10/11/17 1:30pm

A half-decade after the demolition of its on-site predecessors, the retail building replacing the former Ruggles Grill at 903 Westheimer Rd. just east of Montrose Blvd. is almost complete. Going inside the new 6,536-sq.-ft. structure across from Uchi: a couple of Dallas imports.

On the right, on the side closer to the Smoothie King drive-thru, will go the first out-of-Dallas location of the East Hampton Sandwich Company chain. On the left, next to the side parking lot and the Woman’s Home’s Cottage Shop, will be the second Houston location of Velvet Taco. Sandwiched between them is a 1,120-sq.-ft. space that appears to be still available, according to leasing documents — perhaps for a third wheat-wrapped-lunch spot of north Texas origin.

A 57-spot parking lot wraps around and in back of the building:

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Dallas Comes to Montrose
10/09/17 10:45am

The anticipated departure of Hyde Park gift shop Corazon from its perch at the corner of Fairview and Waugh has been delayed by 3 months at least. Although the property it sits on has been sold to a new owner interested in building a trio of townhouses, demolition of the former smithy, antique store, and glass-blowing studio won’t take place this year: Corazon now has a new short-term lease that runs until December 31st and will convert to a month-to-month status after that.

If the lease does get extended for a few months into 2018, it’ll mark the store’s 20th anniversary at 2318 Waugh Dr. In either case, it’ll probably be an awkward extended goodbye: A clearance sale begun in August on the store’s current inventory of Lucha Libre masks, guyaberas, and other items from South and Central American artisan cooperatives is ongoing, but popular items will probably be restocked for the holiday season. The store’s owner is searching for a new location.

Photo: Corazon

Townhome Fodder
09/18/17 11:15am

The retreat of floodwaters has revealed the extent of the silt that Harvey-triggered flooding deposited along Buffalo Bayou. A beachgoing reader sends Swamplot these pics of the new dust-colored landscapes that have taken shape along Buffalo Bayou Park and adjacent former green spaces.

The silt-covered bench shown above sits across Buffalo Bayou from the Houston Police Officers Memorial, near Glenwood Cemetery. Here’s a view from further back:

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Silt Deposits
09/12/17 10:30am

Here, courtesy of a Swamplot reader, are a few exterior views of the building at 1318 Westheimer after its weekend fire. “The damage is pretty severe,” Shawn Bermudez wrote on Facebook Saturday evening. The owner of Royal Oak Bar & Grill, which shut down in this location last September, had been renovating the property in order to reopen it as a bar named Present Company. That work was a month from completion, Bermudez estimates. Among the additions to the former 1950s home: new steel doors and windows. And here’s a view showing the current state of the new piggyback patio added in back:

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Bar and Grill
09/08/17 5:00pm

WHAT THE HARVEY FLOODING DID TO BUFFALO BAYOU PARK “Please know that Buffalo Bayou Park was designed to flood, although we did not anticipate three historic flooding events in 1-1/2 years,” Buffalo Bayou Partnership president Anne Olson remarks drily in an email update this afternoon. So what’s the damage? “The bottom two thirds of the park are still under water, and we expect that they will remain so for several more weeks as water is released from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Due to these circumstances, it is difficult for our staff to assess the impact the flowing water has had on the footpaths and landscape in these areas. We do know that the Johnny Steele Dog Park, which is still submerged, will be closed for two or three months.” Water and sediment that flooded the Buffalo Bayou Cistern is still draining, slowly, but the electrical system installed when the long-hidden underground space was made available for tours and art installations appears to be working. The Wortham Fountain and the trail lighting system have been damaged, Olson reports. The Bayou City Adventures kayak kiosk at Lost Lake and the Bike Barn at Sabine St. has been shut down for the remainder of the year at least; areas east of the Sabine St. bridge are mostly still underwater. But Olson reports landscaped areas in the upper areas of the park, where trails have already reopened, survived with only a small amount of damage: “We are extremely fortunate that the Lost Lake and Wortham Insurance Visitor Centers did not take on water. Both facilities are open and the Kitchen at The Dunlavy is operating with normal hours. Food trucks also are back in the entry court at Sabine Street from Thursday-Sunday.” Update: The Bike Barn at Sabine St. has resumed normal hours as of September 9. [Buffalo Bayou Partnership] Photo: Adam Brackman.  

