02/21/18 3:30pm

Spear Street Capital is teasing a rendering of what it has planned for Exxon Mobil’s former Buffalo Spdwy. research campus, a new complex that takes the initials of River Oaks without daring to speak its name: The RO. The glossy new view above looks west across Buffalo Spdwy. to show 3 new highrises planted on the Upper Kirby site — the stockiest of which rests atop a 3-story windowed pedestal likely to house retail between W. Alabama and a new roadway.

The new street appears in place of the driveway that entered the 16.9-acre complex on Buffalo Spdwy. and ran just north of the 1962 building MacKie and Kamrath Architects designed for the oil giant. The aerial photo above shows what that building looked like from the south before crews began tearing at it last year. South of the new street and directly in place of the MacKie and Kamrath structure, a complex of retail buildings with upper-level patios retreats along a pedestrian corridor that starts at Buffalo Spdwy. and heads toward the 2 other highrises on the west side of the site, near Mercer St. A few outdoor seating areas front Buffalo Spdwy. — one by the footpath, another on the north side of the new street. A larger patio appears on the corner of W. Alabama.

The buildings shown shaded on the left in the rendering likely make up other additions planned for the block. Here it is viewed from its backside looking toward Buffalo Spdwy. last year:

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A Twilit View
02/14/18 11:45am

Braun Realty is gearing up to replace Johnny’s Gold Brick’s next door neighbor and redo the warehouse behind the 2 structures as part of a new retail development it has planned for the corner of Yale and Aurora. An entity connected to the developer snatched up the property on Yale — as well as a few adjacent parcels east on Aurora — last October. The site plan above taken from Braun’s leasing flyer for the complex now indicates all 3 buildings decked out with new adjacent patios. East of the buildings, a parking lot sports entrances on both Aurora and an alley that runs north of the site.

The photo at top shows the front door to Johnny’s Gold Brick next to the brown brick building that Lucas Craftsmanship contractors moved out of in 2015. Here’s the view from the corner of Yale and Aurora showing the 2-story structure that’s slated to replace the former construction office:

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Heights Corner Shake-Up
02/07/18 1:45pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: TEXAS CENTRAL’S PARKING GARAGE ISN’T JUST A SIDE GIG “Site plans of both stations (Houston and Dallas) make it clear that the revenue model for this project isn’t selling train tickets — it’s selling parking. This site is ideal for that purpose: there’s no where nearby (walking distance) to compete for parking revenue, and it has a much cheaper land cost than Downtown. If you’re going to make the station 80 percent parking garage, why bother spending the extra money running it all the way to Downtown?” [Angostura, commenting on What Texas Central’s Proposed Houston Bullet Train Station Looks Like in Place of the Northwest Mall] Conceptual rendering of Houston bullet train station from W. 18th St.: Texas Central

02/06/18 2:00pm

RALPH BIVINS: BULLET TRAIN DEVELOPERS HAVE THE NORTHWEST MALL UNDER CONTRACT (BUT IT’S ALL A BIG MISTAKE) Veteran real estate writer Ralph Bivins reports that Texas Central already has the Northwest Mall site it proposed for Houston’s bullet train station under contract. Only a few retailers are open now in the shopping center, including the Palais Royal department store and Thompson’s Antique Center of Texas. A gas station and Burger King also sit at the northeast edge of the mall’s parking lot on the corner of W. 18th St. and the busy West Loop S. — which Bivins worries is about to get busier: “Why would anyone think it’s a good idea to be dumping an additional 10,000 or 20,000 train riders a day into the Northwest Mall area? The dumping ground that could really use them, he says, is getting snubbed: “Where is the dream for a world-class train station in downtown Houston? It should have restaurants, retail, hotels, nearby residential – and connections to light rail, buses and commuter rail.” [Realty News Report, previously on Swamplot] Conceptual rendering of bullet train station on current Northwest Mall site: Texas Central

02/06/18 10:15am

The video at top put out by Texas Central pans around the what’s now the Northwest Mall and its parking lot to show a new double-arched bullet train station and parking garage replacing them in the crotch where W. 18th St. and Hempstead Rd. meet the West Loop. Texas Central chose the 45-acre site over 2 others it was considering just south of the mall for the Houston terminus of the planned Houston—Dallas rail line. The terminal building — coded orange in the site plan above — sits between Hempstead and a new road that’s proposed just north of it. The parking garage would be located inside the gray zone indicated between W. 18th and the new street.

