A CHECK ON EXPIRATION DATES AMID THE HEIGHTS FOODIE BOOM The restaurant–heavy redevelopment of various used car dealerships and auto shops along N. Shepherd Dr. might bring with it some future trouble for the Heights area, Jonathan McElvy suggests in his column for the Leader this week. McElvy worries that too many new spots chasing after trends in the “culinary preferences of Houston’s red-hot foodie community,” (as he notes recently closed-for-re-concepting Heights restaurant Glass Wall described it) may mean that the area is “about to enter a period of constant turnover along our most important corridor.” Noting the startling estimates on how many restaurants close in fewer than 5 years (whether due to lack of business knowledge, bad construction traffic, or sheer bad luck), McElvy writes that while there’s little to be done to curb the popularity of “farm-to-table restaurants that know how to plate a dish but don’t have a clue how to pay franchise taxes on time . . . it is not going to help our community if 1 business opens and another closes every other week.” [The Leader; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Karen S.
Perpetually hungering for on-the-scene updates on the ongoing demolition of KPRC’s old broadcast station south of Beechnut St. along the Southwest Freeway? Here’s one means of getting your fix: A construction webcam set up above and nearby is still posting updates on the site every 12-to-13 minutes at all hours of the day and night. The 1972 building is coming down right next door to the station’s newly opened replacement, designed to fit Tetris-style into a handy nook on the back of the original — that’s it wearing a protective blue tarp in the shot above, which was captured around 10:15 this morning. You can even follow the action all the way back to December 2015, before the breakup of the surface parking lot where the new building now stands.
That drone view of the demo that Russell Hancock snagged last week shows a broader view of both building still (mostly) in place together (and makes it marginally clearer why some station affiliates claim the seventies structure was meant to look like an old camera:)
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24 Hour News Demo Cycle
The pointy glass Gardens of Bammel Lane conservatory isn’t the only structure on the block southeast of Bammel Ln. and Earl St. getting picked up and hauled elsewhere as part of the block’s cleanout for the 26-story Villa Borghese condo highrise. A handful of Cherry House Moving trailers were spotted on the site this weekend, hanging around and under several of the bungalows on the block (which date between 1900 and 1950 per the county’s records, and were used most recently as commercial spaces). As of Saturday, the conservatory structure (shown above in wedding attire) had already departed the site (presumably headed for its new home at the Madeley Gardens events space in Conroe).
Some of the bungalows have already been shuffled around on the block. The former law office at 2714 Sackett St. was spotted stripped of its hedge and address markers, with a moving trailer poking out from beneath the front porch:
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Upper Kirby Shuffle
The light at the end of the N. Main St. tunnel beneath the Union Pacific Line was obscured for a bit this morning where the northbound side of the road re-emerges into tossed-coffee-cup range of the Burnett Transit Center light-rail stop (atop the topmost overpass in the shot above.) The semi that briefly plugged the hole looks to have scraped its way through the entire length of the tunnel before getting stuck at the northern exit. Transtar pinned the stopup to about 10:38 this morning; not much had changed as of 40 minutes ago (see below), but the road is now marked by professional traffic-watchers as cleared.
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Yards from Hardy Yards
HUNKY DORY AND BERNADINE’S ARE SHUTTING DOWN NEXT WEEK AFTER ALL The scandal– and bankruptcy-embroiled Treadsack Group just announced that both Hunky Dory Tavern and Bernadine’s are closing next week. After the company announced in late March that both restaurants would stay open for the time being, the last day of action for each is now set as May 24th. The expanding group of Killen’s meat vendors announced on Monday that it had snagged Bernadine’s chef Graham Laborde (who stepped in to run Hunky Dory’s kitchen too, after Richard Knight left in February). No related updates from also-in-Chapter-11 Down House, or any of the other restaurants in the group. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Hunky Dory
A permit was issued yesterday to knock out some walls at the former medical clinic at 820 Holman St., remodeled back in 2015 into abbreviated-French-themed nightclub VrSi. The club (shown here as it looked in its early days) seems to have stopped promoting itself right after Mardi Gras, and a new business name for the address was registered with the county clerk’s office late last month: Holman Draft Hall. That new moniker is still connected to VrSi co-owner Andy Aweida, part of the group that owns nearby Wooster’s Garden and used to own those demolished Kirby funeral parlor bars; the same folks are also behind the Heights Bier Garten, which opened last month in the former Longhorn Motor Company spot on N. Shepherd (now full of parked picnic tables):
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Signs of Life on Holman St.
DOWLING ST. NOW BEING EMANCIPATED The folks at Project Row House posted this snapshot of a new street sign along Emancipation Ave., née Dowling St., which is getting its shiny new labels affixed in the leadup to this year’s Juneteenth festivities. (That’s when the name change will officially take effect, and when majorly overhauled Emancipation Park is once again planning to reopen, as well.) This particular set of signage is at the corner with Francis St., across
Dowling Emancipation from the Tiny Treasures house, the crumbling remains of the Beauty Box, and the former site of the Flower Man’s toxic-mold-filled arthouse; the new signs look to have started going up along the road last week. Photo: Project ROW House
The strip center nook at 5801 Memorial Dr. last occupied by fast-casual pan-Asian chain Express Rolls has been taken over by Peruvian-Mexican joint Pollo Bravo, which was previously shooed out of the since-pulverized standalone building just down the street at 5440 Memorial. Both properties are owned by companies connected to the Taghdisi brothers, who’ve also been collecting permits for the construction of a new retail mini-strip on Pollo Bravo’s former turf, as announced last fall. The new structure planned at 5440 Memorial looks like it’ll more or less match the general fashion sense of strip center at 5801, though it won’t fit as many tenants:
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Chicken Back In On Memorial Dr.
