10/10/16 5:00pm

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church renderings, 3511 Yoakum Blvd., WAMM, Houston, 77006

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 3511 Yoakum Blvd., WAMM, Houston, 77006A look at the latest plans for bulking up the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Yoakum Blvd. at Kipling St. come from the diagrams submitted with a recent variance request for the project (and a few more now up on the church’s website). For comparison, a reader sends some leafy shots of the cathedral at its current width, snapped a few days before the setup for the annual Houston Greek Festival (which wrapped up on the church’s campus for the 50th time yesterday evening).

The expansion would widen the 1952 cathedral building to the north and south (toward and away from Kipling), about doubling the current seating capacity; the design also adds that big dome to the top (while the smaller dome along the Yoakum-side bell tower would get a new nitrate finish stainless-steel top-off to match). The church submitted the request for a 1-ft. building line setback last month, including this drawing from Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie architects (which shows a leaf-free perspective from the corner of Yoakum and Kipling):


Toward the Heavens, To the Curb
08/11/16 5:15pm

114 Byrne St., Woodland Heights, Houston, 77009
A veil of mystery and enigma comes free with your purchase of this 1920s building on Byrne St., which hit the market last week. Woodlands Lodge 1157 moved out of the building in the early 1980s citing neighborhood decline, and headed north to its current locale near the I-45 split from Veterans Memorial Dr. The Byrne building is listed by Camelot Realty as having 5 bedrooms, including the 50-by-50-sq.-ft. space upstairs; asking price is $1.5 million. Step into the waiting room and look around:


Doors Open
06/21/16 11:30am

Lovett leasing flier for Cullen St. Retail, Cullen at I-45, Eastwood, Houston, 77003

Lovett has been dropping a few crumbs regarding the selection of restaurants and shops that will fringe the parking lot of the retail development planned for the former Fingers Furniture warehouse site on Cullen Blvd., across I-45 from the University of Houston’s main campus. No anchor tenant for the site has officially named (though talk of Walmart has made its way to several tipsters in the Eastwood Civic Association this spring, along with assurances that the marker memorializing the former site of Buffalo Stadium’s home plate will likely be preserved).

A site plan from December (shown above, with north angled roughly toward the top right corner) shows several pad sites along the feeder road marked up as QSR (presumably Quick Service Restaurant). A later sketch now up on Lovett’s website as well adds more clues, however — including  a cryptic label on what could be the first Starbucks to venture into the East End:


Cullen at I-45
05/20/13 11:00am

This rendering shows one of 4 charitable duplexes planned to go up in Meyerland that will be set aside for single-mother families. Construction began late last week on property that’s owned St. John’s Presbyterian Church at 5020 W. Bellfort Ave., between Willowbend and S. Post Oak Blvd., just outside the Loop. One of the 8 units will also be home to an on-site caseworker.


05/17/13 3:00pm

A HEIGHTS RETAIL RESURRECTION The Leader is reporting that the Baptist Temple Church on Rutland and 20th St. in the Heights has sold 2 of its oldest buildings to Braun Enterprises, which says it will tear them down and replace them with less sacred spaces — that is, retail or a restaurant. If the almighty dollar has triumphed, there’s still a silver lining — or so Charlotte Aguilar suggests, reporting that the sale of the buildings — the church’s original sanctuary, built in 1912, and a larger one built in 1940 — will fund a $3 million renovation to its remaining 65,000-sq.-ft. T.C. Jester Building on 20th; a new 300-seat sanctuary will be added and classrooms and offices updated. [The Leader] Photo: Charlotte Aguilar via The Leader

04/18/13 1:45pm

In the middle of last summer, Interfaith Ministries closed on almost 76,000 sq. ft. of Midtown property spanning 2 catty-corner blocks just north of HCC, including the PrimeWay Federal Credit Union building shown here at 3303 Main St.; the organization says it’s closing in on the $12.5 million needed to fund the renovation of the 39,000-sq.-ft. bank into its headquarters and the construction of a new 14,000-sq.-ft. Meals on Wheels distribution center at Elgin and Fannin.


