02/27/17 5:00pm

TXDOT TO PIERCE ELEVATED: YOUR YEARS ARE NUMBERED, PROBABLY pierce-street-45-downtownPending a vote next month by the Texas Transportation Committee, some early-stage projects connected to TxDOT’s plan to reroute I-45 and the whole downtown freeway exchange system could be getting started a few years sooner than TxDOT officials initially thought they would, Dug Begley writes in the Chronicle. (Those early stages include the reworking of the bottleneck on northbound US-59 where Spur 527 now peels off 2 of the freeway’s lanes just before SH 288 merges into the mix.) The first few projects “are incremental compared to the overall plan,” writes Begley, but “officials say [the projects] are important and send the clear message: The I-45 freeway is relocating and the elevated portion along Pierce will be abandoned and maybe demolished within the next dozen years. . . .Work on revamping the freeway intersections is slated for late 2020 or early 2021.” [Houston Chronicle; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Pierce Elevated: Russell Hancock

02/27/17 1:15pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: ON HAVING YOUR ART DECO STRIP CENTER AND EATING IT, TOO River Oaks Shopping Center highrise plan, Houston, 77019“’Everybody wants walkability, but nobody wants density’ is the urban-planning equivalent of ‘everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.’” [Angostura, commenting on Where Weingarten Plans To Stab That 30-Story Residential Highrise into the River Oaks Shopping Center] Site plan of future highrise development: Weingarten Realty

02/23/17 5:30pm

Cafe Ginger, 1952 W. Gray St., River Oaks Shopping Center, Houston, 77019

What with that  30-ish-story tower planned for on top of them, the businesses at the far end of the River Oaks Shopping Center (including Café Ginger, the King Ranch Saddle Shop, and Local Pour) now appear to have an ambiguous expiration date on their current locations. Café Ginger has already found a new place to crash when the time comes: staff at the restaurant confirmed today that they’ll be moving just a few blocks down W. Gray St. to River Oaks Plaza, which hosts Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, and Office Max in some of its bigger boxes. The move probably won’t happen until next year, but restaurant’s name is already included in the leasing flier for the center (as is the new Carter’s Babies & Kids scheduled to open in the complex at the end of March).

Café Ginger is shown filling in the pair of retail spots on the strip mall corner near Dunlavy St. that previously housed Austin pan-Asian chain Mama Fu’s and Austin Mediterranean chain VERTS Kebap:

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River Oaks Shopping Around
02/23/17 4:00pm

Demo of Houston Chronicle Building, 801 Texas Ave., Downtown, Houston, 77002
Rendering of One Market Square Parking Garage

First on Linbeck’s docket for the block across Prairie St. from the slowly dissolving former Chronicle building: the 11-story parking garage rendered above. The structure is planned for the southern half of the block between Prairie St. and Market Square, which means the restaurant space depicted in the rendering will face Travis St. (presuming the retail spot is not just part of a clever disguise). The garage is being branded as One Market Square until such time as something a little taller goes up next to it and takes the name, joining Market Square Tower and Aris Market Square along Preston St. to either side.

Back across Prairie St., the wrapped-together collection of buildings formerly housing the Houston Chronicle‘s operations has been getting slowly disassembled since a judge ruled over the summer that Hines could carefully demo the structures. A couple of high-up shot from this morning (above, and below) shows the current state of affairs inside the rubble-in-progress:

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Rising and Falling on Prairie St.
02/23/17 1:15pm

River Oaks Shopping Center highrise plan, Houston, 77019

What else might change as Weingarten plants the 30-ish story residential tower it announced yesterday on a spot currently occupied by a few of the River Oaks Shopping Center’s northeastern storefronts? Specifics on the design of the 300-plus-unit project (which the company hinted at in late 2015) are still scant, though construction may start as soon as next year. The planned footprint of the highrise, per the site map above, stomps out the far end of the building housing Cafe Ginger, Local Pour, and the King Ranch Saddle Shop, spreading out past the edge of the non-protected city historical landmark toward the would-be alignment of Driscoll St. The Hanover-developed tower will reportedly replace those storefronts with some 10,000 sq. ft. of retail space on its ground floor (leaving room, potentially, for a few more Starbucks).

