06/15/17 4:30pm

BONES FOUND IN HOLDOUT HEIGHTS HOUSE ATTIC TELL NO TALES Fox26 has now updated its story from March on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the fate of Mary Cerruti, the former owner of the 2-bedroom home at 610 Allston St. in the Heights, whose mysterious disappearance in 2015 roughly coincided with the latter stages of Trammell Crow’s construction of the 6-story Alexan Heights apartment complex adjacent to her home. Cerruti was a vocal opponent of the development who refused to sell her property and later reportedly complained greatly about the inconveniences caused by the construction. Her former home is now surrounded on 3 sides by the 6-story apartment building; and earlier this year renters in the same home discovered some unidentified human remains — next to a pair of red reading glasses similar to ones Cerruti wore — behind a loose board in the attic. Today, reports Kaitlin Monte, the Harris County Medical Examiner has announced that it cannot determine the cause of death from that evidence —“because the remains were skeletonized.” The 1,161-sq.-ft. home, meanwhile, has been on the market since March, though the asking price has jumped from $439,900 to $475,000. [Fox26; HAR; previously on Swamplot] Photo: HAR  

09/07/16 4:15pm

Ashby Highrise Site, 1717 Bissonnet St. at Ashby St., Boulevard Oaks, Houston

The gates are wide open this afternoon at 1717 Bissonnet, notes Mike Bloom, who sends along a few pictures of today’s excavator-vs-concrete action at the scene. Some workers and some pipes can be seen hanging around as the operator cracks into a bit of former parking lot on the northwest corner (a survivor of the Maryland Manor demolition back in 2013).

And a permit related to foundation and sitework were issued this week, following the smattering issued for some electrical and fire line work back before June’s appeal ruling (which declared that the surrounding neighborhood can’t be awarded damages for a project that hasn’t actually been built yet.) Might some deeper digging be on the way?

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Stirrings at 1717 Bissonnet
07/20/16 1:30pm

BUCKHEAD: ASHBY HIGHRISE IS STILL HAPPENING, BUT THAT’S STILL NOT ITS NAME Ashby Highrise, 1717 Bissonnet St., Boulevard Oaks, HoustonChronicle reporters Nancy Sarnoff and Erin Mulvaney spend some time on this week’s Looped In podcast dissecting some circuitous answers from Matthew Morgan and Kevin Kirton, developers of the multifamily project commonly known as the Ashby Highrise (which, as Morgan is quick to point out, has never been dubbed anything other than 1717 Bissonnet except by neighborhood opposition campaigners). In the wake of Buckhead’s recent court appeal victory,  the duo of duos touches on the project’s permitting history with the city, the ambiguous but active state of current plans, and the unexpected financial and emotional tolls of pushing a project forward through an unprecedented decade of protests (ranging from giant personalized signage aimed at the pair to that grim reaper sighting on Bissonnet).  [Looped In Podcast from the Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Rendering of 1717 Bissonnet St.: Buckhead Investment Partners

07/01/16 10:00am

Ashby Highrise construction site, 1717 Bissonnet

Texas’s Fourteenth Court of Appeals overturned part of the previous decision on the Ashby Highrise case yesterday, declaring that no, the developers of 1717 Bissonnet don’t have to pay the tower’s would-be neighbors $1.2 million as compensation for property value losses. Nor do the highrise planners have to cover for all those legal fees incurred by the various stages of the case — the homeowners are back on the hook for those as well, along with all costs incurred by the appeal.

The judges declared that even if the property values in the nearby homes did decrease, and even if that decrease was because of the proposal for the highrise, the homeowners can’t ask for compensation for property value drops caused by mere plans for a future “nuisance” — damages can only be awarded after said “nuisance” actually exists.

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Potential Appeal
03/20/15 12:00pm

Rendering of Village of River Oaks, 1015 S. Shepherd Dr., Shepherd Curve, Houston

Give the lawsuit filed by 7 residents of the costumed Gotham and Renoir Lofts buildings along the Shepherd Curve just south of West Dallas St. some credit. News of the legal action has spurred the defendant to do something it previously hadn’t: release to the public an actual rendering of the 8-story senior living facility it’s about to construct between the 2 Randall Davis condos, once it finishes clearing away the remains of the RR Donnelley printing company building at 1015 S. Shepherd Dr. And here it is, showing almost exactly how Bridgewood Property’s Village of River Oaks will look a few years from now — when you view it from Google Street View, that is.

