

4211 Bellaire Blvd., Southside Place, TX, 77025

Black Eyed Pea, 4211 Bellaire Blvd., HoustonBankruptcy and, today, demolition — so ends the journey for the Black-eyed Pea at 4211 Bellaire Blvd. Swirling rumors and previously filed variance requests suggested that apartments would go up on the site, and an actual design for a multifamily midrise was even floating around as early as last year — but the property changed hands again in the fall, as a reader noted.  The new plan for the site, evidently part of Dallas-based serial apartment developer Ojala Holdings’s bid to cash in on the Texas big-box storage market, looks to be a 4-story storage facility. And permitting reviews look to have started in the fall, not long after Ojala’s Uncle-Bob’s-turned-Life Storage got wrapped up across from the no-longer-listed-for-lease Wabash Feed Store:

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Clean Plat in Southside Place
02/28/17 11:30am

Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098Former Exxon Upstream Facility, 3102-3120 Buffalo Spdwy., Greenway/Upper Kirby, Houston, 77098

Pieces of the fencing surrounding the MacKie and Kamrath-designed ExxonMobil Upstream Research facility on Buffalo Spdwy. were spotted sprawled out on the grass yesterday along the campus perimeter after being plucked from their stations; more barriers are getting yanked up this morning, as seen in the second shot above. The property (which appears to have been transferred to the nonprofit Exxon Foundation in 2015 after the oil giant’s plans to offload the site were announced) was  sold this month to an entity directing its mail to real estate investment and development firm Spear Street Capital. A couple of readers report that other major shuffling around and cleaning out appear to have been going on at the facility for at least the last few weeks, with vehicles bearing the Precision Demolition logo making periodic guest appearances on the scene.

Across W. Alabama St. from the building’s more curvaceous end, the spot occupied until early last year by the empty shell of honky tonk Blanco’s has since been filled in with athletics stuff for St. John’s School:

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Exxon Exit
01/27/17 9:30am

DECADES-OLD JIMMY’S ICE HOUSE ON WHITE OAK DR. TO TURN BRAUN, CHANGE NAME, TENANTS Jimmy's Ice House, 2803 White Oak Dr., Houston Heights, Houston, 77007 The current owners of Jimmy’s Ice House at the corner of White Oak Dr. and Threlkeld St. are in the middle of working out a sales agreement with serial redeveloper Braun Enterprises, Jim Reynolds reports this week. The late eponymous Jimmie Murray opened the place back in the late 1940s; the bar is currently owned by a group including Jimmie’s son’s widow. Current co-owner Eric Quinn says the likely plan is for Braun to lease the space out to a new tenant, who definitely won’t use the Jimmy’s Ice House name; he also notes that various grandfathered building code violations mean remodeling may be prohibitively expensive. Jimmy’s Ice House sits across Threlkeld from the Studewood BB’s Cafe, and across White Oak Dr. from the South Heights Retail Center, near both Fitzgerald’s and Christian’s Tailgate. The -ie to -y swap looks to have happened around the time the current owners bought the place in 2008, as part of the signage switch from Jimmie’s Place. [The Leader] Photo of Jimmy’s Ice House at 2803 White Oak Dr.: David Richmond/Houston Ice House

01/13/17 12:30pm

CITY-WIDE DRAINAGE SWAT TEAM POSSIBLY BANKROLLED BY HEIGHTS WATERWORKS SALE Draft SWAT project mapMayor Turner announced plans for a dramatically monikered Storm Water Action Team at this week’s council meeting, along with 22 projects at the top the program’s initial list, based on metrics of urgency like frequency of 311 calls. The goal of the program is to deal with non-bayou-centric flooding issues like collapsed culverts and junk-clogged drainage ditches; flood czar Steve Costello said after the council meeting that the city wants to resolve the fixable issues at each site within 90 days of a site visit and initial drainage triage. Meagan Flynn writes this week that the $10 million currently budgeted for the program comes mostly from a one-time sale of city land; that land might well be the Heights Waterworks properties at W. 20th and Nicholson streets, which were sold to apartmenteer Alliance in mid-December for a reported $15.2 million. [Houston Press; previously on Swamplot] Draft map of 22 SWAT project locations: City of Houston SWAT program materials

11/01/16 10:45am

KFC at 2359 S. Shepherd Dr., Vermont Commons, Houston, 77019

The Colonel is still hanging around by the door, but KFC is in the process of leaving the building at 2359 S. Shepherd Dr., a few readers report. The spot at the corner with Fairview Dr. has been sporting now closed signage, and the location has already been eradicated from the annals of KFC’s store database. The chicken shop’s decommissioning follows the late-June sale of the property to an entity called 2359 S. Shepherd, which shares a Smith St. address with Crosspoint Properties (responsible for the redevelopment of a number of Midtown and properties, including the building that now houses Reef and Proof).

The drive-thru sits just south of the Shepherd Place office tower (once the site of those 1960s lesbian bar raids, in its pre-highrise days), and across Shepherd from the former Arby’s, converted to the Inner Loop’s first-ish Dunkin’ Donuts back in 2013.

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S. Shepherd Retreat
09/15/16 10:30am

Tin Hall Dancehall, 14800 Tin Hall Rd, Cypress, 77429

Tin Hall (the building itself, anyway) is now back in the hands of pre-2014 owner Fred Stockton, report Shawn Arrajj and Emily Donaldson. The Tin Hall property was bought by Mark Martinez in 2014, who sold the land to MHI McGuyer Homebuilders later that year; Martinez was allowed time after the Hall’s closing to relocate the structure, and made plans to move it down to a spot off Spring Cypress Rd. just east of Dry Creek — a process slowed down by issues with finding water for the venue and its planned nextdoor retail development.

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09/02/16 4:45pm

4949 at 2132 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston, 77005

Former Sunrise Grocery at 2132 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston, 77005The land at the northeast corner of Shepherd Dr. and Bissonnet St. (not far down the street from closing-this-weekend Kay’s Lounge) has been sold to an entity using the La Porte corporate address of traditionally freeway-hugging Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen. The mid-1980s convenience store (formerly a Sunrise Grocery) and its 0.35 acre property were put on the market at the start of the summer; the sale closed a little over 2 weeks ago. Word through the NextDoor grapevine is that the building won’t be a Gringo’s, but might be replaced with a 3-story retail-office-space combo once the convenience store’s lease runs out around Halloween.

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2132 Bissonnet
08/15/16 5:15pm

USA GYMNASTICS TO BUY OLYMPIC TRAINING RANCH IN SAM HOUSTON NATIONAL FOREST Meanwhile, in Huntsville: Bela and Marta Karolyi are in the process of selling 36.2 acres of their remote women’s gymnastics training facilities north of Houston to USA Gymnastics itself. The Károlyis, who are retiring from more than 3 decades of US gymnastics involvement following their 1981 defection from Soviet-controlled Romania, will keep their own home and most of the rest of their 2,000-acre property, one of many private holdings intermingled with more than 163,000 acres of the federally owned land of Sam Houston National Forest. USA Gymnastics will have right of first refusal if the Károlyis decide to sell any more of the land; closing on the sale is scheduled for 3 days after this month’s Olympic closing ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro. [AP via Bisnow Houston] Image of Sam Houston National Park ranger station: US Forest Service