Elevated train tracks enter the station after crossing over a new extended segment of Post Oak Rd. Looking southeast from W. 18th St., one of Texas Central’s conceptual renderings of the site shows the tracks tracks heading into the terminal, next to the parking garage:

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Park and Ride
02/01/18 11:30am

A new Aldi supermarket is on the way to the vacant 3-acre lot at 5300 W. Bellfort once home to the longer vacant Westbury Centerette shopping center, torn down in 2015. Plans for a LA Fitness location on the site submitted the year before the Centerette’s demolition didn’t work out. Since then, not much has been in store for the space northeast of AutoZone and Pizza Hut on the corner of W. Bellfort and Chimney Rock — until a leasing agreement for the new supermarket was inked late last year.

In addition to Aldi, the site plan above from NAI Partners indicates new 26,000-sq.-ft. building of land available for lease on the corner of Chimney Rock and Cedarhurst, in the spot that a vacant gas station disappeared from in 2016.

Site plan: NAI Partners

Westbury Crossroads
01/31/18 2:45pm

Which suits the new Washington Ave better: sidewalk-fronting buildings or strip centers? If ever there were a project that illustrated that fundamental choice, it’s this one. New exterior renderings from developer NewQuest show the block of Washington between Leverkuhn and Jackson Hill St., just west of Five Guys’s strip center spot, redone as Washington Central — a  shopping center with one building set back from the street and the other left out on the curb.

The 9,040-sq.-ft. planned strip center building shown fronting the parking lot in the renderings above provides some company for the existing brick building east of it. Planted on the corner of Washington and Leverkuhn since 1930, the 2-story structure has been empty since Guadalajara Bakery shuttered in it nearly 6 years ago.

New large windows open the bakery building — shown below with some legalese on its face — onto the street:

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Walk or Drive?
01/19/18 2:30pm

Davis Commercial is showing images of a renovated building on the corner of 11th St. and Rutland in hopes of enticing a burger-flipping collective or something similar to take over the space. Q St. Salon & Boutique shared the 2,712-sq.-ft. building behind the parking-lot gazebo with Heights Discount Dry Cleaners until the latter closed down last year. A bungalow that now sits adjacent to Q St.’s spot to the west (hidden behind the building in the photo at top) is excised from the renderings.

The rendering above shows the building’s windows wiped clean of advertisements for laundry deals and extended to the ground. New awnings are shown in place of the blue vinyl ones now covering the storefronts at 402 W. 11th.

An 800-sq.-ft. patio is also planned for the building’s frontage along 11th St.:

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Wash Cycle
01/03/18 5:00pm

Here’s the first sign of the new law office that plans to migrate to the corner of Dunlavy and W. Bell St., right behind the River Oaks Plaza shopping center. A Swamplot reader reports that a notice announcing the pending presence of David A. Breston and his Associates went up on the 1820 W. Bell property on New Years Eve. The law firm’s current office is on the corner of Main and Preston streets downtown.

In the portion of River Oaks Plaza directly across W. Bell St. from the site are the former Mama Fu’s and VERTS Kebap locations, now being remade into a new Café Ginger.

Photo: Swamplot inbox

Letters of the Law
01/03/18 2:15pm

New renderings released by Sydness Architects show the street-level changes planned for the Bank of America Center, which sits across the street from Jones Plaza on one side and Philip Johnson’s other notable downtown office tower, Pennzoil Place, on the other. Last fall, building owner M-M Properties announced plans to remove the mummified 2-story Western Union building that had been encapsulated within the Bank of America Center’s northeast quadrant since 1983 (see photo above).

Windows and doors are shown added to the skyscraper along Capitol and Louisiana streets — in 2 of the walls that once entombed the telegram building. The rendering at top shows the reconfigured view from outside Jones Hall, with new 2-story openings facing Capitol St.

