05/17/17 11:30am

Now hanging in the newly remodeled central nook on the Galleria’s curved facade along Westheimer Rd.: these strips of hexagonal rings spotted early last week by a passing bus rider. (That curved wall is where Saks Fifth Avenue used to be, before the store scooted into the boxy new building next door.) The rendering up top was released last fall, around the time Simon Properties confirmed that Nobu and Fig & Olive would be taking up 2 of the 4 restaurant spaces shown.

For comparison, here’s what the entry through the Philip Johnson-designed facade looked like as of last August, after the new windows had been cut (but before the top edge of the facade got trimmed off): 

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Westheimer Faceoff
05/16/17 9:30am

SAN JACINTO MALL ANCHORS CAUSING REDO PLANS TO DRAG “It’s been slow and tedious — We didn’t count on the myriad problems all the traditional mall department stores are having,” Alan Hassenflu of Fidelis Realty Partners tells Katherine Blunt this week in the Chronicle, while discussing the company’s stagnating attempt to redo Baytown’s San Jacinto Mall. The company’s plans to knock down and rebuild the mall after buying it last summer are running up against drawn-out negotiations with tenants who signed restrictive covenants back in the early 80’s — agreements which can mean developers have to get those tenants to okay changes to the mall, and which can last for decades longer than original operating agreements. “In the case of San Jacinto,” writes Blunt, “the 3 remaining department stores have occupied their buildings for far longer than required under the operating agreements. But the restrictive covenants remain in place, giving them the some control over the mall’s future.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Ray D.

03/02/17 4:30pm

A BUNCH OF NORTHWEST MALL’S TENANTS MAY SHUT DOWN THIS MONTH Northwest Mall, 555 NW Mall, Spring Branch East, Houston, 77092Swamplot hasn’t heard back from the management office of borderline zombie shopping center Northwest Mall yet to confirm plans for the structure — but some of the mall’s tenants have been advertising their own impending closure, including alcoholic cake shop Bundt Cake-a-holic (which is currently trying to crowdfund its own relocation). Rumors on Reddit and The Leader suggest that a few shops like Thompson’s Antique Center of Texas and the in-mall College of Healthcare Professions will stay open, but that most of the tenants are getting booted for remodeling by March 31st.  [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of Northwest Mall: Moni

12/28/16 4:00pm

AN EERIE SURVEY OF NORTHWEST MALL’S APACHES, ALCOHOLICS, AND CHRISTMAS CAST Northwest Mall, 555 NW Mall, Spring Branch East, Houston, 77092A spiritual throwback to John Nova Lomax’s semi-regular walkumentaries of various Houston neighborhoods is part of January’s edition of Texas Monthly: an account of his recent trek through sorta-back-from-the-dead shopping center Northwest Mall. Lomax ponders the center’s past, present, and future while interviewing the locals (like the photo-ready Santa and elf team) and collecting dramatic snippets of eavesdropped conversation outside the mall’s Alcoholics Anonymous meeting facility (located not too far from the alcoholic bundt cake shop). Lomax writes that he sees the decidedly not-as-decrepit-as-it-used-to-be complex, complete with mysteriously closed Southern Apache Museum and $2 hurricane simulation tube, as a “window into modern, cosmopolitan Houston,” noting that “today’s Northwest Mall is more identifiably Bayou City than it was in the boom times. Where it was once just another outpost of corporate American capitalism, it is now as diverse as the city around it. . . . What you will find among these [one-off shops] you will find nowhere else, and the scenes you will take in are often exotic, quirky, or somewhat spooky — and occasionally some combination of all of the above.” [Texas Monthly; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Northwest Mall Entrance C: Moni

07/09/15 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: RISE OF THE MEMORIAL CITY MONSTER Memorial City Mall, Houston“Does any else remember the old Memorial City Hospital that used to sit on the east-bound Katy Freeway feeder (west of Gessner)? It was once just a small 3 stories tall. Then they built 3 more floors on top of those, making it 6. Then it kept growing/morphing until it turned into the crazy space alien tower that it is today. Memorial City Mall has similarly morphed and changed continuously over the past 3 decades, constantly changing its footprint, accessibility, and façade. I would love to see some sort of time lapse of all the changes. With this expansion across I-10, I’m envisioning an eventual network of skywalks spanning the freeway to connect it all, like a great big vampire squid.” [Superdave, commenting on Memorial City Prepares To Cross the Katy] Illustration: Lulu

04/24/15 4:30pm

FOOD TRUCK GOING FOOD COURT The Rice Box Food Truck, HoustonNext venue for the 2-truck Chinese-food-about-town hotspot known as the Rice Box? A non-mobile location in the food court at 5 E. Greenway Plaza, Alison Cook reports: “[Owner John] Peterson has signed on Jim Herd’s Collaborative Projects to design a Rice Box Greenway prototype that will set it apart from its more conventional neighbors. Under a crimson sea of 80 Chinese lanterns (one of the visual totems on the original Rice Box truck), informal barstool seating will range across a counter overlooking oscillating video panels and a custom tea bar. The menu will appear on its own video screen. Red roof tiles from China have been ordered to construct an awning over the counter. ‘It’s one step closer to the White Dragon Noodle Bar,‘ jokes Peterson, referring to the Blade Runner food stand that was his visual inspiration for the Rice Box truck. (All he and Herd need to do is rig some kind of periodic rain showers.)” [Food Chronicles] Photo: The Rice Box

02/10/15 11:00am

Construction of Galleria Jewel Box, Galleria, Houston

Construction crews have begun digging into the surface parking lot along Westheimer in front of the Galleria for the construction of the fancy new pad site building mall owner Simon Properties is referring to as the “luxury jewel box.” Foundation work for the structure, which will sit in front of the Cheesecake Factory and house as many as 3 high-end retailers (Cartier and Chanel are portrayed in renderings of the structure from early last year), will be a little tricky — because underneath the surface parking lot lies the Galleria’s multi-story Blue Garage.