08/16/17 4:00pm

Maybe that for-lease sign up in the window at Tila’s Restaurante and Bar on the Shepherd Curve for the last few months worked: The restaurant closed for business on Sunday — after 20 years at the same location. Owner Tila Hidalgo reports on the restaurant’s Facebook page that her business was given 25 days notice to vacate the property at 1111 S. Shepherd Dr. — it will be out of the space entirely by the end of the month.

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Now on Wheels
08/10/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE HYDE PARK SALES AND CLEARANCE RUSH “My family moved out of Hyde Park four years ago, and it’s incredible how much the neighborhood has changed in that time. Yes, I know change is inevitable and can be for the better, but this neighborhood has changed at a breakneck pace. I’m pretty sure at least half of the houses/buildings along Commonwealth and Waugh have been torn down since we left (admittedly some of them really needed to go, given the terrible shape they were in). I guess this will be added to the heap.” [Courtney, commenting on Corazon Now Being Removed from Its Big Red Dot Spot at Waugh and Fairview] Photo of Corazon, 2813 Waugh Dr.: Margo

08/10/17 12:45pm

Corazon — your Hyde Park source for guayaberas, Lucha Libre masks, and other assorted crafty and gifty south-of-the-border imports — has lost its lease and will be leaving its longtime spot at the northwest corner of Waugh and Fairview within a month, store owner Chris Murphy reports. The 6,250-sq.-ft. lot it sits on, which includes a recently demolished property at 1410 Fairview, is now under contract after being marketed as a redevelopment site.

Corazon moved into its current home in 1998 — from a location in the former Gramercy Apartments on Montrose Blvd. across from Bell Park (where the Museum Tower now stands). The corner spot at 2318 Waugh Dr. has a craft-y history: Previously a furniture refinishing shop, the building reportedly earlier had gigs as an antique store, a glass-blowing studio, a general store, and a smithy. Murphy says he expects it to be demolished — and replaced with townhomes.

The structure is perhaps best known to passers-by, however, as a frame for the fifth-ever red dot, painted by Red Dot Boys (and former Houstonians) Robert Ramos and Rick Carpenter, as shown here in this undated image from the Red Dot Boys website:

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Folk Art History
08/09/17 4:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: MONTROSE HASN’T EVEN HIT PUBERTY YET “I regularly walk around in Montrose. I’ve also been to many urban neighborhoods in the northeast which are as close to 100% gentrified as you can get. I’m talking Greenwich Village in NYC, Beacon Hill in Boston, Georgetown in DC. Montrose is not anywhere close to that level of gentrification. It won’t even be there in 20 years. Right now, you can still walk around Montrose and see loads of old 60s and 70s garden complexes with $700 a month apartments. There are plenty of trashy convenience stores, rundown strip malls, and vacant lots. And yes, there are still plenty of young artists and musicians who live in the area and hang out in areas like the Menil plying their craft. Any neighborhood where a lot on a major commercial street can sit vacant for over a year is not that gentrified yet. Okay, so yes. Montrose is obviously gentrifying. It’s different from how it was 20, 30, 40 years ago. That’s part of city life–places change, some people move out, other people move in. And eventually, maybe in a few decades, if Houston doesn’t get destroyed in a hurricane or become the next Detroit due to economic collapse, Montrose probably will become the kind of bland-ish upper crust West U-ish neighborhood people act like it already is. But here’s the reality: It’s not there yet, and it won’t be for quite awhile.” [Christian, commenting on Comment of the Day Runner-Up: The Creative Destruction of Montrose] Illustration: Lulu