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Google Street View Rendering
03/13/15 3:15pm

Demolition of RR Donnelley Printing Company Building, 1015 S. Shepherd Dr.,  Shepherd Curve, Houston

RR Donnelley Building, 1015 S. Shepherd, HoustonA group of 7 residents of the Renoir and Gotham Lofts, 2 separately themed Randall Davis condo towers north of the Shepherd Curve just south of W. Dallas St., filed a lawsuit early last week against the company planning to build a senior living facility between the 2 buildings. Bridgewood Property Company’s Village on Shepherd at River Oaks (also called the Village at River Oaks in company documents) will fit on the site of the former RR Donnelley printing company building at 1015 S. Shepherd, which was torn down this week. (The photos above and below, taken from the Gotham yesterday, show what’s left of that building, against the Renoir’s undressed southern flank.)

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RR Donnelley Site
11/14/14 2:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW REAL ESTATE TRAILBLAZERS REALLY CAN BURN UP THE TRAIL Burning Up the Road“There are very real consequences for having a NIMBY-smashing attitude for developers. Yes, the developers usually get their way, but they often end up ruining it for the next guy. Ashby developers will get to build, but the next guy might not because of the high-rise buffering ordinance that passed in the wake of the Ashby uproar. 380 agreements flowed like a river to Walmart and Kroger, but community uproar has meant that only Costco has since been able to get a similar deal despite some healthy opposition in city council. And there has only been one 380 agreement in 2014 outside of the downtown urban living initiative (which does require first floor space to be retail ready). There are a whole host of development regulations that have their root in NIMBY activism: drainage detention, tree ordinance, and parking minimums, to name a few.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: Don’t Let the Locals Get in the Way of Your Project] Illustration: Lulu

11/11/14 2:30pm

surge-sign-removal-heights

Over the weekend  Surge Homes removed the sign promising “future development” along the Heights Hike-and-Bike Trail. Workers took the recently-installed bike-scaled billboard Saturday morning. It appears that the sign had been squatting on a public right-of-way.

Around the same time, the newly-created Surge Homes released lots of new information for the trailside colony. Surge is run by the same principals involved with Canada’s Group LSR who closed on the property in 2004. Sporadic attempts to develop the site have so far borne no fruit.

Aerial views show that the project would take quite a bite out of the pocket forest currently on the site; access would come via a lengthened E. 5th St., not a trail-crossing extension of Frasier St., as in an earlier proposal.

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Surge Homes Pullback
11/07/14 10:00am

surge-homes-sign-emes-place

Here’s the sign that a reader says went up earlier this week along the south side of the Heights hike-and-bike trail just south of the Freeland Historic District, at the ends of Frasier St. and E. 5th 1/2 St. Does the promise of “future development” mean that another developer is taking a turn trying to develop the 1.4-acre parcel of land where a proposed 80-plus-unit condo project known variously as Emes Place or Viewpoint at the Heights stirred up a fair amount of neighborhood opposition when it was last in the news a couple of years ago?

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Surge!
08/22/14 1:30pm

Brewery Incubator and League of Extraordinary Brewers Brewpub, 907 Franklin St., Suite 150, Downtown Houston

“Never would a game of strip Twister be so badly regretted,” writes Lucrece Borrego in announcing the sudden closure of her innovative Downtown food-business incubator turned brewery-incubator business on the ground floor of the Bayou Lofts building at 907 Franklin St. An eviction notice the two-time startup-startup starter was handed by an attorney representing her landlord as Borrego was cooking for a steak-night “bottle share” event last Friday cited several reasons for the termination of her lease, most of them focusing on items encountered in a common-area hallway outside the business: empty beer kegs and boxes (Borrego says they were left after deliveries), “personal items” (likely including a motorcycle, a source tells Swamplot) — and a live game of naked Twister.

“Indeed,” Borrego writes, “I had agreed to host a naked game night: a completely private event that takes place at bars all over Houston regularly. We covered all the windows and had someone working the door. Only one thing went wrong.