Only one new street-level entrance is clearly shown in that rendering, however: the awninged door to a new restaurant along Louisiana St. That restaurant is planned for a portion of the former Western Union building’s ground floor in the northeast corner of the Bank of America Center:

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Philip Johnson’s Ghosts
01/02/18 12:30pm

Quick, what’s the most vaulted bank in all of Houston? Easy: the lofty Bank of America branch on the ground floor of the Bank of America Center at 700 Louisiana St. Downtown (pictured at top) — so grand, so postmodern, so . . . unleasable. Philip Johnson designed the 12-story high banking hall to resemble “a sixteenth-century Dutch guild hall, albeit one scaled to be seen from the freeway at sixty miles per hour,” writes Joel Warren Barna in a history of the project included in The See-Through Years. But now big changes are planned for that empty space:

“We’re just going to kind of slip in these two floor slabs,” Jeff Sydness of Sydness Architects tells the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser. Sydness was hired by M-M Properties to reconfigure the lower levels of the 56-floor tower, which was built in 1983. So: Lower ceilings ahoy! New mezzanines are now being planned to colonize the banking hall’s towering overhead emptiness. The new structures, edged with glass walls, will fill much of that air-conditioned but unused airspace with workstation- and cubicle-ready office platforms:

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Loft Office
12/28/17 2:00pm

THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN–THEMED BREWERY COMING TO GARDEN OAKS’ BEER ROW Construction began earlier this month, reports Jen Para, on a 1,600-sq.-ft. brewhouse for Walking Stick Brewing Co. in Garden Oaks. Also on tap for the 16,948-sq.-ft. site at 957 Wakefield Dr., pictured above from the back, which faces Judiway: a 3,600-sq.-ft. bar and patio featuring the brewery’s 7 beers, each of which is named after a peak in the Rocky Mountains. Walking Stick will sit directly across the street from the volleyball courts at Wakefield Crowbar and its neighboring Great Heights Brewing Co. microbrewery. Petrol Station is at the end of the block, at Golf Dr. [Houston Business Journal] Photo: Walking Stick Brewery

12/21/17 4:45pm

The first ever H-E-B with a skybridge connection to a neighboring JCPenney is indeed on its way to Meyerland Plaza. The grocery chain’s new 95,000-sq.-ft. building will replace its previous store at South Braeswood and Chimney Rock, which flooded during Harvey. Some of the land that the H-E-B is taking over is occupied now by the BBVA Compass bank branch building at the mall-turned-shopping-center’s northwest corner, although the store will extend back all the way to the existing JCPenney, far southeast of where the bank branch sits now.

The rendering at top shows the grocery store’s second-story entrance; like the new stores under construction in Bellaire and the Heights, this one will sit on top of a parking deck. The second rendering shows the structure fronting a driveway that heads into Meyerland Plaza from Beechnut St. A replacement BBVA Compass branch is planned inside the new complex.

Below, a view of the store’s reinforced northwest corner just across Endicott from an off-camera Chick-fil-A on the right:

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Bright Red Corners
12/21/17 3:15pm

Renderings now up on Lyric Market’s new website reveal more of what’s planned for the parking-garage food hall. The image at top shows David Adickes’s self-playing cello sculpture ascended atop a new pedestal at the corner of Smith and Preston streets. Behind the artwork, outdoor seating and what the website describes as a private terrace back up to the food hall’s main entrance. The new structure, currently under construction, is shown on the left of that rendering — adjacent to the existing Lyric Centre office tower.

Here’s a full view of the completed parking garage from across the intersection of Preston and Louisiana:

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Downtown Food Hall No. 4
12/20/17 4:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: LET THE COLLEGE STATION LAND RUSH BEGIN! “The station in Roans Prairie is a developer’s dream: high-speed rail, new I-14 interstate, and miles and miles of undeveloped land. The master-planned communities will start popping up in no time. Work in the city (Houston or Dallas) and live out in the country on your acreage homestead. Just wait, the Bryan-College Station-Huntsville MSA will see the fastest population growth in the entire nation for years and years to come.” [Thomas, commenting on Proposed High-Speed Rail Line’s Bryan—College Station Station Would Be 27 Miles East of Texas A&M] Map of proposed Brazos Valley Station: Federal Railroad Administration