ANDERSON TODD, 1921-2018
Tucked back on a corner lot a block north of Rice is one of the courtyard houses Anderson Todd designed and lived in during his nearly 70 years in Houston. It’s shown above in all its flat-roofed glory. Like many of the buildings Todd dreamed up around town, the house rests on principles he took from German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, his teacher at Princeton and mentor thereafter. Upon joining Rice’s then-not-so-modern architecture department in 1949, Todd set about implanting Miesian concepts in his students’ brains for the next 4 decades. He also found time to convince Mies himself to design 2 successive additions to the MFAH: Cullinan Hall and the Brown Pavilion, notes the Chronicle‘s Jasper Scherer. Todd retired from his professorial duties in 1992, and, last Friday, passed away at the age of 97. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Swamplox inbox
WHERE TO GLIMPSE METRO’S FIRST DRIVERLESS SHUTTLE IN ACTION NEXT YEAR
“The surge of students biking and walking” along the closed stretch of Wheeler Ave. shown above that forms TSU’s “Tiger Walk” will soon “be joined by a slow-moving, minivan-sized driverless shuttle,” reports the Dug Begley in the Chronicle‘s last Sunday edition. “Though it will run a small, circuitous route at first,” he writes, METRO’s long-term goal is to nudge the shuttle out onto Scott St., where it would stop at the Purple Line light rail station between the TSU campus and UH’s TDECU Stadium. “Transit and university officials are working on an opening day,” according to Begley, “likely in mid-to late January.” [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Campuspride.org
A HOLIDAY SIGN-OFF
Swamplot is checking out early today in the spirit of Christmas Eve. We’ll be gone tomorrow, too, but don’t let that detract from any merry plans you’ve got scheduled for the holiday. If you’re really aching for a dose of Houston real estate reporting, our archive remains online 24-7 for a quick peek. And we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled coverage on Wednesday, at which time we hope you’ll rejoin us for the year’s final stretch of news coverage. Photo: elnina via Swamplot Flickr Pool
PLAZAMERICAS MALL HAS A NEW OWNER, FOR THE MOST PART
Nancy Sarnoff reports in the Chronicle that the former Sharpstown Center, more recently known as PlazAmericas has been sold to Houston commercial real estate firm Baker Katz. Well, most of it has: The purchase, she writes “does not include any of the attached anchor stores or the 10-story building that rises from the property.” The owner of the highrise, along with those of the former Montgomery Ward, JC Penny, and Macy’s buildings are all tied up in long-term agreements that’ll make it tough for Baker Katz to do much right now with the mall as a whole. On its agenda for now: increasing occupancy at the 840,000-sq.-ft. property, which now about 70-percent full, according to Sarnoff. [Houston Chronicle] Photo of mall entrance facing Clarewood Dr.: Lou C.
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS HOLD OFF ON REPAIRS TO DOWNTOWN’S SOGGY CRIMINAL JUSTICE SKYSCRAPER
The County Commissioners were set to approve repairs to the chronically wet Harris County Criminal Justice Center on Tuesday when District Attorney Kim Ogg — who occupies the building along with her 735 employees — convinced them to tap the brakes, calling it “unseemly . . . that we would be spending $14 million when we still don’t know the cause of the flooding.” Writing in November, the Houston Chronicle‘s Brian Rogers blamed it on: “unprecedented amounts of standing water,” that “seeped into the underground walls” of the building even though its flood gates remained secure. But he noted that some county officials believe there were “multiple sources,” of water and remained unsure about how it all got in. The 18-year-old building at 1201 Franklin St. partly reopened in June. The repairs that the commissioners had planned to authorize this week included fixes to its elevator shafts and parts of floors 2 through 20. (They suffered damage when the electronics in the basement — dampened by floodwaters — malfunctioned, sending gallons of water through the building’s anti-flood pumping system, which ironically, burst pipes and flooded the upper stories.) Following up on Ogg’s remarks, County Engineer John Blount raised the possibility of building a new criminal justice building from scratch. The estimated cost he gave for doing so: $430 million. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Harris County
THE WOODLANDS EXPRESS HAS ARRIVED ITS REAL-TIME BUS MAPPING FUTURE
Note: This story has been updated to indicate that METRO also has a real-time bus mapping app.
Now you can know exactly how far your The Woodlands Express bus is from picking you up thanks to the township’s recently-released transit tracking service. The tool, powered by transportation mapping company Ride Systems, is accessible right now through The Woodlands’ mobile ticketing app (launched in August) and at this webpage — which indicates all Woodlands Express vehicles at as they proceed along their designated routes. (Things are a bit slow at midday compared to commuter hours.) METRO — which has nothing to do with The Woodlands’ in-house transit agency — released its own mobile ticketing app in 2016, as well as a companion app called METRO Trip that features live location data for its fleet of buses. [Community Impact] Photo of The Woodlands Express bus: The Woodlands Township
THE ALLEN’S LATEST MIXED-USE MAP NIXES THE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE ACROSS ALLEN PKWY.