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High Hopes on W. Gray
02/22/17 3:45pm

Demo site of Archstone Memorial Heights Apartments, Studewood at Washington Ave., Houston, 77007

Demo site of Archstone Memorial Heights Apartments, Studewood at Washington Ave., Houston, 77007

The excavator treatment is complete for that subset of Archstone Memorial Heights apartment buildings that’ll be replaced by a mixed-use midrise with an H-E-B at the bottom, a neighbor notes. The shot above shows one of the buildings midway through the deconstruction process, which began earlier this month after that fenceless gate showed up on the site. Also noted during the demo weeks — a handful of firefighters rappelling down the side of the empty unit above.

As of about sunset yesterday, the site is now fully emptied out:

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Climbing the Walls on Wash Ave
02/16/17 3:00pm

Saint Arnold Brewing Company Expansion renderings, 2104 Lyons Ave., Near Northside, Houston, 77020Saint Arnold Brewing Company Expansion renderings, 2104 Lyons Ave., Near Northside, Houston, 77020

A fresh batch of renderings from the Office of James Burnett have been filed with the city planning commission this month as part of Saint Arnold Brewing Company’s request for a setback variance for that previously mentioned beer garden next door. Early permits have been trickling in since last fall for the ex-tow lot at 2104 Lyons Ave., across Semmes St. from the brewery’s new-ish downtown headquarters in the former HISD Food Service building (even more formerly the home of the Bemis Bag Company).

The new designs show what might be the site’s intended layout, including a restaurant structure which dissolves into an outdoor patio and garden space, a set of bocce courts, and more parking, including an area set aside for display of art cars (as shown up top featuring the company’s own tie-dye vehicles). Here’s the full tentative layout:

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Gardens of Fifth Ward
02/15/17 1:30pm

Planned Spring Pines Shopping Center, Spring Cypress Rd. at Holzwarth Rd., Spring, TX 77388

Planned Spring Pines Shopping Center, Spring Cypress Rd. at Holzwarth Rd., Spring, TX 77388

The tree evictions appear to have begun on the 14 acres of wooded land near the intersection of Holzworth and Spring Cypress roads marked for that Kroger Marketplace announced last year. A reader snapped some shots of spread gravel and a log stackup on the site (a piece of the larger 50-acre tract outlined in red in Read King’s leasing flier, as shown here). Preliminary plans for the broader Spring Pines Shopping Center include a slew of new retail spots near the Kroger; leasing plans for the soon-to-be-former forest note that the Kroger is almost directly across Spring Cypress from the area’s H-E-B, itself right across FM 2920 from the Aldi grocery store that moved into the area a few years ago:

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Groundwork in Spring
02/07/17 12:45pm

HOUSTON-TO-DALLAS BULLET TRAIN PUTTING THE BRAKES ON ALL THOSE LAWSUITS Map of Proposed Route of Proposed Texas Central RailwayThe company planning to build a bullet train between Houston and Dallas appears to be altering the legal strategy it had been using to try to get landowners to allow crews on their land to survey property along the proposed 240-mile route. Texas Tribune reporter Brandon Formby says Texas Central Partners has withdrawn 17 lawsuits across the state (including one in Harris County that had a trial scheduled for July) and settled 21 others that had sought court-ordered access. Officials of the private company now say they will seek an “open dialogue” with property owners about letting crews in. The company tells Formby it has already reached land-purchase options with more than 3,000 landowners, accounting for 30 percent of the total number of parcels it needs, and 50 percent in the 2 counties along the route adjacent to Harris County: Grimes and Waller. The company announced last week that the train is now expected to begin operating in 2023. [Texas Tribune; Houston Business Journal; previously on SwamplotMap of proposed high-speed rail routes: Texas Central Railway

02/06/17 4:30pm

memorial-heights-gate

The peculiar scene pictured above, of a freestanding but fenceless gate, greeted residents of the Memorial Heights Apartments near the corner of Washington Ave and Studewood late last week. Demolition of buildings 1 through 6 of the complex, on the northwest corner of the complex, for a planned new 5-story apartment complex atop a new H-E-B market, appears imminent.

In anticipation, workers have been constructing fencing (now attached to the above gate) that appears to be intended to surround a portion of the remaining parking lot of the remaining complex. There’s also this construction going up at the corner of Studewood and Washington Ave.:

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Approaching Buffalo Heights
01/31/17 1:30pm

2531 Kuester St., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Right across Kuester St. from where that paving prep looks to be going on this month, some building permits have been issued recently for a new honky tonk and bar listed as Goodnight Charlie’s. A couple of readers noted that the long-empty triangle of partially grazeable land behind Buffalo Exchange also sports the TABC notice signage above, and the space looks to be owned by the same legal entity that owns the jilted corner lot. The fenced-in land sits at the trailing end of Kuester, which blends into Missouri St. and the back edge of the parking lot of Mexican seafood-themed bar La Grange (which took over the 2-story building formerly occupied by gay bar EJ’s on Ralph St., behind the Westheimer-facing Central Houston Animal Hospital). 