08/08/17 3:30pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: THE CREATIVE DESTRUCTION OF MONTROSE “No one likes it when a fun edgy neighborhood like Montrose gentrifies. Seeing original funky local haunts replaced by chains and high end destinations is like losing an old friend. But this process of gentrification is actually good in the long run because each generation gets a new chance at building a home for the local counterculture. Without that cycle of displacement and rebirth, the counterculture becomes entrenched and turns into an establishment culture within the counterculture. Rising rents in Montrose pushed out lots of artists. But it also created demand for studio space that gave birth to the 1st Ward arts district and great new developments like the Silos. And the same dynamic is playing out for bars and clubs popping up all over the east side. The counterculture lives on and thrives when each generation has a chance to find their own voice by converting a forgotten part of the city into the next counterculture hub. In the end, the kids are alright. They just need a push out into the wilderness every few decades to keep things fresh.” [Old School, commenting on The Death, Life, and Continuing Obituary of Montrose, Still Texas’s ‘Coolest Neighborhood‘] Illustration: Lulu

08/07/17 3:00pm

A section of John Nova Lomax’s new Texas Monthly essay on Montrose’s continuing “it was better in the old days” rap chronicles a sequence of prominent changes to the neighborhood from the last decade. That it’s possible to find at least one Swamplot story corresponding to each noted example speaks to the longterm vigilance of this site’s tipsters — if not the author’s research methods. (Lomax in fact wrote a few of our stories himself; he’s a former Swamplot contributor and editor.)

Here’s the passage, altered by a peppering with Swamplot links to provide an annotated and illustrated version of Montrose’s recent journey from former counterculture haven to . . . uh, former counterculture haven:

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You Were There
08/07/17 10:30am

THE DEATH, LIFE, AND CONTINUING OBITUARY OF MONTROSE, STILL TEXAS’S ‘COOLEST NEIGHBORHOOD’ Nostalgia for Montrose’s good old days as a counterculture hub has a history almost as long and involved as the neighborhood itself, curator of Houston lore John Nova Lomax points out in a new essay for Texas Monthly. “I’ve heard generations of these death-by-gentrification declarations. Hippies might tell you it died around the time Space City! went under in 1972,” he writes (Lomax himself was “conceived in Montrose by hippie parents, in a house on the corner of Dunlavy and West Alabama.”) “There have almost always been laments about rising rents: In 1973, Montrose was featured in Texas Monthly’s third-ever issue, with folk singer Don Sanders fretting about a mass exodus of creative types brought on when area leases topped a whopping $100.” Since then, however, the losses have only mounted: “Gentility has encroached on Montrose from the snooty, River Oaks-lite Upper Kirby district to the west, while Midtown’s party-hearty bros have invaded from the east and north. Property taxes and rents have both skyrocketed; despite the oil downturn, it’s almost impossible to find a one-bedroom for less than $800 a month. Having gained more acceptance from society at large, the LGBT community has scattered to neighborhoods like Westbury and Oak Forest. Bohemians have fled to the East End, Acres Homes, and Independence Heights — the gentrified Houston Heights no longer an option — or have left Houston altogether.” [Texas Monthly] Photo of house across from Menil Park, 1999: Alex Steffler, via Swamplot Flickr Pool [license]

06/27/17 3:30pm

Courtesy of a smartphone-bearing reader, here’s the scene from this morning on the often-quiet Montrose corner of Harold and Mulberry, directly across the street from the Bering Memorial United Methodist Church. The single-story brick bungalow dating from 1938 at 1502 Harold St. is a goner. Croix Homes has a permit to build a new house on the site.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Crushed in Montrose
06/23/17 4:45pm

The folks behind a newly-announced condo project called Mandell Montrose have recently stuck some signage on the lot at 2312 Commonwealth St., a couple of readers tell Swamplot this week. That property isn’t actually adjacent to either Mandell St. or Montrose Blvd., but it is almost directly between the 2; it’s also the site formerly slated for the cancelled Flats on Fairview condo midrise (which Paul Takahashi reports this week were called off due to construction cost issues, despite having met some sales goals). Takahashi says the new project will aim for 7 stories for a total of 24 units. And underscoring the split-the-geographic-difference theme, the Hyde Park project is being developed by Midtown Uptown Development Partners.

No renderings are out yet of the new plans, save for some probably-not-to-scale brick facade showing up on the background of the building’s sales website. (A physical sales center should be opening some time next month, however.) The rendered design of the cancelled Flats midrise, meanwhile, has found new purpose as part of a striking departure from the classic Houston scary midrise artwork vernacular:

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Mandell Monstrose