Remember that pedestrian bridge that previous maps and renderings for The Allen showed crossing Allen Pkwy. in order to link the planned development to Buffalo Bayou Park? Well, it appears to be gone now: New marketing materials put out by Transwestern include no indication of it whatsoever. (Earlier versions of the map above had shown it plugging into the building labeled 1, a lowrise retail structure.) All 6 acres of the site — between Allen Parkway Village and the Federal Reserve building — remain vacant right now, except for a tiny portion near the southwest corner where a newly-poured concrete foundation has given rise to a yet-unidentified wood-framed structure over the past couple of days. [Transwestern (PDF) via HAIF; previously on Swamplot] Map: Transwestern
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN THE MONTROSE SHAKE SHACK OPENS THIS THURSDAY
Aside from the standard beefy fare, here’s what you can expect to encounter at the chain’s new Burger-King-replacement location on Westheimer west of Montrose Blvd. when it opens this Thursday: tabletops made from “reclaimed bowling alley lanes,” a mural from local artist Michael Rodriguez (the same guy behind new female astronaut artwork next to Shake Shack’s Rice Village location and the colorful first floor of the former Battelstein’s building downtown), and a free Shake-Shack-themed holiday ornament for the first 100 customers (doors open at 11 a.m.). There are also a few Montrose-specific menu items planned at the 1002 Westheimer restaurant including custards acquired from nearby UB Preserv and less-nearby Fluff Bake Bar, as well as a carrot cake offering served with coffee grounds from the location’s next-door neighbor Blacksmith. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo of construction on Montrose Shake Shack: Swamplox inbox
BAYOU PARK APARTMENTS HAVE ABOUT A YEAR BEFORE THE HIGHRISING STARTS
Nitya Capital, which closed on the ’70s-era Bayou Park Apartments at 4400 Memorial Dr., east of Shepherd, last month “plans to carve out a spot for a high-rise condo tower” as soon as a year from now, reports the Chronicle’s Katherine Feser. That shouldn’t be too hard, seeing as the new tower will take up “less than an acre,” says Nitya CEO Swapnil Agarwal, within the 15-acre environs of the 3-story complex that’s there now. Some of its existing 679 units should be receiving a few touch-ups under the new landlord: “new floors, granite counters, stainless steel appliances,” and “new lighting and fixtures,” reports Feser. And outside, she writes, plans call for “fresh landscaping, new signs and changes to the leasing center,” which neighbors a handful of retailers in the spot shown above where the complex lets out onto Memorial. [Houston Chronicle] Photo: Apartments.com
COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE MONTROSE DUAL DEALERSHIP WELCOME THAT WASN’T
“Too bad . . . I had imagined an identical building being constructed, and as bookends would have made a fantastic ‘gateway‘ into the Montrose/Museum area.” [city cynic, commenting on Stahlman Lumber Up for Sale by Landowner That Didn’t Replace It with a Car Dealership] Photo of Audi Central Houston: Audi Central Houston
NOW EVERY KATY BUC-EE’S BATHROOM STALL WILL HAVE A LIGHT ON IT TELLING YOU WHERE TO GO
Tooshlights is the brand name of the latest amenity that the Guiness-World-Record-winning Buc-ee’s off the Katy Fwy. wants to add to its 40 bathroom stalls, reports Dan Solomon over at Texas Monthly. It’s a spin on the technology you’ve probably seen on twinkling in certain parking garages: individual LEDs that light up red when a spot is occupied and green when it’s vacant. Along with Buc-ee’s’s Temple location, the Katy store will be the first of the chains 34 branches to roll it out. [Texas Monthly; previously on Swamplot] Photo of restroom at Buc-ee’s #40, 27700 Katy Fwy., Katy, Texas: Jennifer N.
COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHAT’S ON THE RISE AT ALLEN PKWY. AND GILLETTE?
“And as of yesterday, a wood frame has gone up. It definitely does not look like the lower floors of the 11-story-ish building shown in the upper right of the rendering.” [Chris C., commenting onA First Concrete Step Toward Building That Mixed-Use Complex at Allen Pkwy. and Gillette St.] Photo of new concrete pad on Gillette St. south of Allen Pkwy.: Swamplox inbox
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BRIAR HOLLOW ONCE THE TREE TOPS APARTMENTS GET STUMPED?
Neighbors have begun whispering of a 10-story apartment building from The Finger Companies that could go in place of the abandoned Tree Tops at Post Oak complex at 4510 Briar Hollow Pl. It’s not out of the question: An entity linked to Finger bought the 2.3-acre property in July and has since submitted plans to the city to reshape it. Nobody’s lived in the 2 existing 3-story buildings since last August, at which time the water level topped out at about the ceiling of the ground-floor units according to an observer nearby. [Previously on Swamplot] Photo: Swamplot inbox
CHARLES BARKLEY’S OLD HOUSE IS ABOUT TO HIT THE MARKET
Two years after finishing his career with the Rockets in 2000, the power-forward-turned-broadcaster sold his Sugar Land house at 66 Harbor View Dr. to the current homeowners, who — according to a preview put out by ResideTX Properties — are about to put it back on the market. It sits at the back of a cul-de-sac in the Pointe Royale subdivision east of where New Territory Blvd. crosses the Grand Pkwy. Inside, 3,956 sq.-ft. houses 4 beds and 3.5 baths. [ResideTX] Photo of 66 Harbor View Dr.: ResideTX