12/12/11 11:50pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE APPLE HOUR OF POWER “Believe it or not. Just a few weeks ago I posted a mail to Tim Cook, no reply till now :), in which I suggested to buy the Crystal Cathedral Campus in Garden Grove. I have been there on several occasions (although I am a dutch citizen so it is not around the corner). It would be an excellent Apple campus where people can meet Apple and each other and where we all can build a platform where contemporary speakers like Deepak Chopra, Lynne McTaggart and many others who can tell us new things that can make this world a better place can be invited to share their knowledge. Can you imagine streaming to or downloading by the devices like the iPad, Apple TV iPhones and Macs in every corner of this planet? In that way preserving the heritage of that beautiful place and at the same time give it a destination that will appeal tot the entire world (community). Now it will be sold to a catholic church, in my opinion a loss of possibilities.” [Hans Noordsij, commenting on Comment of the Day: Apple’s Crystal Cathedral]

05/24/10 6:33pm

Home theater specialist Andrea Grover is leaving Houston — and selling the Sunset Heights church-turned-movie-theater-turned-residence where she founded a well-known local arts organization 13 years ago. For the 10 years that it operated on Aurora St. just east of Main, Aurora Picture Show featured a ridiculous range of obscure and not-quite-as-obscure film and video screenings in its sanctuary space, along with 13 weddings and a couple of memorial services. Then 2 years ago, Grover explains, the microcinema went south — to Montrose:

Aurora relocated its office and library to a bungalow in “Doville” (the neighborhood affectionately named after Dominique de Menil). Their programming has been nomadic and site-specific in order to attract new audiences and activate different sites in Houston. This strategy has worked extremely well for the organization, which has seen increased attendance and membership as a result of catering to Houston’s love for new experiences and one-of-a-kind events. I retired at the end of 2008, and Aurora is doing so well that I wonder why I didn’t do it sooner!

The house includes a movie chapel with pew seating for 96, audio-video equipment, and a “disused baptistry,” along with a small freestanding outhouse for theatergoers that was “designed by a well-known architect (Michael Bell), though you would never guess it,” writes Grover.

The home comes with a trailer, too:


04/01/10 10:23am

Houston’s City Council voted 13-2 yesterday to sell the former Compaq Center to the nation’s largest megachurch for a grand total of $7.5 million dollars. Sure, that’s considerably less than the $22.6 million the city would have received for a 30-year extension of Lakewood Church’s current lease on what used to be homecourt of the Houston Rockets. But the city wouldn’t see the beginning of that income stream for 24 years, and it might be a full 54 years before the city could get the building and those 7 acres of Greenway Plaza land back — presuming either is worth anything at all by then. And really, who’s even going to want to be around this city in 2064?

That $7.5 million isn’t exactly chump change, either. If each of the church’s approximately 43,500 weekly visitors throws a dollar into one of those collection buckets, it’ll take them all of 3 and a half years just to pay the darn thing off!

But did the city even have a choice in the matter?


03/24/10 10:43am

From the Twitter feed of KHOU reporter Alex Sanz, Swamplot hears news that Houston’s city council has postponed a vote on a proposal to sell the former Compaq Center at 3700 Southwest Fwy. in Greenway Plaza to Lakewood Church, for an-appraised-but way-below-assessed-value price of $7.5 million. As Swamplot explained yesterday, the church has more than 20 years left on a prepaid lease for the property and an option to extend the lease for an additional 30 years after that for a little more than $22 million — both of which significantly affect the present value of the property to the city.

Is the postponement of the sale a setback for Lakewood? Why should it be!? Followers of church pastor Joel Osteen, who’s now written 3 books filled with real-estate investment advice, know that he advocates patience — especially in complicated sale or purchase situations. Why wouldn’t he want councilmembers to feel entirely comfortable with the decision they come to?

Here’s how Osteen explains it in a relevant passage from his latest book, It’s Your Time:


03/23/10 11:47am

You might be thinking, “How can I buy me some prime Greenway Plaza real estate from the city for, say $12.50 a square foot?” If, as expected, city council approves the sale in tomorrow’s meeting, that’s the amount Lakewood Church will pay for the Southwest Freeway building it’s currently leasing.

Lakewood took out a 30-year lease on the property — which formerly served as home court for the Houston Rockets, first as the Houston Summit, and later as the Compaq Center — in 2001. Lakewood prepaid the entire $11.8 million lease amount, then spent more than $80 million to turn the former basketball arena into a proper TV-worthy megachurch. But the key to Lakewood’s current real estate good fortune is the lease extension it negotiated: an option to extend the lease for an additional 30 years for $22.6 million.