A Swamplot reader sends in the above photo showing the scene as it appeared yesterday; here’s the same view with a bit more of a zoom-out:

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Digging Deep
01/16/15 11:00am

Proposed Hotel Alessandra, Dallas and Fannin Streets, GreenStreet, Downtown Houston

If the giant 25-story-tall question mark built into the profile of the Hotel Alessandra — the Modern tower pictured above, planned for a spot directly behind the XXI Forever store along Fannin — spurred any of you to wonder when or whether construction of the promised residential expansion of GreenStreet (formerly Houston Pavilions) might begin, here’s an answer: Next Monday, MLK Day, workers will begin blocking access to the urban mall’s center court at 1201 Fannin St. and other areas to begin demolition work. Their target: The much shorter structure that once housed the Houston Pavilions’ Yao’s restaurant, owned by family members of Houston Rockets star Yao Ming, which stands in the way.

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Clearing Yao’s Away
08/08/14 1:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE GALLERIA’S BEST-KEPT SECRET Secret Parking Space“It’s true; the secret to making a visit to the Galleria tolerable (even *gasp* enjoyable) is to have a secret parking spot that’s always available. Like many commenters here, I hated going there. But when I finally found my spot, I no longer dread going there even on weekends! (Forget about the holidays though . . . ain’t nobody got time for that). And no, I’m not telling any of you where it is.” [crono_clone, commenting on A Longtime Houstonian’s Guide To Surviving the Recent Onslaught of New Developments and Residents] Illustration: Lulu

07/29/14 1:00pm

Interior of GreenStreet, Downtown Houston

Swamplot reader Marc Longoria has pics of some of the greenery added recently to the revamped interior of the former Houston Pavilions mall downtown, now known as GreenStreet. The rebranding of the mixed-use complex, which extends 3 blocks east from the Main St. rail line in a Discovery Green-ish direction, signifies more than just the infusion of cash from the new owners who are rescuing the project from bankruptcy, the Midway Companies (the folks behind CityCentre) and Magic Johnson’s Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds: There’s the notable addition of striped-green roofs over the escalators (above), for one thing. And more new plant-ish color has been added nearby:

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Artificial Turf, Salads, and More
06/13/14 11:30am

Aerial View of Planned Construction at the Galleria, Houston

Sure, there are plenty of highrise towers to live in in the Galleria . . . area. But what if you want to live in the Galleria mall itself? As in, step out the front door and take in a little Burberry, L.K. Bennett, or Apple Store, maybe still in your Neiman Marcus PJs? The folks at Simon Property Group, the mall owners, began mentioning the possibility of a 300-unit residential highrise at the corner of West Alabama and Sage last fall, when they announced the big Galleria III redo (going on now), which is scooting Saks Fifth Avenue over to the former Macy’s spot fronting Sage and open up about 100,000 sq. ft. of new retail space in its wake. And now they’ve gone and shown on a map where the new tower might go.

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Mall Residential or More?
06/12/14 3:45pm

WOODLANDS MALL MICROSOFT STORE UPGRADE WILL INCLUDE DOORS THAT OPEN AND CLOSE, NEWER SURFACES Woodlands Mall Microsoft Specialty Shop, The Woodlands, TexasThe space outside of Abercrombie & Fitch on the lower level of the Woodlands Mall (shown at right) that Microsoft has been operating as a north Houston “specialty store” since its last upgrade — from a temporary “pop-up shop” installed for the 2012 Holiday season — will shut down entirely on June 25th. Its replacement, a new, full-strength Microsoft Store in the Macy’s wing, will open at 11 am the next day. [Prime Property; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Yelp

09/06/13 10:00am

Remember that unusable and really vague tip sent to Swamplot back in January? The one promising that a “major (non-residential) Houston property is about to make a significant change”? And it wasn’t Macy’s? Well, the in-the-know tipster now reports, we can let that cat out of the bag, since the Houston Business Journal and Houston Chronicle already have: The “Houston landmark” the tipster couldn’t tip us off about is the Galleria — which, it was announced yesterday by developer Simon Property Group, will be undergoing extensive renovations and partial demolition to create about 100,000 new sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space.

The plan calls for the Galleria III portion where Saks Fifth Avenue is currently located to be demolished — though the tipster says the Philip Johnson façade will be maintained — to make room for a bumped-out food court (shown in the rendering above). That freed-up Saks space will provide room for 35 new retailers and restaurants. Meanwhile, Saks will be moving into the Macy’s spot on Sage, and that Macy’s will be merging with the other Macy’s on Hidalgo. (Makes sense.) Also, a standalone box will be built in the parking lot for a few tenants who can afford to be more conspicuous to the stop-and-go crowd on Westheimer.

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08/15/13 10:15am

GREENSTREET, GETTING GOING Just 4 short months after that party it threw for itself, GreenStreet might start becoming something more than a new name and a few signs, reports the Houston Business Journal. Though graffiti artists worked in June to enliven some of the former Houston Pavilions infamously inward-facing spaces with murals, it seems real construction — expected to last between 6 and 9 more months — will begin in a few weeks. The thrust of the renovations? Here’s Shaina Zucker: “Changes to the 568,294-square-foot property . . . include removing existing implements to the interior corridor while creating a new linear urban park.” [Art Attack; Houston Business Journal; previously on Swamplot] Rendering: GreenStreet