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Downtown Brewery Startup Space Evicted
07/21/14 11:15am

Rendering of 2229 San Felipe TowerA new lawsuit filed last week against the developers of the 2229 San Felipe office tower currently under construction between Shepherd and Kirby is a bit different from the one that a group of neighbors initiated against the same party back in February, a reader notes. The plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are the owners of a River Oaks home directly across the street from the construction site, and they appear to have studied the ruling issued in the Ashby Highrise lawsuit carefully. (Back in May, Judge Randy Wilson ordered the developers of that building to pay neighbors $1.2 million to compensate them for “lost market damages,” but denied their request to halt the building’s construction)

Unlike their neighbors who sued before them, the residents of 2237 Stanmore Dr. are not seeking to prevent or delay the construction of Hines’s neighborhood office tower. Instead, it appears they are only seeking compensation for both public and private “nuisances” created by the 17-story building, including pollution, noise, and ground vibration during its construction and the resulting loss of sunlight and rain on their property. The building’s vaunted peepage opportunities don’t please them either:

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Pay Up
07/18/14 1:45pm

Did the tiny bench-and-planters installation now parked in front of a Heights mattress store strike a nerve for some Swamplot readers? Judging from the comments section for some of Swamplot’s coverage of the project, that certainly does appear to be the case. But it looks like the PR firm charged with promoting the city of Houston’s first officially permitted parklet is set on tapping that nerve as if it were a gold mine. The video above, just posted to YouTube by the Black Sheep Agency, shows purported actual Heights residents performing dramatic readings of Swamplot readers’ more entertaining comments about the parklet, which now blocks access to what was formerly a single angled, head-in parking space in front of the firm’s client, the New Living Bedroom store at 321 W. 19th St. (New Living paid for construction of the parklet and is responsible for maintaining it, according to an agreement with the city, which considers the effort a pilot program.)

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Tempest in a Heights Parking Space
06/23/14 11:45am

M+A Architecture Studio, 5910 Grace Ln., Houston

CES Environmental Services Trucks, 4904 Griggs Rd., MacGregor Terrace, HoustonFrom a top-floor perch in their tiny, handcrafted, award-winning live-work compound at 5910 Grace Ln. (featured a while back in Dwell magazine), architect Mark Schatz and designer Anne Eamon had front-row seats to the ongoing smelly, toxic, and deadly shitshow that marked the over-the-back-fence tenure of CES Environmental Services, in its facility at 4904 Griggs Rd., just a mile and a half south of the UH campus. Among the joys they were able to plug their noses and record was this tableau from July 2009: “In the first photograph [Schatz] took of the scene unfolding below him, shot like all the rest with the eye of an architect, perfectly framing the site, the tank farm is to the left, and a worker races from the right to the warehouse, which has a smoking hole blown through the roof. In a subsequent photo, oxygen tanks are wheeled in. Then the oxygen tanks fall over. Then a forklift shows up, and a crew starts setting the oxygen tanks upright. All this time, while they go through this Three Stooges routine, their co-worker is lying inside the warehouse covered in burns. You can see the back of a metal cylindrical tanker truck in the photos. [Schatz and Eamon] learn later that the fatally burned worker had opened the hatch on the tanker and switched on his flashlight to peer in. A spark from the flashlight set off a flash fire.”

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Toxics by Design
06/16/14 12:30pm

Protestors Outside Houston Permitting Center, 1002 Washington Ave., Downtown Houston

“Since there are no TVs at the new fancy permitting center that show the soap operas while you wait, this will have to do,” a tipster quips. And yes! There does appear to be a bit of excitement today at the Houston Permitting Center at 1002 Washington Ave. on the west side of Downtown. The tipster tells us that the pictured protestors shown outside the building are “upset about an inspector and their garage in their backyard.” According to one of the protestors, Channel 11 is “supposed to cover it,” the tipster says.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

They’ve Got Your Number, David Crawford
06/05/14 10:30am

Kenan Ince Performing Rice, Ashby at Cafe Brasil, 2604 Dunlavy St., Montrose, HoustonRice U. math Ph.D. student, Boulevard Oaks resident, and poet Kenan Ince has been making the rounds of local open-mic nights with his brief ode to the as-yet-invisible but still-ominous spectre looming over 1717 Bissonnet St. known as the Ashby Highrise. The poem, entitled Rise, Ashby, begins with an epigraph clipped from a Swamplot story about the lawsuit that was filed by a few of the 21-story apartment tower’s Southampton and Boulevard Oaks neighbors last year. A video of Ince’s recent performance at Montrose’s Cafe Brasil (seen at left) has been posted on Youtube; you can read the poem — with its original, towering typography intact — below:

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Rise, Ashby