Since the city likely won’t receive any income (or tax revenue) from the property until the year 2061, city real estate managers think selling the 606,000-sq.-ft. property on more than 7 acres at 3700 Southwest Fwy. to the church is a good idea. The price? A value only net-present-value adherents, real-estate appraisers, and the Lakewood faithful could love: $7.5 million.

Feeling a little inspired by the church’s ability to swing such a deal? It is yet another testament to the remarkable real-estate skills of Houston’s leading property-investment guru, Lakewood Church pastor Joel Osteen. In this passage from his latest book, It’s Your Time, Osteen virtually screams, “GET IN FIRST, BUY LATER”:


03/08/10 4:44pm

The Greater Houston Preservation Alliance has sent out an email reporting that the congregation of the Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Heights voted in a special meeting this past weekend not to demolish its sanctuary building after all.

So what’s going to happen to the unused 1932 brick structure instead? Says the GHPA:

The Gothic Revival building on Cortlandt Street at East 15th Street will be used as flex space to accommodate church functions and Immanuel Lutheran School activities as well as community events.

Sure, it’s likely to make a great space for events. But how could any church function match an all-out building demo for fun?

The GHPA reports the congregation has committed to spending $150,000 on the rehab — about twice the cost of the demolition, which had already been scheduled for May. GHPA credits the 90-days-to-oblivion feature of the city’s otherwise toothless preservation ordinance for the save:


02/15/10 11:37am

That report we passed on last Friday about the congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church in the Heights voting to turn its former sanctuary at the corner of Cortlandt and 15th St. into a museum of Lutheran history turns out to have been false. City Council members Edward Gonzalez and Sue Lovell, who announced the decision in a press release, jumped the gun a bit:

Lovell spokesman Tim Brookover said the councilwoman’s office received a report from a preservationist attending the meeting that there had “been a lot of talk about a Lutheran museum” and presumed the church group approved the plan.

Though informally discussed, such a proposal has not been formally presented to the governing board, [board president Ken Bakenhus] said.

But there was some progress at the meeting: The congregation did vote to reject local artist and engineer Gus Kopriva’s proposal to lease the sanctuary and turn it into an art museum, the Chronicle‘s Allan Turner reports.

Bakenhus told Turner late last year that the board was “’99 percent’ in favor” of spending $60,000 to demolish the 1932 brick building. The church has a signed contract to tear down the structure this summer.

Photo: Heights Blog

01/07/10 1:05pm

The 3D documentation artists who’ve been scanning the facade of Immanuel Lutheran Church’s unwanted sanctuary building at 1448 Cortland St. in the Heights issue an important caution to those appreciating their craft:

Once archived, the data file’s full-scale scan and related imagery becomes a resource for preservationists, conservators, architects, engineers, site managers, or others needing access for a variety of purposes, from maintenance to insurance to historical reference, explained the team from Smart GeoMetrics, a division of Smart MultiMedia. The venture’s principals are Richard Lasater and Doug Smith of the Rice Village area. . . .

Lasater said — with emphasis — that digital documentation is an archival tool, “not a replacement’ for a building.”

Image: Smart GeoMetrics

01/04/10 12:32pm

HOLIDAY FIRE ROUNDUP A former auto parts store converted to a house of worship for the local congregation of a Nigerian-based church burned in the early hours of New Years Day, in a fire begun from a candle at the altar. The facility at 9430 West Bellfort, which backs up to Braeburn Valley West, was completely destroyed, except for some metal siding. Congregants, who are now holding services in a northside restaurant, have vowed to rebuild. A few days earlier, in the gated enclave of homes just north of Rice University known as Shadowlawn Shadyside, another fire struck a $12 million mansion with some history behind it: “The home was designed by New York architect Harrie T. Lindberg for William Stamps Farish, the founder of Humble Oil, which was one of the companies that eventually became Exxon Mobil Corp. According to a biography of [Howard] Hughes, the mansion at 10 Remington Lane was where Hughes married Ella Rice, the sister of Farish’s wife.” [abc13; Reuters]