On Monday a reader noted some changes to the well-spotted storefront formerly occupied by Kate Spade New York, facing Drexel Dr. in the Westheimer-straddling Highland Village shopping center. The store name is now a mere shadow of its former self, and an employee reached at the location’s former phone number this afternoon tells Swamplot that the branch has closed for business. The space’s mirror-backed neon unibrow (the replacement for the one that caught fire back in 2015) looks to still be hanging around for now, but the windows have been papered over (presumably to provide a bit of privacy as the space gets changed.) There’s still a Kate Spade down the road a few blocks — the one that was tapped to trade its old Galleria locale for a place in the new wing.
Photos: Swamplot inbox (top); Amanda W. (bottom)
The current pallor of the departed Whataburger #292 (on Mt. Houston Rd. between the Veterans Memorial Dr. Fiesta shopping center and the Templo Aposento Alto) offers a stark, ethereal contrast the structure’s previous traditional getup of What-a-Orange stripes. The restaurant has stood in the spot since the early eighties, surrounded by a heavy salting of auto garages and related businesses; it appears to have been operational through at least November of last year before blanking out. Will the peaked bones of the fast food joint be reanimated to new purpose? Or is the new coat of whitewash merely a shroud, applied before the building is allowed to rest in pieces at last?
Photos: Swamplot inbox
Late Fast Food on W. Mt. Houston
TACOS A GO GO IS A GO BENEATH DOWNTOWN Tacos A Go Go’s latest location is currently being set up in the tunnel spot beneath soon-to-be-Shell-free One Shell Plaza at 910 Louisiana St. The permitting process for the remodel of the space (centered roughly between branches of Murphy’s Deli, Starbucks, and the People’s Trust Co-op) kicked off late last year, around the time Tacos a Go Go’s third location opened in the now-thoroughly disguised former Roznovsky’s Hamburgers spot in Garden Oaks. The company’s website currently says the fourth spot’ll open Downtown later this month, operating on breakfast and lunch taco hours (from 7 to 3). [Previously on Swamplot; tunnel coverage] Image of One Shell Plaza leasing flier: LoopNet
THE TUNNEL BENEATH THE DEAD CHRONICLE BUILDING IS NOW OPEN AGAIN Management for 717 Texas (or Calpine Center, if you’re less of a fan of numerically-forward tower vernacular) just sent out word that the tunnel from that building to Chase Tower at 600 Travis St. is now open again. The route takes a turn beneath the pretty-much-done demo of the newly former Houston Chronicle headquarters, evidently still slated by Hines for surface-lotdom for now — plus whatever work the folks next door have planned below ground to tie their own development into the tunnel network. Meanwhile, another block southwest down the same tunnel system (as visible in the 90-degrees-or-so rotated schematic above), Skanska has just signaled the go-ahead on the above-ground section of its Capitol Tower; no word yet on whether that construction will have another round of tunnel closure associated with it. [Previously on Swamplot] Map of Downtown tunnel connections: Skanska
Ragin’ Cajun, likely Downtown’s most subterranean crawfish vendor, is packing up and crawling out of the tunnels beneath the McKinney Place Garage at 930 Main St., a reader notes this week. (That’ll leave its French-Quarter-evocative retail space open for more underground restaurant turnover; the garage most recently saw the swapout of a Prince’s Hamburgers branch for Time for Thai, amid other nearby culinary tunnel shuffles). The shop’s other locations are still open, per signage left behind at the scene.
WITH BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, DRY CREEK IS ABOUT TO GET VERY WET LATER THIS MONTH The spot on the corner of White Oak Dr. and Yale St. where Dry Creek Cafe (pictured) closed down last year is expected to open next month as a “neighborhood bar with food that meets restaurant standards.” Proprietors Bobby Heugel (who got his start at Anvil) and Justin Yu (who shut down Oxheart) know a bit about each, respectively. The newly renovated space at 544 Yale will be called Better Luck Tomorrow, they announced today. [Eater Houston; previously on Swamplot] Photo: Andy M.
WE’VE REACHED CHAPTER 11 IN THE HUNKY DORY, BERNADINE’S STORY Here’s an update to continuing reports on the financial health of the Treadsack restaurant group, the company behind Heights-area establishments Down House, D&T Drive Inn, Johnny’s Gold Brick, Hunky Dory, Bernadine’s, Foreign Correspondents, and Canard: Mothership Ventures, LLC, an entity owned by Treadsack partner Chris Cusack and — according to Houston Press reporter Craig Malisow, the business entity that operates as Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over this past weekend. Foreign Correspondents and its next-door-neighbor bar Canard closed for business in the shopping center at 4721 N. Main St. suddenly at the end of last year; in February, Malisow published a detailed saga of payroll and tax problems behind the shutdown, alleging Treadsack restaurants had become subject to IRS and state liens totaling more than $1.3 million, and that at one point the Texas Comptroller’s office had threatened a seizure of assets at Down House if taxes were not paid. Bernadine’s and Hunky Dory have been operating since late 2015 in a new building constructed for them at the corner of 18th St. and N. Shepherd. Update, 1:30 pm: An investor has filed suit against the owners of Treadsack, the Houston Press now reports. Craig Malisow also notes that the debtor in the bankruptcy filing has been granted funds to pay for the next employee paychecks. Photo: Hunky Dory