Here’s a wider shot of the permitted honky tonk site; that’s the back of the Community Endowment Foundation’s Swelha House visible just to the right of all those early-2010’s townhomes:

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Fenced In Off Westheimer
01/30/17 5:30pm

1634 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006 1634 Westheimer Rd., Montrose, Houston, 77006

Update, 1/31: A few readers noticed some TABC notices across the street — more here.

A reader noted the recent earth-scraping on the now-largely-grassless corner lot at 1634 Westheimer Rd. (shown above in last week’s aquatic trappings). The long-empty land, across Kuester St. from Buffalo Exchange, is listed as the former site of Kewpie’s Cleaners and Dyers, and was previously tapped as the intended site of a 5-story Bunkhouse hotel. The midrise plan fell through, though, freeing the land to become the future site of the Edmont. That plan also fell through: Only a temporary version of the woulda-been restaurant was ever built, for a 1-night fundraiser supporting a foundation started in memory of chef and Edmont co-founder Grant Gordon.

Recently issued city permits suggest the space is turning to the parking industry for now. Here’s another shot, facing southwest through the fence toward interior design shop Merchant & Market, exterior design shop Houston Ink Society, and smoke shop High End:

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Down to 0 Stories for Now
01/23/17 5:00pm

Fairview District Update, January 2017, Fairview at Mason St., East Montrose, Houston, 77006

The renderings in Edge Realty’s marketing material for the mixed-use office and retail redevelopment planned for the area around Fairview and Mason streets now include signage for another outpost each of New York-based Shake Shack and Alabama-based Steel City Pops. The eccentric popsicle shop is shown inhabiting that freestanding dessert island planned in the parking lot east of Max’s Wine Dive; Shack Shack is depicted in a corner unit in the multi-story building planned across Mason St., next to the empty former site of Meteor Lounge (and catty-corner across Fairview from Meteor’s current crumbly resting place). A reader tells Swamplot that Shake Shack was also mentioned as a future Fairview District tenant at last week’s meeting of the East Montrose Civic Association, though possibly placed in a different spot in the development.

Also showing up in the latest images is Houston-based yoga and bike-in-place fitness outlet Revolution Studio; other names dropped on the flier include Austin-based barber shop Finley’s, California-based and -flavored fast-casual restaurant lemonade, haberdashery chain Goorin Bro.’s,  shoe-polish-brand-turned-upscale-watch-retailer Shinola, and — down on the Genesee St. corner — enthusiastic burger joint Eureka!:

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Fairview Views
01/23/17 12:30pm

Baileson Brewery renderings, 2322 Bissonnet St., Rice Village, Houston, 77005

A few sketches show the gist of Method Architecture’s plans for converting the former Bissonnet Auto Service Center at 2322 Bissonnet St. into Baileson Brewing Company. The auto shop’s original carport structure looks to be incorporated into the plans for the space as a patio shade-provider, while the 2 former garage bay doors look to be getting glassy replacements. The brewery will enter the area beer niche vacated last year by no-longer-next-door Kay’s Lounge, which met its end in October, and by Hans’ Bier House half a mile a way (last seen bearing signage announcing a planned coffee shop). Here’s a few more angles on the potential redo:

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Brewing on Bissonnet
01/12/17 3:45pm

Murals at former MHMRA building, 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003Demolition setup at 2850 Fannin St., Midtown, Houston, 77003

The colorful faces behind the chain-link fencing surrounding the former Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority building at 2850 Fannin St. have been joined this week by a few pieces of bright yellow knock-down equipment. Permits came through last week clearing the site for clearance in advance of a planned 27-story apartment highrise going by the name Main Midtown. The tower was okayed for a parking variance in late October, as part of which Australian developer Caydon Properties agreed to install over 200 bike spaces. 

The long-empty MHMRA structure got its last hurrah this fall when much of the street-level wallspace was painted over in tan, making way for new muralage. A nearby resident buzzed around the site recently taking some final snaps of the paintings (like the one featured at the top of the page) before the demo gets going in earnest — here’s a sampling below:

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Midtown Breakdown